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Air Force: Group Dynamics
The Air Force refers to the division of the United States Army which uses its power in aviation technology to protect the nation at large.
Stages of Development
The history of the United States Air Force is a truly lengthy one, as the division of the military is over one hundred years old. The beginnings were modest and difficult. "On August 1, 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed an Aeronautical Division. This action came only three-and-a-half years after the Wright brothers flew the world's first powered airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. At first, however, the Aeronautical Division was mainly interested in balloons and dirigibles instead of heavier-than-air flying machines" (airforce.com/history). It wasn't until 1909 that the first plane flew within the air force, with the first Aero Squadron being formed in 1913; the following year the army created the aviation section of the signal corps as a way to both improve the flying capabilities for the army at large and it develop the technology (airforce.com/history). This was of course, right before World War One, which the United States readily entered.
All the other countries involved in the war had far better aircraft technology than the United States and even though America had strong funding and dedication, they were still playing a constant game of catch-up. "Responding to criticism of the American aircraft effort, President Woodrow Wilson created the Army Air Service and placed it directly under the War Department on May 24, 1918. By the time of the armistice in November 1918, the Air Service had grown to more than 19,000 officers and 178,000 enlisted men while American industry had turned out 11,754 aircraft (mostly trainers like the JN-4 Jenny). The Air Service soon lost most of these people and planes in a rapid demobilization right after the war" (airforce.com/history, 2013). During this time the U.S. still sent lots of airmen overseas, flying French-made planes, were referred to as part of the American Expeditionary Forces which were ultimately honed in to aero squadrons which had become a "formidable striking force" (airforce.com/history, 2013). World War One was one of the most seminal moments in history for the development of the air force as it demonstrated the sheer potential and possibility for air power as a means of valuable support for soldiers on the ground (airforce.com/history, 2013).
Mission and Values
The mission and values of the Air Force has a marked impact on how they view themselves, engage in conflict and engage with one another. These elements have a tremendous impact on group dynamics.
As the official Air Force website states, "The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win & #8230; in air, space and cyberspace. To achieve that mission, the Air Force has a vision of Global Vigilance, Reach and Power. That vision orbits around three core competencies: developing Airmen, technology to war fighting and integrating operations" (Airforce.com/mission). As one can clearly see, all of these elements can create a highly aggressive, domineers branch of the military, with extremely aggressive means of dealing with one another. For instance, the Air Force values Air and Space superiority, meaning that joint forces are able to dominate enemy operations; global attack, rapid global mobility, precision engagement, information superiority, and agile combat support, are other factors of combat and behavior that are prioritized. While the Core Values of the Air Force should temper the aggression and superiority that is such a huge aspect of this branch of the military, they don't always seem to. The Core Values of the Air Force are: "Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do" (airforce.com/mission).
General Group Dynamics
Since the Air Force is a branch of the military, the group dynamics are very stagnant and highly predictable. The Standard Model has been the primary method of military group cohesion (Siebold, 2011). Conformity is a tremendous part of how the group works together. "Highly cooperative groups tend to become highly cohesive. Over time, team members become socially and emotionally connected to one another which improves communication and coordination. However, it can create problems because the team becomes too oriented toward itself" (Levi, 2011). This demonstrates how conformity can makes any branch of the military a hotbed for unfairness like racial discrimination or sexual harassment to flourish -- as history has shown. This is largely because the military in general is impervious to outside influences, as is the definition of conformity.
Negative Consequences of Skewed Group Dynamics
These missions and values can create a culture which is centralized on being macho -- something which is not conducive to teamwork or to dealing with situations in a humane or dignified manner. Macho culture values things like strength, aggression, violence, acting first and acting questions later. This can truly be a destructive way in which to engage in group dynamics. "Sexual assault occurs in myriad settings and the perpetrators come from every swath of U.S. society. Yet as recent incidents and reports make clear, it's a particularly intractable problem in the military, with its enduring macho culture and unique legal system" (Crary, 2013).
One of the most revealing aspects about the group dynamics of the U.S. military is that it appears to foster sexual assault, a crime which has increased in the air force in the last few years. This should come as no surprise really to anyone, as the values of the air force which are prioritized (aggression, masculinity) are ones which would naturally objectify women.
"The military says they have zero tolerance, but in fact that's not true,' said Dr. Katherine Scheirman, a retired Air Force colonel with more than 20 years of service in the U.S. And abroad. 'Having a sexual assault case in your unit is considered something bad, so commanders have had an incredible incentive not to destroy their own careers by prosecuting someone'" (Crary, 2013). Thus, one could argue that the group dynamics facing the military right now are very much "in their opposite." On the one hand, this masculine culture pervades where the objectification of women is permissible. On the other hand, the problem has received so much bad press and attention, that the military can't help but need to address it immediately and with a great deal of visibility. As stated earlier, part of the reason that the problem still persists is that 26,000 service members were sexually assault in 2012, an increase from 19,000 in 2012 (Crary, 2013). In fact, there were 3,374 incidents reported in 2012 and of those reports only 238 convictions were made; as one Senator (Barbara Boxer) has pointed out, this means that thousands of felons are walking around, undisciplined and unpunished (Crary, 2013).
Boxer is co-sponsor of a bill that would remove top commanders from the process of deciding whether sexual misconduct cases go to trial. Instead, that decision would rest with officers who are trial counsels with prosecutorial experience.
Thus, within this culture of masculinity and aggression, there's something inherently missing and its accountability. Despite all these lofty values that the Air Force says that it treasures, there's no culture in place to support accountability. Fundamentally, on some level, these airmen know that they can get away with committing these crimes and subjugating women in this fashion. As Nancy Parrish claims, of Protect Our Defenders, "When military leaders are held accountable for countenancing bad behavior, then you'll begin to see a shift in the culture,' she said. 'They've proved they can do this with racial integration. Anyone who countenanced racist behavior would be fired.'" This is an important point. While the group dynamics of the Air Force might never gravitate away from uber-masculinity and aggression, when it came to racism the accountability factors in place deterred and ultimately squelched racist behaviors. The key element to bear in mind is that the Air Force didn't change: it remained the same highly macho place. What changed was that racist actions were no longer tolerated in policy and more importantly in action. The same needs to be true when it comes to sexual assault.
Interestingly enough, small groups or cliches, while essential as a stabilizing force within any type of military setting, can sometimes manifest as renegade forces. For instance a study was done which cited how "Small groups within the military establishment are relatively numerous and vitally important. A sense of comradeship exists within such groups and troop morale is frequently facilitated by their existence" (Newby, 1977). The paper demonstrates how these small groups were often responsible for acting as the nucleus around which things like drug abuse revolved (Newby, 1977). The same was true when racism was an issue -- small subervsive groups were often the perpetrators of racist behavior and tendencies, long after policies had established equality, or tried to.
Structure of the Air Force
The structure of the Air Force is indeed complex as it has both a political/civilian/administrative structure, in conjunction with a military component. The Secretary of the Air Force…[continue]
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