Ron Ulysses Swanson – Gruntworks Contributing Blogger
I’ve been in the US Army for quite some time. One thing I could never get over; and probably never will; is the ever changing way of enforcing discipline. Everyone who’s been in has those stories of “Well this how things were when I came in” and frankly, people are tired of them. The issue that remains is how those types of leaders are labeled.
A few years ago, the military decided to take a stance on this once great leadership style. You know, the one where you cuss out someone for doing something dumb. The one where you smoked the ever loving dog shit out of someone because they committed a boneheaded mistake. Now, there were times where you actually coached and mentored for these mistakes, not the bonehead ones. The regular ones, because someone was trying to learn and whatnot. But when you showed up late for formation, PT was extra hard for you. Not everyone else, you. When you mouthed off to a Noncommissioned Officer as a private or a specialist, you were chewed out, smoked, and told to carry on. As a Noncommissioned Officer, if you mouthed off to one senior to you or ignored a task, or couldn’t even complete the simplest of tasks, you were smokes, cussed out, and told to carry on.
There was no paper trail because that usually did the trick. If you were a repeat offender, the paper trail began; or of course, if the offense was big enough and smoking someone just wasn’t enough.
The point of this is, nowadays, if someone shows up late, PT isn’t harder for them. They don’t get cussed out. They get a DA Form 4856 with a plan of action in place to help “teach them a lesson.” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I find it incredibly unfortunate to say that I grew up in an Army where the old school and the new school way were clashing, as the old school way was coming to it’s end.
Today, as I write this piece and as it gets posted, I can promise you that the old school way of doing things is no more. Some can sit there and comment saying that it is prevalent in their unit, etc. The fact remains that no matter where you go there is going to be that Troop/Company/Battery leadership team that is all about hand holding and babysitting. They are all about getting to the roots of problems.
I feel like I don’t need to explain this, but I will. There are situations where you need to figure out the source of a problem. Find out why that stud of yours is tanking at a rapid rate. Find out why that superstar is having all of these random financial issues and is having poor work performance. You want to find that out because you want your studs to succeed.
When you have a handful of guys or gals that want to show up and have no respect for authority, buck the system, violate regulations and unit policy, you have a problem. You have a cancer. When you have guys and gals that want to do the right thing but can’t, because you have those leaders who don’t care to hear it as they were shoved into a promotion board and signed off on by shitty leadership, you have a problem.
The problem is not from the lowest level, although that would help alleviate some of the stresses in fixing it. The problem is within the top echelons of that lowest level. The T/C/B commanders and first sergeants and beyond, they are the problem.
But Ron Swanson, why do you say that? Good, reader, I’m glad you asked. They are the problem because if they want a good to excellent OER/NCOER, they’re going to kiss as much ass as they can from their superiors to get it. If that means they are going to enforce child’s play and positive reinforcement and awards for doing your job, then that’s what they’re going to do if it means they get top block. They don’t care who’s career they punish along the way.
I titled this piece “Toxic Leadership” for this reason. Toxic leaders have been labeled throughout our Army, and military, as those who continue to enforce the old school way of thinking. For cussing the moron out for doing something stupid. For smoking that guy or gal who was late for PT formation. For making the idiot who didn’t shave carry around a razor and shaving cream, standing by the CQ desk, and making sure everyone knows that they didn’t shave by telling them the regulation that covers it, chapter and verse.
The misidentified “Toxic leaders” of today are what made this Army and military great. I stand by this statement alone with everything I am made of. And right now that’s Copenhagen and ice cold Yuengling.
Today, toxic leaders are the ones who continue to go against the grain, challenging the poor decisions of command teams and being told to stay quiet when it comes out they were right. Toxic leaders are the former backbone of this once great military. The sissy ass shenanigans of today’s society have spilled over into the confines of our once elite, killing force. We are no longer the greatest Army and military that this world has ever seen. We are a social experiment to appease the civilian populace.
When did pride take such huge hit? Pride in knowing that this military was full of and run by some of the most feared and revered men and women on the planet? Knowing that this military was an elite, fighting machine that would go overseas, kill the bad guys and come home. When did that become too much? When did we become the civilian world with rules that tied our hands so when we save our brothers and sisters in arms lives, we get thrown in Leavenworth?
To me, the real toxic leaders are the ones who are put in charge of a unit and don’t let leaders be leaders. They don’t let leaders smash disobedience and sling chaos to get the desired results. We have to hold hands and teach basic level tasks for our occupational specialty and how to actually be a Soldier when they get to the units. Why have basic training and advanced individual training? The job is literally being passed off.
If you couldn’t have it in the initial entry phase, you were sent home because you didn’t cut the mustard. Now, if you have a pulse and all of your digits, you can come right in. This isn’t the most feared military anymore, because of toxic leaders. This is Barney and Friends because society has reared its ugly head and taken over the positions that have control over how we conduct business.
I say all of this because there are commissioned and Noncommissioned Officers in units that don’t have a fucking spine. They don’t have a backbone, yet they wanted to become the backbone. They don’t have a spine or a set of balls on them to make the tough calls or actually know the level of the job they are supposed to be at. They are cowards and can’t even confront someone man to man or woman to woman and tell them they disagree with how business is conducted. They don’t have the professional courtesy to say “hey, asshole, let’s try this.” Instead they take their sorry ass to the booty hole they want to sniff and go get their licks in, literally.
The promotion system is flawed and it is poisoning our corps of NCO’s. Commissioned Officers are springing up left and right and don’t know how to be leaders. All they know how to do is have shitty hair and party at the local watering holes, yet still have the authority to tell someone they drink too much. The problem with all of that is, these lieutenants that come in are so young and fresh, that they just got hair on asses and think because they’ve got a bar on their chest, they run the fucking show.
This Army has become a pain in the ass and great NCO’s and the Officer’s who gave a shit, as well as made this Army great, are leaving. The pressure is getting to a point where it’s forcing them to set aside their goals and exit the military. It’s forcing this plague of bullshit and nonsense to take full control.
Mark my words, if things do not change, this military is doomed. It has to be changed or it will fail when it needs to succeed. The people who made it great need it to change; but most of all, the country needs it to change.