Could SAC Return in Today's Air Force
When I came in (1982) there were three commands: SAC, TAC, and MAC (in that order). Yes there were a few others but those were the big boys. The nuclear triad (bombers, missiles, submarines) was “it” and since the AF held two-thirds…you know who big daddy was.
Then the wall fell and TAC won the MAJCOM wars (if in doubt, just look at the ACC patch compared to TAC’s), the remnants of SAC were scattered about. The “TAC mentality” (flying by the seat of your pants), Quality Air Force (with its vague and open to interpretation AFIs) replaced the rigid preparedness that “won the Cold War”.
Today’s bombers are doing CAS missions, nukes are getting mishandled, nuke crews are decertified, and “compliance” is a term the Air Force is struggling even understand…yet alone follow. Is it possible to resurrect the “spirit of SAC” and apply it across the force…I don’t think so and here are my top five reasons why:
1.The Nation is not united against a common enemy.
For better than 40 years our enemy was the USSR. We knew what they looked like, how they dressed, how they talked. Popular movies almost always had the bad guy speaking with an Eastern European accent. School children regularly practiced “Fall Out” procedures (Duck & Cover). The Olympics were USA vs. USSR (see 1972 Men’s Basketball and 1980’s Miracle on Ice).
Today we can’t even agree if it’s a Global War On Terrorism, and obviously our enemies cannot be easily defined or identified. Any attempt at selecting a certain group of people as our common enemy is negatively called “profiling”.
2. A MAJCOM Commander will never be allowed to serve for multiple terms.
General Curtis Lemay was CINCSAC from 1948 – 1957.
MAJCOMs today are not controlled by the MAJCOM CC, but rather by the staff civilians who were there before and will be there after the current CC leaves (and they know that!). DoD mandated that there is only CINC; hence the MAJCOM CC is now called COMACC (as one example). CINCSAC definitely would hold more respect than COMSAC.
3.We’ve lost the ability to follow rules to the letter, do what is directed by leadership or by guidance.
SAC had written procedures for everything, and you had to have your checklist open to the appropriate page and refer to it as you are performing your task. Toilet paper was commonly referred to as SAC Form 1.
Did Airmen grumble about being in SAC, yes…but at the same time they were proud to be in SAC. You knew where you stood and that with the exception of the local weather and surroundings how you performed your duty was the same at any SAC base or unit. There were very few local supplements to any AFR and of course NEVER to a SAC regulation. Now each base (even with the same weapons systems) does it their way at balks at the idea of standardization and training/evaluating to a worse-case (ORI) scenario.
4.We don’t have the dedication, patience, etc. to train-evaluate-train constantly all the while hoping that we will never have to perform our real wartime mission (nuclear weapons).
Imagine a constant IG/ORI mentality. Imagine anyone/everyone jumping into your business if you are not doing it the SAC way. Imagine everything (and everyone) shining, looking just right, always on display.
The attitude instilled in the SP at the front gate to every Airman across the base, if you were in SAC you were above the rest. So much so that in the early 80’s SAC authorized the wearing of SAC shield (like on the SP berets) on all SAC Airman’s blues.
5.We no longer openly and visably recognize and reward excellence in our PAFSC.
SAC had numerous master technician programs that recognized you were “it” in your PAFSC and on a particular weapon system. Add to that the amount of competitions, evaluations, etc. that gauged your skills at your job…SAC recognized that every Airman was important and valuable to the mission. And they wore a special patch on their uniform stating "SAC Master Technician".
6.We don’t have aircraft on alert.
Nothing more chilling than to hear the claxon sound, see the crews scramble from the alert facility and race to the flight line. Seeing the alert signs in all the facilities, alert crew parking slots, alert crew seating areas in the theater, etc. reminded you that we only had a few minutes to respond.
Will we ever see the return of SAC? Probably not, although we certainly could use a lot of SAC’s positive traits.
"Never force a fart in Djibouti"..."Always marry your second wife first"..."If anyone says that you're not a team player, maybe they're on the wrong team"..."You can gold plate a turd and it's still a turd"