Reforming the U.S. Army
Why Don't Good Men Rise to The Top?

By Mr. Emery Nelson, edited by Michael Sparks

My first experience with the officer promotion system came in the spring of 1973. The best officer and leader of men I had seen, or was to see in my whole Army career was Reduction In Force eliminated or "RIFed". His name was Capt. Donald M. Green. He had served in Vietnam for eighteen months, first as a Plt. Leader and then as a Company Commander. Whenever I would inquire as to why he was being kicked out, I was told he had come up through the ranks and gone to OCS which didn't make him "eligible" to be retained. The real "problem" was that he was better than any officer of similar rank without enlisted experience who was being kept. Not just a little better but the best.

We were a combat support company, so we had three different platoons and other units of different specialties like Scouts, Mortars, Air Defense Artillery (ADA) and engineers in the company. This odd assortment of Military Occupational specialties (MOSs) could make the training schedule a little difficult. Under Capt. Green the Company received the best training we would get. No detail was too small for his attention and he would solve most problems by immediately giving them his full attention. He spent 18 months in Vietnam as both a Plt. Leader and Company Commander in the 1st Cavalry. His ability to get the best out of Combat Support Company was amazing! You had all these different MOS's and Plt.s but he pulled it all together and made sure we all were trained. The guy who replaced him was an aviation guy who had never commanded a Plt. and never been to Vietnam. Can you imagine a Helicopter pilot who had been in the service 8 years in 1973 and never went to Vietnam? He managed to be the pilot for the Division Commander no matter where he was his whole career. He was never RIFed. In fact he was my Commanding Officer (C.O.) for about a year and received his promotion to Major. and went to Division. He understood nothing about leading troops but he still managed to survive and prosper in the bureaucracy while better, more selfless men went to Vietnam and DIED. Their names are on the "wailing wall" in Washington D.C. and they probably got General's stars. That was my first hint that something was terribly wrong.

What happened?

He was a leader just like the Army says it wanted.

But somehow it didn't make any difference.

He was gone and we suffered with fools for the rest of the time I was in the company. I do not want it to appear as if this was an isolated incident because it was actually the norm. I entered the Army on 15 April 72 and for the next year I watched a steady parade of the best officers leave the Army. These men had all been Platoon Leaders (Plt Ldrs) leaders in Vietnam and quite a few had been Company Commanders. They loved the Army and were good at solving all the problems encountered in a company. Most of these men would have gladly stayed at the company level for their whole careers. They were not interested in "career progression" just detering aggression. But they were gone before I was into my second year. To be replaced with bootlicking sycophants who had know idea how to run a company or actually fight it, and didn't think it very important..the "peacetime" Army had returned, its warriors sent to the junkyard.

When I first came to the company it had severe drug problems and our first CO didn't do much about it. He was a good man but he was upset about his being RIFed so he basically didn't do much except hang around waiting for his separation date. When Capt. Green came in it probably took him three months to end drug problems in the company. He put men in Mannheim, kicked some out and patrolled the company himself at all hours of the night and day. We also went to work. We started doing some real training, doing PT every morning and basically we became Soldiers. That company was a great place to be for several months after he left. The really bad BS started when the new Company Commander received an award for all the wonderful work in stopping the companies drug problems. This was about three months after Capt. Green left. The drug problem was just about back to what it had been before but that didn't matter. The new bootlicker got his award in front of the whole brigade, presented by the Assistant Division Commander (ADC). The Bootlicking Capt. eventually became a Major. And moved up to Division where I'm sure he made many superior officers very happy.

I would like to think that the Army had learned something in all this time but apparently it has not. Earlier this year, I read that Col. Douglas MacGregor, author of the superb book, Breaking the Phalanx was passed over for the third time was finishing his active-duty Army career (we hope he goes into the Guard/Reserves and keeps up the fight). This is the man who wrote about changing the Army into more deployable units like Brigades that actually train for a mission without having to strip men and equipment from a Division to be ready. The recent misadventures of Task Force Hawk in Albania would have been prevented if the Army had adopted his recommendations. HQDA looked at the concept but decided that it "wasn't a good idea at this time". A token "Strike force" Brigade HEADQUARTERS without any real troops or light Armored Fighting Vehicles (More staff jobs for staff officers) has been created at Fort Polk, Louisiana which could conveniently give the Brigade Combined Arms organization a "bad name" by deliberate mismanagement like the High-technology motorized 9th Infantry "test bed" division was sabotaged in the early 1980s. Then the "old guard" of the Army could say they "tried" the idea but it "didn't work", so we should stick to their status quo etc etc ad nauseum. Although I don't totally agree with Col. MacGregor, his ideas were the only thing new under the Army "sun". Col. MacGregor's last position was working for General Wesley Clark in G-3 operations during the air campaign in Kosovo and probably was a mastermind to its limited success. An air war run by Army officers. I think the message to anyone paying attention is clear: "Don't rock the boat, go along and be quiet...and above all... don't be too smart".

He should have been promoted to General just for his demonstrated MORAL COURAGE (Hey, isn't that an Army value?) in writing his book and challenging us all to greatness. The Army should have a tradition of INNOVATION and EXCELLENCE, values that should be among the "core values" plastered on walls and handed out to the troops as key rings. That boats need to be "rocked" for barnacles and rust to be removed, and it takes sMART PEOPLE to do this while the "ship" keeps sailing at the same time. Men like Col MacGregor. Or Gavin, Ridgway, Patton, Carlson. Those that say they would stand by the "greats" like Patton if they were alive back then yet today castigate and destroy the MacGregors are devoid of ANY Army values. They need more than a key chain in their pocket, they need a heart transfusion or a trip to the "wall" in Washington D.C. the next time they get an "I love me" promotion or non-combat award they put themselves in for.


If we do not answer this question, and fix the problem the very future of our Republic will be in jeopardy since the Army is the sole ground taking and holding force that keeps us FREE. There is a cause and effect relationship between Army culture and policies that promote and encourages wrong thinking in men and in some cases simply places the wrong men into situations where they are unable to overcome our own bureaucracy, the elements and the enemy to win. The battlefield is no respector of persons.

America, a World Power, why?

It's well known that Americans are not particularly fond of a large standing Army. This is not a bad thing and no matter how some feel personally the Constitution is our guide, and that's as it should be.

Unfortunately our position in the world doesn't allow us a truly small Army. It just can't happen in the present climate. Our economic posture is global, and any attempt to opt out of the world would cause the collapse of the economy and encourage brutal dictators to use force as a means of accomplishing their goals. We have been down this road twice in this century and paid in blood for our lack of preparation in the two world wars.

The point is the condition of the Army and officer corps is crucial to the welfare of the country. Our very system depends on freedom to operate without fear of coercion from foreign governments. With missiles able to reach the Continental U.S. in minutes and the speed in which enemies can invade a country, we cannot count on the Army to be built up in a time of war. It should also not be forgotten that Pearl Harbor was a direct result of our lack of preparedness. In order to prevent war it is necessary for all our potential enemies to understand we are ready and competent to prosecute a war to it's conclusion.

Much of the problems with the officer promotion system has always been there. It is very difficult to keep an Army ready for war in peace time. Without the test of combat to judge the quality of an officer it is almost impossible to come up with objective standards. But this shouldn't prevent us from at least making the goal of, making war, the primary job of an Army officer. If making war was our goal perhaps we wouldn't be saddled with a system that is more interested in equipment procurement and "enhancements" than the care and training of individual Soldiers. The individual Soldier is the man who will use the equipment and if they are not prepared and trained for war the equipment will be an expensive foot note to our defeat in a war.

Many of our current problems can be directly traced to World War I. That was the first time we had to come up with a large Army to fight a war across and ocean. The rapid expansion of the Army required lots of administration. Many officers found their place in the scheme of things by virtue of understanding the Army and being adequate at the huge administrative tasks. They didn't have to be good, just not bad. Most men were anxious to serve and would put up with many idiocies of the bureaucracy to get into the war and by virtue of the wars popularity these officers couldn't fail. In effect they fed the machine and were promoted and advanced beyond their wildest dreams without ever having to prove themselves in the war. They were also able to make contacts with civilian leaders because they were hear and many officers were overseas. Many of the others were assigned to staff responsibilities overseas and would have access to men like Gen. Pershing, AEF Commander. Their loyalty to Pershing was to pay off after the war when men like MacArthur and Patton were almost kicked out of the Army and men like Marshall and Eisenhower survived quite nicely.

Its very important that we clearly state the personalities of the guilty parties, since these things ARE personality driven. There are undefined "cliques" running/ruining the Army today. Eisenhower was an obscure COL until he had dinner with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1940. He left MacArthur in the Philipines after FDR and Congress turned their backs on him. Mac stayed at his post WITHOUT PAY and got called "Dug-out Doug" when ordered out and then brilliantly marched across the Pacific defeating the Japanese with operational maneuver and low casualties while the Navy/marines attacked frontally in blood bath after blood bath. His decision as Chief of Staff (CSA) of the Army in 1935 to adopt the M1 Garand semi-automatic 8-shot rifle against the wishes of the "old folgie" known-distance bolt-action rifle marksmen was THE KEY EVENT that led to our victory in WWII as we learned the hard way---in blood---to be tactically proficient. Many an American Soldier owes his life to the Garands 7 extra shots while the Jap or Kraut had to manually cycle his bolt. And after he was CSA, MacArthur didn't just become a peacetime civilian, he stayed in the hunt for military excellence as the creator of the Philipine Army. How many would do this today? Most service Chiefs today retire and fade away. And the forces under MacArthur holding out for months in the Philipines bought us valuable time to get our act together in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Our nation owes MacArthur and his men a debt of gratitude for not giving up when the evil clouds of war were forming on the horizon.

I suspect that men like Eisenhower will always be more popular with the civilian leadership then men like Patton but this still doesn't mean that men like Patton should be left to rot while men like Eisenhower should prosper in times of peace. I can't help but feel that if Patton was ground commander in Europe that war would have been over very quickly.

British Hawker Typhoon fighters tried to wipe out the German Army units that were allowed to escape and fight another day at the Falaise Gap Patton wanted to close with bold ground maneuver

Instead we were forced to endure mediocre Generals with out any understanding of the War they were fighting. The men who did understand rarely rose above Division Commander and were never quite trusted by the Eisenhower Clique. This was to have serious consequences after the war when men like Eisenhower supported Air Power using nuclear weapons and technology over the Soldier with such disasters like the "Pentomic Army". Then, when the enemy found a loophole in massive retaliation (we wouldn't use nuclear bombs in a regional war with conventional weapons) we found Korea and Vietnam the first examples of a wily enemy using an ASYMETRIC approach to our stand-off/firepower approach. The enemy fought us up close with lethal short-range weapons [Rocket Proppelled Grenades (RPGs), automatic weapons from camouflaged and concealed ambush positions], so we couldn't use our long-range stand-off firepower against him. He attacked us to "bleed" us so our resolve at home would collapse not gain a battlefield Waterloo. He then beat us at our own stand-off battle game by closing down our system of artillery firebases/"Air Assault" helicopter-mobile infantry in the South with superior range M46 130mm artillery guns. He turned tactical advantages into strategic gains and eventually grand strategic victory, though his cause has now collapsed philosophically. Communism died by "Coca Cola" and "blue jeans" in the 1990s when it could have died sooner by more skilled free world military operations 30 years before.

The Junior officers from WWII take charge: McNamara and The Forces of Darkness

If this could be summed up by one event it would have to be the election of John Kennedy. To an Army that was already rudderless his methods and direction were just what the Army didn't need. He was desperate to quantify every decision and situation and surrounded himself with the "The Best and the Brightest". This meant Professors and other people from the most prestigious Colleges and Universities in the country. Although these men didn't cause what actually happened, in an environment where the Army was the third service (behind the Air Force and Navy) many dynamic and far thinking people had left. Those left were go-along staff officer types and didn't have the moral fiber to stand up to what was about to happen. Those that had their careers in uniform ended like LTC John Paul Vann continued to fight in any way they could in a civilian capacity. But to many of these officers in all the services, they were about to get what they had always thought was the answer to the military's problems.

In November of 1960, Robert Strange McNamara was given the job of Secretary Of Defense by John Kennedy. He had been a professor of Statistical Analysis in Management Problems at Harvard University. During the war he had served first as an instructor at the Army Air Force Statistical Control School and later as analyst in a traveling Statistical Control Group that analyzed logistics, maintenance and operational problems in the different theatres of operation. It's none to surprising that the Professor of Statistics should come away from the war convinced that statistical analysis was the answer to the military's problems. He was the first man to run the military, who firmly believed that management was the key to military success. Although leadership couldn't be stamped out altogether (on the company level leadership can never go away no matter what kind of idiocy comes from above), it did go out of fashion in officer training and selection. Three short years later, we would suffer from the foolish notions of this man and we still have his legacy even now (Gimmicks like Total Quality Leadership?)when everything he did was a disaster in an actual war.

Robert Strange (yes, that's his real middle name, strange isn't it?) McNamara will always epitomize the Air Force way of war to me. To this day he still can't admit he made any mistakes in what was to become our nightmare in Vietnam. He reminds me of a man who starts a fire and believes that if he had only had more gasoline his methods for putting out a fire would have been vindicated. For some men (Are you listening Air Force) no amount of failure can convince them they are wrong. More study and analysis will show they should have rearranged the chairs a little better. McNamara's unshakable faith in himself would lead to the death of thousands of American boys who weren't as smart as him, but understood enough to know the war was being run by imbeciles.

The whimsical notion (it's not an idea) that leadership can be replaced by management in war has been tried off and on since Vietnam with little or no success. You cannot "manage" people to their deaths. But like the man who gave us this bankrupt idea, many officers faith can't be shaken. I suspect it's attraction has to do with a top-down mentality, where you keep your boss happy and you keep your job. What this management nonsense fails to take into account is that in the business world profits are what drives your management style. If you are profitable you will succeed. If your boss replaces you because he doesn't like you or thinks it could be done better by someone else he simply replaces you with his personal choice and suffers the consequences of being wrong and reaps the rewards for guessing right.

Not so in the Army. The profit motive doesn't exist to moderate bad choices by a superior. This is a key question. How do you moderate superiors? The enormous power they have over the men they command cannot be judged by management style. Really though bad choices by superiors are secondary in importance. Death and fear of death are the real reason that management doesn't work. Management infers a certain sense of, "I'm going to be rewarded for keeping the company (I'm referring to a commercial enterprise) running smoothly and making money". In war, you may be forced to destroy the very thing that you are running and convincing people to do that will never have anything to do with profit.

Soldiers know if the man who leads them is none too sharp. To accomplish their mission they must believe in their leaders ability to make proper decisions. This takes leadership and knowledge of the job they are given. Unlike a business who will never lead men afraid for there lives, Junior officers must be prepared for that eventuality above all else. Anyone who believes in management as a means of creating a successful military is a dangerous fool. He will probably never had to live or die with his notions so it needs to be debated now before more good men die.


We were able to see the results of this and it continues to this day. The belief that our high-technology from aircraft can save us from heavy ground casualties by Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) is leading many to undervalue the leadership of ground commanders to kill the enemy and most importantly HOLD/control the terrain. Terms like "precision strike", "standoff warfare" or "information warfare" have become substitutes for war-winning strategies; thus they lead many people to think that war can be prosecuted by "twelve-year-old blind girls in wheelchairs". This ignores the idea that our enemies might be smart enough to defeat these systems using an ASYMETRICAL APPROACH to them. We take the high road, they take the low road. Many think we are now more advanced than other societies that do not have comuters. However, we still live in a PHYSICAL CAUSE-EFFECT world.

A noted Army Colonel writes:

"Surely, you have heard all about how we have moved beyond the 'industrial age' and into the 'information age.' We also talk a lot about fighting 'information war' instead of 'industrial warfare.

In fact, we are still well into the industrial age, and we will continue to be so for a long time. What we are doing is simply using better communication technology to improve our industrial productivity.

For anyone who fails to comprehend the subtle difference of my contention, I offer the following as a clarification:

We will have entered the 'information age' when I can have a pizza faxed to me (not "ordered" by fax, but actually fax the pizza). Until then, we are simply finding cute alternatives to the telephone."

This info arrogance BS ignores MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE. I think the senior leaders of the Army were into mechanical advantage while fighting the Vietnamese, grew tired of it (RIFed out all the field commanders and tacticians) desiring an easy-to-understand fight against the Russian tank hordes at Fulda Gap, Germany and are now thinking its "beneath them" since we had a successful AFV stampede and live-fire exercise in the desert against the lackluster Iraqis. Today, they simply want a painless way to victory using electronic means (Force XXI) to find an undefended route to the enemy's "jugular". What if that "weak spot" is still a minefield? What are we going to do? Throw computer mouses at them?

F-16 Fighting Falcon pulling up after bomb run over Kosovo---while the bombs were falling, Serbs were slaughtering the Albanians below. Where was the air-delivered ground Army to follow up these attacks and hold the ground?

The Army learned the limits of high-aircraft derived technology in Korea, Vietnam, and Somalia, but has not solved the industrial-age riddle of gaining decisive maneuver over the automatic weapons-swept battlefield without heavy casualties. Although it looked good in Desert Storm (DS) anyone who reads the GAO Report on air power in the Gulf, the role of the supposedly superior Patriot Missile system and the recent effect of air power on the Serbian Army in Kosovo would conclude that things haven't changed much since the Vietnam. By the time the Serbs gave up, 2 million Kosovars had been put to flight and thousands murdered. It was not unlike how the North Vietnames Army (NVA) setting up entire Divisions in the South Vietnam once American B-52s flew back to base. Unlike 1973 South Vietnam, American Soldiers with NATO troops in the thousands are on the ground now to insure the Serbs do not come back to Kosovo. At least the politicians know that ground forces are the key to holding the peace.

Although the idea that high-technology and Air power can bring bloodless victory (at least for us) have been around since World War II, each new generation of General officers seems to adopt them as though they were "new". In fact they are old ideas that have already failed because they ignore the intelligence of our enemies and assume they will not be able to strike back effectively. They fail to understand that HUMAN BEINGS LIVE ON THE GROUND, not the air. To control the ground, you need a lasting presence, and that can only be done by a land connected Army. True victory requires Soldiers to stop the raping/killing of civilians by enemy thugs ON THE GROUND. If we leave the ground to the enemy he will go back to his mayhem, just like Saddam's Republican Guard did to uprisings by the Kurds DAYS after Desert Storm ended.

Beginning with Korea when Curtis Lemay's ideas failed and MacArthur's answer to his inability to stop the North Koreans with air power was to use nuclear weapons, we have "hit a wall" with the "cheap" technological victory theory. We didn't have enough good officers in Korea because it was assumed they were no longer necessary because of our technological advantages and 53,000+ American Soldiers paid in blood.

This was just five years after WW II.

We had very experienced junior officers coming out of that war. What happened to them? We did start to produce them again during Korea but the learning curve was steep in the first eighteen months of that war and a little more than twelve years later we would repeat those mistakes in Vietnam. Then after we learned some of them at Tan Son Nhut airbase and the streets of Saigon after the Tet offensive (Armored Cavalry M113 AFVs with gunshields, machine guns and agile mechanized infantry riding along working in concert with Helicopter/Parachute delivered light infantry forces)we threw those lessons away by RIFing the Vietnam war fighters and removing agile, light armored vehicles from ALL U.S. Army Airborne/Air assault/Light Infantry Divisions who now "foot slog" at barely 1 mph burdened even more with gear than their Vietnam brothers did when the VC/NVA ran circles around them at 4-7 mph on foot.

I think it should be very clear to all that the superiority of American Ground Maneuver was the reason for our success in Desert Storm. For all the credit falsely given to the Air Force in that war it should be remembered that the Army destroyed eighty percent of the Iraqi Army. This was largely the result of the Reagan military buildup which encouraged well trained officers. In the words of the 24th Infantry Division commander; MG Barry MacCaffrey:

"Equipment didn't win this thing, if we had used the Iraqi equipment we still would have prevailed. It was the training of our officers and men that made it happen."

Not even nine years later we are back to where we started.

We are getting rid of many of the best officers and trying to rely on technology that has failed us so completely in the past and ignoring the very thing that always prevails, the leadership of our junior officers.

The quality of our officers IS the umbrella on which it all hangs. Most of the problems you see today can be laid at the feet of officers long dead and buried. I think that the current problems our Army suffers from are not new and were common even in antiquity. They are Army CULTURAL problems. This doesn't mean we roll ever every time an enemy prevails.

Some Armies have been very successful at remaining good for a long. The German Army comes to mind but the Romans and the Mongols were good for a long time also. No one seems to do it for ever but it can be done if we are trying. You can't make it into a formula but it's occurred to me that Great Soldiers that are poorly led will be slaughtered. Great leaders don't have poor Soldiers. They understand war, get a grasp on how to win at it and then they lead, doing what it takes to win. To perpetuate this, the U.S. Army needs a TRADITION OF INNOVATION AND EXCELLENCE that comes from trial/error and risk taking NOW--in peacetime. The easiest way to establish this is to SAY SO---we value in the Army INNOVATION AND EXCELLENCE. We will not destroy you if you speak the truth or dare to think originally. In fact, we will REWARD this selfless service.

Eisenhower had just one troop command in his thirty plus years in the Army. Patton once said that;

" officer isn't worth a bucket of spit until he's commanded troops for ten years."

That's the average amount of time that an officer has in a thirty year career. Gen. Clark of Kosovo fame had less than eight in his thirty-two year career, and a lot of that doesn't count because all but 3 are Brigade or above. Patton had nineteen at Brigade or lower.

After WW I, he went from commanding a Brigade of tanks to commanding a Company of calvary and having his rank reduced from Col. to 1st Lt. He understood the men he led and learned how to lead them. One thing I remember very clearly in my time in the Army is that after they RIFed the good officers most of the officers we got from that point on wanted to go to staff work as soon as possible. I had a conversation with a brand new 2nd Lt. (USMA class of "73") who explained how he had to command the Mortar Plt. for at least a year before he could "get out" and into a staff some where. He was terrified of having his career held up, by becoming an Executive Officer (XO) in an Infantry Company. He would rather go to a CS Co. where the Soldiers were "smarter" and not as much trouble. I was very happy when he was sent to a line Co. (1/187th) right before I left. I saw him in Bad Kreuznach when I was out processing. He was trying to get out of his assignment!


The forces of cause/effect have forced the U.S. military to reform as has the constant pressure of technology brought forward thank, God by defense contractors. Often civilian contractors have a better view of the possibilities of fighting wars better than military men, conditioned not to think. Vietnam, and marine led failures on Koh Tang island in 1975 and at Desert One in 1980 made the Joint Chiefs realize special operations cannot be done with thrown together or ad hoc units. The result was U.S. Special Operations Command, or essentially its own seperate service branch for all intents and purposes. The world was no longer impressed by a landing party with short haircuts. U.S. SOCOM vindicated itself jumping into the night skies of Panama in 1989 with the capture of Panamanian dictator manuel Noriega.

In the aftermath of Vietnam, a generation of courageous conventional force Army officers created AIRLAND Battle and sought to get a professional Army of heavy maneuver forces which vindicated itself in Desert Storm. However in the aftermath of DS, there has been a large "draw down" which has narrowed the opportunities of Soldiers within the Army to be the egalitarean, risk takers that the post-Vietnam generation wanted. The Staff officers of the Army, took over, restricted things like foreign jump wings on BDUs, access to HOOAH schools, got rid of light tanks from the Airborne, so they---and they alone----the centralized controlling heavy force types fight America's wars. They have even tossed out "AIRLAND Battle" so they don't have to give respect to the men of the past. They could have kept the term in use for the warfighting missions of the army, but the staff officer ego cannot tolerate anyone eclipsing his own moment in history rewiting FM 100-5 Operations.

Had we kept and not RIFed out the Cav officers from Vietnam, we wouldn't have forgotten how to fight light with light armored vehicles. Now we have either a light "famine" or a heavy force "feast", one can get there without much, the other needs every single piece of supply/equipment just to operate. Then after Panama and DS, staff officer types within the light forces took over and said that they will accept their limitations in firepower and mobility and not come up with a way to win wars on their own. So now we have 2 U.S. Armies--a light one that can get there quick but cannot win without risk of high casualties, and a heavily protected one that can't get there fast enough to fight. Kosovo was our clear proof of this even though this was evident back when the Kurds rebelled against Saddam Huseein and we were unwilling to intervene. The Army sits on the side as Air Force bombs are unable to stop Serbs massacring women and children on the ground because it hasn't fashioned itself into a DECISIVE WAR WINNING MANEUVER INSTRUMENT IN A WORLD THAT MOVES BY THE AIR. This takes care of 3d Generation war.

We are already in 4th GENERATION war methods! In 4th Generation war, the "center of gravity" is the people themselves--not the enemy's Army. Defeat of the enemy's Army on a rural battlefield may be irrelevent to the true defeat of the enemy--which is bending, breaking or better yet CHANGING the will of the people at odds with us. Most Army officers do not even understand 3d Generation war let alone 4th Generation war. Its Sun Tzu, not nation-state Clausewitz.

Maneuver warfare
Meanwhile in the marines, the realization that they have no mission to do, but are a METHOD began to sink in by the late 1980s after a Battalion Landing Team was wiped out in a terrorist truck bomb attack in Lebanon. Reformers like William S. Lind courageously sought a maneuver warfare reform within the corps to get it to understand classical military concepts. their tactic was the brown nose. Praise the mc mythology and stroke their egos while injecting maneuver warfare thought. Sadly, asshole staff-officer and NCO tyrant types within the corps knew exactly what was being done and have resisted a true reform every step of the way. Now, the Mc wants to operational maneuver from the sea after all the maneuverists in the Corps had their careers destroyed, just using another name: "From the Sea". This vague term can mean anything, its a fill in the blank thought, which threatens noone, the egotistical frontalist or the reforming maneuverist. In the meantime, Mc ad hocery continues unabated, in a crisis they will just "wing it" somehow, not realizing that some enemy actions have to be countered beforehand using equipment, training and procedures not possible by juggling what you have. Ask the marines pinned down at Koh Tang island about this. Or the Soldiers of TF Smith when their 2.36" bazookas were ineffective against T-34/85 North Korean tanks. All it takes is a smart enemy who can find an imbalance/asymetry in his war fighting approach to our own.

While the mc struggles to reinvent itself as a pseudo-Airborne force with the tiny V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft, the facts are its mismanaged its 172,000 people into 3 irrelevent penny packets at sea at any given time in a world that needs results in hours. So they, too sit on the sidelines in a Kosovo. When the bombs stop, they take a week just to drive from Greece to get to the scene to be peacekeepers. The burned and mutilated bodies---created because they were unable to stop the bad guys from their carnage---are now being dug up as they guard the area are the human cost for their own arrogance and poor force structure and design.

Colonel David Hackworth and SFTT
When "Hack" writes about changing our leadership practices I think he misses many of the underlying reasons that have lead up to the present. He want's to do it the way it worked for him. The problem is it was falling apart when he was in (1946-1972), and going back to the "old Army" won't help us out of our present dilemma. One of the reasons we prevailed in WWII was that we had better rifles than the enemy had and had broken their codes to read their plans. We still took 5 years to beat the Axis powers at a cost of 358,000 dead. We did nothing while Hitler rose to power in the 1930s.

On top of this we have problems of procurement and the Vietnam fears that still haunt us.

How do we fix the current problems without doing the same old tired thing?.

When I read Hack's column many officers want to end this practice, or go back to the way we used to do it, some form of "rearranging the deck chairs". When I started this I was unprepared for how entrenched the problem is. Just laying it all out is a daunting process.

When you start talking about Eisenhower many people get the warm and fuzzies and can't possibly believe that he did anything wrong (Steven Ambrose, anyone?). I don't think he did this intentionally but his determination to make the Army safe for Staff officers is a way we got into this mess. It's an interesting problem.

I don't want to deny anyone command who's capable but it seems to me that if you spend your time with the troops you prove you can command. If you spend time with the Col. you prove you can bow and scrape.

No matter what you think about the Army's problems, it all comes down to leadership. I didn't like Gen. Clark from the first and now I hear he's gone. I'd like to no more about that.

1st Tactical Studies Group (Airborne) and the internet
Today's Army run by politically minded to advance selves and wanting to fight a heavy war with low risk wants to advance the careers of those who abide by whatever thinking HQDA dishes out. More precisely they want to have an Army that is in their own image. Briefing slides, lowest common denominator thinking (LCD), some token hooah! things like PT they will play the hard ass on, but nothing really battle important like speed marching at 4-7 mph for operational maneuver etc.

What we need to do is rob the Staff Officer Mentality (SOM) of its thunder, which is DETAILS. The power of the staff officer in his control of detailed information which he can manipulate to perpetuate the lazy status quo. We need to be more and better informed so our proposals paint the staff asshole/kill-joy into a no-excuse corner and dominate the debate. The web site with hyperlink-referenced, multi-media web pages is the ideal weapon against his deceits. The M113A3 is one such example issue. Its lighter than the M8 or the M551 Sheridan; is ALREADY OWNED by the Army, and whatever technically is "wrong" (usually quibbles by staff officers or DA civilians to shoot down the proposal) with it can be fixed. Yet I have seen asshole NCOs in the 82d Airborne Division write my pal Stan Crist telling him "it cannot be air-dropped in USAF aircraft"!!!. It will not work in the narrow mind of a jerk who doesn't want the extra work planning for heavy drops. His laziness will mean infantry Paratroopers will land without ground-level fire support and could get creamed as they were in WWII when they couldn't have light AFVs accompany them. Today, we don't have light AFVs in the Airborne because we are too lazy to have them. His was a thin attempt at "pulling the wool over our eyes" by bluff that he is the sole Subject Matter Expert (SME) on that issue. Assholism can be anywhere in the Army where someone simply wants to do things in his f@#$% up way and doesn't want to fix his house in order. I think it comes in the personality development we create in the Soldier's career.

We need to flat out state that we want a CPT Kirk-type officer who listens to emotion (McCoy) and logic (Spock), and is willing to creatively arrive at his own Course Of Action (COA).

So there you have it. The Army is run by officers and NCOs whose whole outlook on modern war is in need of an over-haul. Their view of how the Army should be best run, to create and perpetuate EXCELLENCE in everyone needs a radical reformation. We need to admit we are no longer in the 19th century and stop wasting hours upon hours of useless drill and ceremony which creates mindless drones. We need THINKING lions.

Yes, I want an Army of little Jim Gavins, who jump out of planes, who innovate, who like Army stuff, field craft, etc who wearing a beret makes their day...=o)

The failure of the U.S. military's ground forces to reform themselves into rapidly deployable, war winning decisive instruments of moral U.S. foreign policy is a shame to anyone who has the perception to realize it. To all others, as long as the human costs do not hit home (not your wife, girlfiend or mother raped, shot, burned, mutilated), the euphoria and "Victory Disease" from Desert Storm will suffice to perpetuate personal inaction and acceptance of the status quo. If we do not reform ourselves the result will be a national disaster of some sort that the blind invariably stumble into of our own creation and then the human costs will hit home.

The new Chief of Staff of the Army, General Shinsecki has said:

"The world situation demands an Army that is strategically responsive. The Army's core competency remains fighting and winning our Nation's wars; however, the Army must also be capable of operating throughout the range of conflict -- to include low intensity operations and countering asymmetric threats. It must, therefore, be more versatile, agile, lethal, and survivable. It must be able to provide early entry forces that can operate jointly, without access to fixed forward bases, and still have the power to slug it out and win campaigns decisively. At this point in our march through history, our heavy forces are too heavy and our light forces lack staying power. Heavy forces must be more strategically deployable and more agile with a smaller logistical footprint, and light forces must be more lethal, survivable, and tactically mobile. Achieving this paradigm will require innovative thinking about structure, modernization efforts, and spending."


An Armor LTC writes:

"There is a simple reason for being unable to significantly change the officer development system: You have to convince the Service Chiefs that the system is broken, and they cannot accept that conclusion since, in their minds it works fine. After all (in their minds) the cream rises to the top, as evidenced by THEIR own success.

However, my military education is straightforward. Once in the reserves, I simply paid attention at C&GSC, especially the stuff on logistics. Also, a long time ago, I really got into military history. Not U.S. Army history, but MILITARY history; the old stuff. When drafting concept papers on night operations, I refer to the Trojan Horse (everyone remembers the "deception plan" but forget that the main effort was a night attack). Regards assault bridging, I start with Tuthmosis of Egypt, circa 1470 BC, whose bridge train of pontoons on ox carts was used to seize Carcemish. Anyone ever interested in combined arms operations, task organization, initiative, leadership, etc., should read Xenephon's "The Persian Expedition" circa 400 BC. To study deep attack using Operational Maneuver Groups, strategic recon, combined arms expeditionary forces, and "push forward" logistics, read about the Mongol invasion of Europe circa 1200 AD. It's all been done, and done well, and documented. All we need to do is read and learn.

Today, Army leaders talk about reinventing "blitzkrieg"-like operations in Army After Next (AAN), yet they have no comprehension that blitzkrieg has come and gone, much like the trench warfare that preceded it. Blitzkrieg worked when the enemy had no depth to his defense and was technologically overmatched. Once the Germans faced Brits and later Americans, it all became a mobile slugfest, again.

Also, if you want to learn lessons from the past, do not study the victories as much as the defeats. For example, meticulous study of the German invasion of Poland in 1939 prepares you to fight a battle that will never again occur. However, study (and avoidance) of Poland's errors will always be useful as you prepare for future operations. One example: the strategic commo link of the Polish high command was the commercial telephone and telegraph system. It was simply assumed that the system would remain operational despite enemy action. Today, such a naive idea is laughable, yet isn't that exactly what "tactical internet" and other Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) technologies are all about? See my point?

P.S., If I were king, I'd keep ROTC and OCS, but I'd make West Point into a museum."