Unless there’s a heck of a lot more to this story, this looks like a pretty egregious case of career destruction by a petty, vindictive superior.
Lt. Col. Craig Perry and his wife, Caroline, involved themselves in the personal lives of airmen and families at their new command, a leadership approach encouraged from the top down to help identify those in need.
A month after Perry took the helm of a support squadron sustaining basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in July, Caroline revived the languishing Key Spouse Program to reach out to families in her husband’s unit. She delivered baby gifts to first-time parents, cooked lunches for flight members and welcomed an airman alone during the holidays into their home.
But what the Perrys considered acts of kindness expected of commanders, investigators called favoritism and fraternization.
A January command-directed investigation report obtained by Air Force Times concluded Perry engaged in unprofessional relationships with enlisted members in his organization. He was relieved of command of the 737th Training Support Squadron on March 27 and issued a letter of reprimand.
Obviously, we’re only getting one side of the story here. And there are some issues that might raise concerns, particularly with regard to the removal of negative information from subordinates files:
The report also said Perry may have been playing favorites when he removed a letter of reprimand from the file of his superintendent who had failed to forward reports of MTI misconduct to her former commander.
Perry and several other squadron members interviewed as part of the investigation said they’d received conflicting guidance on how to handle negative information in personnel files.
Parry believed he was allowed to pull the LOR at the time because its contents had already been documented in the superintendent’s enlisted performance report and was unrelated to maltraining, maltreatment or sexual misconduct, he told the investigator.
The report indicates squadron commanders had been authorized to remove the documents from the files of subordinates, even though it violated 2nd Air Force policy. At least three other squadron commanders said they’d pulled similar paperwork from files.
“It is clear that there was confusing and/or conflicting guidance among the 737th Training Wing squadron commanders about whether or not derogatory information could be removed,” the investigator found. Whether at the command level or wing level, the Air Force needed to clear it up.
While commanders are required to treat all personnel with equanimity, the fact remains that commanders are also expected to exercise judgment, such as whether a LOR should remain in one NCO’s file, and not another. Making a judgment that one NCO has a better potential for future service over another isn’t favoritism. It’s professionalism.
And the cognitive dissonance going through the ranks, just as the Air Force is pressuring its commanders to embrace “intrusive leadership” is making my head hurt.
The Army has recently been obsessed with toxic leadership. Apparently the Air Force intends to embrace that as the only acceptable course.