July 30, 2013

Junior Officer Exodus

In 2005, more than a third of the West Point Class of 2000 left active duty after completing their mandatory five-year tour of duty. Why?

Here's a recent disturbing article written by a Marine Lt. who also has had enough with the modern warrior culture.
Why are we getting out? It's about the low standards.

We joined because we wanted to be part of an elite organization dedicated to doing amazing things in defense of our nation. We wanted to make a contribution to something great, to be able to look back at a decisive chapter in American history and say "yeah, I was part of that." We joined the Corps because if we were going in to the fight, we wanted to serve with the best. We wanted the kind of job that would make our friends who took soulless, high-paying corporate jobs feel pangs of jealousy because we went to work every day with a purpose.

It causes a deep, bitter pain to acknowledge that I don't think this is the organization in which I currently serve. The reason we're getting out is because the Marine Corps imposes a high degree of stress, yet accepts Mission Failure so long as all the boxes on the list are checked.

I'm talking about the Field Grade Intelligence Officer in Afghanistan who didn't know who Mullah Omar was. I'm talking about a senior Staff NCO in the intelligence community who could not produce a legible paragraph. I'm talking about a Battalion Commander who took pride in the fact that he had done zero research on Afghanistan, because it allowed him to approach his deployment with "an open mind." I'm talking about contractors, some of whom were literally paid ten-fold the salary of my junior Marines, who were incapable of performing basic tasks and functionally illiterate.
The problem is not so much that these individuals pop up every now and then, as every organization has its bad eggs, but rather that we see them passed on through the system, promoted and rewarded. If we are truly the elite organization we claim to be, how do we justify the fact that we allow these individuals to retain positions of immense influence, much less promote through the ranks? How do we justify this endemic tolerance for mediocrity or outright incompetence?
Here's the money quote.
If you really want to know what an institution values, don't look at its mottos or mission statements. Look at how it spends its resources, especially its human capital. Economists call this "Revealed Preference." When I was in the midst of a time-critical project aimed at mapping insurgent networks in Helmand, I was told to put the project on hiatus so I could organize a visit from General Allen. The implicit message was that a smooth itinerary and content General were more important than catching an insurgent cell before they left for Pakistan. How else was I supposed to interpret this? In my opinion, it's not so much that the Marine Corps doesn't value ideas, but that -- when the chips are down and careers are at stake -- it values appearance and conformity more than winning. The implicit message -- what the Marine Corps reveals by its actions -- is that it's okay to fail to provide any added value, so long as the PowerPoint slides are free of typos, no serialized gear is lost, and everyone attends the Sexual Harassment Prevention training

Read the rest of the article here. This not only affects the military. Many large police departments are run the same way.


WoFat said...

The battalion commander with an open mind has holes in his head.

Subvet said...

Ah yup. Unfortunately this isn't something that can be laid solely on the doorstep of the present Administration. I recall several incidents during my own career(1970-1992) in the sub force where not making waves and kissing butt was considered our number one priority. It's gotten exponentially worse in recent times, but the seeds were there a long time ago.

LL said...

It took me three wars to come to the conclusion that nobody cared about winning anything. Which means that I'm a slow learner.

General Smedley Darlington Butler, USMC summed it up in his book, "War is a Racket".

Gorges Smythe said...

I wish I could be surprised.

Anam Cara said...

Add to all of that the fear of a RIF coming and you find that instead of comradery, peers see each other as competition for the job they don't want to lose. Doesn't make for a pleasant work environment.

We survived a RIF in the 70's, but I don't remember people so willing to throw others under the bus to stay in. Maybe that's just because I'm old now and don't remember a lot of things.

It is really hard for the kids these days.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

I'm sorry, I'm sure it's worse now, but he's describing the military when I was in some 45 years ago. Mediocrity is a socialist doctrine and guess where that's coming from now.

Doom said...

Yeah, no. I hate to tell this young man, if after thanking him for his contribution, this is the state of the military, often, and has been since the supposed great British Military era.

A lot of it comes down to gritting your teeth through some of the tedium... or getting into spots where you have less... interaction with the shitty parts. Of course, you pay for autonomy, dearly.

Brings back my own feelings about it all, when it first hit me. Sucks, sometimes. But it is rather typical, normal, usual, just creepy and wrong as well.