Today, I finished a project I started two and a half years ago. More specifically, I started it dozens and dozens of times over the last two and a half years, but every time I started, I got about three minutes into it and had to stop, wrapped up in an anger and frustration-filled ruminating rut. Today, that changed. I sat down and saw it through, done with the clarity and lucidity I needed for the task: filing the appeal of my reprisal Officer Performance Report (OPR) written in September 2020.
That OPR was the impetus for so many things – so much came of the fallout of that assault on my career; a snowballing of inquiries, investigations, and eventually important laws and legislation. That performance report was a textbook retributive “hit”, carried out by insecure and inept senior officers who didn’t have the courage or fortitude to deal with their failures and could not stand to watch me continuously succeed and outperform them. Their vengeance is no more. That attack was the personification of the quote below, the battlecry of the weak and cowardly:
That September 2020 OPR was their meek way of trying to control how people viewed me. It failed.
The appeal in and of itself was not incredibly burdensome or time-consuming, but was incredibly difficult nonetheless. For the countless times I started the appeal these last years, I couldn’t see it through because there were so many emotions tied to it such that as soon as I started typing, a flood of anger, frustration and disappointment would hit me. And the emotions weren’t really about the OPR, they weren’t even really about the cowards who wrote it. Those emotions swirled uncontrollably inside because of the events that followed – the failure of the military to protect me, its betrayal of me and what is right and just…and all the people that failed me along the way. During each attempt, within minutes, I’d have to walk away from the computer, hoping to be able to return to working the appeal at some point down the road.
Today was that day.
When I hit send, it will be another closure in what I hope is a long string of closures to come. The appeal may succeed or it may not. That OPR may be expunged and it may not. It doesn’t matter. The real victory is that it is done and I had the ability and stability to be able to piece together the best case I could.
And speaking of the appeal itself, I would be remiss if I did not speak to it here, best encapsulated, I think, in the closing paragraph:
“I would like to conclude by submitting to the board that this appeal is as much about the Air Force’s Core Values as it is about an erroneous performance report. As the Defense Attaché Office’s Collection Manager, it was my duty to assess the intelligence collection and reporting performance of every attaché. When MB, my primary rater, by my assessment as well as all quantitative measures and firsthand accounts, consistently failed to perform to standards, I was faced with a decision point with two paths: do the right thing, or do the right thing by my career. I could have easily glossed over MB’s performance and impact on the mission in an effort to curry favor with him and improve my performance report. I didn’t. I did my duty. I assessed his performance with the professionalism, objectivity and mission focus that I did for everyone in the office, as was my mandate. That decision was the personification of Integrity First and Service Before Self. For that, I was retributed against with a biased and unfair performance report. I ask this board to consider the incongruity between the Air Force Core Values and the performance assessment system should this injustice go unrectified.”– Closing paragraph to the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records