RANGER AGAINST WAR: The Disillusionment of Ranger Pt. II: The Genesis <

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Disillusionment of Ranger Pt. II: The Genesis

 Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters
cannot be trusted with important matters
--Albert Einstein 

I prefer to be true to myself,
even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others,
rather than to be false,
and to incur my own abhorrence
--Frederick Douglass 

In a room where people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot
--Czeslaw Milosz 

Scratch any cynic and you will find
a disappointed idealist
--George Carlin
______________________

The Disillusionment of Ranger Pt. II -- The Genesis. (This is an extension of Ranger's Disillusionment, PT I):

One of the most common comments heard in the Army is that it eats its young; here is one of those tales.

All Ranger ever wanted to be was a soldier, and his start was stellar. Number One cadet in his ROTC class, Distinguished Military Graduate, regular Army commission, Jump and Jump Master qualification, Ranger, and then onto his first assignment. But within four months of his first troop assignment, his career was over before it started. He was dinged on his first Officer Efficiency Report (OER), and for the next 44 years he has agonized over the question of why his Battalion Commander hated him, and/or why was he willing to kill him before I even left "shavetail" status.

Why? It's a small and pitiable story, but not unique.

As a Mortar Platoon Leader there was a lot of time spent planning and running range firing for the Battalion. This was one of my duties and I excelled at the task, but one day changed that -- the day that began my professional death. (Keep in mind that Ranger's Commission was Regular Army/ROTC, while the Battalion Commander was a West Pointer, if you think that matters.)

The Battalion was a bad luck unit as was the entire European Command at the time Ranger entered. The war was raging in Vietnam, and the seams were stretched tight. While his Platoon passed all of its tests and was ready to perform its tactical mission, the Battalion and Company failed its Command Maintenance Materiels Inspection (CMMI), and was dinged badly on several operational evaluation tests.

So we find our young LT on a freezing hillside in Germany with a range set up to familiarize and qualify the HQ Company personnel in their in their assigned weapon -- the M3 grease gun, a .45 cal submachine gun assigned to support personnel found in the support platoon of HQ Co. This was simple, clear and unambiguous job, until the S-3 (Operations Officer) and Battalion XO (Major) drove up.

The S-3 and XO directed Ranger to pencil in all the personnel requiring training because they were preparing to be re-tested for the annual CMMI (as the Battalion failed their first attempt.) Failure usually equates to Battalion Commanders being relieved, or at least, not promoted.

So young LT Ranger stood before the S-3 and the XO who, in the name of our lord, the Battalion Commander, were directing him to pencil in the trainees as having received instruction which they had in fact, not, which meant he had a choice: either falsify official records, indicating that soldiers had received training that they did not receive, or to not lie on an official document. You can guess the decision made by an idealistic young LT unversed in Army politics.

Neither Infantry Officers Basic Course nor ROTC mentioned any scenario like this in either ethics or leadership training. As a result of the absence of a bootlicking unit in his education, his career died the day he chose not to lie, as did his hopes and aspirations. You may call him a fool, but the moral dilemma surrounding honor and integrity in the military forces of our nation remains the same for both him and others today.

In his 20 years of active and reserve duty, the "grease gun" scenario  was replicated many times, on much higher levels.
In mobilization drills and exercises, there were major units certified for deployment which were measured with elastic yardsticks. Units were certified as combat-ready which could not pour piss out of a boot. (If you doubt this, look no further than current scandals concerning cheating, lying and corruption regarding the certification of nuclear weapons specialized units.)

It is a long way from that frozen hillside in a 1969 Army unit and our little submachine gun training to 2014 and nuclear surety problems, but they are the same issue. If you will lie about a grease gun, then what else will you lie about?

Lest you think these are isolated events, ask a veteran if they have their own "grease gun" story, for the issue is pervasive and universal. The upshot is, I never again believed any official, unofficial or any other word uttered by any government or military official. I know the system is not run on honor.

Ranger's disillusionment is insignificant in context, but it indicts the system through and through.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes!

Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 1:18:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! I was in that Army, too! Though later, in the 1980's. And a young relative is in today's Air Force, which may be even more morally bankrupt and confused than the Army. And an in-law experienced similar shenanigans in Vietnam, and Dad in WWII, and Gramps in WWI...

In Korea I was tempted to extend for another year just to serve under a Colonel of exceptional moral fiber. Instead I moved on to Ft. Carson where my XO blessed me with a truly rotten Efficieny Report (which he accomplished by leaning on my Captain - an immoral act in itself): but I would have followed my Air Cavalry Squadron CO to Hell and back.

Oddly, as a result of one of the incidents that sparked the lousy OER, I was transferred to the General's Staff over the July Fourth weekend! Go figure. In that job I worked for some of the best and smartest NCO's and officers in the Army- misfits one and all, kicked out of combat units for being square pegs.

I was fortunate in having several years of civilian work experience before getting my butter bars via OCS, so started my brief Army career with a more jaded attitude than some of my fellow officers. Plus I had been armored with repeated readings of my dad's copies of Bill Mauldin's "Up Front" and "Back Home" since before I could write ("Back Home" should be required reading for high school and college kids as much as any other book on US politics and history.)

As with all of our large organizations, the Army is cursed with being composed of humans - hence it's capacity for simultaneous glorious and abhorrent behaviors. The problem lies in our refusing to recognize the duality of its make-up and supervising it accordingly.
Sadly, more and more of our citizenry and leadership is incapable, or unwilling, to simultaneously hold two opposing thoughts, and therefore is unable to give the Army the firm guidance, enforcement of ethics, - and sometimes forgiveness - such a massive, lethal, vital, and flawed organization requires to remain healthy, whole, and effective.

Love the blog. Lots of food for thought, and exercise for my "little grey cells".

Friday, February 28, 2014 at 12:32:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

to New Anon,

We're glad to have you along.

Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 3:52:00 PM GMT-5  

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