Originally Posted by Keyboard Ninja
I was always thought that CDC (continuing development course) training was supposed to lay down the foundation for every airman in their particular AFSC. If you completed them you were good to go, BUT if you fail them on your second try you were either asked to crosstrain or given the boot.
With the USAF cutting back why are there waivers given in any particular career field? I'm not in a position to say yay or nay, but I'm hoping someone who has been would be able to comment on it. I know and have heard of others who have continued on in career fields where they flunked their exams both times. If thats the case why would any new rookie even try?
One age old comment I have consistently heard was that the USAF has already invested XXXXX amount of dollars in this particular person and it would be a waste if they couldn't get any productivity out of them. At that point is it better just to fill that spot up with a body regardless if they were competent or not? I figured that would be dangerous whether it be an admin job or infantry.
I'm not trying to rock the boat. All I'm trying to do is understand the decisions being made, and why. Someday that'll be me making that decision. I don't have a mentor, and the comments/answers to these posts (and others to come) are the closest thing I have to one. Any comments from anyone (civilian or military) that has been in a position to make a decision on a subordinate's future based on their failure to complete their training would be greatly appreciated.
Waivers are given to exceptional people, for whatever reason. However if there are no waivers being handed out that month then it doesn't matter how exceptional the people are, end of story, no appeal. People who've been trained to expect waivers are eventually tripped up by this attrition, especially when the head manpower bureau needs to get end strength down before the end of the fiscal year.
The "problem" with waivers are that they attract way more publicity than the hundreds of people who've just been doing their job (we love an underdog), so waivers become anecdotal proof that the system is flawed (even if it's working as designed). It's far better to be able to conform to the expected requirements (proving that you understand how to join & develop a team) than to have to cast your fate with the waiver authority. As has already been pointed out, a waiver at a selection board is always a red flag. However it's hard to see this part of the picture unless you've done a tour at HQ or the Pentagon.
A supervisor may actually be encouraged to hand out waivers to show that they're bending over backwards to give their troops every opportunity to fix their problems. Because it costs $$$ to get a person to a certain point, a commander with a reputation for throwing away their personnel would soon be thrown away themselves. Instead the chain of command is expected to show what they've been doing to remediate that laggard's skills to bring them up to par. ("Who else is going to fix your people?") Then when it's time to throw them elsewhwere you can point to a foot-high stack of counseling sheets, upgrade plans, waivers, and letters of instruction. The word "waiver" just sounds better than "stay of execution". Again most people aren't at a command long enough to see the inevitable conclusion of the waiver process.
The submarine force used to get rid of anyone who couldn't keep up with the qualification requirements. ("Send 'em to the surface ships-- or the Air Force!") We didn't want anyone whose lack of knowledge or ability could kill a shipmate.
Then we ran out of submariners. When the pipeline dries up, you learn to conserve your resources. Three-section with a slow learner was only slightly less painful than port&stbd, but it was a heckuva lot better than port&report. So some waivers are granted just to share the burden with the rest of the crew while the chain of command is campaigning for a replacement. As soon as someone shows up to fill the billet, however, the waiver "expires".
The training & qualification system works well enough in the end that the waivers don't have a significant impact. Sometimes it's only to make the person feel better. When I was just a little lieutenant, my top radioman (an E-5) popped positive on urinalysis for marijuana. This was back in the early days of the program when not everyone trusted the drug laboratory (nor should they today), so there was significant doubt that the drug lab had the right guy. The division's chief petty officer was lukewarm in the guy's defense (which should have been all the clue I needed) but we decided to go to bat for one of "our sailors" and we asked for a waiver. However the result of this misguided support at CO's mast was that I had to escort him to the restriction barracks (with his young spouse sobbing by his side), and then boot him out of the submarine force.
A couple months later in the radio shack I commented that this patrol was a lot harder without the services of the guy. RM2(SS) Drummond, a communicator of very few words but exceedingly fine skills, commented "Sir, I'd rather be port&stbd than three-section with that dirtbag." The chief just smiled that grim little "Told ya so, sir" smile. Glad that waiver didn't come through...
Waivers always look like a failure of the system (if not a travesty of justice) until you're the person who needs a waiver to get a little breathing room. I've been very happy that failing a major exam or a qualification board wasn't considered grounds for dismissal. But in the span of years to decades, waivers are a blip on the radar alongside the swings of the pendulum. The system eventually works and spits out those who can only succeed through repetitive waivers.