18 March 2012

Honest Military Leadership...lead the way, or move over

From the Soldier side:  There’s a lot of stories in the news these days about some of the problems our Army is having now with some troops doing multiple deployments.  Is it PTSDPMS? Or is it something else? 

One of the big problems I noticed in my last several years in the Army and Army National Guard was: Many of the leaders didn’t want to hear something if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear.  Many high ranking officers would surround themselves with soldiers who acted as a “Screening Force”.  I’m sure that’s one of the reasons I was not promoted as fast as I should have been…I always spoke what I thought was the truth.  In some cases, I knew that pissed off some of my leaders. 

One of the last examples I can talk about now took place in about 2007.  My old Calif. National Guard unit was at Fort---- doing some good training.  The Army had brought in a training group of civilians and they were doing a great job of teaching what we needed to know.  This was training that actually would have helped us before our deployment to Iraq!

Part of this training  placed us in a MOUT (urban war fare, or as we used to call it “Combat in the cities”)  Clicky here to read more:    What's MOUT?  
Pretend training in a MOUT area.

Anyways, we were sending teams out into this little fake town to do stuff.  We had mixed several experienced troops with those who had no experience.  Some of these guys I had deployed to both Bosnia and Iraq with, so I knew they were very good.  I was asked to be the NCO (Non Commissioned Officer or Sergeant) in charge of the teams.  We only had one officer and that was the company commander….so I was it for leadership.  But I knew how to let experienced troops do their jobs.  My only input was to make sure the wrote as many reports as they could after the event…that way the bean counters would know how great they were.  We did have a greater advantage over the other companies doing this exercise--- for several of us had actually done this stuff in real life. 

Our company  had the least number of people, so I supervised the entire misson.  When I had a chance to walk around to the other 2 companies, I saw that they had 2 officers, a few NCOs and a few others to run their management teams.  I had 2 privates, a lap top, 2 way radio (they didn’t think of getting radios) and experience. 

As we went through the 3 day exercise, the Battalion Commander and his Sergeant Major walked around looking at the Operations Managements Teams.  The others had taken the time to draw up big charts and graph things, I had it all on my lap top that I could see and watch from anywhere (like in case we had to move). 

The Battalion Commander had never been to war, he had friends in high places…but he was very much into computer programs.  As he walked around he looked at what we were doing, then said: “I really like to see charts and things on paper.”
I said: “Well sir, I can see everything on my lap top and I’m able to move if we were to get attacked or something.”  In other words, to me it didn't matter what he thought HE needed, I ran the show the way I needed to.  In the real world, HE would have had nothing to do with what we were doing anyway. 

Then he said: “We’re working on a program that will take all of this and be able to do bla, bla, bla..and do all the work that your teams are doing.”

I said: “Well sir, I’m sure those programs will help, but in the real world, you’ll still need to send troops out to get the information we get.  There is no computer program in the world that can replace what we do…Sir.” 

Oh, shit.  He didn’t like that.  I didn’t know he was that much of a computer geek.  The next day my boss told me that the Sergeant Major wanted to talk to me in his office. 

I walked over and reported.  The Sergeant Major said: "Well, the Commander is really into that computer software.  He didn’t like what you said about his software.”

I knew at that point I was never going to get promoted any further than where I was at, so what the heck.  I said: “With all due respect Sergeant Major, there is no computer in the world that will ever replace what we do.  I’m sure his software might help a little, but for those who’ve never actually done this stuff in real life, like Bosnia and Iraq, they’ll never understand.” 

And for the record, I loved what I did on my deployments.  I have no regrets.   
Real prep in Iraq...


Coffeypot said...

An officer should be there to make sure the ammo and food arrivs on time. He should leave the real work to the guys who do the real work.

Old NFO said...

Yep, reality is NOT a computer game...

NavyOne said...

Only one officer? You all must have felt lonely!

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Been 46 years now but remember the leadership well. One company commander and one new lieutenant that were great. The rest I wouldn't have entrusted to procure a pet license.

Mostly good to outstanding NCOs. Maybe not much on higher education but you don't get to be a Bridge Sergeant by being stupid.

Unless they were right in front of me, hardly cared what the officers were doing.