20. October 2006 · Comments Off on You Know It’s Time to Retire When (061020) · Categories: Air Force, General, Pajama Game

Thanks to the new downsizing “Force Shaping” measures, it looks like I’m back to retiring from the Air Force next year, as originally planned.

I know I’ve made “jokes” about why I’m retiring but tonight I’m thinking more about the truth of the matter.

The truth ladies and gentlemen is that I’m in the way. No, I’m not sinking into some sort of dark place, I’m facing reality.

Reality: I joined the Air Force late and I’m 22 years into it and I’m 45 years old. I’m as old as most Colonels. I’m older than some Chiefs. My generation, my year group of folks is almost entirely retired. I’m feeling not alone, but lonely. There just aren’t that many folks my age in the Air Force anymore. I was at a symposium a couple of weeks ago with about 100 other Master Sergeants and I just didn’t feel like I fit in. That had a lot to do with age and the Class A type of folks who typically take this seminar.

Reality: If I’m going to make Senior, I’ve got at least another year and a half of rehabbling my file to make a decent board score. Look, I’m having fun being part of the booster club and being part of a Top 3 that’s really involved with helping the younger folks, but I’m just not willing to suck certain Chief’s schwing-stick or kiss another Chief’s butt to make sure my file rises to the top. I would love to maintain the illusion that the Senior or Chief’s board is based completely on a stratified system of filling in the right events in the right order. I’d be lying to you and myself if I ignored the fact that Chief’s talk amoungst themselves.

Reality: I simply can’t hack the new PT Standard. Because of past abuses and some genetics, I’ve got a blood pressure problem and a cholesterol problem. My feet, ankles, knees and lower back, simply don’t tolerate high impact aerobics any more. All of this is in no small part to continuing to doing things I shouldn’t have done and not doing other things that I should have done. Bottom line, I should be doing Tai Chi, Yoga, vigorous walking or low impact Cross-Training, and not Tae Kwon Do and pounding pavement. I’m all for service before self. I’m done hurting myself though.

Reality: The Air Force is changing…again. When I came in, we didn’t think, we KNEW that we were going to one day go head to head with the Soviets. My generation was pretty darn sure that we’d have to pick up an M16 to protect a base long enough to get the planes off the groud and then figure out how the hell to get out of Dodge…or not. In the 90s we were mostly thinking we might have to spank the Chinese around a bit or eventually get around to Iraq or Iran, but all that would be done from a distance or a secure forward deployed location. They told us and told us and told us that they wanted our brains, they wanted our technical skills. Today we want smart jocks, not nerds. It’s not enough to be proficient at your job, once again we’re expected to be warriors. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in the past few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m simply not a warrior. I don’t belong in a war zone. I would be a hinderance. I’m more worried about what my life means to my family and friends than I am about convoys or other NCOs or Airmen around me. Believe me, that hurts to admit, but on the other hand, I know it’s kind of normal. I also don’t have the nervous system I used to. Simple crap startles me. Boyo, my Ninja son, has managed to jump start my heart on more than one ocaission in the past few months. If my body follows the route of my Dad and sister, this is not going to get better in the next couple of years.

Reality: I’m becoming more jaded and cynical and I’m having a harder time keeping my mouth shut in front of the younger folks. I’m saying things out loud that I should keep to myself and other Senior NCOs. I’m close to becoming one of those old, cranky, bitter bastards that I can’t stand. I still have my sense of humor, so I haven’t crossed the line…yet…but I can see it coming.

Reality: I don’t see how the hell the Air Force is going to maintain it’s mission with the current round of personnel cuts. That’s a problem. I don’t see a solution. It’s time for me to get out of the way so folks who can see a way, can take my spot and get it done. I’ve managed to keep the dam plugged so far, but they’re temporary solutions to problems that are going to get worse instead of better.

And finally, I understand what the word weary means. I’m weary. I need to quit doing this before I turn into one of those guys that retires and has a heart attack six weeks after he walks out the door.

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