This is an excerpt from the chapter titled "Culture Change vs. Recruiting"
Culture Change vs. Recruiting
A waste of paper. Those are my thoughts about the vast majority of diversity studies the Air Force has paid for. I feel that I could just change the dates on many of them, and they’d be basically the same reports. I go into great detail as to why I feel that way in a chapter in “Black Pilot” entitled “No More Studies.” Most of them contain one fundamental flaw that I will challenge headlong now. It’s the premise that the Air Force cannot obtain greater diversity at the senior levels because it has failed to attract higher caliber minority talent. The accompanying flawed premise is that there can never be a greater percentage of minority officers in Air Force senior leadership positions than the percentage of minorities in America’s population.
Let’s start with the tired and well-worn excuse of not enough minority talent. In “Black Ceiling,” I discussed this in a series of chapters under the heading “Does The Cream Always Rise to the Top.” In 2003, as the Deputy Director for the SECDEF’s Defense Business Practice Implementation Board, I interviewed a senior DoD official who used the phrase “the cream always rises to the top.” It just hit me at this moment that the color of cream is white. At any rate, she basically said if we had more talented black men and women in the pipeline, they’d naturally rise to the top and be represented in the Air Force’s most senior leadership ranks. Half the chapters in “Black Ceiling” repudiate this premise by pointing out the importance of being a pilot, i.e., the career field that has the lion’s share of the Air Force’s senior leadership allocations. Her premise also leaves out the importance of professional development, mentoring, grooming, door opening, sponsorship, and more insidious factors such as bias and discrimination.
We’ve been taught to look for talented people to become Air Force officers, specifically pilots, in one way. By SAT score, GPA, class rank, etc. In previous books, I have shared that all the Service Academies use the “whole person concept” to select cadets for admission. The whole person concept gives points towards selection for things like being class president, captain of a varsity sports team, leadership roles in clubs and community activities, etc. However, the academic standing of minority graduates is often cited as the sole reason minorities don’t fare well in promotions to the highest levels of the military.
We all know that leadership isn’t measured merely by academic prowess. But what of the Air Force’s argument about scholastic aptitude and success in technical career fields like aviation? In “Black Pilot,” I made the argument that a person who had obtained his/her private pilot’s license before commissioning would be more successful in pilot training than a person with a fantastic SAT/ACT score and high GPA who had never taken a flying lesson. I backed that up with my experience with the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM). TAM is a program in Compton, CA that teaches minority children to fly planes and helicopters, starting at age 8. The TAM program has produced several world record holders for student pilots under age 16.
In “Black Ceiling,” I pointed out that selection for pilot training was highly correlated to a pilot candidate’s performance on the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT). At first glance, it seems as if the AFOQT is merely an academic metric, perhaps comparable to the SAT. A closer look, however, reveals that a good portion of the AFOQT is a measure of a student’s competency on the dynamics of flight and airplane instrumentation:
“Exposure to the fundamentals of flight is a significant factor in how well pilot candidates perform on the Air Force Officer Qualification Test (AFOQT). The AFOQT measures a pilot candidate’s existing knowledge of the fundamentals of flight. A typical AFOQT has 12 sections of roughly 220 questions, of which 40 questions are on a plane’s instrument comprehension and the terminology of aviation (BaseOps.net, n.d.).
Since the AFOQT is taken relatively early in the pilot candidate’s college career, students who have had little to no exposure to these principles in high school will be significantly less prepared.”
The Minority UFT Attrition Study makes the same conclusion about the SAT, namely that it is a poor predictor of success in pilot training. It rightly states that the AFOQT, which is largely a measure of student’s prior exposure to flying, would be a better predictor of success in pilot training:
“In another study of interest, Buchanan (1934) attempted to determine why black attrition in UFT consistently exceeded that of the overall population. The author cited data which indicated that the overall attrition percentage for UPT increased from 9.65% in 1979 to 29% in 1983. The black attrition percentage during the same period increased at a much faster rate (33.3% in 1979 to 63.8% in 1983…In this study, Buchanan investigated the possibility that selected variables, such as SAT scores, AFOQT scores, degree types, and commissioning sources might be of use in predicting who would complete UFT. He concluded that SAT scores, by themselves, were not reliable predictors of success in UFT. However, AFOQT-P scores and AFOQT-N scores do appear to provide a reliable basis for predicting success in UFT.”
I found one of the strongest arguments in support of my whole-person premise in the most unexpected place. If you were to ask the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein, who was the greatest fighter pilot he ever knew, or perhaps his top five, I would be surprised if his dad wasn’t on the list.
In researching Gen Goldfein’s father, I found out that his dad became a pilot, moreover a fighter pilot, with just a high school education. I previously shared this about Goldie Goldfein’s path to becoming a fighter pilot:
“So he entered the Air Force as a guided missile technician, in time starting flight training under a program that allowed high school grads to become pilots as the Korean War raged. He got his wings as a second lieutenant as the war ended. Initially placed in interceptors, he volunteered to fly reconnaissance planes.
He became a T-37 Tweet instructor at Reese AFB in Lubbock on his way to a career that would see him earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and fly a variety of aircraft, including the C-47, C-54, VB-17G, RF-84F, RF-86, RF-101 and F-4, racking up an estimated 5,500 hours[IT2] .”
I also noted that Goldie Goldfein became a full Colonel and served as the Chief of Staff at the Tactical Fighter Weapons Center. He also launched the careers of his three fighter pilot sons, two of whom retired as general officers.
Gen. John P. Jumper, also a former Air Force Chief of Staff, had a father with a similar background.
“General Jumper was born in Paris, Texas, a child of cotton farmers. His father was Jimmy (not James) Jefferson Jumper. Looking "probably for a way to get out of Paris, Texas," John remarks, Jimmy enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces, near the end of World War II, became a pilot, and retired as a two-star general, "having never gone to college."
“Major General Jimmy J. Jumper is chief of the Air Force Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam.
General Jumper was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1923, and graduated from Paris High School, Paris, Texas, in 1939. He began his military career in 1941 as an enlisted man and received his commission as a second lieutenant in December 1944 after graduating from the aviation cadet program at Moore Field, Texas. He has served in a number of key positions at many locations in the United States and in the Far East…He is a command pilot with more than 5,200 flying hours.
At first, I didn’t know how to feel about Gen. Goldfein and Gen. Jumper’s fathers going from enlisted to fighter pilot without a degree. I had mixed feelings because I didn’t know if the programs that allowed enlisted members without a college degree to become pilots were open to African Americans. I knew that many of the Tuskegee Airmen were men with technical degrees in the 1930s and had to be the best and brightest of all the minority applicants considered. I later found out that Tuskegee Airman James Harvey, part of the team that won the Air Force’s first Top Gun trophy for propeller aircraft, took a similar route:
“‘Tuskegee Top Gun' Lt. Col. James Harvey
Harvey: They sent me to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, for 30 days of basic training, and when I finished my basic training, they sent me to …. Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Army Air Corps of engineers, driving bulldozers, graders, carry alls. My mission was to go into the jungles in the Pacific, doze out an area, build an airfield for aircraft to land on. And we used to go out and practice every day. And I says no, this isn't for me. So I applied for cadet training, was accepted, and there were ten of us, nine whites and myself. We took the exam two of us passed. Then from there, I went to Keesler field for 30 days of basic training and from there to Tuskegee, and then the rest is history.
Interviewer: Folks can tell by your hat that you did something very interesting in 1949, right. That you were not only at the first Top Gun, you won the first Top Gun.
Interviewer: Tell us about it, okay.
Harvey: I'd say January of ‘49, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force sent out a directive to all the fighter groups in the United States. That they were to participate in gunnery competition or weapons competition between each squadron and in each group. And they were to pick their three high scorers as primary members and an alternate member to represent their group at the first-ever Top Gun weapons meet to be held at Las Vegas Air Force Base Nevada. And today, it's known as Nellis. Well, the 332nd, which is us, we had scorers because we had been to Eglin seven a month prior. So based on our scores, Captain Temple of the 300th, first lieutenant Harry Stewart of the 100th, and myself of the 99th were chosen as primary members and first lieutenant Albert Alexander of the 99th as an alternate member. So that was our team. And before we left Lockeborn heading to Las Vegas Air Force Base, we met with Colonel Davis. He was the group commander. And his departing remark was if you don't win, don't come back. So off we went with those words of encouragement.
Interviewer: All right, so let's get out to Top Gun. What does the competition consist of?
Harvey: The competition for that meet consisted of aerial gunnery at 20,000 feet, aerial gunnery at 12,000 feet, dive-bombing, skip bombing, rocket firing, and panel strafing. Now skip bombing; you come in very low to the ground, your propeller clearing the ground by about a foot. And when you release your bombs, you're so low they don't have a chance to nose over yet, so they hit flat and skip through the target.
Interviewer: And so as this unfolded, you guys were pretty much in the lead the whole time, right?
Harvey: We lead from start to finish.
Interviewer: What are you thinking as this is happening?
Harvey: This is the way it's supposed to be.
Interviewer: Were the other crews surprised that you were winning so easily?
Harvey: Yes, they didn't care for it. I'll tell you why. This is my estimation. Just before the last event, which was panel strafing, Uh, well, let me back up. They're going to issue two trophies—one for high individual and one for high group. Well, Captain Temple of our team was high individual. Through every event, he was high individual. And we as a team through every event a high group. So we had one more mission to go, which was panel strafing. There was a guy in a P-51 outfit that was close behind Temple for high individual. Now, this is my thinking. One more event to go. They didn't want to see us take everything. They wanted to get something out of this. Because we had a lock on the meet. So the only thing left is high individual. So, one of the rules of the meet was if you have to abort, your team members take off, their score is counted, yours is zero. We had a guy in a fifty-one outfit who was close behind Temple. He had to abort. They gave him another airplane. Right there, they broke the rules. His score was so high. I think they gave him extra bullets for the event. Anyway, he aced Temple out of high place for high individual. But we won the meet. However, we were never recognized as the winner. The Air Force Association puts out a magazine every month, but once a year, they put on an almanac. And in that almanac are the winners of each of the weapons meets from 1949 through present day. Today it's called Red Flag. Anyway, each year when that almanac came out, the winner of the 1949 weapons meet was listed as unknown, unknown, unknown. Finally, in 1995, our group commander Colonel Campbell called Lieutenant Stewart and asked him if he had the information on the weapons meet. And he said no, he didn't have it; maybe I did. He called me, and I told him I didn't have it maybe he could find it at Wright-Patt. No, I'm sorry Nellis. So he went to Nellis, and he found what he was looking for, and he presented it to the Air Force. And as of April of 1995, it shows the 332nd as the winner of the 1949 weapons meet. Forty-six years they knew who won, but they just didn't want to recognize us. So the only reason we were recognized was we had to submit the paperwork to Air Force.
Interviewer: Even as late as 1995, they weren't admitting it, but now they do.
Harvey: Now they do. It's on display well; let me back up again. We got a big three-foot-high solid silver trophy. Somehow that got lost. We have a lady in Atlanta. Her name is Zellie Orr. She is a historian. She made it her mission to find it. She found it in five days at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Museum storage area. So she went to Wright Patt. She saw the trophy, and she asked, why isn't this on display? They said we had a lot of items in we can't display everything, and this item will never be on display. Well, it is on display. Wright Patterson Air Force Base museum. Right now. You go into the door, out of the gift shop area, if you look about a hundred and thirty or forty degrees to your right, you can see it. But it is on display.
Interviewer: It's finally on display.
Harvey: Fifty-five years in hiding.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqA1ihi_0MU)
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