Ivan Thompson is St. Louis native, father of five and a 1986 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. He graduated with military distinction and as the Outstanding Cadet in Organizational Behavior. He retired from the Air Force in 2010 with 24 years of active duty and reserve service in the grade of Lieutenant Colonel. He served for one year as a government civil servant as the Deputy Director of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board (DBB). The DBB was composed of senior executives drawn from the business community to make recommendations to the Chiefs of each Military Service, the Secretary of Defense and his key staff on effective strategies for implementation of best business practices of interest to the Department of Defense (DoD). As the Deputy DBB Director he facilitated and at times participated in the Task Groups chartered by the Defense Business Board. As it pertains to this book he co-led a complex and sensitive study of Minority Representation in DoD's flag officer ranks, assisting CEO team leaders in interviewing 20 of the nation's leading diversity strategy companies, distilling research from interviews, site visits and publications into succinct, feasible recommendations. He also led a segment of the research into the diversity of the senior leaders of the Armed Forces, interviewing top minority general officers and DoD leaders.
The Air Force's Black Ceilingby Ivan Thompson
The "Air Force's Black Ceiling" is a view of diversity in the Air Force from one man's over 28 years in the Air Force. This view begins with his perspectives and insights as an Air Force Academy cadet and continues with his progression through company and field grade ranks. It also includes special insights gained while serving on the Secretary of Defense's Diversity Task Force as the Deputy Director of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board. The author's view of diversity has been bolstered by face to face interviews with five former African American Air Force four-star generals and numerous current and former African American generals in the Air Force and the Army. The author's views are also influenced by numerous discussions with former graduates of the US Air Force Academy, his work with the Tuskegee Airmen chapters and his own detailed research into the biographies of former Air Force Chiefs of Staff and former Strategic, Tactical and Air Combat Command Commanders. The title might imply that the "Black Ceiling" has been put in place on purpose by senior Air Force leaders... the reader will find out that isn't the case. The reader however will find out that there are very distinct remnants of an intricate system of exclusionary development practices, cultural practices, stereotypes and biases that have served to keep the ceiling in place for African American men throughout the Air Force's existence. The author redefines diversity in an effort to show that certain doors in the US Air Force still remain solidly closed to African Americans in 2016. Previous definitions of diversity allowed the Air Force to appear successful if it had a black four-star general on the roster. The author's definition keys in on diversity in the fighter pilot ranks. This is a critical distinction. It is a pivotal distinction to point out that until 2015 the Air Force has never had so much as a three-star general in charge of fighter or bomber forces in Tactical, Strategic, or Air Combat Command or in US Air Forces Europe. There has never been a four-star commander of any of these commands. A generation of fighting the Cold War in Europe. Nearly a generation of war-fighting in Iraq. With no African American three-star generals leading the fight until 2015. The author will show that the Air Force has a history of picking its Chiefs of Staff, its Commanders of Tactical, Strategic, Air Combat and US Air Forces Europe from general officers who were proven in the fight. The author shows in detail the selective and exclusionary development of non-minority officers from the time of commission, only to point to changes that must be made to change diversity where it is needed most: fighter pilot general officers. The target audience for this book is those who recognize that the Air Force is a great institution that can be made better. Those who might be in a position to influence or even make the changes recommended in this book to make the Air Force better than it has ever been.
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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite The Air Force's Black Ceiling is a nonfiction military history book written by Ivan Thompson. While the US Air Force is unparalleled across the globe, the lack of diversity within its pilots in general and fighter pilots specifically is a failing that needs to be both recognized and addressed. The author worked his way through company and field grade ranks in the Air Force and also served on the Secretary of Defense's Diversity Task Force as the Deputy Director of the Defense Business Practice Implementation Board. He takes an historical look at the roles African Americans have played in the Air Force as he explains why there's been a paucity of black three- and four-star commanders and never a black chief of state. He shows how a policy decision was made to prefer fighter pilots for promotional opportunities over others, including bomber pilots, and other policy decisions that deliberately excluded minorities. Thompson shares a look at the Tuskegee Airmen, those approximately 900 black pilots who made such an impact during World War II, and he examines their success and achievements demonstrating how similar environments and education could be instrumental in finally breaking what the author calls the Black Ceiling. Ivan Thompson's nonfiction military history work, The Air Force's Black Ceiling, is a rigorously researched and well-presented look at the history of the promotional scheme of the US Air Force over the last century, with particular emphasis placed on the decreasing opportunities for African Americans to achieve rank on a par with their white peers in the service. He explains the politics behind the decision to recruit from the fighter pilots, and the way in which the Creech method selects and grooms those candidates deemed most promising for promotion. I was particularly fascinated by Thompson's accounts of the Tuskegee Airman and the impact of President Roosevelt's Civilian Pilot Training Program, which paved the way for the inclusion of black pilots in the military. The Air Force's Black Ceiling is both an inspiring and an upsetting read, especially his chapter on Colonel Charles E. McGee, whose career achievements seem to have been overlooked, and who, as the author shows, clearly deserves that one star. Thompson also includes an extensive list of sources for his work. The Air Force's Black Ceiling is most highly recommended.