Friday, March 26, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

For at least the fourth time since last October, the Air Force has fired one of its wing commanders.

The most recent senior officer to be dismissed is Colonel David Orr, who led the 66th Air Base Wing at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts. Orr's firing was announced Friday afternoon by Lieutenant General Ted F. Bowlds, the commander of Air Force Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom.

In a letter transmitted to the center staff (and obtained by In From the Cold), General Bowlds said that Orr was removed from his position for showing "undue favoritism" to a subordinate officer. As a result, Bowlds said that Colonel Orr "failed to provide a complete and candid assessment to me, the center commander."

General Bowlds said Air Force requirements for accountability made the firing necessary:

In the Air Force, we hold our commanders to the highest of standards. No commander ever wishes to take such an action against a subordinate commander, but I firmly believe this action is warranted by the circumstances. Colonel Orr has otherwise served Hanscom AFB and this Center well in many ways since taking command of the 66 ABW in July 2008. He has also served the United States Air Force with distinction throughout his career.

A career fighter pilot, Orr had served as the air base wing commander for almost two years. In that capacity, Colonel Orr was charged with supporting the center, affiliated research labs and other functions related to ESC's acquisition mission. Orr's wing provided support for more than 20,000 military, civilian and contract employees across New England, along with 155,000 Air Force retirees.

The Air Force has not revealed the officer who allegedly benefited from Orr's favoritism, or the individual's relationship to the former commander. It is unclear if Colonel Orr could face additional punishment for his conduct.

Before assuming his post at Hanscom, Orr served as Vice Commander of Second Air Force, headquartered at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, and Vice Commander of the 56th Training Wing, located at Luke AFB, Arizona.

Replacing Orr as the air base wing commander is Colonel Charles F. Thompson, previously assigned as the unit's vice commander. General Bowlds said he is "confident" will provide the "stewardship needed at this time."

Closing his letter, Bowlds asked his subordinates to "not let this distract you" from the critical duties you perform. The change-of-command announcement was made at 3 pm Friday afternoon, at the end of the duty week.

With today's dismissal, Colonel Orr becomes the fourth Air Force wing commander to lose his job in less than six months. Last fall, the service fired the commanders of the 91st Missile Wing and the 5th Bombardment Wing, both located at Minot AFB, North Dakota. Air Force officials said the actions were related to continuing problems in the nuclear-capable units. Both the missile wing and the bomber unit had failed inspections and suffered embarrassing mishaps under their former commanders.

The firings at Minot were accompanied by the dismissal of the 11th Wing Commander at Bolling AFB in Washington, DC. According to a press release, Colonel John Roop was removed from his job because superiors "lost confidence in his ability to lead."

Still, failed inspections don't always mean a change in leadership. Two units at Kirtland AFB New Mexico (the 498th Nuclear Systems Wing and the 377th Air Base Wing), failed nuclear surety inspections last fall, but their commanders remained on the job.

The Air Force says any decision to remove a commander is based on a variety of factors, and not just the results of a single evaluation.

But in Orr's case, his "apparent favoritism" towards a single officer ended his tour as commander of the 66th Air Base Wing.

Orr was not available for comment late today. Commanders removed from their post usually have the option of taking a staff job--with virtually no prospect for advancement--or requesting retirement from the service.


Dennis Sevakis said...

Wonder if any other branches of the military have experienced such incompetence within the ranks of their commanding officers? Or is this strictly a USAF-centric phenomenon?

Ed Rasimus said...

Gosh, Dennis, how does "apparent favoritism" toward a subordinate officer equate with "such incompetence within the ranks"? Lots of commanders have proteges in every branch of service.

This one is bothersome. They don't mention gender. Was this fraternization? Was it insubordination when the Center Commander told Orr to discipline the subordinate? It is way too non-specific to make a judgment. It is also considerably different than the Minot issue.

Orr was Air Base Group commander, that's like the janitor/superintendent of a condo community. He's the groundskeeper not an operational commander.

What really bothered me is how this "career fighter pilot" managed all of these years and wars without getting any combat?

Classic "pilot flying fighters" and not "fighter pilot" by my definitions.

aniko said...

That's definately a very sad story!

JoeC said...

Man oh man oh man oh man. Logistics command is getting really top heavy these days. With all these chief paper clip counters going there, micro management will ensure no work gets done. /snark

I too wondered about the object of the "undue favoritism". Such vague reference without identifying characteristics will power the rumor mill. I trust our dear scribe will get to the sordid bottom of the tale before we bust from curiosity....

aniko said...
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aniko said...

Well said Ed and Joe.

Musket104 said...
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Musket104 said...

I have worked at Hanscom for 25+ years. This is the first time ever that a 3-star has sent everyone on the base an email stating he had removed a field grade officer from duty and why. This guy must have SERIOUSLY screwed up.
In this case, removed = fired.
Everything is speculation at this point and no one knows the real who-what-why story. It will come out eventually
The Air Base Wing Commander is like the town mayor - runs the cops, fire dept., streets, civil engineering, etc.
Generally a Colonel who messes up "decides to retire" or is "reassigned to special duties". A couple of years ago, we had a 1-star selectee got into trouble (a la Tiger Woods)about a month before he was supposed to pin on. He just disappeared from his Wing Commander job and retired quietly a few months later - as a Lt Col.
It seems things like this are being made much more public that in the past. The USAF does NOT have an exclusive on this kind of thing.

Brenda said...

This is very sad. My prayers are always with our Military.

The Rash Family said...

This event has made me sad for weeks. Not because another commander has been negligent... Lord knows there are PLENTY of CC's that fit that discription!
Not this one though... This guy was different, he impressed most of the people he came in contact with. People remembered him. This is one AF member that served his career with distinction and grace.

Thoughts and prayers are with the Orr family (there are people out there that remember your service, support and dedication.)

One last thing and then I will feel some closure on this issue: A deployment is a deployment, reguardless of the number of sorties flown.
"Comabat flying experience" has also slightly changed in its meaning/significance over the last several years... we call them UAV's...
Fighter pilot spouses tend to prefer them over combat pay and a casket.
- Keri