Sunday, August 7, 2011

Been Busy

It has been a while since my last post. I have been a tad busy. For those of you who don't know, I am still an actively participating officer in US Army Reserve (Lieutenant Colonel). I spent much of July in Carlisle Barracks, PA, finishing up my Masters Program with the US ARMY War College. Yay,

The degree is technically a Master of Science in Strategic Studies, but I prefer 'Master of War'. It's also the Military Education Level 1 course, or the LAST SCHOOL I have to go to as a soldier, ans d qualifies one for promotion to General Officer rank. I'm just hoping for Colonel (my promotion board already met, but I won't know what they decided until the results are published in November).

On the writing/reading front, I'm at about 30K words on my WIP. I polished off a John Ringo book on the plane, Dance with the Devil. For those who like scifi with a military flavor, Ringo is great. When I posted about his first book in this series, A Hymn Before Battle, I mentioned that I enjoyed it and could also see the junior NCO coming through. I thought I might explain because I saw it here too.

Every unit in the Army blames their next echelon higher for all their problems. It's true. The bosses are usually screwed up, they don't understand the 'ground truth' , they have it easier, yadda yadda. When I was an enlisted soldier (helicopter mechanic) the platoon leader and company commander were all 'jacked up'. When I was commissioned and became a platoon leader (attack platoon leader in a cobra helicopter company) the company commander and the Battalion were screwed up. When I was staff, it was the line company that didn't understand, when I was a company commander the BN commander and staff, as a troop commander it was the squadron commander that couldn't get his shit together. When I was a Battalion Commander it was the brigade commander and the brigade staff that caused all the Cluster F*cks. You see where I'm going with this? You can often tell what level a fellow rose to, by who the fellow blames and nature of the complaints.

I'd also like to think that when I jumped to the next node in the chain of command, my direct reports didn't blame me for all the problems in the world. (I'm kidding myself- they did, but one difference between a good leader and a bad one is the ability to recognize that, listen to the gripes and try to explain why they have to do the stupid shit your making them do).

I can honestly say that I have seen many of the problems with higher ups that Ringo points out. There were many careerists, selfish or lazy commanders. But these are few and far between and tended to 'crash and burn', unless they were really talented. The most common 'bad' commanders I have experienced, both in peace and in Iraq, were the people that lacked critical thinking skills (and most of these were slaves to outdated doctrine) or the ones that worried too much about what their boss would think. It's important to follow doctrine, but it's a guide and if you have the ability to think critically about what the mission dictates and the tools you have available. The people who worried about their 'evaluation' were the ones I couldn't stand. "What impact will this have on my annual report (OER)?" is something I rarely ask myself, and it comes well after; does this accomplish the mission adhering both to the letter and spirit of my orders?

But without question the leader I detest the most is the one that doesn't care for his troops. When Mr and Mrs mainstreet America entrust the welfare of their son or daughter to you, the Army leader, you need to take that responsibility seriously. I could wax philosophic or give bullet point lists for hours on this one.

I picked up a copy of 'Kaboom, embracing the suck in a savage little war' by Matt Gallagher. It's based on the blog he wrote while a cav scout platoon leader in Iraq. Peppered throughout are examples of the points I make above. He refers to his company commander in a mildly disparaging manner, while the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major are known as 'LTC Larry and CSM Curly', don't know who Moe is (3 stooges). My experiences were both the same and different. I was a Major, and an operations officer for an Aviation Task force. We didn't break down doors, or drink tea with 'Haji' (it was well before COIN doctrine was articulated, in 2003-2004). But I have no doubt there were company level pukes that had listed me in their top ten most stupidest list for the things I made them do. But 11 months, 350 missions, no casualties... just sayin'.

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