My career in the Air Force is best summarized as the extended metaphor of taking a flight from one place to another. Let's represent my AF career as a DC-3 Dakota and me as the pilot. I boarded the Air Force as a Second Lieutenant, filed a flight plan that would last 20-years and deliver me to my retirement destination as (at least) a Lieutenant Colonel. I went down the checklist to ensure that I did everything necessary at the right time to ensure my safe arrival, the so-called ‘checking the boxes’ for appropriate levels of professional military education, deployments, staff tours, and advanced academic degrees. With everything squared away, I took off into the wild blue yonder.
I followed my flight plan from the US to Korea and then on to Germany, with a couple of pit-stops in the Middle East along the way. And while I had several other destinations planned, it became necessary to declare an in-flight emergency about 8 years in and start running down that checklist. The problem was that on my approach to a promotion board in December 2010, some gremlins started a fire in my starboard engine and fanned it with a missing performance review. In real terms, what happened was that a single piece of paper was misfiled, and therefore was not included in my promotion recommendation file.