Hazing is Simply Intolerable

Hazing is Simply Intolerable

Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy, states "hazing is fundamentally in opposition to our values and is prohibited."   The recent case of Private Danny Chen, who took his own life in Afghanistan this past October after being physically and verbally abused by up to 8 fellow members of his platoon (a platoon he had been part of for less than 70 days), has brought to the forefront the issue of hazing in the US Army.  In April Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew committed suicide after a night of hazing by the hand of his fellow Marines, an incident resulting in a trial by court-martial of three Marines who physically abused and harassed him before he shot himself.  General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a statement on 23 December 2011 on his Facebook page stating "hazing is simply intolerable."   Indeed, hazing is intolerable and is an egregious act that violates every thread of value and decency we hold as valuable as an institution and profession.  Hazing and interpersonal abuse significantly increases the risk of suicide in those who have an acute feeling of burdensomeness and inability to assimilate or belong.  Hazing is blatantly toxic and erodes the trust and confidence required of comrades in arms whose reliance upon each other ultimately contributes to their survival in the most austere conditions.  Lastly, blaming the victim of such a crime is morally corrupt and discounts the horrible act of abuse imposed upon those who are not in the position to defend themselves.

Hazing is an inexcusable act counter to the values we hold dear as an Army.  Our values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage are the hallmarks of our institution. Conduct in direct violation with one or more of these values consume the moral bedrock of the organization. The concept of serving our country in the service of others is juxtaposed to the idea that harming one of our own somehow makes them better members of our team.  Leadership through deceit and coercion is as equally corrosive as the physical and psychological abuse of our own.  We lose our moral legitimacy passively condoning these actions in failing to address them.  Further, our inability to adhere to the values we profess to make our institution great destroy our heritage, traditions, and principles. Of paramount importance is the understanding that the violation of reasonable expectations of professional conduct and common decency contributes to the degradation of our institution.

Our rising suicide rate in the active, guard, and reserve force resultant of the increasing stresses of military life emphasize the significance of cultivating environments that do not further contribute to the preventable loss of life by our Soldiers' own hands.  Dr. Thomas Joiner's interpersonal theory of suicidal behavior indicates three prerequisites of suicidal behavior; a thwarted sense of belongingness, an increased sense of burdensomeness, and an acquired capability or means of killing.  Hazing and other abuses deteriorate one's sense of self-worth and increase the feeling of burden and worthlessness.  Hazing accelerates all three of these prerequisites, particularly in a military culture where lethal means and capability is a mechanism available to all Soldiers assigned a weapon.  Why any leader would knowingly engage in behaviors that would possibly add to our suicide issues is beyond comprehension.

The targeting, ostracizing, bullying, and humiliation of another person for the purposes of "building camaraderie" or "exercising discipline" is the weakest form of leadership and the most obvious example of toxicity. That PVT Chen's platoon leader has been charged with dereliction of duty related to the hazing and suicide of PVT Chen is even more disconcerting. Leaders are responsible for the training, morale, welfare, and discipline of their Soldiers.  When the actions of subordinates prevent a leader's ability to monitor and contribute to any of these four aspects the fabric of trust within the team and small unit disintegrate.  Leaders are supposed to know their subordinates, their families, their motivations, strengths, and weaknesses in order to facilitate their improvement and contributions towards mission accomplishment, not exploit those weaknesses or shortcomings for personal amusement or sadistic examples.  Leaders who cannot provide for the common good or who fail to recognize the worth of each of their subordinates do not deserve to lead.

Blaming victims of hazing is as reprehensible as blaming victims of rape, murder, or domestic abuse.  Hazing is an abuse of power and control manifested in the commission of a violent or coercive act of domineering others in an oppressive or vicious manner.  Private Chen didn't need to "toughen up" or "require better coping skills" as many internet commenters have suggested under news articles and blogs related to the case.  He was an American Soldier who enlisted as an infantryman during a time of war to serve the United States, a country that gave this child of hardworking Chinese immigrants a New York education and opportunity to live the American Dream.  He was a Soldier who served less than a year from enlistment to the time of his death who was forced to his breaking point by a group of fellow Soldiers who, instead of mentoring him, training him, and ensuring his development as a professional Soldier in the 70 days he was with them, decided to bully him, beat him, and harass him to a point where he believed his only logical escape was killing himself with his own weapon in a guard tower.  This Soldier deserved better, and his chain of command failed him.

Recent events in both the US Army and United States Marine Corps have brought the practice of hazing resulting in the violent death of the victim, by whatever means, to the front pages of the national news.  In the cases of both US Army Private Danny Chen and Marine Corps Lance Corporal Harry Lew hazing has been determined to be instrumental in the causation of their suspected suicides that criminal charges have been preferred on members in their chain of command. Hazing violates the principles and ethics of our military.  It openly contributes to a rising suicide rate within our armed forces, particularly the US Army.  It is a tool of abuse utilized by the ethically bankrupt and morally flexible to compensate for their inability to truly lead.  Further, it is not the fault of the victims but, rather, the conduct of the aggressors that such behaviors continue.  Our Soldiers have enough to worry about in combat while fighting violent and ruthless enemies who use deceit, tyranny, fear, and coercion to accomplish their ends.  They should not have to worry about those same tools of oppression being used by those serving to their left and right.

Ryan T. Kranc  is a major in the U.S. Army and squadron operations officer in 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, CA.  The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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Comments

Hazing is counter-productive, don't think people dispute that. The problem is in defining what hazing is - and that's tough.

What confounds this issue is the subject of abuse. Harsh training and treatment can cross the line into abuse. Does abuse fall under hazing? Or does hazing fall under abuse?

When the learning stops (assuming an action is done as part of training/discipline, etc), then the it's either abuse, hazing, or just a waste of time. That's where I find it time to call index. I believe that if we all follow that rule, whether we're NCOs, officer, Plt leaders, BN Cdrs, or whatever, then we'll be ok.

I am so sick of politicians and political groups trying to run our military. Until a person has been in these young soldiers boots don't begin to think that you know how they should act. If you are under seige every single day and someone goes to their guard tower without a helmet or un prepared, yes, you must do something to get their attention. Most of the so called hazing occured during basic training. As far as AIT, did he even get that? Was he prepared? I would say no. What these fine young men "allegedly" did, and I say allegedly because nothing has been proven yet,is nothing that they weren't taught when they were privates. Policy's are in place for only one reason- for those in charge to say " well we have a policy". That is just a bunch of B.S. Tell me who in the military or even in the careers they have chosen haven't violated a policy?
Has anyone ever exceeded the speed limit? You violated a policy. Oh have you ever copied something from a book or magazine? You violated copyright laws.
This whole thing is political and there are 8 young men you are literally fighting for their future lives. Yes, I am sorry that the young man took his life and yes I am sorry that his family is going through this because they don't understand the whole situation. THey are only being told what the "activist lawyer" intrepets for them. Give me a frickin break. War is hell and these young men are out there laying their lives on the line every frickin day and what do they get in return? Negligent homicide charges. Supposedly, they young man reported the incidents to his chaing of command and it is said the chain of command did nothing. I find that really hard to believe. There is so much more to this story than we know.

Holy crap, if I had reported everthing up the chain of command that every Sailor that worked for me complained about that would have taken me my entire day.

I believe that these 8 young men, if they really did anything ( hey remember that innocent until proven guilty), only did what they were taught and what they thought was the Army way of handling it.

there is a term called smoking a private. For those of you who have been in the Army, you have either done it, been a part of it or received it. Right wrong or indifferent, everyone in the Army knows it happens. It is a systemic issue..

Has no one ever gone through a right of passage? Anyone ever joined a sority or joined a fraternity?

I really find it hard to believe that he was singled out because his ethnicity. Whatever allegedly happened to him, happened because of his carelessness, ineptness, and lack of skills. The Army didn't prepare this young man for combat. He was just another body to them. He was sent as a replacement. He was unprepared.

Good grief this kid was 6 foot 3. He was trained in basic hand to hand combat. If he really felt threatened he could have done something.

I am so sick of people playing the victim to get sympathy. Using their race because something allegedly happened to them that happened to everyone else. This kid was not singled out because of his race. I wonder did anyone ask any other private with any other platoon if anything like that happened to them. I would bet my retirement that they would say yes.

Any young person who really wants to serve their county--- DO NOT JOIN THE ARMY! You are nothing but fresh meat, they expect you to go kill the enemy or even become a POW but lordy don't violate any policy.

I am infuriated that these 8 young men are being charged in the death of a fellow soldier. What about those 8 young men's families? They are going through hell,finanical support and are never allowed to tell their story.

Do not allow the media to convict these men. Do not jump to conclusions. Unless you have been in combat or walked a mile in these young men's boots constantly looking out for IED's, or seen your buddy have their arms and legs blown off, or have been in a war zone every year you have been in the army, do not condem these men. They are sons, fathers, brothers, nephews or uncles. They are all American. They volunteered. They love their country.

Unless you would like to but on a helmet,kevlar and boots, you have no idea what these young people go through. I wish everyone could spend a month in a warzone and then hopefully come back and tell it like it really is.

I have read the article regarding Pvt. Chen in New York Magazine twice now. In my opinion, based on the article, Pvt. Chen should NEVER have been placed on that COP! Who takes responsibility for that? The platoon?

I am asking as a civilian, who makes the decision as to where to place these soldiers? Doesn't the Army keep something similar to a report card based on performance and perhaps placed based on that?

From the article, he was shy and timid, did not like confrontation, he says in a letter, he is the weakest soldier left in Basic. He was uncomfortable with the intensity of AIT and the normal agitation among the soldiers towards the end. He arrived at the COP physically unprepared and it was brought up, yet he was kept there. He would have been better off at KAF being a trainer.

My own son has said time and time again in frustration on guys not squared away..."What did these guys think they were signing up for? This is not a video game!" If Pvt. Chen was not squared away mentally and physically, that is not being ugly, it is just the truth and if would make life harder no matter what race, religion, ethnicity.

If anything, maybe it the Army itself that needs to look at what they are doing! There HAD to be signs at OSUT and yet he was passed along and then assigned to the MOST intense situation possible.

Wake up, everyone. Hazing happens openly and some units even Bragg About it. Yep, you telling me Prop Blast week is not hazing? Once again, double standard, "You ain't Airborne, you don't understand!" Next time I hear someone tell another person that, my response, "You ain't getting it, you don't understand Army Regulation 600-20." Throwing misc fluids on me and the items that accompanied the "not hazing" but "team building" was frankly, disgusting and IT IS hazing.I've done numerous events that was considered initiation, mostly fun and I agreed to those that didn't subject my group to ridicule and stupidity.

Those involved in PVT Chen's chain should be subject to UCMJ and charged with aggrevated manslaughter. The Army had a similiar incident last year with a Soldier being abused by his chain of command. They were deployed. The investigation cleared the chain of command, simply put, he died of self inflicted wound. Even though the investigation clearly pointed out that his chain of command made him do extra duty and useless pointless duty everyday to the point he went inside a port a john and blew his head off.

Once again, like anything else in the Army, the people in charge will address this and couple of weeks later we will hear nothing else of it. Just like how they dealt with Toxic Leaders, they talked about it for couple of weeks, and now that's over, back to business as usual.

First, take this as some advice, never post at 2am in the morning, your judgement and writing ability are usually severely impaired due to alcohol at that time of the night. Have done that, just sounded silly when I did. ;)
Second, look up article 113 in the UCMJ and then take that into relation with what two of the supposed "victims" did in regard to the "hazings" they were on the receiving end of and tell me what punishment is worse.
Third, what correlation do you make between these kids hazing and then killing themselves? Just because someone gets teased or smoked does not mean there is direct cause in that link and that it will lead to their deaths.
Lastly, suicide is never just one thing nor is it easy to diagnose, even best friends do not see the signs or symptoms of someone who is going to take their life. Charging these guys with homicide in the way they are being charged is wrong and will just be another tragedy to go with these kids taking their own lives.

What Eric said, and Prop Blast is not hazing. It is the type of training we should be doing.

Another suicide. Again in the comments the chain of command mentioned.

http://www.gazette.com/articles/wrote-131361-facebook-springs.html

I would like to add one more thing.....the TRUTH needs to be told...IF these soldiers were sadistic then they should be punished! HOWEVER, if these soldiers are being accused of atrocities based simply on the word of the Media, Ethnic and Political Acitivists then WE all are in big trouble!

http://www.racialicious.com/2012/01/02/private-danny-chen-and-why-i-will...

Can anyone here say definitively that they would be able to judge a person's demeanor after knowing them only a around 5 weeks? Pvt. Chen did not deploy with this platoon, he was a replacement. His family is bringing up charges that supposedly occurred during OSUT at Fort Benning...this platoon had nothing to do with that.

Ma'am,

These were things done to him by his platoon. They were outlined quite clearly on Thursday at a press conference. While he was teased during OSUT, the sadistic treatment by his platoon is almost unbelievable. I don't know a parent who wouldn't be outraged if this was done to their child.

"The eight men later charged in connection with his death are all white and range in age from 24 to 35; they include one lieutenant, two staff sergeants, three sergeants, and two specialists. Members of this group allegedly harassed and humiliated Chen from almost the day he arrived at The Palace. They belittled him with racial slurs. They forced him to do push-ups with a mouthful of water, refusing to let him swallow or spit any out. And, on September 27, a sergeant allegedly yanked him out of bed and dragged him across about 50 yards of gravel toward a shower trailer as punishment for supposedly breaking the hot-water pump. He endured bruises and cuts on his back. Army officials told Chen’s family that although the leader of his platoon found out about this incident, he never reported it as he was required to." New York Magazine, 6JAN12

http://nymag.com/news/features/danny-chen-2012-1/

"The abuse was the culmination of months of humiliation, including a Sept. 27 incident in which Chen was pulled out of his bed by a sergeant and dragged over 15 meters of gravel to the shower, resulting in cuts and bruises to his back, OuYang said.
Military investigators found evidence that Chen reported the Sept. 27 attack to his first lieutenant and staff sergeant and the supervisors chose not to document it, she said.
Chen also was kneed in the legs by fellow soldiers and subjected to excessive work detail and guard duty, advocates said." - DNAinfo.com, 5JAN12

http://www.dnainfo.com/20120105/greenwich-village-soho/army-pvt-danny-ch...

"At a news conference, family members and their supporters said Private Chen had been mistreated virtually every day of his six-week stint in Afghanistan. They said he had been called a “gook,” a “chink” and “dragon lady.” He was also forced to wear a green helmet and shout orders in Chinese, to a battalion that had no other Chinese-American soldiers, they said." - New York Times, 5JAN12

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/nyregion/pvt-chens-family-learns-more-...

I fail to see how any of this would have made PVT Chen a better Soldier.

RTK, your attempt to frame this is racial terms is terrible and wrong in my opinion. Chen even noted in his own journal that it was kidding around, nothing hostile about it, he was running out of come backs is all he said. It says you are in a combat arms unit, exactly what do you do that you never saw constant taunts going back and forth and that spared no one's feelings? Have you ever lived on a VSO/VSP? An outpost? Constant, brutal, relentless and often can make you feel "belittled". I am at a loss with your post.

"They belittled him with racial slurs."

-We tease each others ethnic heritage all the time, it is what combat arms do, nothing is sacred. I have heard far worse comments about ones mother. Want to know why it does not really matter or should not really matter? WE ARE AMERICANS first, plain and simple. Should other insensitive comments be off limits too in the field? Is it now PC even in how we relate to each other? If I say something about a guy and it is insulting it does not mean I would not risk my life for him/her.

"and even though They forced him to do push-ups with a mouthful of water, refusing to let him swallow or spit any out:

- Gasp!!!!! The "horror".

"And, on September 27, a sergeant allegedly yanked him out of bed and dragged him across about 50 yards of gravel toward a shower trailer as punishment for supposedly breaking the hot-water pump. He endured bruises and cuts on his back."

-This might be a little much but hardly what caused the kid to kill himself. To be honest, if the kid constantly screwed up, and it sounds like he did, I am not sure this merits more than a council form on the Sgt.
Stop looking to blame the platoon for this kid killing himself. You cannot always tell the signs and symptoms of someone who will take their own life, it is never one thing that leads to that choice, yes, choice. I think it is not realistic to expect folks to spot the signs and symptoms all the time, just not.

"Army officials told Chen’s family that although the leader of his platoon found out about this incident, he never reported it as he was required to."

-This is legit but I also do not know if it is up to something being so terrible that is should be reported up the CoC? Things should always be handled at the lowest level and if one screw up happened it does not change that fact.

"Military investigators found evidence that Chen reported the Sept. 27 attack to his first lieutenant and staff sergeant and the supervisors chose not to document it, she said."-

-Legit complaint but what if they had documented it? Would it have changed the kids outcome?

"At a news conference, family members and their supporters said Private Chen had been mistreated virtually every day of his six-week stint in Afghanistan. They said he had been called a “gook,” a “chink” and “dragon lady.” He was also forced to wear a green helmet and shout orders in Chinese, to a battalion that had no other Chinese-American soldiers, they said." - New York Times, 5JAN12

-Really? So, this is what caused the kid to kill himself? I mean they are charge with his death, so how do you make the correlation?

I highly doubt these kid's were a great asset, these actions by platoon mates do not happen in a vaccum and none of the action noted so far would lead me to believe that those same actions lead to the kids death or that the people in question should be charged with homicide, either negligent or involuntary.

I know hazings can get out of hand, it is the NCOs job to know that fine line between discipline and hazing but my word RTK, you frame this is in strictly racial tones, you cry for Lew and Chen and never question their work ethic or ability, ignore Lew's dangerous habit of falling asleep in watch (Not at BAF or KAF, a real outpost) expect the NCOs and JOs to know for sure the signs and symptoms of suicide and be able to spot them all the time. You seem to advocate for a military full of boy scouts that are polite, kind and sweet to each other at all times, can see the signs and symptoms of mental health problems all the time and then I am sure you expect those same soldiers or marines to shoot someone in close quarters. It simply does not work that way.

What is being reported in the news and via your links are NOT facts! They are conjecture and IF the CID is telling the parents this information BEFORE the investigation is complete, I find that disturbing.

What is being reported in the news and via your links are NOT facts!

Georgia, you stated in your initial post that his platoon had nothing to do with any of it. Okay, so what are the facts? So far, all you seem to be suggesting is that nobody is to blame except the dead guy, and that his parents are probably just making shit up.

It may sound harsh to you but yes, I do blame the one who committed suicide.
My own mother in law committed suicide over a pending separation and divorce. It was discussed and my father in law took his son's for the weekend fishing..while they were gone, a neighbor walking his dog heard a car running in the garage....she was dead. A good friend of mine just lost her 18 yr. old niece to suicide...she had just had a baby, she was living with her parents, seemed very happy...no signs whatsoever. 2 yrs ago my son's best friend found his dad with his head blown off in the tool shed...he has just completed cancer treatment and was finally home with his family. Who is to blame in these situations?

FACT-Pvt. Chen was NOT the only Chinese-American in the platoon.

FACT-They were NOT at Palace with the Batallion, their was room for ONE platoon and that was it.

FACT-He did pull lots of guard duty because by the time he was brought in as a replacement more than 20 of the original platoon were WIA to IED's and OFF of the COP completely. These 20 soldiers were not replaced with another 20. The Platoon was running missions at HALF strength and combining squads to complete their daily missions.

FACT-There were Soldiers that would absolutely freak out at the thought of being sent to Palace....yes, some even cried and thought of it as a punishment due to the amount of contact this platoon took daily.

FACT-No internet, no phone

FACT-Port-a-potty...the showers were makeshift and the water was trucked in and arrived in a tank filled with live parasites that could be seen swimming....the shower was used extremely sparingly because of the amount of bleach that was needed to control the parasites. IF you wanted a shower, it was up to YOU to go to the main tank and fill the smaller tank for your PERSONAL use.

FACT-The AO that C Company was operating in were the recipients of more Purple Hearts than the rest of the Brigade combined and that is not to forget the several KIA's, and this was less than 5 mos. into the deployment.

Georgia, thanks for your reply. So you're telling me that everything Chen's parents are saying can safely be discounted then? Also that there were emphatically no racially motivated instances of excessive harassment involved in the hazing, and that his suicide was solely the result of a pre-existing condition? God Bless you for your honesty.

What I am saying is that the platoon was made of up of Black, Chinese, Spanish, White, Jewish, Christian and agnostics. It was not made up of skinheads.

The comments these men make to each other are coarse, sometimes over the top and at times their humor is VERY dark, but then I am an outsider. I don't live every day with my buddies blowing up next to me. And yet I have seen these guys go from over the top comments to each other and go immediately to "I love ya, man". And what about calling eachother "My nigga" which is as common as saying "my buddy".

I may come from a different mindset then y'all. I am 48, raised with brothers, and raised 3 sons. Life was and is rough, tumble and competitive at our house. My son's were athletes through HS, their social group consisted of teammates. I lived in a very diverse area and my house was the "hang out house". I could overhear the banter that went on between ALL of them, black, white, Indian, Pakistani, Russian, Bosnian, etc...you would fall out!!!!

My youngest grew up with the nicknames "Puke", "Luggie" (which is the phlegm that you cough up). It is time we STOP with hyper sensitivity..my father was called a Polack, the Italians where I lived were called Ginnies. Being called a name is now cause for suicide?? If I had a dime for every time in my life I was called a "bitch" I'd be rich!

A parent grieving will ALWAYS look for answers....I can't imagine anything worse!!! 2 beloved soldiers from this unit were killed 3 days apart by IED's...do they blame the platoon for placing them in those situations that day? Another soldier I know, drew straws with his BEST friend for patrol, both were exhausted and they only needed one guy,his friend lost and did the patrol, he was only days from going home and was killed by a sniper....Do you not think that everyday his parents live with the what if?

Georgia, those are some very charming and moving life moments you've chosen to share, but your comment doesn't really answer the questions. However, if what you seem to be saying is true, I'm sure Private Chen's platoon leaders did their utmost to effectively mentor him under the most difficult of circumstances.To think otherwise would be quite disturbing indeed.

I KNOW for a fact that mentoring on the COP was done. There were several that had problems adjusting...2 PTSD'd out in the first month and were taken to KAF. They kept a watchful eye on another who was having a terrible time..the entire platoon worked to help him because they NEEDED him to be a good soldier. They were so worried about him that he could NOT be left alone!!!

NOT one article is even looking at ANYTHING other than this being a racial incident!!! Everyone is going for the jugular and IF it turns out that this was not what the press is saying......these men's lives and families are ruined! TRIED by Political Activists and the OWS crowd. Not ONE person even interested in INVESTIGATING any other circumstances. The Press etc. will move on but this will effect those grunts who watched their fellow soldiers hang publically.

Georgia, thanks for your comments. You seem to know a whole lot about what went on in this incident.

One other item of information I'd like to add is that a journalist embedded with the Canadian unit this platoon replaced reported that 160 Canadians were being replaced by 45 US soldiers. The mission did not change. Then the 3-21 took casualties and were not reconstituted to full strength; and it appears that this replacement, in particular, was no help to them at all. My understanding is that Chen's officers were denied their request to have him transferred out.

As the author I want to be clear on a few issues.

Promoting the Army values, a set of ideals we profess to every cadet and recruit in the earliest stages of precommissioning and basic training, is not merely "towing the company line." It's a reminder of the value set we are supposed to use to guide our conduct. Call it naive, some of us still believe they have validity.

As for Eric Stratton's belief that the Army doesn't have high training standards outside of Special Operations - your perception is your reality, but it doesn't make you right. Each month a brigade worth of Army Soldiers, with the addition of SOF from all branches, converge on the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert to hone their skill. And it's hard training that replicates current tactics, techniques, and procedures downrange in a very difficult environment. Every platoon and above conducts after action reviews with an observer/controller team assigned to them. Not only do you see each unit rise to the challenge, you see good units turn great. From the Opposing Force perspective, the Troopers assigned to 11th ACR must be at the top of their game every month for every unit to give them the qualitative training environment they deserve.

We have a fundamental disagreement on the status of the Army and the Soldiers that are in it. I've read your comments on Tom Ricks' blog long enough to know there's no way I'm going to change your mind or convince you that you're wrong, even if you are.

There is nothing careerist about standing up for what is right. You might be the first person to ever accuse me of that.

Finally, there's a big difference between telling a kid to get a box of grid squares and throwing rocks at him for leaving a hot water heater on. You make this sound like a grey issue, and that conditions outside of your paradigm mean the military is turning soft. I maintain there are still element of ethics that are still black and white and that the compromise of morals, ethics, and integrity deteriorates the overall institution.

My son did NTC at Fort Irwin, the vast majority of soldiers that train are excellent, but even during my son's training while there, there were soldiers who could not cut it and were carried by the rest of the platoon.

I will never forget my son coming home from Ft. Irwin for predeployment leave and talking of having to ruck up a mountain...my son was given the SAW, so on top of carrying it and ammo, one of his platoon mates could not make the ruck...he had to carry this soldiers weapon and ammo as well while he pushed him up the steep moutain. As he was nearing the top he could hear the Sgt. yelling his name wanting to know WHERE he was with the SAW..it was as he crested the top that they could see how he had to push the other soldier UP the mountain....the behavior from this soldier was not isolated, it was the norm. His battle buddies could not understand how he made it through basic!

Again, my middle son just graduated "low stress" OSUT...required 8hrs. a night sleep. Medical profiles for sore feet. If you were sick you did not have to attend FTX and then they drove those soldiers up to Honor Hill to receive their Cross Rifles and then they were driven back down. And I will tell you, while it was not a huge deal, that kind of treatment DOES breed resentment...I don't care if it is in a military situation, sports team, work environment, etc.

I personally could not believe the amount of soldiers that could NOT pass PT by Black Phase!!! Many of them recycled from the class before. Almost 20 soldiers could not pass PT, days before Graduation????

Lets make everyone "feel" good about themselves does not build a person, it gives a person a false sense of accomplishment. When the rubber meets the road what happens then?

Being in the Infantry is not like MW3 or MOH video games. While my son did learn while at Fort Irwin and appreciated the experience, the real thing was unimaginable....nobody can prepare for it. Some can keep going, others find themselves in a world of shit. I would much rather have my son's prepared for the shit storm both mentally and physically..once you are in it there is no turning back.

"As the author I want to be clear on a few issues.
Promoting the Army values, a set of ideals we profess to every cadet and recruit in the earliest stages of precommissioning and basic training, is not merely "towing the company line." It's a reminder of the value set we are supposed to use to guide our conduct. Call it naive, some of us still believe they have validity."

They are great values to have but they are not real, they are invented to placate the politicians and make it look like the GOs are "doing something" to improve professionalism. They are on PPTs and Posters, they are akin to saying "I am a Warrior", doesn't make you one just because you say you are one. Go around whatever base you are on and see how much "false moto" is there and tell me that it is not platitudes. The current Army thrives on them. Don't fret though, I am sure it will change again, depends on what marketing line you end up using. Did the Beret help you guys much as far as professionalism?

"As for Eric Stratton's belief that the Army doesn't have high training standards outside of Special Operations - your perception is your reality, but it doesn't make you right. Each month a brigade worth of Army Soldiers, with the addition of SOF from all branches, converge on the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert to hone their skill. And it's hard training that replicates current tactics, techniques, and procedures downrange in a very difficult environment. Every platoon and above conducts after action reviews with an observer/controller team assigned to them. Not only do you see each unit rise to the challenge, you see good units turn great. From the Opposing Force perspective, the Troopers assigned to 11th ACR must be at the top of their game every month for every unit to give them the qualitative training environment they deserve."-

I have been through several of your training courses, trained your guys and yes, your training is canned, your time on the range is usually canned, etc...your infantryman are training on one weapon when they should be training on all small arms, why am I teaching a guy with 8 years in how to properly shoot a pistol? Your tactics for urban/cqc have been outdated for years and you still refuse to adopt new ones or even use your SOF units to improve them, you did not even adopt TCCC till 2004' (it's been around since the late 90's) and your MEDEVAC/CASEVAC, well, I got to experience them up close and personal recently and have been working with them since 2004'. They remain so risk averse that they should be called "Lifeflight" and not have Combat anywhere near their name. So, yeah, I am going to say your training standards are not high nor is your selection which is what I was mostly talking about-Airborne, Air Assault, Boot, Etc...Don't worry, it is in the other branches too, you are not alone. It all goes back to being risk adverse and poor leadership, they know if they actually instituted higher standards for selection they would get heat when people did not make the cut. They know that if they instituted higher standards for training that someone would get hurt and they would get heat. It is what it is, saying it is not like that is being either in denial, you are attempting to look good on here for a peer or superior or you are just not paying attention. I have seen some great individuals "get around" this by having civilian companies come in or making drug deals with SFGs but they are not the norm.

"qualitative training environment"- Ha! Do you really wonder why I think you guys all drink the Kool Aid and I make fun of your communication styles.

"We have a fundamental disagreement on the status of the Army and the Soldiers that are in it. I've read your comments on Tom Ricks' blog long enough to know there's no way I'm going to change your mind or convince you that you're wrong, even if you are."-

Change my mind? Actually, people do it all the time, Kaykuri, Ty, JPWREL, RVN and even Hunter now and then (but rarely). I want the Army to be better. It is not my branch but it is my Army and they are American kids, I care greatly that these young troops are prepared for battle, they are not from what I have seen. You can look at your support troops to see an even worse version of preparing kids for combat if you would like. Your ancestors who may have been in the Airborne or other units in WWII would die all over again if they saw todays military.

"There is nothing careerist about standing up for what is right. You might be the first person to ever accuse me of that."-

Somehow I doubt that, especially after seeing the way you write an article like that, it screams company line, uses "Military Speak" in it's language and to me it smacks of company line in it's tone, message and delivery.

"Finally, there's a big difference between telling a kid to get a box of grid squares and throwing rocks at him for leaving a hot water heater on. You make this sound like a grey issue, and that conditions outside of your paradigm mean the military is turning soft. I maintain there are still element of ethics that are still black and white and that the compromise of morals, ethics, and integrity deteriorates the overall institution."-

One, I mostly spoke of Lew and as I pointed out you left tidbits of information that may have informed people a little better, facts like he fell asleep on watch in a combat zone repeatedly. As for Chen, if you think they were doing a public stoning then I would agree with you but I do not think that is what I read. I also think the current definition of hazing is so far reaching that ANYTHING is off limits and I am sure in your mind it should be that way. The CoC failed in that no one saw that these kids obviously had issues leading up to them taking their own lives, attempting to blame the guys that were with them for those deaths is not just over reach it is piling on with the previous examples of poor leadership.

I am a mother with 2 sons in the Army, both infantry and I have to agree with you. I would like to relate something that was quite alarming to me. My middle son was part of an Experimental OSUT training that was "Low Stress". He had said that playing HS football was more mentally and physically challenging. You were allowed to sick call for anything including your feet hurting and it in no way effected your status. The difference experience between both of my sons training was quite obvious.

I will also say this..the reason why people are successful at suicide is that a lot of the time there are NO real outward signs. Look at Tony Dungy's son...we don't know what goes on their heads.

Georgia, it is refreshing to see a mother who wants her kid prepared as best he can for combat verse the easy out our own leadership seems to take at times. Thank you.

Georgia:

Glad to see to see you around here. We need more people who aren't male and more people who are civilians (I am guessing you are a civilian). Please stick around.

"The CoC failed in that no one saw that these kids obviously had issues leading up to them taking their own lives, attempting to blame the guys that were with them for those deaths is not just over reach it is piling on with the previous examples of poor leadership."

You made that last statement so you may have more information than I do, you obviously believe it or you wouldn't have written it. I sure don't know enough to make that statement. However, as you also wrote, the Chain of Command failed, unquestionably -- the argument seems to be about where in the Chain that failure occurred. To me, some responsibility HAS to be on that first line honcho; Team Leader -- and His Squad Leader. Then the Plat Daddy and only after that the LT and Co Cdr. I Can't go much further than that probability on the information I have...

As one of them old Airborne types and a guy that helped stand up and train SEAL Team 2 down at Fort Stewart back in 1963, I'm not ready to die over today's military (ALL of it Army, Navy, Corps, Air Farce and the Coasties) but I am worried about 'em all. Just a little, no tooth gnashing or sleepless nights. For all the flaws in the system, the kids make it work

Ken, I just don't think that we can expect the guys to know all the signs and symptoms of a guy who will most likely kill himself. Some sharp guys can pick it up but I do not expect the average guy to be able to do that. My point was that I do not think that the hazing is what caused these kids to kill themselves and that the charges against the troops who were with them are way over board. I base this on what I have read and know of the cases and what I know of people who commit suicide.

The CoC did fail in not seeing the signs but I do not think it helps matters to then charge those same guys with homicide, it is just another poor example of leadership not doing it's job when that happens. They are looking at this from a political stand point, that is reality, as you have said before. The reality should be that it's two guys and all we can do is learn from it, try to prevent it in the future and move on. I worry about the military too, the choices in this situation and the reaction by many mid-grade and field grade officers also concerns me.

Eric:

I'm unsure what you mean about the choices in this situation and the reaction of mid grade and field grade officers. You must have a lot more information about both cases than I've seen.

"My point was that I do not think that the hazing is what caused these kids to kill themselves and that the charges against the troops who were with them are way over board."

You may be right. I do not know enough to say that. I have been around enough to say that usually there's a precipitating event in suicides. What that was in either of these cases I know not. I have enough experience with the UCMJ and the system to know that JAGs will rarely allow charges to get to Court Martial level unless they have a pretty solid case; lawyers do not like to lose. The JAGs, not the chain, really make the call to charge.

I can't say that hazing caused either suicide, wasn't there. I can say that I have seen that happen and I can say that while a little smoking of slackers is okay, an excess is just flat wrong -- and it's up to the NCOs to insure that the troops don't go overboard with peer pressure. Which is basically what most all of us on this thread, you included, have written or implied in one way or another.

I and a lot of others including a lot of those mid and field grades and even the FlagOs share your concern that our standards need to be raised and our training needs an order of magnitude improvement. As I told Carl not long ago on another but similar subject, "you aren't the only one that ever thought that..." A lot of us have. A lot of us who've worked at trying to get those changes also know that thinking it is one thing and actually getting it done is a whole lot harder. Nobody, after all, really sets out to be mediocre or a poor performer. So while I agree that should happen, I do not agree that we self limit purposely -- it's a whole lot more complex than that and there are a lot of systemic blocks. For just one example, funding for the Navy/MC and for the Army are handled in very different ways by Congress for legal (and political) reasons and thus Congress has a lot of strings they can pull to get compliance with their wishes. Those wishes rarely accord with with any military rationale...

That's why I have written that politics enter into that complexity and difficulty to achieve changes. I did not mean to imply that there were politics involved in either of those suicide cases because I do not know that to be so and I'm not about to make that charge without more solid info. Politics exist on a national and macro level; that's one thing and it is or should be well known. Actions within groups or units have political (different type) overtones in many cases but unless one is actually in the unit, talk about what goes or went on is usually just speculation. Public speculation that is erroneous can tar folks that may be innocent -- or let slide some who may not be innocent. I try to avoid it unless I've got solid facts and some reasonably good evidence but that's just me.

You mention below that you're direct, nothing wrong with that. You also note that this isn't the best communication medium around, True dat. One just has to be careful not to drift into blanket absolutes and let directness overpower the lack of nuance and expression. We all have to work at it and it ain't easy... ;)

Take care...

Ken,
The reactions of the mid-field grade officers is on this blog, on another blog, in the papers, etc....that is where I get that from.
As for the JAG, they will push charges as soon as you choose to go to Court Martial. I have seen JAG do it repeatedly and there is always the catch all "Conduct Unbecoming" that they throw on the list of charges. If it was not for Military Juries I am sure we would have several more mis-carriages of justice in the Military System and I fear this case may turn into one. It is not the JAG Corps fault, it is kind of their job, the COs are usually the ones who push it and once a kid is in a certain position and asks for Court Martial it takes on its own motion.
Politics? I think everyone, to include myself, understands that they influence everything but I think we can minimize that effect in our institutions, politics are influencing this case even. We are an insular institution and I believe that we can in fact improve our situation by being a little more transparent, selling our ideas to the public and if need be have a few leaders willing to fall on their sword. We make our own reality by avoiding the tough choices, by not attempting to improve our situations or by coming up with PC platitudes to fix problems that go deeper than "self-esteem". That is what I mean when we make our own reality, it is up to us as NCOs and Officer to implement better PME in tactics, leadership, etc...and up to the senior Officer Corps to become less Risk Averse and stop thinking in terms of zero defects. The things we do need to be about improving our various institutions and not just in how we look, it has to be how we perform. As someone said on here, it is about the unit first is it not?

The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.

Major General John M. Schofield
Address to the Corps of Cadets
August 11, 1879

I can't see anything that is dated or obsolete about Gen. Schofield's statement. It is about the relationship between leaders and the men they lead. That is a matter governed by human nature and that hasn't changed in several thousand years

Carl, the general meaning is still great but I think you mis-understand what I am saying. We are talking about hazing and harsh treatment, the quote goes to that and I merely stated that you have to take the quote in context. At that time corporal punishment was ok, what he would think is tyrannical leadership and what we currently think is tyrannical and harsh leadership are two very different things. Don't you think that his days idea of discipline and training indoc would be a 180* out from what we have today?

I didn't misunderstand what you were saying. I got it. It is just that you are wrong. The context changes with the times but so does the contextual meaning of the words. What the men viewed as harsh treatment then is different than what the men view as harsh treatment now but they still know harsh treatment when they see it. In the old old Navy a captain who flogged often may have been viewed as harsh vs. one who flogged little. Now no Navy captain is going to flog for any reason but there are still some damn harsh captains.

As far as tyrannical leadership goes, I don't think anything at all has changed. If Nelson and Holly Graf got into their wayback and wayforward machines and switched places, one would still be a disaster and the other would still be brilliant.

The idea of discipline as a product of good leaders would be a few degrees off then from what it is now, but no way 180. As far as training goes, the Army of Schofield's time could only dream of what is available today.

Schofield made his rep leading volunteer troops, basically civilians. He know exactly what he was about and his words reflect that. They don't address the field regs of 1870, they address what doesn't change.

Carl, I do not agree. In the context of this thread and training you are off. The words are timeless in a sense and I hope he would adapt to our times and still be a good leader but I highly doubt that he would see things the same way either if there was a 'way back machine' or any type of time machine period. It was a different time, a different type of troop and different rules. Schofield was a great man and great leader but saying he would not look differently at things today or that somehow in the context of what we are talking about, hazing, that it does not make a difference is wrong in my view. I doubt a Schofield, a Smedley Butler or a Patton would even make rank today. Also, Holly Graf is a product of her times as well, I am sure that the poor selection process for leadership, insecurity, zero defects mentality, poor mentorship, PC, etc...all contributed to her poor leadership style.
Words for war and from warriors/leaders might be timeless in how we take them on board, some in regard to tactics and training often are timeless IMO. "We must remember that one man is much the same as another,
and that he is best who is trained in the severest school."- Thucydides. I think that quote is timeless yet I think his others in the same book on the Peloponnesian War are not. Also, it is applicable to the topic but what he thought of being severe would be a bit "harsh" to us I think, even to me. They are not always applicable to the topics on hand being discussed though and even if they are I think you have to adjust for times and context. Ceasar for example may have been a great leader but it is easier to get your guys to move at rapid paces and with great discipline if you can use decimation on the troops. It also does not hurt when you can wipe out all military age males as a warning not to screw with Rome. He has loads of quotes that can be called timeless but don't you think they have their own context? Don't you think the use of the Schofield quote in relation to the topic of hazing should also have it's own context in relation to his time and ours? His idea in general is great but I think he would also have a very different view of what is or is not tyrannical. He would most likely just look at Graff as an idiot and as incompetent but not tyrannical. Given the choice between Holly Graf and a Ceasar I might go with Graff if I know all the details, both might be miserable but at least I know she can't hang me by the yardarm, flog me or keelhaul me anymore. Although I do miss those nautical terms being used all the time, just sounds cool. Just like your view though this is all just my opinion.

Mike, at the time look at what they considered harsh treatment? Look at how corporal punishment was still administered then and then take into account how easy, soft and PC our training and discipline has become. What he would be considered harsh and tyrannical in his day would most likely be universal, I somehow doubt he would look at our current military and think we are doing things right.

Eric, again, I agree. I just always found Schofield as a wise sage.

Good point and good quote. Is it me or do we just not seem to have those type of leaders around today? I cannot think of a single GO that I look to, I know a few 06's and 05's, a slew of E8's and E9's but no GOs.

This is not a KoolAid answer b/c there are good Generals and bad just like there are good NCOs and bad ones (People are people regardless of rank), but I really think the problem is one of scope. Just like we're having some severe problems transitioning our thinking from tactics to strategy, it's hard to transition a very personal, direct leadership style to influence thousands of others. Some do it well; some not so well. What is interesting, from my personal observation, is how some generals come across as aloof in public, but are actually really personable and great dudes in a one on one situation or leading small groups of soldiers. Now, to command and inspire legions- that's an art that would probably take revoking General Order One!!!

Mike, I do not think everything is a Kool Aid answer, I swear it! You can usually spot those a mile away just be the language that is used. I think you make a great point and while many GOs are personable I do not see many having the moral courage to attempt to fix the problems that everyone seems to know are there. How many would resign over things they know will cost lives or get us into the wrong conflict but then write books on how they thought it was wrong at the time? How many would get rid of the quotas, soft training, low standards, etc...etc...?

"Now, to command and inspire legions- that's an art that would probably take revoking General Order One!!!"- Classic! Great quote, funny and so true, it would take real moral courage though, not gonna happen.

They do resign; they just do it quietly. The real heroes DO NOT take the jobs at Fox News or the speaking tour or the book deals after they retire. Twenty or thirty years from now, when they are long past, you will hear what some very remarkable men did.

I can tell you that from fact.

Thanks, that gives me a little hope and the ones I see, not just on FOX, they do the circuit, tend to take that faith away more than a little.

Eric:

First off, I agree with you that Army training is pathetic -- or close to it. We went off track in the late 70s with a bad system and the bureaucracy doesn't want to admit it made a bad mistake. We woefully under train people. You will find, though, that there are units who do better than others. Believe it or not, there are also some less than totally competent SOF types out there also...

On the other stuff, you might consider that the US Armed Forces do not have a European or Asian tradition of 'resigning in protest' (or in disgrace). The US tradition has always been to suck it up and drive on, Gen-Gen or Peon.

Remember also that if BG Eward Heebly resigns or retires in protest, they just get Colonel Jay Phugabosky (who's an idiot) to do what Heebly the good guy wouldn't do. If COL P. can't do it, they'll find another. So, given that conscience bender, do you stamp your foot and leave with all your marbles or stay and try to keep as many people alive as you can?

Recall those guys get to those positions ONLY with the advice and consent of the Senate. Senators and Representatives have more in common that Senators and Generals, thus Generals -- and Admirals -- OWE Congress. And everyone involved knows that...

They do what Congress wants because they have to. Training is soft, lacking an existential war (these little ones don't count) because the Mothers of America want it that way and Congress listens to Mothers, not FlagOs. Maybe it shouldn't be that way but it is. That's reality.

Mike's right and there are some super Generals out there who hate this BS more than you do because they've had to live with it and fight it longer. Major Kranc is also right (and he's not a party line type). They're just pointing what's real, not what should be or could be. You are correct that things were 'tougher' in earlier times -- but we aren't in those times and they aren't coming back. We're in today and the Pepsi Generation decided we had to play nice. It'll probably get worse if anything and that's not going to change unless we get in a really big war, bigger than WW II.

The active duty Armed Forces of the US (and every nation that is even a little democratic) have always been under trained and only marginally equipped in peacetime; they have always gone to war not really ready and have held the line long enough to get a big drafted force in being and deployed. Thus those active duty guys take it in the shorts. Way of the World. Neat thing is that no one has to stay in the peacetime force if they don't want to. Those that to have to go pretty much by the rules. It may suck a bit, but it's a choice...

One more quick thing, the Units I have seen that are usually very good work around the system, make the drug deals that they have to in order to get better training, kit, etc...that often costs them too. It always comes down to leadership.

"First off, I agree with you that Army training is pathetic -- or close to it. We went off track in the late 70s with a bad system and the bureaucracy doesn't want to admit it made a bad mistake. We woefully under train people. You will find, though, that there are units who do better than others. Believe it or not, there are also some less than totally competent SOF types out there also..."-

Ken, I know that there are some units better than others, saw that among the CAV guys in Iraq in 04’ but that is what I would like to see change, I would like to see a more consistent quality of troop. The Marines can do it, I think the Army can too. As for the SOF, yup, there are “turds” in every community but way more consistent than any other group as far as quality and baseline of skills.

"On the other stuff, you might consider that the US Armed Forces do not have a European or Asian tradition of 'resigning in protest' (or in disgrace). The US tradition has always been to suck it up and drive on, Gen-Gen or Peon."

"Remember also that if BG Eward Heebly resigns or retires in protest, they just get Colonel Jay Phugabosky (who's an idiot) to do what Heebly the good guy wouldn't do. If COL P. can't do it, they'll find another. So, given that conscience bender, do you stamp your foot and leave with all your marbles or stay and try to keep as many people alive as you can?"-

Short answer, yes, that may not be the tradition but if they did it then they would have an effect, most do not do it out of careerism, that has been what I have seen at least. IF they did it as a group they can have a huge effect, remember the “Admirals Revolt” during the Carter administration? They should do exactly that if policy that Congress or the President is implementing will endanger National Security or the lives of the men they are entrusted to lead.

"Recall those guys get to those positions ONLY with the advice and consent of the Senate. Senators and Representatives have more in common that Senators and Generals, thus Generals -- and Admirals -- OWE Congress. And everyone involved knows that..."-

Then that makes their very position corrupt to begin with and does not do much to restore my faith in their leadership. I hope you are wrong on this point, I choose at this time to believe you are incorrect on this. If you are not then we have problems beyond poor leadership choices.

"They do what Congress wants because they have to. Training is soft, lacking an existential war (these little ones don't count) because the Mothers of America want it that way and Congress listens to Mothers, not FlagOs. Maybe it shouldn't be that way but it is. That's reality."

See, I disagree, I think we make our own reality sometimes and we have made this one too. If we were to explain that by making training tougher to the Mothers and Congress we are actually preventing more deaths and better ensuring our National Security that we could get buy in from the public.

"Mike's right and there are some super Generals out there who hate this BS more than you do because they've had to live with it and fight it longer. Major Kranc is also right (and he's not a party line type). They're just pointing what's real, not what should be or could be. You are correct that things were 'tougher' in earlier times -- but we aren't in those times and they aren't coming back. We're in today and the Pepsi Generation decided we had to play nice. It'll probably get worse if anything and that's not going to change unless we get in a really big war, bigger than WW II."-

I am sure there are some good GOs, I am not sure about Kranc, his English seems to be lost in the Military/Business Speak that I see so often it drives me insane. It borders on Orwellian “Doublespeak”, a pet peeve of mine.

"The active duty Armed Forces of the US (and every nation that is even a little democratic) have always been under trained and only marginally equipped in peacetime; they have always gone to war not really ready and have held the line long enough to get a big drafted force in being and deployed. Thus those active duty guys take it in the shorts. Way of the World. Neat thing is that no one has to stay in the peacetime force if they don't want to. Those that to have to go pretty much by the rules. It may suck a bit, but it's a choice..."-

Again, I think you can change things, if you can’t and there is no other recourse then yes, it is time to get out but I disagree that we cannot effect change.

Eric:

Of Course SOF is more consistent. Too bad we can't afford to have individual Selection and buckets full of training dollars for every unit. We can't. That simple.

Yep, I remember the Admiral's Revolt but that wasn't during the Carter Administration, it was during Eisnehower's. I was a Recon Grunt in the Corps when it started. Recall they also failed to get what they wanted, the Carrier got scrapped and the Air Force built their Bomber...

What I remeber about the Carter Admin (I was in the Army then) was his firing of MG Jack Singlaub, a rather distinguished and outspoken SOF GO, for nothing more than speaking out -- Carter had him kicked into retirement, Just like Obama had McChrystal, another good, outspoken SOF guy, tossed for even lesser talk.

You can call it corrupt -- I do not -- but regardless, it's the way the system works. Having watched both the Corps and the Army over a number of years try to tighten training and watched what happened when the casualty rate and costs went up (sometimes on, sometimes the other, sometimes both -- all frowned upon). I'll tell you that you can think it's our own made up reality but there's no made up to it -- it's just reality. We can move the boundaries but only really slowly in peacetime -- and we are in peace time now. Some folks go off to war. I got a kid that's been to Afghanistan five times and Iraq once, A Grandson with four Afghan tours -- but the nation is not at war. Nor does it need to be. Just like those Banana Wars in the 30s with a few Marines and Squids all over the place, just bigger today...

Know what you mean about doublespeak and we all have our peeves. One of the peeves of the guys that own and run this site -- I'm not one of 'em -- is civility. They don't mind disagreement, they just ask to keep the language cool and to avoid personal attacks; they're fond of saying attack the message, not the messenger. One of my peeves is the use of the Kool Aid slam. What's a guy gonna say "I don't drink Kool Aid." How silly is that. It's an attack that isn't one and it lends nothing to any discussion. We can discuss stuff without going in CQB mode. ;)

Back to the thread:

"Again, I think you can change things, if you can’t and there is no other recourse then yes, it is time to get out but I disagree that we cannot effect change."

I agree with you, we can change things. I never said we couldn't, I just pointed out the obstacles and why change is so difficult to achieve. We can change things, we have to keep trying and have to push the envelope -- but we also have to realize it's agonizingly slow and it's difficult and it's not as easy as just doing what almost all of us would like to do...

Everybody just has to keep pushing. Most guys do...

Ken,
I am well aware that we cannot do that with money and we cannot make everyone a SOF guy, did not say that but at the same time we can hold the standard higher, people will meet the bar you set. The bar is currently so low that it is no wonder we have the problems we do, I think we can do better.

I think you miss my point on making our own reality, I mean it is our fault that this happened, we can change it if we do it right. Also, there was an "Admiral Revolt" threatened during the Carter administration, it never came to fruition though, not as good as the Eisenhower one but it was still threatened and made a difference, at least I think. He had threatened to lower the number of ships and also get rid of the SEAL Teams, only reason I read it. McChrystal openly and to the press disparaged the President, just like McArthur he deserved to get fired I think, no matter how good a guy and leader he was. Not the same thing I am talking about, if more GOs would be willing to choose principle over career then it would set a precedent that would lead to change and in a positive way. Resigning your commission over something you morally or ethically cannot do is not a wrong choice and could lend to improving our military long term. A pipe dream? Perhaps, but do we not expect more from our GOs? Does it not have to start somewhere? At some point?

As for the "Kool Aid", what else would you call it when someone only uses the language that sounds like it came straight from a military writing guide? Picture me saying it as I roll my eyes and shake my head with a smile, makes it much more palatable ;) The platitudes and 'moto" is at the point of being unbearable. Discipline problem? Build "self-esteem" by issuing berets, telling everyone they are a "warrior" or insert motivational saying here. It's even in the SOF community. It is maddening and ignores the problems we have in training, direction, recruitment and leadership. I think I am pretty civil, sarcastic and snarky at times sure but civil, does not always come across in emails, no inflection or tone, no facial expression to go with, so hard to see that, so I get how that could be seen. I am also a little 'direct' in life and do not take anything personal and expect the same, so maybe I should take that into account too. Isn't my use of the term "doublespeak" an attack technically? Think about that for a second, what are the left/right parameters? Not going into CQB mode, promise ;)

I don't drink all the flavors of Kool Aid offered, just some.

This opinion paper's point, aside from the ethics piece, was that there are a lot more effective ways in training someone to do their job than happened in these particular cases.

Do we have problems in training? Absolutely, and I think we've lost a lot of skills in training management and teaching people how to train their troops since the advent of FORSCOM training guidance and other cookie-cutter training systems that take training development out of the hand of the commander and NCOs. This paper wasn't about those problems.

This paper was mainly about ethics and how there are right and wrong ways of dealing with people - my opinion, based on the information given so far on both of these cases, is that the leaders of both Lew and Chen fell short of the mark. Look back at the last ten years and some of our worst events in combat have fundamentally happened because individuals and leaders had a lapse in judgement and personal morals. If we don't take a candid look at some of those incidents (Abu G, the events in south Baghdad in 2005-6, etc) we run the risk of endorsing their conduct.

This was a purposely formal sounding paper. This website is full of postings by me that aren't nearly as formalized.

RTK,
See, I knew you had a sense of humor ;)
I agree with almost everything you just wrote in that post but my point is that this all influences training and as you point out, it comes down to leadership. As soon as they overreact to these hazings, and they are doing that in my opinion, this will have negative effects on all training. You will have NCOs and JOs who will be fearful of even raising their voice, verbally joking, stress courses, etc...you will not have the minor smoke shows anymore due to a perception that all things done in this manner will be punished as hazing. Everything will be paper and no fear of instant punishment will be around anymore. "I screwed up? Oh, a council sheet? How many do I get till something real happens?" There is already a risk averse mindset in our military, this will only increase that mentality. Think about the zero defects policy that is in place for officers? It all ties in together. I am sure the last time you deployed to Afghanistan you have seen the perception of ROEs that goes on in some junior soldiers minds, they are fearful to shoot back or engage an enemy ahead of time. This is a misunderstanding of the ROEs but it is still the perception and it becomes the reality. It is why I am not a big fan of the wording on hazing and why I am not a big fan of how the GOs will react and are reacting to these cases, it causes problems. The ROEs are just an example of how perception becomes reality, even if wrong and how it effects things in the institution but I think it illustrates what I am saying. As harsh as this is to say, it was two guys. Just two cases and I do not think these incidents merit wide scale changes in our institutions but I am sure they will have that effect none the less.
I fully agree that almost all of our problems have been due to Leadership, I think some things could not have been foreseen (You can't predict if you are going to have a psychopath in your unit for instance, Sgt. Gibbs) but for the most part that is what the weak link has been.

Several times in this discussion in various places, you say things like "you can't expect guys to see" (paraphrase), or "You can't predict if you are going to have a psychopath in your unit for instance, Sgt. Gibbs) or "Ken, I just don't think that we can expect the guys to know all the signs and symptoms of a guy who will most likely kill himself. Some sharp guys can pick it up but I do not expect the average guy to be able to do that." To me, all that comes across a little bit like excuse making. Good leaders will see most of the time. We can't expect all guys to see signs and symptoms but, like you said, we can expect sharp guys to see it and I expect those sharp guys to be in positions of leadership. They should see. You're right, you can't expect to PREDICT when a psychopath will show up, but if you keep your eyes open you damn well will see it. Sgt. Gibb's behavior didn't just come out of nowhere, there were plain signs to see but lousy leaders didn't see it or didn't do anything about it. Like you said, lousy leadership, but the way you write, it seems like you are making excuses for the lousy leadership displayed in the two cases RTK's article mentioned.

You are going to have to explain to me what the training value of minor smoke sessions is. When this forever a civilian saw it once it just seemed to be a smug kid with some stripes lording it over some other kids with fewer stripes.

Carl,
If you do not think putting pressure on a guy no matter what the circumstance helps then I never going to convince you of it. Forever a civilian? Did I miss that you were an 04? You do not think smoking someone in initial phase of indoc to the military does anyone any good? You do not think it should be done during selection? You do not think that is at times a better answer to a discipline problem than paperwork that will follow a kid for life? What else do you propose when a kid needs instant re-enforcement, we are talking of 18-22 y/o kids here, not SOF. So, would you paper them every single time? As for it working, I have seen it MANY times with the Marines and it works. You do not think it ever does, nothing I say will ever change your mind when you speak in terms like that. That is great that you saw someone mis-use it. Did you correct it? Did you talk to the NCO or JO who was using it in an incorrect way? Did you take it on board and mentor the guys you say have abused the method or did you hang back and wait to complain about it later?
As for making excuses. You cannot predict getting a guy like Gibbs into the military, not sure how you could stop it even if you gave DSM IV testing to all entries. As for seeing the tell tale signs? They could have seen a turd, they would have seen an ass and a bully but I doubt many would have envisioned him do the things he did. I am not sure how you can predict when a guy will start murdering people and taking war trophies home, maybe you know of subtle signs that are an indicator, I don't. Even if a guy was a domestic abuser I would not then correlate that with being psychopath who would set up murders and take home parts of people as a trophy. Again, maybe you can see things I don't.

As for these cases we talk of, I do not think we can expect every NCO or JO to know when a guy will or will commit suicide, I wish they could but I know better, apparently you seem to as well. Tell me how you think you can always spot someone who is suicidal? Enlighten me. I actually have had training in it and the people who do it for a living say that you will not always spot the signs, so please, tell me. When I say exceptional leaders can spot them it is because they are just that, exceptional. If you think the majority of the Officers and NCOs we have out there are exceptional I would question where you hold the bar at for exceptional. The majority are good, solid guys but I do not expect them all to be masters of everything, to always make the best choices or to always do the right thing. I know humans are not infallible, perhaps you know something I do not. As for the hazings themselves, while I am sure they did not help matters they are not the direct cause of the suicides, one thing rarely is and the troops being taken up on the charges they are is all about politics. I go by what I have seen and done, always willing to listen to new ideas though.