LANGLEY AFB, Va. — When Air Force F-15 pilot Maj. Matt Rosol walked away from his aircraft after his last active duty flight, his leg dragged. Fearing a medical problem, Rosol immediately asked for help.
“Can’t,” said crew chief Staff Sgt. Chris Hosler. “You’ve been clamped.”
Rosol looked down to find a parking boot — a device originally built to disable ticketed cars from being driven away — clamped to his leg. As he limped around in circles, his plan for a career as a civilian airline transport pilot seemed grounded. But he is merely part of a larger Air Force readiness problem.
Pilot retention has nosedived in recent years. Reasons for that include a high deployment rate, the state of the crazy, mixed-up, formerly-beloved Air Force Academy, and the fact that every single flying squadron commander was fired in 2017 for poking subordinates while taking Fat Leonard-sized bribes.
The Air Force is working overtime — a rarity among Airmen — to fix the retention problem. In a recent testimony to Congress, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein used Fingerlings to demonstrate exactly how the service is mitigating its pilot shortage.
“This one here,” he said, wiggling an index finger on which was placed a Fingerling with a perfectly-shaped beard, a kombucha drink in one hand and a gourmet taco in the other, “is the traitor pilot leaving for six figures and weekends off at Delta.”
“And this one here,” he said, waggling another finger, “is our solution.” A Fingerling with an Air Force security forces uniform held a boot clamp in one hand and in the other, a yellow flag portraying a snake with the lettering, “Don’t Leave on Me.”
Feingold said, “The clamp, invented in Denver, which is close to our precious Buckley Air Force Base, promotes retention by ensuring our best flyers stay close by. And by close, I mean like nuts to butts.”
Back on the tarmac, Sgt. Pinner was cleaning his tools and preparing to go home after his shift.
“Takes Goldfein himself to unlock a boot or a pillory,” Pinner said, while spraying WD-40 into a flange on the Air Force’s new ReTENT-1O-N Boot. “He’s got the golden parachute key — I hear it hangs on a chain around his nuts. But I haven’t ever seen it, thank Cthulhu.”
She-Ra contributed to this story.