Training Gone Soft? Letters to the Editor, August 1997, U.S. Army SOLDIERS magazine....and 2007 update
By Mike Sparks
CWO2 George, Sgt. Ping whine the old cliche': "training is soft" the truth is that THEY think they are better, tougher Soldiers etc. "In my day we had to carry 300 pounds on one leg, with no water for 100 miles etc." This me-compared-to-you relativism is destructive. It'll never end as long as immature people keep wanting to snipe at others to bolster their own egos. Physical fitness and toughness should be for COMBAT. COMBAT. I don't care how "tough" it was in the "good 'ole days" of the past, a lot of lost battles there; so lets not be sold on the old ways being "better" when there's an endless stream of needless body bags when studying military history.
My concern and the concern should be of every Soldier in the U.S. Army-- is what its going to take to win on the next battlefield, PERIOD. PERIOD. Neither of them focused their comments in regards to the modern battlefield. We need in COMBAT Soldiers that can carry 40 pound rucksacks holding a shoulder weapon at the ready completely able to defeat the enemy as best as humanely possible within 40 pounds and move at 4-7 mph like Darby's Rangers in WWII could do. If this was the Army's forward reaching, objective standard embodied in the APFT, to spur us to solve the Soldier's Load problem to get mobility needed to get the Bin Ladens of this world, we would end the self-serving egotist complaints, and get positive COMBAT capabilities.
Sgt Ping insinuates we need to stress "discipline"; he really means blind obedience to order timid, meek robots around, this we don't need...... if we want to avoid more battlefield screw-ups. We need the THINKING, SEEING, OBEDIENCE of our Soldiers today, and this is earned by LEADERS who lead by example, not psychologically demented tyrants. LEADERS who see the modern, non-linear battlefield, what it requires and then builds our Army to win and WIN TOGETHER. We need young LIONS who will take charge and solve battlefield problems not the cowering subservient wimps Sgt. Ping would have us make. I've seen his kind of discipline in action many times before; it results in a mob of people sitting on a parade ground for hours until its dark because they were afraid to go inside a building and tell someone in charge that they were out there and their "troop handler" had left them. If we have Soldiers wait for someone to constantly tell them what to do on the non-linear battlefield, we're going to get our asses kicked as the debacle in Iraq proves to use every day with rebels blowing us up without us even firing a shot back because we refuse to think war is anything more than the feel-good gun duels we want to do. Just as this kind of stupid "discipline" failed us in Vietnam, over and over again.
A challenge for CWO2 George: come to Ft. Benning and he and I can march with rucksacks, rubber ducks until one of us drops. We'll stop at MOUT city :15 minutes to solve a battlefield dilemma. We'll continue to the range, by running, what scores with a M16A2 rifle he hasn't zeroed or famfired? To Building 4 Donovan Technical Library and he'll have 2 hours to find a solution for light infantry shock action in cities since the M8 Buford Armored Gun System is cancelled. Then, to the "Own the Night" night vision Obstacle Course wearing AN/PVS-7B NVGs. Then to Lawson Army Airfield to jump with 1-507 PIR and see how he handles that after a few years of let-up. We have young Soldiers that do ALL of these things today. The point I'm making is the battlefield is more than physical fitness...did bicep size stop bullets in Somalia? Or at Bostogne? Has it ever? If he read his military history he'd know the French started this "spirit of the bayonet" nonsense and lost millions of men, an entire generation--charging the inter-locking fire German machine guns, and planned artillery concentrations with just bolt-action rifles---bayonets attached, of course. Their audacity was not enough. Readers George and Ping are asking the wrong question, "soft or hard" is irrelevant. Is our training RIGHT? Is it building the kind of SMART AND TOUGH Soldier LION that can prevail on today's battlefields?............They look at everything as if its all about their penis size, which must be deficient for them to be so obsessed with it. In other words, the Army is just a BS garrison game they want to play. Actual war is not even a focus; trying to prop their egos up at someone else's expense is what they are all about.
FIX BASIC TRAINING : COMBAT LEADERSHIP NOT "MIND GAMES"
A group of off-duty NCOs walks to the chow hall at a Fort Benning, Georgia basic training complex. As they walk along the wall clearly away from a platoon of recruits practicing rifle drill, the platoon's drill sergeant begins yelling and screaming at the off-duty Soldiers that "they had better walk around his formation or else "have some "life insurance". As the drill sergeant loses his cool and reaches an almost berserk state, he runs up to one of the off-duty Soldiers and begins to make threats in his face in a most unprofessional manner. Anyone but a consummate professional would have "decked" the drill sergeant right then and there for being the egomaniac asshole he is. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, but the next time we may not be so lucky. The message the young privates see is that verbal abuse is not only tolerated but something to be expected even when you reach the rank of E-7 as the belligerent Drill Sergeant was. Obviously, the Drill Sergeant could have moved his platoon if he felt he was being "crowded" and could have asked the Soldiers walking to chow to go around another way, but he was clearly on a "power trip". The fact that he was black and the off-duty Soldiers were white may have been a contributing factor. According to recent reports there is a lop-sided ratio of ethnic minority Drill Sergeants in charge of new recruits while the latter's cultural ratio is closer to the general population's ethnic diversity. An ethnic imbalance in the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant community where a minority is placed in charge of Soldiers originating from a perceived "majority" group can be anything but healthy.
That Soldiers can see themselves in different colors than Army "Green" shows that individuals with private personal agendas have assumed Army positions of responsibility without changing from the inside and adopting Army cultural values-which are not prejudiced-as their own. One of the first steps towards this change is supposed to take place at basic training, yet some of those in charge of initial entry training are clearly themselves unreformed and spoiling the chance for new recruits to see that we can all work together as part of the U.S. Army. That sexual abuses have occurred should come as no surprise, since verbal abuse has become everyday accepted routine. If you get used to abusing people at IET, and you think it was "good" and "HOOAH" when does it stop? Why should it stop? You think its the ideal Soldier relationship.
Being a Drill Sergeant is not a chance to settle old scores or act out fantasies of being in total control. The Drill Sergeant-as-tyrant model with endless hours of obsolete 19th century parade-ground drill and ceremonies that can be exploited to play personal "mind games" has failed the U.S. military miserably and needs to go away. The egotistical-tyrant Drill Sergeant as an NCO role model is corroding the spirit of teamwork at the private to E-4 level and threatens the continued existence of the Army as an institution by making it an intolerable place to be. What do we do If the abuse reaches a level where no one wants to be in the Army for whatever the college benefits? We have promoted/assigned immature people into positions of responsibility and are now suffering the consequences. Its clearly time we re-think the entire basic training formula before its too late.
CULTURE OF HARASSMENT INSTEAD OF LEADERSHIP
The U.S. Army is losing over one-third of its recruits who either fail to make it through basic training or their first 3 year term of enlistment. This is a serious problem that needs to be candidly addressed. The mindset of most Soldiers and Drill Sergeants in particular when you ask them about it, show a lop-sided preoccupation with how "tough" basic training was for "them" and whether the "new Soldiers on the block" are going through the same amount of "hell" to earn the title of Soldier as they did etc. The "stress cards" that some recruit training centers have adopted are a common complaint. The common belief is that new Soldiers are just "weak and flabby" compared to ourselves and the solution is to just "get tougher" on them. The blame for every problem is the individual Soldier; kick him in the backside a bit and he'll "shape up".... problem solved.
The source of this "From Here to Eternity" crap is NARCISSISM.
As long as America foists off our responsibilities for defense to small groups of people we bribe with money and ego to do our dirty work, sick people will flock to a sick military culture. As Edward R. Murrow reminded us from Shakespeare as depicted in the superb film, "Good Night & Good Luck"; "the Fault is not in the Stars, but in ourselves". Small-minded egomaniac drill sergeants who think anyone who gets hurt is a "pussy"; these assholes who couldn't LEAD a pack of rats through a wet paper sack...but boy can they FORCE folks through fear and resentment to act like cannon, hegemon fodder "sheeple". We too, watch prison life movies and marvel at how exactly being in the current U.S. military is like being in prison surrounded by weak economic and egomaniac informers for the "warden" inmates.
This narcissistic "rite of passage" BS has got to be discarded or America is not going to survive in the 21st century.
New York Times
May 12, 2006
Army Acts To Curb Abuses Of Injured Recruits
By Ralph Blumenthal
LAWTON, Okla. - The Army has shaken up a program to heal recruits injured in basic training after Soldiers and their parents said troops hurt at Fort Sill were punished with physical abuse and medical neglect.
The program, which treated more than 1,100 injured Soldiers last year at five posts, normally returns three-fourths of its patients to active duty, according to Army statistics. But at Fort Sill, recruits said, injuries were often subject to derision, ignored or improperly treated.
Two Soldiers in the program have died since 2004, one or possibly both of accidental overdoses of prescription drugs. The latest death, in March, remains under investigation, the Army said.
"I am an inmate," one Soldier, Pfc. Mathew Scarano of Eureka, Calif., wrote in a letter home in January two months before he died. "I sometimes ask those friends of mine with jailhouse tattoos if they'd rather be back in jail, or here. So far, they are unanimous - jail."
Commanders acknowledge problems with the Physical Training and Rehabilitation Program, and they have ordered changes here at the Field Artillery Center and at the other training centers. For the first time, as a result of the Fort Sill problems, a medical professional is to head each program.
A civilian spokesman at the fort, Jon Long, said an investigation had substantiated "misbehavior" by a drill sergeant who, Soldiers say, kicked a trainee with stitches in his knee. Mr. Long said the sergeant had been suspended and reassigned, along with another drill sergeant who, Soldiers complained, had repeatedly awakened injured trainees throughout the night for uniform changes and formations.
The events, after a drill sergeant's bribery scandal last year and a drug sting that ensnared 12 Soldiers, have thrown a cloud over Fort Sill, one of the centers for nine weeks of basic training where volunteers first report on the way to Iraq or elsewhere. G.I.'s who fall prey to sprains and fractures and cannot complete the often grueling passage to "warrior" are sent to the Physical Training and Rehabilitation Program, where a motto reads "Heal and Ship."
Soldiers' blogs reflect dissatisfaction at some of the other programs, too, but Lt. Col. Michael Russell, command psychologist at the Training and Doctrine Command in Fort Monroe, Va., who was involved in the new therapy, said just Fort Sill had had a fatality or major complaints. The other sites are Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Jackson, S.C.; Fort Knox, Ky.; and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
"Of course, we take anything like that very seriously," Colonel Russell said. "We're going to put medical people in charge." At Fort Sill, an artillery captain has been in charge.
The Army now limits treatments to six months, with evaluations after three months and then monthly.
In interviews, Soldiers and parents said injured troops regularly suffered punitive treatment as malingerers, although many had joined specifically to serve in Iraq.
A trainee with a broken finger who was described by fellow soldiers as frustrated by indifferent treatment, slashed himself with a razor, smeared himself with feces and walked around naked, the Army confirmed. Regarded as faking illness, he was returned to his unit to finish training.
Soldiers in the 40-member unit said their injuries often went unattended in stays that exceeded six months and worsened while they waited to see specialists in short supply because of medical needs in Iraq.
"I don't want to say cruel and unusual punishment, but that's what it was," said Tom Nugent of Candor, N.Y., near Ithaca. His son Pvt. Justin Nugent has had two operations since a shoulder "popped out" after push-ups in July.
Another parent, Steven Howell, an aide to Representative Mark Souder, Republican of Indiana, said he and his wife had complained about the treatment of their son Clayton, who has spent a year in the "limbo" of the program after a gallbladder attack. "My main concern as a parent is that medical issues are not being addressed properly," Mr. Howell said.
One mother critical of the war who had an injured son in the unit and another son serving in Iraq, appealed to Amnesty International and members of Congress for help. The mother, Patricia deVarennes, from outside Sarasota, Fla., brought to light the complaints about her son Pfc. Richard Thurman by posting them on her blog, along with Private Scarano's final e-mail messages.
They were then reported in a March issue of a biweekly left-wing newsletter, CounterPunch.
"The supreme irony," said Ms. deVarennes, a writer and computer specialist, "is that I was more worried about my son at Fort Sill than the one in Iraq."
Colonel Russell credited Ms. deVarennes with bringing the problems to his attention.
In e-mail responses to questions, Mr. Long, the Fort Sill spokesman, confirmed that an investigation focused on accusations of physical and verbal abuse. He declined to discuss details because no one had been charged with a crime. But Mr. Long said the initial findings did substantiate the reports of misbehavior by the drill sergeant, who was said to have kicked the Soldier and who along with another drill sergeant received "administrative disciplinary action."
The findings, Mr. Long said, also pointed to "command climate issues" that allowed cursing at injured Soldiers. He said none of the physical or verbal abuse had been directed at Private Scarano or was involved with his death. Mr. Long said it might be weeks before a toxicology report provided an official cause of death.
He said that in July 2004 a private in the program was found to have died from "acute methadone intoxication" after an accidental overdose.
Fort Sill, where up to 15,000 troops a year are trained and sent to active duty, had already been brushed by problems. In January 2005, a longtime drill sergeant was convicted of taking bribes to guarantee that recruits would pass basic training.
In October, the first of 12 present and former Soldiers at the post were caught in an F.B.I. sting and charged with conspiring to guard cocaine shipments while in uniform.
The fort commander, Maj. Gen. David C. Ralston, said he was confident that the leadership of the healing program took the correct actions after a thorough investigation. General Ralston said he was pleased with the improvements at Fort Sill, where the success rate was 75 percent, one of the highest for the training centers.
"Although this is a very good track record," the general added, "there will always be challenges to taking so many young adults and giving them the rigorous training they need to serve successfully in our nation's Army and to win on the battlefield."
In letters home, Private Scarano, who severely injured his shoulder in a fall in training, said he was wearing a patch with the painkiller fentanyl, which he called "80 times stronger than heroin," and also wrote: "The Army has me on Ambien, seroquel, tylox and oxycontins. I also get trazadone to take the edge off."
At that time, Mr. Long said, Soldiers were not monitored while taking medication. Now, they are closely supervised. In another change, he said, a patient advocate has been assigned to monitor lengths of stay.
Interviewed on visiting weekend in April, Private Thurman, Ms. deVarennes's son, said he had passed an alternative physical fitness test that replaced running with walking. But after graduating basic training in November with his family at the ceremony, he said, he and two other Soldiers were "ungraduated" and put into the Physical Training and Rehabilitation Program. He was belatedly found to have suffered stress fractures in his feet.
Mr. Long confirmed the confusion over the acceptability of the alternative test.
Private Thurman, who has completed more than four months in the program and has been sent to his first duty station as a computer artilleryman, and other Soldiers said morale plummeted around mid-January with the arrival of a new drill sergeant, Robert Langford.
On the Martin Luther King's Birthday holiday weekend, with the rest of the post off duty, Sergeant Langford ordered the therapy unit to move out the bunk beds and lockers and hand scrape the wax off the floor tiles. When the results were not to his liking, the Soldiers said, the sergeant had them redo it. While scraping, Private Scarano cracked his injured shoulder, he wrote home.
The kicking episode occurred about that time, Soldiers said, when Sergeant Langford ordered an injured private, Damien McMahon, 21, of Emporia, Kan, "to take a knee," or bow, after losing his temper in a formation. Private McMahon, who had had knee surgery for a staph infection and was also in disciplinary trouble for sneaking to the PX on a tobacco run, said the investigators had asked him not to discuss the case. But he confirmed accounts by fellow Soldiers that he had protested that kneeling was painful and that the sergeant had kicked him in his bad knee, loosening one of nine stitches.
Sergeant Langford, reached by telephone at home at Fort Sill, refused to discuss the accusations and denied that he had been suspended before hanging up.
Also around January, Soldiers said, another drill sergeant, Troy Bullock, suspected that a Soldier in the unit had sneaked a cigarette and ordered the entire injury unit woken up every hour from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. for uniform changes and formations, even though some patients were on heavy sleep medications, the Soldiers said. Mr. Long said he could not comment, and no telephone listing for Sergeant Bullock could be found.
On March 7, in an e-mail note to Ms. deVarennes later put on her blog, Private Scarano said, "I am a casualty of a broken system; I fell through the cracks of the bureaucracy."
If he could get out at least temporarily, Private Scarano said, he wanted to explore a more promising civilian procedure to repair his shoulder "instead of being a guinea pig to a medical system I have no faith in, whatever."
To the blue-collar inverse-snob's mind sports physical fitness in t-shirts and running shoes is strangely seen as the magic answer to every battlefield problem...physical fitness will somehow stop bullets slicing into Rangers in down-town Somalia whose force structure and organizational egomaniac attitude refuses to integrate tracked Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) even though they are America's shock troops???...physical fitness will magically blast buildings to rubble even though we've scrapped and canceled our light AFV gun systems, Combat Engineer Vehicles and let our recoilless rifles collect dust in storage???...physical fitness will overcome inter-locking machine gun fire, RPGs, automatic rifles available in mass quantities on the arms market at bargain basement prices.....all lies that have resulted in 18 U.S. troops dead in Mogadishu on October 3, 1993, several million dead in the trenches of WWI, the forests, deserts, jungles and cities of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and more to come in the present-day. Some have called it the stupid "HOOAH" mentality; its also apparent in an "OOORAHH!" form in the usmc form of narcissistic hubris. This sophomoric attitude is the same thing as high school seniors wanting to haze freshmen and misses the point entirely; we can play all the silly games we want in peacetime, but once the enemy starts shooting to kill us we'll pay for it in dead Americans. We already are in Iraq/Afghanistan yet the egomaniacs persist in doing what THEY WANT TO DO, results-be-damned. "Courage is no substitute for fire support".
These attitudes are the inevitable conclusion to "Zero sum" thinking; the idea that there is only a limited, finite amount of success available; if thousands of people are making it through basic/AIT "it must be getting easier"; since for something to be meaningful, a lot of people have to fail doing it. That each one of us has enormous inner strength that can be drawn on to overcome adversity (read the Medals-of-Honor citations of the so-called "lousy" peacetime Soldiers who saved entire units and win battles) is never considered a possibility. Now that a lot of people are failing basic/AIT rather than admit that these training courses are difficult and those that finish them are worthy of some respect even if they are E-1, E-2 etc., some fall back on the idea that the new comers are really exceptional "Generation X" weaklings and that's why they are failing..... "Zero Sum" thinking that for something to be meaningful someone has to fail, the more, the more meaningful--- is a juvenile attitude and perception that is dangerous since it gives birth to pointless harassment rituals with no real world connection to battlefield excellence (that needs to be pursued aggressively by every Soldier in the Army), that always ends up in someone getting ruined, hurt or killed and thus should have no place in an Army struggling to keep abreast of an increasingly lethal, sensor-swept battlefield. Why training events couldn't be reality-driven by the modern battlefield and thus, be automatically difficult instead of by how our egos react to how many "newcomers" are failing is beyond me.
We have 3 years to sell new people coming into the Army to convince them to internalize the right Army values and become career Soldiers; obviously it isn't working and has nothing to do about about "lowering standards" and getting "softer". If we keep making recruit training and Army life afterwards miserable we will only reach a point where noone wants to be a Soldier no matter what the benefits are. We'll have to draft people and force them to defend the republic. Then we'll have "draft dodgers" and people fleeing to other countries to live. Army life; the actual tasks we do even the most unpleasant are simply not that bad; it is bad leadership that is driving the men away by creating an intolerable harassment atmosphere. With all of the many positive aspects of Army life and still so many young people are "throwing the towel" in shows that these people are giving up early because they are seeing something within the organization that is "turning them off". They see that one minute the Drill Sergeant is teaching them, the next he is harassing them capriciously over a minor detail; they see that this whimsical "harassment package" is not just a temporary way of things for just recruit training but are permanent parts of Army life and they want none of it. Like Chamberlain talking to the so-called "mutineers" on the road to Gettysburg, we had best stop what we are doing and listen to what is going on around us.
As the recent study on Vietnam war veterans stress disorders, Achilles in Vietnam states, an Army is a moral institution that must be seen as a fair and just organization for its members to be willing to give their lives to it. Chamberlain listened, put corrective action in order and those same men he was told by an arrogant Captain he could shoot held the Federal Army's flank by the barest of margins and saved the Union. Today, we don't need people telling us to punish recruits or go harder on them, we need leaders that solve problems with answers not distract attention away from the real problems (WE ARE NOT READY FOR MODERN WAR!!!!) with convenient scapegoats. Like Chamberlain, we could be in battle in a matter of hours.
Young people today joining the Army do not fervently believe in our country and its social institutions of family, home, church, workplace; all of these institutions have or are continuing to fail them. Anything but an honest realization of this fails to see reality. Soldiers need to be inspired at basic training not kicked in the teeth and "smoked" to appease veteran Soldier's egos that "the new kids" will have to "suffer as much as they did". They could work fast food and get better treatment. You see it in the faces of these young recruits in the mess hall at Fort Benning and the way they wear their Army patrol caps wrinkled, with no pride or happiness that they are in the U.S. Army. As SOP every Soldier in the U.S. Army should have "cat-eyes" and name tape on the back of his patrol cap which should be worn with a distinctive "Ranger crush". Talking to them briefly many are there to "just have a decent job" or to get "college money"... What ever happened to wanting to be a Soldier to defend freedom?
This isn't the Army leadership a Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain would have; he spoke to his men labeled "outcasts" and "deserters" and reminded them that they were a part of an important Army fighting to free others. These men were also unhappy with their social contract (enlistments) with the Army. They signed on for 2 years and were forced to serve an extra year in dangerous combat that they would likely not survive. Chamberlain promised to look into their injustice received by the Army and do something about it. Those same men hours later saved this country; I wonder what would have happened if some of the snobby peacetime Soldiers (especially land-locked marines) of today had spoken to the 20th Maine contingent of disgruntled combat veterans: "Quit your whining, you are being soft!" etc etc ad nauseum. When few of them if any have actually served in dangerous battles where there was a very real possibility, yeah likelihood that they wouldn't return home intact. They would have made the 20th Maine Soldiers walk to the brig in disgust just as they are sending 1/3 of the recruits packing for home. This is the U.S. Army-the defender of freedom worldwide for over 200 years-an organization at one time dedicated to human excellence that believes in something more than "I've got mine" (Army or marine career, stripes, "hooah" badges, college benefits etc. you fill in the blank) now you, the recruit can go grovel and beg for "yours"... Like Chamberlain, we need to find out what it is that is ailing our recruits and reinspire them to the vital mission we have before us. Our young people must believe in the U.S. Army as an organization and its time we make it worthy of their total devotion.
RECRUIT TRAINING FOR THE FORCE OF THE 21st CENTURY MUST BE BETTER THAN IT IS TODAY
To inspire young people joining our Army, we need to fundamentally change the way basic training is conducted so they know who the "good guys" and "bad guys" are, to establish faith that the Army as an organization will take care of them and not arbitrarily punish or promote them on the whim of the person in charge at that moment. We must rid ourselves of the self-centeredness and culture of harassment with a higher purpose of mission and men. Fairness and justice are absolute requirements for the moral power an Army needs to win battles and wars.
If you took the time to talk to many of today's serving Soldiers they will tell you the organization has dramatically changed since the draw-down: bad things happening to individual Soldiers is a "way of life"; recruits find out about these things and opt out. Careerism. Narcissism. Not counting push-ups for a Soldier you do not like. Making a Soldier drive across post to pay for a FAX to his unit instead of letting him use the FAX machine clearly visible in the corner of the office. An NCO yelling at two privates for doing work detail in PT uniform while he wears civilian clothes and is about to drive off post as the men toil. Nit-picking. Favoritism.
The answer is not to berate recruits for wanting to not be part of an unhealthy organization, but to make the organization healthy and get their total unflagging support and help to make it so. Throughout the Army anyone below the rank of E-4 is a target for endless harassment and crummy details as Sgts and above "drink coffee". This is not leadership-by-example. Its time we get rid of "rank hath its privileges" and have our NCOs joining in with the E-4s and below to do the work whenever possible. The reward for this renewed trust will be the complete, thinking, seeing obedience of our Soldiers to defend our nation and the Army. If we fail to regain the moral trust of our incoming Soldiers we will slip in size and eventually only a relatively few hired career Soldiers (mercenaries) will be willing to defend the republic.
Young people joining the military are coming from broken homes and a broken, amoral society. We are throwing them into a basic training where "mind games" are played, a "knee jerk" reaction to the Korean war enemy "brain-washing" that thousands of Soldiers fell victim to. The "mind game" basic training is a relatively new invention and it has failed us miserably. They have moms and dads that neglect them, verbally, sexually and physically abuse them and join the Army to find the same sort of treatment. This is demoralizing to say the least. Their moms and dads are supposed to love them yet don't. Now they have Drill Sergeants that are supposed to treat them as their moral charges yet abuse them with hazing rituals and make sarcastic remarks about them while they are locked up in a position of attention. In my USMC basic training, I had Drill Instructors lie to me on numerous occasions to where I knew that at any point the organization could on a whim sacrifice me and my peers to the "wolves". I saw a fellow recuit with brain damage who couldn't even remember his lock combination get roughed up by MPs to teach us all a "lesson". I've seen dozens fall to heat stroke during runs because water rationing was in effect at that time (1981).
To this day, the U.S. military in generally does not understand you can be sweating and be in HEAT STROKE which requires immediate dousing in water to cool the body's central core: our manuals mistakenly diagnose Heat Stroke as when the skin is dry. "Mind games" come at a price: the respect of your superiors and the organization as a whole. Later experiences only verified this reality. While the U.S. Army has a lot more common sense than the usmc, I see the same harassment mindset in effect. If we want to be teaching "SERE school" to basic trainees then we should call it "SERE school" not basic training. It wasn't always this way, before Korea, basic training was straight-forward; no "mind-games" or "rites of passage" to earn acceptance into a social organization like a fraternity, just serious combat-oriented training to get ready for WAR which in a few days young Soldiers would be joining. Talk to the veterans. If a DS/DI yelled at you for being "slow" it was because being "slow" could get you shot and killed, not just because he capriciously wants to see you sweat in order to "earn" your right to be treated as a "man", "marine" or "Soldier" or just relished the feeling of power over another etc. etc. Total BS.
Preparing for actual war we do not have time to play existentialist games; we must focus on battle and war winning physical fitness, teamwork and weapons skills that can only come about in an organization where the people inside can trust it. We have strayed from combat-focused basic training to a sick, sophomoric hazing initiation rite that is morally corrosive to the long-term health of the U.S. Army organization and the defense of the Republic of the U.S.
ROLES IN RECRUIT TRAINING MADE CLEAR
To fix this, I propose that we realize that basic training is to inspire young Soldiers to accept the Army internally as their organization and to train them to withstand the rigors of combat, not an incestuous sort of "friendly" POW experience where the captors wear "U.S. Army". In combat, everyone that wears "U.S. Army" is pulling for you; when bad things happen it should come from THE ENEMY. Thus, the people harassing young recruits should not have "U.S. Army" on their BDUs but "OPFOR". These "black hats" are there to find fault in the recruit training platoon and administer punishments. Meanwhile, actually living with the recruits is a "White hat" a man who teaches, exhorts and trains the basic trainees in all military skills as a good NCO/Officer would getting ready to do battle. He wears "U.S. Army" on his uniform. The "White Hat" does endless flutter kicks and push-ups alongside the recruits to get them ready for the "smoke" sessions the black hats will give them. He has some veto powers and can bring his men out of the line of fire to a to be determined extent. If the recruits get in good enough shape they'll be immune to the physical exercise "pain" the Black hats can levy out, and since their time is limited, they'll "win" -as a team-over the enemy. This is the message we need to be teaching our recruits. Avoid mistakes through teamwork to overcome the common enemy.
Basic training should de-emphasize 19th century based drill and ceremony in favor of self/team reliance and initiative using outdoor Survival training for several days to include a mock POW camp for a short period of time like 24 hours to insure our Soldiers are ready for possible capture/torture instead of being mind tortured for the entire basic training time period by your own people wearing "U.S. Army"; which undermines the very faith and fabric of the organization. Frederick the Great, the creator of parade ground Soldiering, admitted that "Spit and polish" was to keep Soldiers busy and out of trouble". We no longer have the luxury of nonsense when we have REAL warfighting tasks to cope with. Dismounted Battle drills to operate on a battlefield dominated by automatic weapons, yes...parade ground drill, no.
Sadomasochism is a sick, unhealthy philosophy that has no business being a part of leading men into battle where they need to KNOW completely that you are always on their side and will not sacrifice them needlessly. If there is an important "suicide mission" to be done, YOU are there with the men out front, ready to meet the doom with them. We need thinking, seeing loyalty from our Soldiers that can take the initiative on the non-linear 21th century battlefield, not disillusioned, mindless automatons who see them selves as sacrificial "sheep" that have low value in the organization because they are "E-4 and below". Perhaps having such robots helped in 19th-century linear warfare where the number of men you could get close together shoulder to shoulder helped generate volleys of killing fire from wobbly musket balls; but even by the time of the U.S. Civil War, rifles made such Napoleonic formations suicide.
You would think after 620,000+ casualties in our own Civil War from 1861-1865 we would have long realized it was time to get rid of the obsolete vestiges of 19th century battle tactics and had developed better battle drills for a battlefield dominated by automatic weapons, and today sensors and information technologies. Even Grant and Sherman criticized West Point's mindless hazing rituals right after the U.S. Civil War as being counterproductive, yet they still remain with us today. Read the definition of the type of discipline we need today from MG Schofield's address to USMA cadets from the 1879 time period....this is not a new problem but its high time we SOLVE IT. Its ironic that "From Here to Eternity" garrison harassment takes place at an Army barracks in Hawaii named after an Army General who vehemently rejected such crap! The military is about defending our nation and its freedom not some sort of sick "ego-club" for men, and of late women. We need young lions, not ignorant sheep- who realize that they are complete human beings already-before even entering basic training, (WHY? because they are!) that can engage their total mind, body and intellect into defeating the enemy. Other Armies can build fearsome fighting units without having to humiliate and degrade their men, why can't the U.S. Army? We need the thinking personalities of our men to prevail on the current and future battlefield and we seem bent on destroying this to gratify our egos that "they have paid their dues" to join our boys club and turn them into "machines" which they are NOT and never will become. Humans are best being humans; let the machines be machines. Build on the humanity of our men and you'll have an Army of LIONS that will march on the gates of hell for the defense of freedom.
PERSONALITY AND NAME CHANGE NEEDED
To do this, we also need to stop making "jerks" who buy into the harassment mindset into Drill Sergeants. A full-scale psychological evaluation by trained psychologists should be an integral part of who is and who is NOT selected to be a Drill Sergeant. Anyone who tests "positive" for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) must be rejected to be a drill sergeant. Frankly, they should be removed from the service altogether. We need professionals who are ready to teach and lead by example. Men who are tactically oriented who are not interested in the current harassment parade ground non-sense should be selected to train our people at basic and AIT. Only the best U.S. Army NCOs should do a tour as a Combat/Survival Sergeant; the name "Drill Sergeant" needs to be tossed out, along with the S-M "Smokey" hat that used to be a campaign hat. Oh well. Those that demonstrate the un-arrogant egalitarian leadership needed will be asked to stay as cadre to train others. The time has come to end parade ground Drill and Ceremony; we are here to fight actual wars in the jungle, arctic, deserts, mountains not play "spit and polish" barracks games wearing starched BDUs and "Smokey" hats or TAC officers with sunglasses non-sense. We simply do not have the time to waste hours, months, days on "games" that are stressful "metaphors" for the real thing: combat. If we are not going to carry rifles at "right shoulder, arms" into battle 40 inches between shoulders why do it when we need to fight dispersed, in small decentralized teams? War is too complicated to do anything but spend every waking moment on actual COMBAT tasks that will automatically give you plenty of stress to evaluate a recruit's aptitude. We need Combat/Survival Sergeants that know the maximum effective range of RPGs than to have memorized every count and action of "inspection, arms".
The ethnic balance of the Combat/Survival Sergeants should be the same as the current break-down that exists in the general populace of the U.S. not any one ethnic group's private little network of "brothers" or "Good Ole Boys" covering up each other's biases and abuses.
If we fail to do this, the existence of this republic will be at risk; just as the Romans became tired of being Legionnaires due to the overall corruption of their society, our own societal corruption is flowing into our Army. This corruption is not just "couch potatoes" who cannot do push-ups. This is but one symptom, not the disease,. The disease is narcissistic existentialism; the false idea that you are what you make yourself into; if you are just a "private" you are some sort of decaying excrement; if you become a "general", "sergeant major" or "Drill Sergeant" you are then treated as a minor "god" with a lower case g. In the military its rank, power, badges, ribbons, in civilian life its your car, bank account, clothes you wear etc. Same empty arrogance, different symbols that brings about the same distrust, bickering, strife and division. Not teamwork. The truth is that each one of us is a unique human being made in God's image with tremendous capacity to do either evil or good. Self-worth is non-negotiable and intrinsic. This is what Abraham Lincoln spoke of in the Gettysburg Address when he reiterated the Declaration of Independance; "that all men are created equal in the eyes of God". anything else is not only un-American its immoral. Ethnic background is secondary, not primary to the character the individual by choice chooses for himself. Teaching anything other than this is a LIE and a contradiction of reality. Abuse from NCOs at IET is unjustified and counter-productive from someone who is supposed to be on your own side. "Generation X" sees this and will not play the "games" we set before them that preceding generations have gone along with. Everyday life has degenerated to the law of the jungle, whereas past generations had a backdrop of decent reality to contrast with. Its time to stop playing games and get down to the business of being REAL, not parade ground Soldiers. A Force XXI basic training that builds the seeing, thinking obedience of our Soldiers will solve the current recruit training dilemma and save the Army and this nation.
A retired USAF Colonel writes:
"1981-2003 we were still sitting on/in WWII conquests -- Europe, Japan, Korea, etc. Garrison duty will rot the heart and guts out of any army -- it's done that since the Assyrians and Babylonians were the superpowers of their day. Armies must be fighting for survival and for the homeland, or conquering. Otherwise they rot. That's why the Founders and Framers preferred states' militias and only a small standing army to serve as a standardization and mobilization cadre and as a senior staff (the militia weren't good at campaign planning). A free country doesn't need a significant standing army unless it has militarily powerful, aggressive neighbors on its borders.
If you didn't like the army in the '80s, or since then, I don't think you can be pleased with any army not fighting an immediate war of survival (WWII). The Army of the '80s was far better, on the whole, than what we fielded in 1917-18. It was better than the Army of the Potomac, and most of Grant's and Sherman's forces until well into the war (attrition got rid of lots of folks, but more of the weaklings and deadweight and foolishly heroic than the real warriors). It was more capable but less viscerally motivated than the Army of the early-mid-'40s, and also smaller and better educated, much more tech/capital-intensive and less blood/labor-intensive than US Army during WWII. The Army during Korea was pretty poor -- thanks to deliberate disinvestment and demobilization under Truman and Louis Johnson. We all know that the Vietnam era army was for the most part pretty awful.
If the problem is in all the ranks, then you have a societal problem-- by definition, since we've never conscripted officers -- they've always been volunteer. If the problem is in all the ranks, then it inevitably starts at the top, which means its been developing for over 30 years -- the Army is very hierarchical and very traditional. I don't care what you call it -- narcissistic, co-dependent, stupid, lazy, confused, lacking direction, lacking warrior spirit (good thing -- democracies and warriors don't play nicely together) there's no way to fix it. The problem is systemic and inherent in the country as it has evolved in this century.
The sort of people you probably want in your ideal army won't come if you call 'em and won't stay much less lead if you draft 'em. There's nothing to draw them -- not a sense of defending home and hearth, not a sense of adventure, not a sense of duty or gratitude. They're a lot scarcer than they used to be, and the few there may be are out doing extreme sports, building leading edge companies, or hunting for new oil fields or gold in Alaska or Sierra Leone. Maybe they're serving as undercover missionaries in the Islamic world or the still-Red Far East. Maybe they're inner city cops who aren't on the take or inner city school teachers willing to literally risk their lives for meager pay in the hope of 'making a difference.' You won't get them into the army."
what you wrote above is extremely profound and 1000% on target, you got exactly what is going on and why America's best and brightest are NOT going into the Army (or marines).
The point that large standing armies ROT in garrison is profound.
You may even be right in everything in you say.
However, I don't think that we CANNOT get America's go-getters into our Army or that we cannot make it exciting enough for them short of having us act like war waging empire builders. I think if we ditched the "From Here to Eternity" garrison narcissist culture and used BATTLEBOXes, 3D air-mech maneuver etc. etc. and stopped having a garrison at all, and trained a lot all over the world Foreign Legion-style www.geocities.com/airbornemuseum/nlmb.htm by a clever and smart force structure we'd get our best people into the Army because of the FUN it would be to jump out of airplanes, drive tanks, shoot guns that we would do A LOT OF etc.
Do we have a societal problem here?
Yes for our overall national health but actually, no.
Attracting our worst people into the Army, marines has been a constant throughout our history. Even if we had a more virtuous America, we'd still get the bad apples into our military, unless you TOTALLY got 100% of our populace redeemed/inspired. Military force is seen as a dirty and even immoral job in our unrealistic (liberal at times) pacifist culture, and the current "born-again", kill-them-all fascist culture is just as bad since they somehow think self-idolatry is A-O-K (narcissism). I think there are ways short of war; challenging training and humanitarian operations that a reformed U.S. military could do without becoming a Roman Legion for some would-be despot like Bush could abuse. Especially if the military had a MORAL COMPASS to say "NO!" to wars for corporate greed:
Military force keeps people alive in a fallen world so they CAN accept the gospel. Jesus didn't tell the Centurion to go quit the Roman Army. Jesus was a carpenter, too.
My friend you have nailed it. I thought I was going to read a geo-cities rant, but your points are outstanding.
I came to your page by accident, because you quoted the New York Times article.
You might be interested in these:
This is where we are trying to go.
I have also proposed full psychological testing and screening for all Drill SGT Candidates.
LTG Van Antwerp, Commanding Army Accessions Command, is a genius, and he is putting us on the right track to succeed with the Schoffield model of training.
"I've studied war, as a profession, since childhood. My favorite book is Rommel's Attacks. My two main papers written in college concerned the IDF in '67 and the British in Malaya. I've read every book on COIN that I can find. Weapons/vehicles are an obsession of mine. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in hopes of finding an environment conducive to all that, but found VERY quickly that unless I worshipped Christ as I shot people, unarmed or not, and had a 'I'm better than you, even though my equipment is substandard' attitude, I wasn't going to fit in. As it currently stands, I'll probably end up in the Guard, either as a heli pilot or MP officer, though your sites have given me pause to whether I should reexamine my old desire to be an infantry/mech/armored officer. Now that my background's out of the way, compliments to you, Sir.
I've found your websites to be a breath of fresh thinking and intelligence in a close-minded and traditionalist community. Your writings on the basic combat load and a restructuring of basic training mirrored my own ideas VERBATIM. It's a telling sign when 75% of the Marine Corps only does 1 term before getting out, their watchword being 'Semper Fuckus'. I myself was in a platoon that resembled the videos of Russian conscripts that float around on youtube, no exaggeration. It was to make us 'hard'. Now, as they say, the enemy won't mind hitting you. But the DI's aren't looked on as the enemy. You can't have the same person who takes care of you, takes you to chow, and puts you in your rack at night be the person who hits you. It feels like an abusive father to the recruits, who can't help but look fondly upon the DI, even as he beats them. The white/black hat idea was the exact same idea I formulated when I came home thinking about my experiences.
Keep up the great writings, Sir! You've proved to be an inspiration for my continued studies, despite our minor disagreements on details."
Private Murphy's View
Want Murphy in Your Pocket?
On your desk?
RETURN To U.S. ARMY AIRBORNE EQUIPMENT SHOP