Small Wars Journal

Army's Iron Major Shortage

Sun, 08/17/2008 - 9:59am
From today's Washington Post - Deployments Are a Factor in Army's Deficit of Majors by Ann Scott Tyson.

The Army's growth plans and the demands of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are contributing to a shortfall of thousands of majors, critical mid-level officers whose ranks are not expected to be replenished for five years, according to Army data and a recent officers survey.

Majors plan and direct day-to-day military operations for Army battalions, the units primarily responsible for waging the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout the Army, majors fill key roles as senior staff members, putting together war plans, managing personnel and coordinating logistics.

The gap in majors represents about half of the Army's current shortage of more than 4,000 officers, and officials say there are no easy solutions to the deficit. "We need more officers, and we are pulling every lever we can," said Col. Paul Aswell, chief of the Army's personnel division for officers.

The Army's plan to expand its ranks by 65,000 active-duty soldiers by 2012 - to a total active-duty force of 547,000 - is increasing the service's demand for captains and majors. The Army is currently about 15 percent short of its goal of 15,700 majors, and the gap is expected to surpass 20 percent in 2012, according to Army data...

Much more at the Washington Post.


Anonymous mentions the MATA Course. From SWJ:

"Military Assistance and Training Advisory Course (MATA) Handbook for Vietnam - US Army Special Warfare School Handbook, January 1966. Reference material for the military advisor in Vietnam. Reflects doctrine as taught at the Special Warfare School in the 1960's and early '70's. The handbook was prepared for use in the MATA courses of instruction and served as a ready reference for advisors in Vietnam."

Here is the link to the handbook:

Anonymous (not verified)

Sat, 05/21/2011 - 8:11pm

per this statement:

"Not that it would or could happen, but if some of our SF officers could assume training of our conventional officers departing as team chiefs, perhaps that would take the load off SF in terms of manning requirements. Additionally, perhaps our SF officers should deploy with our conventional units - not to advise counterparts, but to advise our US commanders."

We should re-establish the MATA course at Fort Bragg. USAJFKSWCS needs to step and support the Army on this.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sat, 05/21/2011 - 6:30pm

What struck me, as a former TT guy, was the following comment:
"The key in my opinion is it doesn't matter if you have good guys and gals on the ground advising if your command and cotrol structure doesn't understand the mission. In my opinion, SF leaders generally understand how to partner effectively with indigenous forces and won't get overly frustrated with the normal challenges of working through developing nation problems." by Bill M

+1 on this comment.

Not that it would or could happen, but if some of our SF officers could assume training of our conventional officers departing as team chiefs, perhaps that would take the load off SF in terms of manning requirements. Additionally, perhaps our SF officers should deploy with our conventional units - not to advise counterparts, but to advise our US commanders.

libertariansoldier, I am not talking about DOS's noted shortfall in capacity to manage their contractors or DOD personnel. Rather the other point you made, when State funds the mission, their funding restricts unnecessary growth, which DOD always seeks. Two, working under title 22 restricts our ability to engage in combat operations unless it is self defense, which forces the host nation military forces to meet the challenge instead of our guys stepping in and taking the lead, and then claiming their not ready. Example one is El Salvador. Example two, although not traditional FID, but peace enforcement was JTF LIBERIA. DOD did the heavy lifting, but we answered to DOS on all actions. I agree this is an important topic, but we're drifting from the topic related to the article. Recommend we shift this one to the discussion board, so the Iron Majors or the CPTs can tell us why they're getting out. I think it is poor leadership based on the discussions I had with good officers that left, and of course there are other reasons, but the other reasons have always been there and they're not driving the officers out in large numbers.

Steve Mundy (not verified)

Fri, 05/20/2011 - 11:15am

Two major issues in my experiences as a FG.

1) HRC's inability to manage requisitions and eligible bodies to fill them in a logical, timely and career-building manner.

2) LTC and above leaders unwillingness to coach, mentor and communicate with their subordinates to truly understand the motivation and goals of their Company and Field Grade officers.

Habitually, in the last 3-4 years of my assignments, officers and NCOs (to some extent) have been put on orders to transfer across the country for near-immediate deployment in less than 60 days.

In my opinion, if we expect to retain CO/FG officers, then someone needs to take the time to understand their goals and life objectives and assist our branch managers in "putting the right person, at the right place, at the right time." The days of sucking up crappy assignments with toxic leaders is over. As the Army evolves and matures, the HR, leadership and resource management techniques need to also.

If 15-20% deficits in "Iron Majors" isn't triggering change, then what will? If a senior leader is micromanaging or abusing his/her staff of 20 pax, then why would a staff of 16 pax require less "hands-on leadership?"

There are a ton of great comments listed here. I agree with almost all of them and from my POV, no amount of technology or armament makes the Army successful. It's the people and continued poor management will continue to reduce the ranks until the GOs and supporting senior leaders make a revolutionary change. Dueces!


Fri, 05/20/2011 - 9:13am

"I would also argue that our FID missions have been more successful when run by the State Department, than when run by DOD."

Which ones are those, asked the guy currently on a DOS capacity building contract? In the Balkans, Africa and AFG (Dyncorp) they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are institutionally incapable of overseeing the contractors they hire to do it. The only successes I have seen involved DOS funding (FMF, GPOI, demining, ACOTA) of DOD executed efforts.
And it is not a slam against DOS--currently paying both mine and my wife's salaries. But, a priori, they lack the technical expertise to function as COTRs, the qualified personnel density to act as CORs, and the mechanisms to determine and enforce accountability. One only has to look at the SIGAR reports to see this. Indeed, if you look at the development side of it, USAID has exactly the same problems, and, IMHO opinion, for exactly the same reasons: a combination of historical budgetary constraints on growth and an innate conservatism in favor of historical activities, as well as an institutional bias in favor of or against some types of programs.

Kent, great comments. Quoting doctrine doesn't equate to reality; it never has. We have a lot of history with FID, some bad, some good, and as you stated anytime (at least that I can recall) we employed a large number of forces to do FID we failed.

I would also argue that our FID missions have been more successful when run by the State Department, than when run by DOD. The friction between State and DOD constrains our desire to keep pumping more and more troops into the FID effort, which in fact transforms it to something other than FID. That something else is we're in the lead instead of effectively advising and enabling host nation forces. We are not in a FID posture in Afghanistan yet, it is still a goal. When we get there we won't need thousands of advisors, and the sooner we get beyond the goal of trying to create an Army in our image the sooner we'll start making real progress.

I agree with some of Grant's comments about the inherent skills that a senior conventional infantry, armor, etc. officer and NCO can bring to the fight that SF doesn't have, but how many do we need? Are they selected and trained to do the mission individually, or do we deploy a Bn or BDE of advisors? If the Army goes with the Advisor Bde concept, then I suspect those skills that we are seeking will rapidly erode.

The key in my opinion is it doesn't matter if you have good guys and gals on the ground advising if your command and cotrol structure doesn't understand the mission. In my opinion, SF leaders generally understand how to partner effectively with indigenous forces and won't get overly frustrated with the normal challenges of working through developing nation problems. I am advocate of generally selecting a seasoned SF officer to lead the military part of these missions (but it is not a necessity). SF to some extent can maintain its core skills whether applied in UW or FID by conducting FID (however it isn't that black and white). On the other hand conventional forces risk losing their combat edge if they're constantly deployed in advisor roles. Not an argument for one or the other, just a factor that should be considered when choosing.

It isn't just a matter of numbers or doctrine, in fact, as addressed above, large numbers tend to correlate with failure (can't prove cause and effect, but it sure looks suspicious). Doctrine is a guideline, nothing more, especially for FID. What matters is how much influence the advisors have on those they're advising. That in the end will translate into results over time. As Bob keeps pointing out this fight is much bigger than just the military, so it is important to keep the State Department in the lead. Small numbers of advisors equaled success in both Greece and El Salvador (and other places). Doesn't matter if they're SF or conventional, what matters is how effective they are. In the end I think we can agree the debate shouldn't be focused on SF or conventional forces (it will generally be a hybrid), but what actually works.

Tying this into the Iron Major issue, if it is done right, there is a significant amount of job satisfaction, which equates to greater retention. If they feel they're spinning their wheels, less retention.

Cowboy Skip said..."...getting back to the subject of Iron Majors shortage, I have yet to witness it although I dont doubt it exists out there in the TDA world. Having spent almost my entire career in the MTOE Army, I havent experienced the field grade shortages others have witnessed"

I, too, have not really witnessed this shortage of Majors. Exactly where are we short majors? TDA units? Instructor positions? Are O4s being sucked up into various bloated staffs at brigade, div, and higher, particularly when deployed? Is a major really needed to create a Powerpoint slide when a good E7 can do just as well (this assumes that the PPT slide in question is really needed....probably not but let's do it anyway in order to justify someone's job at USF-I, NTM-A, etc...). Just wondering where these shortages are.

Ken White (not verified)

Thu, 05/19/2011 - 1:26pm

I think there's a bubble being missed here...

Jamie's quote from JP 3-22 is doctrine but doctrine changes with senior leader priorities...

There's no doubt that CF should maintain the capability to do FID. The real issue though is whether they should do so in other than dire circumstance simply because they will not, cannot and should not ever do it very well. So the real issue is <u>when</u> should we do FID, which leads to who should do it.

Do it early and the numbers can be small; do it too late and it'll likely fail regardless of the numbers provided. History seems to bear that out...

Grant mentioned, correctly IMO, that GPF Officers can do the BN/Bde level advisor job a little better. True and there are many ways to get that expertise where its needed while the overall FID effort is SF controlled. Turf battles are not ever going away but we could surely do a better job of keeping them from impacting effectiveness barring a major war to cause us to focus...

As for SOF doing Direct Action and Special Reconnaissance and Counterterrorism. Agreed, those are all their missions. Though I question whether SF should be underemployed doing those jobs as opposed to them being performed by other SOF elements. IMO, using SF for any of those missions, much fun as they are compared to living with and advising the indigs, is using a Cadillac for a pickup truck job, a lot of expensive training is being wasted. Expensive training is required for those other jobs as well, though DA and CT are not all that exotic (and in fact much, not all, of it should be a CF / GPF mission), but it's different training.

Those added missions were tabbed to SF back in the 80s due to peacetime budget battles and big Army's dumbing down of training. Past be time for a relook.

Definitely time to relook when, where and how we do FID. On a macro -- even Joint -- level...

Cowboy Skip (not verified)

Thu, 05/19/2011 - 1:03pm

Great points Grant. I think your last comment sums up the issue nicely: SF requirements exceed capabilities.


Thu, 05/19/2011 - 12:45pm

I will echo the comments of my good friend Grant Martin----bottom line, Special Forces is not the "FID branch" of the Army. I invite any and all who think SF's sole purpose is the training of foreign militaries to explore Joint Publication 3-22 (Foreign Internal Defense), specifically page I-3, which states:

"Although FID is a core task of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and special operations forces (SOF) maintain the capability to conduct such operations, conventional forces (CF) also possess capabilities to conduct FID. FID is not a military only operation; rather, it includes an interagency approach to assisting an HN. The joint force commander (JFC) supporting a FID effort may employ capabilities provided by both CF and SOF."

FID is in everybody's lane. And it's just one of Special Forces' five core missions, along with Unconventional Warfare (UW--the first among equals for us), Direct Action (yes, that's right), Special Reconnaissance, and Counterterrorism. That said, it's up to the Joint Force Commander to determine which tool in the toolbox is best suited to conduct FID---SOF, conventional, or a combination of both--- given a particular scenario.

De Oppresso Liber,


G Martin

Thu, 05/19/2011 - 9:17am

On SF being a "FID" force:

- SF styles itself as a UW force. FID, although one of its core missions, is not its reason for existence.
- When SF does do FID it is generally thought to be for one of a few unusual instances: 1) the mission is in a denied or politically sensitive area. 2) the HN force itself is on some level "unconventional". 3) To keep language proficiency and regional knowledge/contacts (when there isn't some other higher priority mission and/or the country in question is high profile).
- Generally speaking, when large numbers and/or conventional HN units need mentoring, training, partnering, etc.- a conventional force is many times just as good, if not better, than SF. This is especially true at battalion and higher headquarters levels. It may be politically incorrect in the SF world to state this- I don't know- but SF officers and NCOs IMO cannot do as good a job on average as conventional Os and NCOs that have experience at battalion, brigade, and division levels- when mentoring and partnering at those levels. Sure the average SF team can do a good job partnering with a platoon and many times a company- but if conventional forces are available- it would be preferable for conventional forces to be used because 1) they would be advising units on what the CF units actually do in their "real" job, and 2) SF shouldn't be used for missions that others can do (especially if others can do it just as good or better). Simply put: SF battalions and Groups (brigade level) don't maneuver- so to advise a conventional HN unit at that level isn't something that SF has much experience in.
- The country can be better served with SF units re-deploying back to their regionally-aligned countries and conducting FID missions in order to maintain contacts and language proficiency- so that we are prepared for the next contingency. Focusing on Afghanistan and Iraq at this point is probably not too wise- whether SF does FID or DA in Afghanistan/Iraq or not.
- Lastly, perhaps the greatest practical issue with SF "doing FID" in Afghanistan and Iraq is numbers. The sheer numbers of units that need training and partnering rules out the use of SF- there just aren't enough.


Thu, 05/19/2011 - 12:15am

Excellent insight from Cowboy Skip. It would be nice to understand things at that level.

As someone that was on an external TT, just my observation: the AABs seemed to get hastily put together with their TT personnel. When meeting with them, I often saw exhaustion and exasperation - not due to OPTEMPO, but dealing with their parent/owning unit, if that's the right term. The TT concept and AAB concepts looked great on paper, but how they meshed with HRC seemed to be problematic.

But, things can't be perfect. It's war, we do what we can.

Cowboy Skip (not verified)

Wed, 05/18/2011 - 8:10pm

1. Having done the TT job twice now as both a MAJ and LTC, I can attest that while some of our institutional best and brightest are assigned to the teams, in most cases, HRC fills the slots with whoever they can find that has a pulse. My last TT assignment as part of an AAB had multiple officers assigned to the TT that were medically non-deployable, had retirement packets already submitted to HRC or had NEVER deployed despite being senior field grades.
2. While making TT Chiefs CSL selects is a good idea in theory, it is poorly executed. My AAB had something in the neighborhood of 25 separate teams led by LTCs or COLs and of those 25 teams, only 2 team Chiefs were CSL selects. Great for the 2 CSL selects, but wheres the fairness? All 25 LTCs and COLs doing the same job, sharing the same risks and generally accomplishing the same great things, yet 2 of the Chiefs will get BN Command credit and the rest wont.
3. I dont support making Combat advising a separate branch. We already have a branch for FID: its called Special Forces. IMO, SF branch has placed too much emphasis on direct action and not enough on FID.
4. The consensus opinion and experience of my last TT assignment was that the TT Field Grades primarily served to pad the SR profile of our DIV CDR. Having an extra 50-100 MAJs and LTCs allows greater flexibility for the SR to take care of the BN Commanders and DIV and BDE staff officers in hard KD positions. Not to denigrate the efforts of the Commanders or staffs. With few exceptions, all worked hard during the deployment and deserved to be taken care of. Just observing that its much easier to check that ACOM box when you have daily interaction with that staff officer vice seeing a TT Chief once or twice a quarter on a fly/drive by.
5. Now, getting back to the subject of Iron Major shortages, I have yet to witness it although I dont doubt it exists out there in the TDA world. Having spent almost my entire career in the MTOE Army, I havent experienced the field grade shortages others have witnessed. Even now, sitting at my desk as a project officer in an unauthorized excess position, I can at least say we are over-strength field grades in my current organization--thanks HRC for following through on the HAP request :)
6. Been a field grade officer for almost 10 years now. Every one of those field grade jobs sucked in some fashion. Had a few good bosses. Had a few monsters that sucked the life out of me and everyone else on the staff. One of my O-6 mentors once told me, "Being an Iron Major prepares you for BN Command. Its hard and it sucks being a Major but its even harder and sucks worse being a BN Commander" Id muse more, but its time to work on my fitness and then go spend some quality time with the frau.


Wed, 05/18/2011 - 4:30pm

To be clear, I don't advocate making TTs a separate career field. But I do see them as great opportunities for all concerned.

The big problem with TTs is how people get rated. Those guys end up (often times) rated by those that only got to know them in theater. It's going to be hard to convince a Cdr to rate a TT CPT above his own company commanders, or to rate a TT MAJ above his S3 and XO and recommending that to higher (speaking at the BN level as an example).

APH (not verified)

Wed, 05/18/2011 - 3:16am

I firmly disagree with making TTs a separate career field. If we intend to have conventional forces working alongside host nation troops in a FID role, it is vitally important that our future BN and BDE commanders gain experience advising these units. Making it a separate career field wouldn't help that. As it is it's too easy to have the partnering duties fobbed off on guys who are add ons to the unit and external attachments with it viewed as a burden or a distraction from the main mission. The best decision that Army made in years with regards to the TT mission was making the lead positions CSLs that you had to volunteer for if you wanted to be considered for command.


Mon, 05/16/2011 - 5:03pm

As for the TTs, it seems as though it would provide an excellent avenue for FG officers. If given the choice of being a BN S-3 and being a TT OIC, I'm taking OIC every time: you patrol, you work, you're with your troops, you can make a difference, and there's an opportunity to remove a lot of the red tape that gets between a maneuver unit attempting to partner and the partners. On a TT, there's the opportunity to work with and mentor/train/advise everything in the partner unit from junior enlisted up to COL/BG and sometimes even higher. Plus you're out there with US Soldiers from E-6 to O-5/6.

If people think it's challenging to run a US BN when you usually just have to go down and yell at the S-4 in order to get repair parts for instance - then people should run a transition team and figure out how to work with the Iraqi/Afghan S-4, the wasta issues, the corruption, tribal issues, vacation rotations, etc. I think that making it KD for Majors would be a great idea.

As for the other change...culture shift is correct. Not sure there's an easy answer for that.

So...indeed I would suggest it become part of the path. But, I've rarely been accused of thinking straight.


Are you recommending that the Army institutionalize the advisor concept as part of the standard career-path for officers, FGs in particular (functional area)? I'm told there is much push-back regarding this, though I think it is a great idea.

Furthermore, I think the "change" you suggest would require such a significant cultural shift away from the current risk-averse, micromanaging, turf-protecting, bureaucratic inertia that we are used to that we would likely be without an Army for a few years in order to make the change actually happen. I don't see this happenning.


Mon, 05/16/2011 - 2:06pm

My big question, after reading the above comments is this: is this "pain" of being a FG necessary? (Do we need this in order for our military to work?)

If not - then why is it allowed to persist? Why not make a change?

Side note: I have been on a transition team and I thought it was a great experience and fully endorse continuing those things. I know it's a drain on FG manning, but if done right (and I know there are a lot of people that can cite examples of it being done wrong) it's very productive.

My $0.02 on the Army's officer shortage:

Part A - Origins of the Shortage

1. Under-accession in the 90s. The 90s drawdown included a vast decrease in the # of officers commissioned. 10-15 years on, there is a predictable shortage of FG officers.

2. Excessive Staffs. New BCTs with fewer battalions create more staff billets, and the MTOEs for these staffs are FG heavy.

3. Growing the Army. The Army has grown by tens of thousands of Soldiers due to GWOT, but you can't grow FG officers so fast.

4. Transition Teams - These teams require a lot of FG officers.

5. Combine 1,2,3 and 4 and you get too many slots with not enough officers to fill them. And that is BEFORE any officers decide to bail.

Part B - Why officers are bailing.

1. Being a FG officer in the Army plain sucks. To use a quote from my beloved Star Wars - "You will be cast into the pit of S3/XO hell where you will find a new definition of pain and suffering as you are slowly digested over 2-3 years."

The very idea of the "Iron Major" brings to mind an image of some poor sap toiling away on meaningless PowerPoint slides at 10pm on a Friday while his wife gets pissed off because dinner is cold.

2. CPTs see this and think, "What in the &%@* would I want to be THAT guy?!" Then they bail.

3. Those who are masochistic enough to stay around and endure Majordom, and endure it well, are rewarded with a Battalion Command, at which time they offer sweet OERs to those Majors willing to repeat the cycle of masochism in service to the CDR. Make no mistake: getting a battalion command is sometimes less about competency than it is about pain threshold. Do we really wonder how the Frank Zachars and James Johnsons and Harry Tunnells of the world made it to BDE Command?

4. The really smart Majors realize that all LTCs get paid the same (even BN CDRs!), and following a tortuous 3 years of "Key Developmental" pain, decline to even be considered for Battalion Command and instead find a quiet corner of the Army where they can look forward to retirement in relative peace, afterwhich they can find a job that does not suck out your very soul.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need a beer.


Thu, 05/12/2011 - 7:37pm

I've thought about how to make 360 evals work without setting it up for a tyranny of pettiness. Perhaps the 270 of peers and below is rolled up and given eyes only to the 90 degree superior evaluator. He then decides how to read them: Awesome guy who is midway through righting a sinking ship, give him the benefit of the doubt. Guy I thought was a waterwalker, but he's actually walking on the backs of his people. S#@%head and this confirms it. Guy I thought was a turd but he's taking care of his people and dealing with a lot of issues I can't see. Etc. No perfect answer to this problem, but I think this might be a way to balance the two systems and fears about both. Problem then becomes implementing the system and the time required to get them done. Hard enough to get everyone to do fitreps on time as it is.


Thu, 05/12/2011 - 6:13pm

I think 360 evals would work, given that they are implemented in the right direction. A tough company commander or BN CSM for instance, that comes into a unit and works to clean up and right a listing ship will undoubtedly suffer with such evals. So, there would be some hiccups, but overall they are certainly a good thing to consider.

G Martin

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 4:28pm

In early 2001 a senior Army leader came out to Ft. Leavenworth and told a bunch of Captains that the Army was working to retain good people by: increasing funding for on-post child care, increasing MWR funds, fixing military health care, re-looking Army uniform options, and the like. I opined that what would retain good people would be to better ensure good leaders got rewarded- that good people were leaving because of toxic leadership.

It has always amazed me that the Army preaches the Army values and stresses good leadership principles in our education system, but many leaders routinely belittle subordinates, if not in public at the least in front of others, and micromanage the hell out of junior leaders. 360 evals would work on OERs but the portion that reflects subordinates would need to be weighted appropriately to get rid of toxic leaders.

The oft-repeated excuse that leadership doesn't entail a popularity contest is bunk. Soldiers respect good leaders- not popularity seekers. Soldiers respect and appreciate tough training and caring leaders- not wimps who cave to appeasement. That excuse- to not use 360 evals because they would turn into a popularity contest- implies a distrust of soldiers: a fundamental source of toxic leadership IMO.

Bob, I think you summed it very well, and the fix is a 360 degree evaluation that will get at COL Hackworth's question. Good junior officers focused on their mission, men and then themselves (the correct priority) are not the ones polishing the boss's apple, so unless the boss is one of the few officers with great character and intuition that can see through the B.S. these good officers will fall by the way side. This gets back to my comment on checking our excessive egos on another blog post. Most of officers and senior enlisted think they're successful "career wise" because they deserve it, not because they played the game, and instead of choosing up and coming dynamic leaders who demonstrated the character to lead troops in combat (or support functions), the system will continue to replicate itself.

We both know that over the years the Army COS has identified the same problems, and I can recall Shinseki and Schumake (sp?) pushed aggressively to change a lot of things, but only succeeded in a few. It was due to lack of leadership on their part, but on the number of obstacles in their path that take time to clear. Many of the obstacles are put in place by civilian leadership, so it isn't in their realm of control other than asking them to change it. I'm happy the new COS will continue to push for change and wish him the best, but expectations need to be kept in check. Pleasant surprises are better than disappointments.


Thu, 05/12/2011 - 12:10pm

Bravo to the comments from ghosted and Robert C. Jones. many of us actually think significant change is going to take place? Does anyone think a 3- or 4-star G.O. that grew up in the present system is going to work to change it? I put the odds pretty low.

ghosted (not verified)

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 7:41am

Just have to say, i read the chief's new guidance a moment ago and it made me feel kinda good. I agree with so many things he wants to do. Very heartening. Let's hope he succeeds. I haven't felt that kind of hope in a while.

Bob's World

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 7:27am

Agree with Bill. One of my best "Iron Majors" ever was a Sergeant First Class.

The Army personnel system has been probably always been broken in one form or another, and will never be "fixed." For senior leaders always looking for metrics, however, this shortage is one that should hit them between the eyes.

The Army has alway thrown half their Majors under the bus, career wise. It should serve as no surprise when that half decides to just get on the bus instead and take their talents to an organization that is not telling them at age 32 that they are washed up with no opportunity overcome what one senior rater put on a single report card.

The senior rater profile is a major contributor to this problem. We love objective measures of subjective factors; in the personnel assessment business we would be better off with subjective measures. We also need to bring subordinate and peer input into evaluations. Hackworth once recommended a simple "Would you follow this officer in combat? Yes/No" line on the OER. How many of the BZ officers loved by their senior raters would fall by the wayside if those who served under them had an opportunity to cast that vote? Similarly, how many officers too busy focusing on their men and mission to polish the boss's apple would get strong marks from their subordinates and peers when the senior rater is ready to bench them with a center of mass report?

In fact, the senior rater should have to acknowledge the peer/subordinate input and justify why his assessment differs when it does.

This is a fixable problem, and the deployments are only one part of it.

I don't know what the answer is, but agree with Schmedlap's comment that we probably have too many officer in positions that don't need to exist, or they're positions that can be filled by good NCOs. If we didn't feel the compelling need to micromanage, then we wouldn't need bloated staffs. Less micromanagement would equate to greater retention of those who want to stay. Ghosted wrote that O4 jobs are hard, and he's right. The KDP jobs are hard by design. Being an XO, S3, etc. are back breaking jobs, because they entail a lot of responsibility. I don't advocate lowering standards to a 40 hour week, but a lot of what makes these jobs miserable (separate from hard) is the needless micromanagement and the never ending no-value added bureaucratic requirements that add hours of meaningless work. I don't think any professional soldier minds working hard if they're doing relevant work, but no one likes wasting their time. You want to keep the best people, then get rid of the B.S.. Get rid of the micromanagement and the caste system (empower NCOs) and we can decrease the constant cry (I have to an officer in that position), reduce bureaucracy, and instead of paying lip service to OPTEMPO, really get a handle on it. We're killing our guys with back to back deployments, then coming back to a brand new commander who can't wait to make his mark, so everyone gets right back on the treadmill. Since we don't have strategists, we'll be doing this TTP stuff for a long time, so this isn't a passing crisis where we just need to surge and hang on a little longer. I hear very little whinning, I hear legitimate complaints that need to be addressed.

ghosted (not verified)

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 6:17am

part of the problem is that the jobs as a major are miserable agonizing experiences, the jobs as a post command captain are the same. Most are beat down and we get tired of it. Further, the only thing to really look forward to are maddening beuracratic staff jobs. Even as a major your most engaging assignements are as an S3 or XO. The rest of the jobs are maddening and you can expect to be beat regularly. I wasn't planning on leaving the army, but as I approach major, I find the future jobs less then desirable. Many young captains got tired and frustrated with the army. Lots of deployments, then being constantly in training when at home, and then a shocking amount of stupid decisions by our leaders has taken its toll. The common reason from my peers, was "this sucks, pl time was great and then what? it's miserable. I work a 13 hour day, get yelled at and see endless hours thrown away. I'm single and I don't even have enough time to go out and meet somebody. I don't want to be a monk." or "I'm not dealing with these idiots anymore. I'm sick of it" These are the guys before career course. The guys that make that take command see a much lower rate of departure. But, i don't think it is because the army is doing something right. I think it is because they truly care. Every one of my post, and in command peers were unbelievably frustrated with the army. We love it, and the soldiers. But the risk aversion, unwillingness to let us do our jobs, and micromanagement by the highest levels, courtesy of our magic networks is disheartening in a profound way. Most join the army to accomplish a mission, and when they saw what they were allowed to do it can be depressing. Those of us about to step into the rank of Major, are in an odd place. We are ready and hungry, but many are unsure, and unnerved about what the future holds. Most of us will acknowledge that we have seen many of the best leave. It breaks my heart time and time again when I see the best and brightest leaving because of poor local leadership or bad decisions by big army, or even worse, the inability to make decisions. It makes me think of what a friend said to me once, "in the army, you don't have to be the best, you just have to stick around the longest." That being said i don't want to take away from the many stellar and motivated officers around me. There are guys that I am regularly awed by. Truly gifted and amazing officers, and thankfully many are staying. But the army is in a hole. Compounded by our long war. Skills are rapidly being forgotten and it is amazing watching big army struggle with how to train beyond afghanistan. We have become an army of TTPs and our tactical discipline has disappeared. And it is apparent that we are struggling to define our future, and how we will fight it. It is obvious to all levels. And sometimes, it is obvious that we don't 'get it'. I think we have some very painful years ahead of us, as we rebuild our skills, braintrust, and define who we are, and what the vision of our future is. Those of us that remain will keep nugging on and hope that we can make it better, but i am certain we will have more institutionally induced casualties on the way. For me, I am going to find the place i need to be to feel that I can make a difference.

Are we still short MAJs? If so, does that mean we're short at the LTC level as well?

Short for what? What O4 positions are going unfilled? I'm told that many O4 positions in non-deploying units (TDA) are being passed over in favor of units that are deploying. But what else?

I and several others have repeatedly volunteered to fill advisor/ TT positions in Afghanistan. But getting to those positions is next to impossible. I'm guessing this is one place where we not short O4s....?


Tue, 05/10/2011 - 10:07pm

Interesting, I read this and didn't read the dates....the comments seem to still be applicable, three years later.

It still seems as though there is a disconnect between senior leaders and the rest of us.

Never understood the CPT bonus, when MAJs were apparently excluded.

It's going to be interesting to see how the upcoming plate review and the status of manpower in Iraq and Afghanistan play into this equation.

rblskid97 (not verified)

Tue, 05/10/2011 - 7:49pm

I have read alot of the comments in regards to this issue, not just on this page but others as well, and there is one particular comment I have to agree with, the guys who are lifers deserve this, and then you get the yahoos who tell the ones that are qualified, that there are more qualified people coming into the army as babies, than a soldier who has served alot of time and is already overqualified and that is why the soldier cant get an age waiver, what A MORON! Lets give the rank to those deserving of it, not ones who are just using the army as a stepping stone.

RedFalcon2 (not verified)

Sat, 08/23/2008 - 10:55am

Agree with the other posts, but would also like to make two additions.

1. Army policies continue to lack the flexibility that the corporate world utilizes to keep experienced personnel. The shortage has existed for many years. How long will it take for the Army to implement a plan to retain Field Grades? I'm really not sure how effective the CPT retention plan was, but the same type of effort should be made across the ranks where chronic shortages exist.

2. The shortage is largely a result of increases in bulky HQs organizations, as well as the reorganization of the BCT HQs. The BCT manning is appropriate and needed, but the enormous growth of Joint HQs since the early 90s has drastically increased the authorizations for Field Grades. We now have more General Officers per infantry squad than at any time in our history. All of these GO staffs require FGs to run them. Most could be eliminated with virtually no effect on war fighting ability; but who has the courage to make it happen?

Night Stalker

Wed, 08/20/2008 - 10:11am

The Army has been headed down this track for quite some time. No matter the input senior leaders continually pull from the masses of Majors, in the form surveys, sensing sessions, etc..., it appears few if any of the recommendations are considered, much less implemented in the field.

I am currently enrolled in a military course where I sit side-by-side with 15 other Majors. I can tell you that no less than nine of the group plan on getting out at 20 years and one day.

The interesting part is that not one of them has cited deployments as the cause for their expected departure.

Here are a couple which seem notable and consistent within my peer group:

1. Disconnect between the Leader and the Lead. There is a sense that senior leaders are not in-step or aware of the profound disconnect between the men in their unit and their own wants/needs. I hear some interesting stories about leaders who have clearly taken the easier, less admirable road, than the tougher, but certainly more exemplary path with regard to leading by example.

2. The CPT bonus. This bonus really drove a wedge between many CPT's and MAJ's over the course of the past year. Many of my peers consider it insulting to receive an email telling them "they have a responsibility to encourage these CPTs to take the bonus". I am not sure some of the CPTS, to include those "selected below the zone" for promotion really needed a cash bonus to stay in the Army. In fact, I thought the very reason they were chosen among their peers for promotion ahead of the pack was for their predisposition to serve in our Army, sans a bonus. There is no clear cut answer to this problem, but one thing is for sure- the horse is out of the barn.

3. Quality of Life/ Housing. Across the board, the Army is transitioning to privatized housing and Id offer the Field Grade (FG) cohort is feeling this pain more than any other. The families of FG Officers are really taking it in the shorts on this one. I have plenty of info to delve deeper into this one, but Ill leave it at that.

However, there is some news. Of those who remain, we have an extremely well balanced corps of Field Grade officers. The experience level and resident knowledge my peers possess is quite humbling. I hope the Army is ready, or perhaps more specifically willing, to expend the effort it will take to retain the folks who seem to have already made up their mind that the best thing for them to do at this time, is leave the Army and go take care of their family. It seems as though the problem is clearly defined, which is usually the hard part of the job. Now, the only questions what, if anything, are we going to do about it?

Schmedlap (not verified)

Mon, 08/18/2008 - 1:08am

It would be nice if the Army used this Major "shortage" (along with the "shortage" of Captains) to identify which staff positions and non-deployable positions are really necessary and get rid of some overly redundant or unnecessary billets. Some of us might think about coming back.

Green_Pig (not verified)

Sun, 08/17/2008 - 8:51pm

The survey that Major Brown conducted indicated that 60% of those officers that came in the Army in the early to mid-90s plan to retire at just 20-years of service or less... This is a major knowledge/experience drain on our military. Nothing is being done to encourage these officers to stay in, yet the shortage of these officers is already over 15% and growing. Some specialty branches are already manned under 50%; when do we hit the breaking point?