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Towards a Fail-Safe Air Force Culture: Creating a Resilient Future While Avoiding Past Mistakes

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Technical Report

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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Commander of the 1st Fighter Wing, Colonel Steve Goldfein, summed up his responsibility stating, In the end, commanders do only two things provide vision and set the environment. Almost everything you do for the organization falls into one of these categories.1 Unfortunately, it is often in the wake of incidents, tragedies or failures that shortcomings in either or both are exposed. Air Force Chief of Staff General Ronald R. Fogleman inherited a series of such incidents when he took command. In response, he issued an August 1995 video tape on the topic of Air Force Standards and Accountability following additional administrative actions he directed against officers involved in the 14 April 1994 shoot down of two US Army helicopters.2 In the immediate aftermath of this incident only one officer, the Airborne Warning and Control System AWACS commander Captain Jim Wang, was court-maritaled for the death of 26 friendly personnel.3 Others involved, to include the F-15 pilots who actually shot down the helicopters, received non-judicial punishments which were initially intended to remain outside of their permanent service records. In defending the additional punishments he levied, Fogleman argued the lack of initial accountability was an unacceptable failure of leadership.4 Significantly, this all transpired only a few months after Colonel William E. Pellerins court martial in the notorious 24 June 1994 crash of a B-52 at Fairchild AFB a crash resulting from the actions of a rogue subordinate pilot, Lt Col Arthur Holland, and the lack of accountability exhibited by his senior officers.5

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