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My Air Force Experience: An extended metaphor (1 of 11)

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.

Normally, this wouldn’t be very critical because you normally need to have done something wrong to not get promoted. But 2010 also happened to be the first year that the opportunity for promotion dropped from 95% to 90% for those eligible, and the board was looking for any reason they could not to select someone that might otherwise be eligible or "fully-qualified". You know, like not having their paperwork in order. So, the previously mentioned paperwork oversight and failure to be selected for promotion forced me to pull out and follow the non-selection checklist (the military loves checklists). The remedial action I had to take to get that engine up and running again was to file an appeal, one that hinged on the fact that my entire record was not reviewed due to an administrative error by the filing clerk.

Uh oh...
To read my Military to Civilian Transition mini-series in chronological order, Click Here.

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