[Editors’ Note: We received this article prior to the Labor Day holiday and we release it as an eloquent exercise in Moral Leadership, independent of any organized religion, for Civil Air Patrol. AuxBeacon is aware of other commander reprisals against national activity directors who reported fraud, waste and abuse in Civil Air Patrol. Perhaps this will encourage others to come forward publicly. Thank you for your service and contribution.]
Distinguished Region Staff College Director Punished by Region Commander for Returning Coin
It is a singular headstone in a cemetery filled with the graves of military veterans. Wisconsin Memorial Park, not far either from Milwaukee or from Timmerman Field, is the final resting place for over 1600 military veterans. Every Memorial Day 1600 American flags are flown. There is a ceremony for which the Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol’s Timmerman Composite Squadron provides a color guard of teenage cadets in USAF uniform. Afterwards, the members of the squadron, cadets, senior officers, parents – past and present members alike, gather around this headstone to render honors to one of their own: a CAP Cadet Master Sergeant who died at age 14 after a difficult lifelong illness and was buried in his CAP uniform. On that singular headstone, unique in a cemetery filled with all the emblems of the various military services, there is the bronze emblem of the CAP with its distinctive propeller and triangle.
Every year for the past twenty years, that cadet’s father, himself a senior officer in the Civil Air Patrol, had spoken at this gravesite to the assembled members of the CAP family about integrity, faith, and living lives worthy of the ultimate sacrifice of our military veterans by pointing to the exemplary life of his son as an example of service worthy of imitation by all assembled. 2018 was the last year of that twenty-year CAP tradition.
The new Region Commander of the Great Lakes Region has disrupted this decades’ long Memorial Day tradition after that father, Lt Col Gregory Schulz, PhD, now retired from CAP, returned his region commander’s coin.
In a July 30, 2018 Letter of Reprimand emailed to Schulz and copied to a large number of CAP personnel, the colonel was informed that his Character Development Instructor qualification had been revoked “in consultation with the National Chaplain,” and that he had been “barred from participating as teaching faculty in any CAP Professional Development or cadet leadership activities for a period of three years at any CAP echelon,” and more. According to the Region Commander, this was due to “publicly rejecting an award from a senior officer [which] may be perceived as a calculated attempt to embarrass Region leaders” and which constituted “open defiance and insulting behavior, both … highly insubordinate activities.” The award Schulz had returned in a brief announcement before beginning the duty day for the last day of his region’s Region Staff College was the Region Commander’s challenge coin.
What is remarkable is that this year was Lt Col Schulz’s fifth year directing the Region Staff College (RSC). A twenty-some year veteran of the U.S. Air Force’s all-volunteer organization, Schulz is widely respected for teaching and exhibiting moral leadership and core values both in his squadron and as Professional Development Officer and more in his home wing, is a multiple Officer of the Year award recipient for Aerospace Education and Character Development Instruction both from his wing and the region, and has received Exceptional Service awards from the other region commanders each of the previous four previous years under whom he served as Director of the Region Staff College.
He had been brought in as Director by a previous region commander in order to re-boot a Region Staff College that had failed and had consequently been cancelled altogether. Schulz had, together with his topflight team, reformed that region’s RSC into one of CAP’s exemplary region activities, rated “highly successful” by USAF liaisons and consistently scoring at the top of satisfaction surveys of its graduates.
Readers of this publication and members of the Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol seeking to correct its problems “for the good of CAP” will be interested to know what this Region Commander’s treatment of a distinguished officer means for them and for CAP, so we are publishing a few first-hand responses from the former director of this exemplary Region Staff College.
[Incidentally, Dr. Schulz (he is a full professor and ordained pastor who teaches ethics at a major Christian university), has said that he will be happy to share (1) his original RSC lesson
materials on Communication and Moral Authority upon your request to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also willing to share, with names redacted, (2) his detailed reply identifying the key factual inaccuracies, the major interpretive fallacies and the improper citations of CAP regulations in his former Region Commander’s letter, (3) his after-action email to this year’s RSC graduates in his former region and (4) his letter to his wing commander, copied to his Wing and Region chaplains.]
First, why return the commander’s coin?
Schulz: “I had been publicly painted into a corner by the authoritarian and non-communicative command style of a brand-new Region Commander. He had decided to alter the commands and traditions I had been following from my previous Region Commanders, but had failed to communicate them. He altered the funding such that we had to make special pleas for additional donations during the RSC and at least two of us on staff covered all or the majority of our own expenses. With no concern for leadership continuity, his staff informed me the first day of RSC that I was being “rotated out” of the directorship. With barely time to alter the schedule I was told not to invite two of our regular instructors (both past Region commanders) to teach on their usual day because he did not want them there at the same time, etc.
“Does a Region Commander have authority to change things? Sure, of course. But the issue was one of Moral Authority, which depends on clear written and spoken communication – the very thing that is at the heart of the RSC curriculum. Moral authority via clear communication is the reason that CAP requires RSC for all of its officers as a prerequisite before they will even be considered for promotion to Lt Colonel.
“In effect, the Region Commander was altering the configuration of our topflight Staff College in midair, during final approach (he assumed command barely a few months before the RSC) and even in the last minutes of the mission, as the wheels of the RSC plane began touchdown. In a word, he was undercutting the mission of a CAP RSC by his failure to lead with Moral Authority.
“For example, at the banquet on the night before the region’s RSC graduation it has always been the custom for that region’s commander to present awards to the staff, the group mentors and other folks who had rendered the above and beyond volunteer service that made our RSC so successful, year in and year out. Then, the region’s commander has always stayed for the last day of RSC to “support the troops” by listening to the award-winning speeches that are required elements of the RSC curriculum before personally bestowing the diplomas and personally commending graduates and staff at his region’s RSC graduation.
“As usual, during the week, I directed my Admin Officer, who is also the Region Command NCO, to
present the Region Commander with our usual requests for these awards, along with my recommendation that the commander award them at the banquet. Attendees at that banquet will remember that, as the emcee prepared to conclude the evening’s program, he asked if there were any other announcements, so I walked up to the podium and quietly asked what had happened to my staff’s requested awards. There was no reply then or thereafter. No one, not the Region Commander who was at the banquet, nor his Command NCO, communicated a word to me about the awards, or about reasons for the commander’s absenting himself from RSC graduation the next day. Not a word from the commander to the assembled RSC at that banquet concerning the awards requested for the staff. Not a word to the RSC about the commander absenting himself from graduation the next day.
“This commander’s authoritarian and non-communicative command style created a safety issue, so to speak – a safety issue regarding the core values and actually the core curriculum of every CAP Region Staff College. In keeping with my many lessons and discussions of the core value of integrity as the center of gravity for Moral Authority in CAP (just have a look at the 38-page workbook I wrote for Communication by Moral Authority 101; as well as my online pre-RSC course taken by all our students), in the informal announcements just before the beginning duty day for graduation, I requested that the region’s Deputy for Mission Support, the highest-ranking member of the region’s staff in attendance that graduation day, join me at the podium. I explained to everyone present that “someone quashed quashed the awards requested” for my exceptional staff. Accordingly, I then asked the Deputy Commander to return the coin the Region Commander had given to me alone in front of the entire RSC the night before, while asking that he tell the Commander for me, ‘Respectfully, I stand with my team.’
“It was a matter of living out the core value of integrity as best and with as limited a scope of influence as I could, since as best I could tell, given his authoritative and non-communicative command style, the Region Commander had publicly honored me while publicly declining to recognize my people. Nor did he communicate any reasons for this to the College. He had given me his coin in front of the entire Staff College, so I did my best to respond in like fashion with the integrity that my officers and I had been teaching in nearly every class and discussion of the RSC that entire week for the College’s students to take to heart and into their own CAP and professional leadership.”
What do you make of the Region Commander’s response?
Schulz: “Well, among friends and trusted colleagues, I would have preferred to respond to another officer’s “potential embarrassment” by recommending that he submit the always-useful Hurt Feelings Report – Form 8662232B knowing that it would receive all the consideration that this deserved. But the manner in which this commander chose to react leaves me with two serious responses.
“First, I really do forgive him and his staff for these actions against me. I am a Christian and, as the Geico Insurance folks put it in their commercials, this is what we believers do. But my genuine forgiveness does not mean that I am willing to play possum while personnel who are trying to re-write my CAP reputation abuse authority this way in our Civil Air Patrol.
“Secondly, this command action is a matter of moral concern in regard to CAP as an organization. Perhaps it has ramifications for the USAF as well.
“Think of the situation as if it were an intercept mission of the sort that many of us have flown, with CAP Cessnas as the practice targets for Air National Guard F-15s. This commander chose to fly in a manner that created backwash and navigational hazards for the RSC Cessna that I was responsible for piloting.
(Think of that scene in the 1980 movie The Final Countdown, where the Navy jet fighters toyed with the Japanese Zeroes.) While I did my best to maintain the integrity of the Staff College with a quiet but clear in-house communication, the Commander responded by punishing me. And he did so in what any objective investigator would recognize as a vindictive manner. “His response was completely out of proportion. If he had the connections, I imagine he would have had me sent to Leavenworth or placed me in front of a Region Firing Squad for ‘potentially embarrassing’ him. Even granting for the sake of discussion (which I honestly can’t do) that this commander was right in claiming that my return of his coin was embarrassing to him and insubordinate besides, he chose to employ a nuclear option.
“Let me explain. How do you get from what this commander referred to as ‘potential embarrassment’ to a letter of reprimand for insubordination? I don’t recall ever teaching in any of my UCC courses that embarrassment merited reprimand of any kind. How do you get from emailed explanations of how things needed to be done better in terms of continuity for an RSC to allegations of insubordination? Think for a moment about the Air Force core value of Excellence in All We Do.
“One more example. How do you get from allegations of insubordination (which I have refuted in writing to everyone who received copies of that reprimand, but have received no response, excepting my own Wing Commander, bless her) – how do you get from allegations of insubordination at a senior-level Region Activity to a ban on teaching cadets?
“This last element of my punishment for ‘possibly embarrassing’ this commander by returning his coin is the most concerning part of the whole business. As this Region Commander and his entire Command Staff know full well, the reason I served in CAP is to be a living memorial to our sainted son, c/MSGT Stephan Schulz and to share his love and devotion for CAP with cadets and their parents. I shared my reason for being in CAP throughout this RSC. Just ask this region’s RSC Classes of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Just have a look at the Moral Authority in my crystal-clear written and spoken communications during RSC and in every class I’ve taught for over two decades in CAP – online, for Professional Development weekends, in Encampments, and so on.
“I am not a casualty of CAP friendly fire. I am the target of a defensive commander whom CAP placed into the cockpit of an F-15 – and who responded to my urgent, corrective communications from my ship-shape CAP RSC Cessna with a missile attack. I can take it, but can our CAP? What about our younger or less seasoned CAP colleagues?”
Well, then, how does your experience as RSC Director affect your view of the Civil Air Patrol?
Schulz: “As we all know by experience, there are many exemplary members with whom it is an honor and a privilege to work (my home wing is blessed with hundreds of these folks!). But there are also individuals who are ambitious for rank and promotion and command above all, individuals lacking Moral Authority who ought never to be in positions of responsibility and authority over cadets – or in authority over any human beings in an all-volunteer organization such as CAP.
“In view of this draconian reaction of a Region Commander and given the apparent support of CAP personnel right up to the National Chaplain at least, I’ve retired from CAP and chosen to invest my volunteer time in areas where I won’t be cut off at the knees while doing substantial good by teaching and mentoring people to live ethically and with integrity. At this point in my career, I’ve quite a few invitations stateside and overseas for teaching and lecturing, so I cannot justify biding my time in CAP Purgatory. On the one hand, I know that this Region Commander acted beyond his authority. He also acted immorally, truth be told. But of course, he was able to do what he did because of the support of quite a number of people in the Civil Air Patrol. Honestly, I confess that I am also disillusioned with CAP as the result of this moral failure on the part of one of its corporate representatives.
“The Air Force and its Civil Air Patrol leadership should declare a safety down month for Moral
Leadership. The Air Force and its Auxiliary need to consider that such mistreatment of those of us who dedicated our service to mission support and teaching ethics and core values is degrading the stated missions of the CAP. If you disregard ES protocols, people get hurt and lives are lost. If you disregard the professional voices of us Mission Support officers who teach and train others in ethics and core values, the organization gets hurt and volunteers are lost to CAP. Region and National commanders need to press the pause button on the plane talk in order to answer that question from Saving Private Ryan. I’ll paraphrase Tom Hanks this way: “How are you showing yourselves worthy of our volunteer lives?”
“I love and respect almost every single one of the officers and commanders I have served with in my Wisconsin Wing – almost as much as I have loved teaching and mentoring generations of cadets into the men and women of integrity that they have become. So I am leaving with mixed emotions. I do intend this article to be for the good of the CAP. But do you know what is decisive for me, even after being shown the door by the CAP in the person of a Region Commander?
“At the end of the day, I will be looking at the Civil Air Patrol as our late son saw CAP. It has been fitting and deeply satisfying to have served for twenty-plus years as a living memorial to him in the same USAF / CAP uniform that he loved to wear. My wife and I had his gravestone cast with the CAP’s prop and triangle emblem. That CAP emblem will be there on his gravestone every time we visit his grave until we all meet again at the Second Coming. Until then, I will do my best to look at CAP through his eyes.”
Dr. Schulz’s book mentioning his CAP service as a memorial to his late son, a CAP cadet, is The Problem of Suffering: A Father’s Hope, 2nd Expanded edition.