Friday, April 26, 2013

Loyalty Goes Both Ways

There has been a spat of recent events in the military that have left a majority of the active force and veterans very uneasy with the command structure.  It's most evident in the SOCOM community, because they are the most individualistic, but military wide there are rifts starting to form between "Big" branches (eg. "Big Army") and the grunts and middle management that are actually running things on the ground (at sea in the air or in space). It is not just the Generals or senior Colonels that are a part of the problem.  We have seen a vindictive streak that seems to stem straight from the political class right to the trigger pullers.

Take the example of Carlton Higbie, which for the most part is pretty cut and dried.  Perhaps he wasn't right to publish political manifestos while still serving.  I would argue that it is absolutely wrong for a trigger puller to get into the political debate.  There are actually laws/regulations in the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that prevent you from expressing anything that is deemed "political" or in a manner that does not reflect well on the service.  The why is easy to explain away with the clear examples we have of people who made jackasses of themselves in the process of expressing their "free speech" when in uniform.  There are appropriate punishments, and usually it is non-judicial punishment, but that also depends on how embarrassed the command is over the "speech" that is made.

There are other examples of Commands failing their duty to their troops.  Take this example of a Sergeant First Class out of Ft Bragg who was diagnosed with PTSD so severe they actually recommended that he be returned and hospitalized.  He stayed and finished out his tour.  When he got back he started acting up, and got 3 back to back demotions.  How a chain of command totally ignores a serious medical condition then punishes a man when it alters his action is beyond me.  Clearly the UCMJ is not being properly employed, nor is the command really taking care of its troops.  There are so many blatant examples that perhaps we should start thinking of treating going to war like diving, we need to allow time to decompress before just plopping them back in "the world."  Regardless of the solutions a unit with a high disciplinary problem looks bad on an OER.  The end result is that these problems are "handled" in such a way to either get them out of the command as quickly as possible, or are swept under the rug without dealing with the underlying problem. 

The fact that the suicide rate is near pandemic level, and the command does "safety stand downs" and "death by powerpoint" presentation that the troops jokingly say make them want to commit suicide.  This makes the command look pretty bad.  Not just the commanders, but the entire organization.  It is something we don't like to face.  The politicians are in a near panic because the news puts their feet to the fire, the command are in a panic because it's affecting readiness. . . but organization wide no one wants to tackle the root issues.  War sucks, and it always has.  There will always be people that just shouldn't be there, but we need to take greater care to make sure that the troops going to war are READY, not just physically but mentally as well.  And we need to make sure they are ready to return. 

Troops will "bare true faith and allegiance" right up till the braking point.  Not returning that loyalty will accelerate the time it takes for that breaking point to come.   the command needs to realize that loyalty goes both ways.  That the trigger pullers can't be thrown under the bus or there will be no one to fight our wars. 

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