Something’s been happening at the United States Air Force Academy over the last decade, and it has at its core an apparent attempt at appeasing the politically correct crowd. In 2003, the USAFA removed the iconic message, “Bring Me Men,” from the Cadet Area in response to PC critics who saw sexism in the statement. In 2010, the USAFA hired the Air Force’s first Chief Diversity Officer in the wake of a string of incidents involving alleged religious insensitivity. But are these “fixes” by the Air Force’s leadership genuine efforts at solving problems, or are they nothing more than a public show of “we care” as the Academy cowers to any form of criticism, founded or unfounded?
The “Bring Me Men” phrase first appeared in 1965 on the archway over the ramp that runs between the Academy’s Vandenberg Hall and Fairchild Hall. In 1965, in response to the USAFA’s first cadet cheating scandal, the school’s leadership decided to place a phrase that would greet new cadets and instill in them the importance of moral and ethical behavior. Bring Me Men is a line from the 1894 poem, The Coming American, by Sam Walter Foss.
Bring me men to match my rivers,
Continent cleavers, flowing free,
Drawn by the eternal madness
To be mingled with the sea;
Men of oceanic impulse,
Men whose moral currents sweep
Toward the wide-enfolding ocean
Of an undiscovered deep;
Men who feel the strong pulsation
Of the Central Sea, and then
Time their currents to its earth throb —
Bring me men!
“Men whose moral currents sweep,” epitomized the quality of cadet the USAF wanted to mold into a commissioned officer. It was not then, nor was it in 2003, a sexist statement meant to exclude women. It was as inclusive of women as the phrase, “all men are created equal” from the Declaration of Independence. Yet, when faced with criticism from PC snipers, the USAFA cowered, tacitly agreed with the critique that it was a sexist statement, and removed it. In its place, the USAF’s core values of Integrity, Service, and Excellence now grace the archway.
This decision not only amounted to agreement with the sexism allegation, it was a cowardly thing to do. Men and women with the kind of moral current that Foss described in his poem would have rejected the sexism claim and defended the honor of the words. In so doing, the USAFA would have provided an example of leadership and courage of conviction to all future generations of cadets.
Fast forward to November 2010. The USAFA announced it had hired Adis Maria Vila as the Academy’s first Chief Diversity Officer whose role “will include working with Congress on diversity issues, promoting institutional and classroom diversity and uniting diversity efforts around the Academy to increase various agencies’ effectiveness.” Missing from the USAFA’s announcement was the real reason behind the decision: alleged religious insensitivity.
The Air Force Academy has had a rocky history with religion on campus, with various separation-of-church-and-state proponents critiquing anything that suggests a pro-Christian bias. In 2005, the Pentagon sent a team to the Academy to investigate alleged religious bias, but it found no “overt religious discrimination,” only “insensitivity.” In January 2010, pranksters placed a cross made from wooden railroad ties at the USAFA’s Wiccan Worship Site (my first reaction to this story was, “We have a Wiccan site at the USAFA?”). Good news for the ten practicing Wiccans at the Academy: the Druid site is back up and running, but there’s no word yet about the cost to taxpayers. Oddly, too, there have been no complaints about it from the separation-of-church-and-state crowd. Perhaps that’s because a CDO has come to the rescue.
Does the USAFA really need a CDO whose duty description is formed from squishy, feel-good, diversity babble with vague job performance measures? If the USAFA suffers from religious “insensitivity” as the 2005 investigation showed, is a CDO necessary, or is this more about appeasing the critics and giving the appearance of caring? Just like the decision to remove the Bring Me Men phrase from the Cadet Area in 2003, the 2010 decision to hire a CDO is a reactionary surrender to critics. It’s a shingle the Academy can display to the public that says, “See, we take this stuff seriously!”
Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the thriller series, the Child Finder trilogy. He is a retired USAF Colonel and 25-year career Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Follow him on Twitter: @MikeAngley, FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/mike.angley, and visit his website: www.mikeangley.com.