April 10

Regarding the April 7 editorial “Missile malaise”:

During the mid-1970s, I was assigned to the 341st Strategic Missile Wing as a Minuteman crew commander. I was profoundly saddened by the damaging ways in which talented, dedicated individuals there could be treated. Thus, while I am deeply disturbed by the revelation of cheating by officers in the unit, it comes as no surprise.

Intercontinental ballistic missile crew assignment was known as a “meat-grinder,” where people were managed in the same manner as the technology that surrounded them and where true leaders, in the most aspirational definition of the term, were scarce. A sufficient number of new crew members was ensured only by periodically granting Strategic Air Command the authority to commandeer officers from across most other specializations in the Air Force. The culture was defined by the aphorism: “There are only two kinds of officers in the crew force: them that has busted an evaluation and them that will bust an evaluation.”

In such a setting, where even one innocent, insignificant mistake could alter the future of the most talented and promising officer, is it any surprise that a culture of cheating should arise?

The editorial raised the question of whether the Air Force can learn anything from this scandal. Given that nothing seems to have changed from my experience, I seriously doubt it.

Calvin W. Hickey, Warrenton, Va.

The writer is a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve colonel.