Tuesday, February 7, 2012

USAF Politics and Lt Gen(P) Wolfenbarger

I saw this interesting story on Yahoo today, Obama Air Force Nomination Reeks of Politics, by Teri Heisler.  It talked about the careers of 3 different female USAF flag officers: Lt Gen(P) Wolfenbarger, Maj Gen Masiello, and Lt Gen(ret) Gabreski.  Wolfenbarger made the news because she will become USAF's first female 4-star.  Heisler decried the selection because she thinks that the other two officers were more qualified, worthy, of being the first USAF female general.

The 3 generals had very distinct career paths:  Wolfenbarger, an Academy grad, is a developmental engineer.  Masiello is a contracting officer.  And Gabreski is a maintenance officer with significant command and operational experience.  Masiello deployed to Iraq once, while Gabreski served a tour in Korea.  Wolfenbarger stayed CONUS the whole time, but she did have a GWOT Svc Medal. [Couldn't find where she got it from.]  Heisler thought that Masiello and Gabreski are better role models because of their deployments and operational experience for an Air Force at war.

However, I think USAF went with the right choice with Wolfenbarger, both as a female role model and as AFMC Commander.  Wolfenbarger is an engineer, which is exactly the raison d'etre of AFMC: to engineer weapons for the USAF.  If Gabreski was in the Army, then she would have made 4-star because the Army likes operational experience.  But the USAF needs an engineer to manage its technical programs, so Wolfenbarger got the nod.

Moreover, as a female engineer, Wolfenbarger is the right STEM role model.  It's somewhat ironic that Heisler, who just wrote about "Women in STEM Careers", turns right back around and decries a female engineer making ranks.

[On the other hand, the current AFMC Commander, Gen Hoffman, a male, was a fighter pilot and an engineer.  So when USAF female pilots come of age, we can expect AFMC commanders to stay pilot/engineers.  Gabreski was operational, just not the right kind of operational.]