Cheating Nukes

CheatingThe fact that half the officers with the Nuclear Keys at Malmstrom AFB appear to be connected in some way to the emerging exam cheating scandal gives me the heebie-jeebies. SECAF James is admirably stepping up to get things turned around. This article in AF Times says SECDEF Hagel and SECAF James are convening the inevitable commission to admire the problem. Among other things they are going to consider are cultural issues, differences between testing and training, accountability, professional training, core values, incentives, et.al. WOW!
But I don’t think these folks decided to cheat or permit those who do to be counted among their rank since they joined the Air Force. Can a dishonest person be trained to be honest? I recall a Seinfield episode in which George was confronted by his boss about an incident of making woopie with the maid in the office. “Was that wrong?” asked George, “because if I had known, I would not have done it.” I shudder to think that one of the nuclear officers may have had a similar reaction. My contention is that these officers just didn’t decide to cheat on the nuclear exam on a whim. They were just going about their day-to-day activities without thinking. In his book “The Screwtape Letters”, C.S. Lewis describes the mentoring of a young devil under training, Wormwood, by his Uncle Screwtape, a member of the Senior Devil Service (SDS). The young trainee is having trouble getting his “patient” (victim) to turn to the dark side. He asks Uncle Screwtape what big event can he orchestrate. Screwtape replies that he’s not interested in big events. “The road to Hell is a gradual one.”
I’m sure the accused at Malmstrom are all decent people, but somewhere, sometime long ago they started a “gradual descent” that hopefully will be arrested and corrected by the efforts of Air Force leadership. But let’s not kid ourselves. Morals, ethics, and accountability need to be nurtured from our first gasp out of the womb, to our last gasp on the battlefield, not in a seminar for adults who hold the keys to the nuclear kingdom.

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