Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is the Army Coming To?

When I first read this I thought maybe the Duffel Blog had punked Stars and Stripes (wouldn't be the first time), but in fact this actually happened.  Apparently the base commander at Vicenza Italy was relieved after he essentially chewed out a gate guard.  What truly astounds me is that profanity was actually cited as one of the causes for his removal.  I was extremely incredulous because I had seen this very thing happen several times.  I've even been on the receiving end of a Colonel's displeasure. It's just part of being in the Army at some point someone above you will fail to get the proper orders to you and a senior officer/NCO will show up and let their displeasure be known often in terms that include four letter words and leave no doubt that you will do what they want right now or else

even leaving aside that perhaps "shooting the messenger" isn't always the best response (however you'd be amazed at how quickly you get a response out of this approach). at what time did the US Army suddenly find profanity to be a firing offense?  If you've ever been around soldiers, profanity is almost a second language.  There are even times its almost required, because only curse words are eloquent for the amount of displeasure you have at having to inventory something AGAIN that has been locked securely in a connex.  Profanity is sometimes the only response you can give when ordered to do the impossible.  Try fighting your way out of an ambush, then being ordered to turn right around and attack the very place you just fought out of. 

I've been watching the services relieve commanders for reasons that seem rather insane lately.  The Navy has been relieving commanders and CPO's left and right for the past few years, and now apparently the Army is jumping on that bandwagon.  It's not exactly a secret that they're looking for an excuse to force people out.  Budgetary constraints often have repercussions on who advances.  In peacetime often stellar combatant commanders will be relieved because they do not polish well in a garrison environment.  However our recent experiences in Iraq should have taught us the danger of having a garrison Army fight a war. 

The old saying is that "no combat ready unit ever passed inspection," but in recent years we've also proven the opposite is true.  No unit that passes inspection is ready for combat.  There is a certain danger in relieving soldiers for "chicken shit" reasons.  It sends a message down the ranks.  Some forms of leadership that work very well in a combat environment will be discouraged for a more polished veneer that is often not ready for the harsh realities of war.  Relief for Cause is a powerful tool.  It sends a clear message.  It should not be used lightly. 

Just as discouraging is when relief is not explained.  When the services "lose confidence" in the ability of the commander they owe it to the subordinate commanders but also to the service as a whole to explain exactly what the pattern was that caused the service to relieve a commander.  The rumor mill, often referred to RUMINT, will churn out its own explanations, and in some cases may be totally wrong.  It can in cases reinforce bad behavior because a subordinate feels the commander was doing things right. 

We all accept the draw downs are coming.  We all accept that times are going to get lean.  But we also have to take the lessons we learned from the Clinton years and be very careful how we draw down the force.  If we're not careful we'll squeeze out the warfighters, and leave the politicians.  You wouldn't want to send congress to a war would you?  Why then would you politicize a unit whose sole existence is there to win wars. 


Old NFO said...

Welcome to the new military... In Okinawa last week observed four lesbians openly PDA, and the officers ignored it.

Anonymous said...

The army is trying to clean up its image. I think it's in response to the sexual assaults and the way they've been handled in the past. One of the sexual harassment prevention classes we took said prevention starts with ending the use of profane language, so I guess they're taking that shit seriously. I'm all for stopping rape, but good luck getting us to stop swearing.