In September 2018 the US Air Force ran a tour of Special Operations Command for a dozen Hollywood bigshots. The only major hiccup in the entire event was the issue of swag kits or swag bags, containing baseball caps, t-shirts, pendants and other touristy crap with the AFSOC logo printed on it. This idea came up late in the day – in the week before the tour actually took place, and caused quite the internal kerfuffle.
The planning for the tour was a little rushed, trying to get all the approvals and permissions for the various briefings, demonstrations and driving the writer/producers around for static demos of numerous aircraft. As one email from an exasperated public affairs official, just a fortnight prior to the tour, said:
Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Daniel Craig, Emily Blunt….these are just some of the people not coming with Lt Col Nathan Broshear when he brings writers, producers‐types to Hurlburt 10‐12 Sep. However, if AFSOC wants a movie made about us these are the people we have to interest and impress. Since we are about two weeks away we really, really, really need an itinerary. Please plan on coming over here for a meeting at 1300. Thank you.
George Clooney (He was born in the same hospital as both of my brothers)
Another slightly weary message around the same time described some of the demos, and signed off:
Hollywood huh? Didn’t they get enough during the Transformers movies?
The irony being that this tour was put together by the Air Force, not requested by Hollywood.
When it came to the swag bags, Travis Schirner of the Air Force entertainment liaison office wrote an email on September 4th (a week before the tour) saying:
Not an immediate concern, but we wanted to also talk about putting together goody bags for the attendees with patches, coins, maybe a shirt… We could charge them a landing fee of $50 or so and give them a bunch of swag from units they visited.
They’re gonna want to buy stuff anyway, so doing these bags upfront would be easier than coordinating with the booster clubs to get them out to certain locations during the trip…
AFSOC public affairs officer Amanda Farr sent the idea up the chain for discussion, and the new head of AFSOC public affairs said he had no problem, but another officer, the one who sent the ‘Clooney’ email above, wrote:
All right, we just had an impromptu meeting on this. The Chief said “who tasked Capt Farr with this? I said “no one did (meaning in this office‐‐Amanda had taken the call from Broshear)” Chief back‐‐”somebody did, she didn’t think it up herself.” Then the Chief said she would front the $400 to buy the souvenirs. I said I was not comfortable with that.
She then “suggested” that we go to Broshear‐‐then walked away.
Truthfully, this is the first time in my 35 years anyone expected to be given anything other than a coin when they came through the gate. In the past, and we’ve had heavier‐hitters than this, they bought coins, golf shirts, etc when they visited a particular squadron. I personally think it is kind of strange we are essentially “selling” them something without them even seeing it‐‐but maybe that’s the way it’s done in NY/LA?
The head of the AFSOC public affairs office replied:
Bro pitched this to me last wk; I advised him a legal review would be prudent. If he has the A‐OK to do this, Bro can then Venmo the cash to us to buy the wares. We should not be fronting this cash. Pls make sure Chief and Capt Farr know our intent. Thx
This is quite bizarre because there had already been a lengthy discussion over whether any of the aircraft required for the demonstrations could be specifically tasked in order to do the things they wanted to show to the Hollywood producers. This went back and forth, initially AFSOC refused to do anything that wasn’t already scheduled or had specific training value, but they relented. They discussed drawing up costs, but it wasn’t clear who would be paying these costs – not the producers, not the Hollywood office, so who?
That they’d then be quibbling over a few hundred bucks for souvenirs – however superfluous – makes this entire episode quite, quite ridiculous. It isn’t clear exactly what happened with the swag bags, since the email chain goes dead once they’d referred the whole matter back to Broshear.