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Homage to Col. John Boyd in AFJ

The Armed Forces Journal has an article by Col. Michael Wyly that relates Boyd’s ethic to professionalism:

 In praise of mavericks

Robert Gates felt called upon to prompt uniformed officers accordingly when he addressed Air War College students at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in April. His speech was more than a prompt; it was an inspiration. “The Armed Forces will need principled, creative, reform-minded leaders” who “want to do something, not be somebody,” Gates said.

The secretary continued by quoting Air Force Col. John Boyd: “If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted, and you may not get good assignments, and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself.”

For a defense secretary to quote a maverick colonel who left the Air Force as a pariah was a bold and risky step. But like the fighter pilot he quoted, he turned into the fight by describing Boyd as “brilliant” in his abilities “to overcome bureaucratic resistance and institutional hostility.” The secretary referred to Boyd as “a historical exemplar,” tracing his impact on our military from 30-year-old captain through to his continued intellectual contributions after retiring in 1975. And he praised Boyd for more than his intellect. He championed his character, quoting the colonel, who said, “One day you will take a fork in the road. … If you go [one] way, you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and get good assignments. Or you can go [the other] way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself.”

….It was during the European Renaissance that the professional class emerged and defined itself. It was during the Renaissance that the birthright nobility began to give way to a society led by persons respected for their merits – for what they did instead of who they were. Each profession had standards for entry, they professed something, and their study of it was daily, continual and life-long. They served their society. Medicine, law, the clergy and military leadership became during the 15th and 16th centuries – and still stand as – the classically defined professions. When we speak of a professional ball player or a professional musician, we are corrupting the term, for it means far more than getting a paycheck for what you do. A profession must be applied for and joined after being accepted, and its moral standards are as important as its philosophy.

Read the rest here.

Blogfriend Smitten Eagle has also discussed military professionalism here.

3 Responses to “Homage to Col. John Boyd in AFJ”

  1. Smitten Eagle Says:

    Zen…Many thanks for the pointers.

    Maine is one of the few states I haven’t been to (its too far out of the way, I guess), but if I ever do make it up there I would fancy a meeting with Accolyte Wyly. 

  2. Smitten Eagle Says:

    Thanks for the pointers, zen.

    Have you met Wyly?

  3. zen Says:

    Hi SE,
    No, I have not had the pleasure. Though, had I known that Col. Wyly lived in Maine I would have made a point to have tried to meet him for coffee a few years ago when I was on a driving trip out East. Maine is a very nice state to visit, some unspoiled countryside, relatively speaking.

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