I like both of them... and soup.
Published on January 26, 2007 By greywar In Current Events

Warning: Military content ahead. If you are easily bored go read Lileks instead.

Question: Is the Army better off recruiting geniuses or altruists?

1992:

     When I was thinking of joining the military (I wanted the Air Force BTW (as a small arms instructor)) two of my close friends also wanted to join up. All 3 of us went and took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test to qualify with the following results:

“Rob”: Scored well enough for entry at about a 40 GT. He didn’t score anywhere near high enough for his job of choice (Navy diver) though so he gave up on it.

“Roger”: This was his third try at the ASVAB and he still didn’t manage to score above 25 to qualify for a waiver. This was the last time he attempted it to my knowledge.

“Greywar” : I scored pretty well. Well enough for the very interested Army recruiter to brainwash me against the Air Force (who couldn’t have cared less about my interest in their service).

     For those who don’t know, the ASVAB GT result is basically a measurement of IQ. Whether it is  an effective measurement or not is beyond the scope of this post though. The GT scale doesn’t stop at 100 so do not view the results as a percentage. Generally speaking the Army wants a minimum of 33 GT (General Trainability) or 25 with a waiver. This score only qualifies a recruit for the most basic of MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty (read : job)) and it is usually not up to the recruit as to which job they want. 


    If you score higher your MOS options start to expand. Once you hit 110 or higher you are qualified for virtually any MOS the military has to offer. If you want a job with a SECRET clearance you need to have a decently clean background, a TOP SECRET clearance (collateral) requires a much cleaner background and credit history, and a TOP SECRET/SCI (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information) requires even more checking and possibly a polygraph (depending on your compartments).

*I apologize for my compulsive need to provide frames of reference but I can’t help myself.

     The problem with this system is that it doesn’t take into account any recruit’s work ethic or altruistic attitudes. While I may be “smarter” than Roger the fact remains that Roger was and is a better worker than I am. Rob on the other hand was and is an extreme slacker. If he had managed to make his score the Army would have been worse for his addition to the force. (Sorry Rob, but it’s true). 


      As an intelligence operator I saw the Army take in huge quantities of very smart people who were less than useless due a deficiency in either work ethos, altruism, or both. A Genius who isn’t motivated to work does no one any good.


     When I was SGT Greywar I would tend to choose a slightly dumber soldier with a solid work ethic over the primadonna genius whenever I had any choice in the matter. Of course the best of both worlds is even nicer but we can’t all have soldiers like Pseudo, SNBS, Sangus, EL, and HBW all the time can we?


     Of course testing someone’s work ethic is very difficult to do prior to employing them for a time. The Army used to rely on the evaluations of soldiers done by NCO’s (Sergeants) to sort this important aspect out but they changed all that years ago.


    10 years ago a soldier was not considered by a promotion board (for Sergeant) until they had been in the Army for a certain amount of time, been a Specialist or Corporal for another amount of time, AND had a recommendation for promotion from their supervising Sergeant. In other words, you had to impress someone enough to do additional work in order to get a promotion for you.


    Today the system is reversed, you will be promoted when you hit the admin requirements unless your supervisor does reams of paperwork to prevent it. This has allowed the GT score to become virtually the only standard in the Army whatsoever. You can even be fat and out of shape for half a decade without it having any real consequences (trust me on that one).


     Maybe I am just hyper-critical of the Army but I think that the current system is off the rails and speeding towards a wall marked “Lazy Incompetence”. Enjoy the ride.
    

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on Jan 26, 2007


requires even more checking and possibly a polygraph (depending on your compartments).


A correction if I may? At this level you get the polygraph after your 5th year and then every three to five years for the rest of your service. The next step is the PRP, or Personal Reliablity Program. This gages your work ethic as well as your total ethics. Too many parking tickets will get you kicked out of the program. Being with someone who got into a fist fight with another marine will get you kicked out of the program. At first I thought those rules were a little strict but when you have a nuc strapped to your back and left alone with it, maybe it is a good idea that you are judged by your honesty and the friends you keep. Or if you are trusted with designing war plans it is a good idea not to hire the one that braggs that he is special because of it.

I did not know that the Army accepted people with a 40 GT back when I was in service you needed a waiver for 80 and below. Times sure have changed.

10 years ago a soldier was not considered by a promotion board (for Sergeant) until they had been in the Army for a certain amount of time, been a Specialist or Corporal for another amount of time, AND had a recommendation for promotion from their supervising Sergeant. In other words, you had to impress someone enough to do additional work in order to get a promotion for you.

Today the system is reversed, you will be promoted when you hit the admin requirements unless your supervisor does reams of paperwork to prevent it. This has allowed the GT score to become virtually the only standard in the Army whatsoever. You can even be fat and out of shape for half a decade without it having any real consequences (trust me on that one).


As contrast the Marines had two ways to be promoted in the past. Time in grade and meritorious promotion. All promotions except your first one were dependant on your leaders. Time in grade was simple 6 months as a private to get promoted. three months as a E-2 to go to E-3 18 months as an E-3 to go to E-4 2 years as an E-4 to go to E-5 and so on but just because you had the time in grade did not mean you got promoted you still needed endorsements from your leaders and to go to E-4 and up you went before a promotion board of your peers.

Meritorious promotion was based on your ability to do your job well at your current level and your ability to handle the job of the next rank up. Meritorious promotions are earned from grades E-2 through E-7 the rest are time in grade. It took me 36 months to go from E-1 to E-6. I had a First Sergeant that went from E-1 to E-7 and his time in grade promotion to E-8 before his 8th year in service. This was very rare. Since Mr. Clinton took office everything slowed down and time in grade promotions take longer. Now if you are an E-4 after 4 years you are moving up quickly.

Maybe I am just hyper-critical of the Army but I think that the current system is off the rails and speeding towards a wall marked “Lazy Incompetence”. Enjoy the ride.


I don't think so. I believe you are seeing your Army and only seeing the changes rather than the purpose of the changes. We had a term years ago, LIFER Lazy Incompetent Fool Expecting Retirement. I look back at my time in service and see the changes over the last 20 some years and they made little sence until I saw the finished product but it was 20 years in the making. My Marine Corps was hip, up to date, cutting edge. Looking at the Corps the way it is now, me and my people look like cavemen throwing rocks and sticks. The secret tactics and weapons we used are openly seen on TV and movies and laughed at by my younger brothers in the Corps. Remember the old days when we were rough and tough, we picked our nose and ate the stuff? lol
on Jan 27, 2007
My Marine Corps was hip, up to date, cutting edge


This is true, but it was also the Corps. I've always been impressed by the Marines. They are well trained and highly professional, if frequently brainwashed pro-corps, out of their damned gourds, and or not the brightest in the bunch. Still mostly awesome to work with.

Army's a whole different ball game. Me, I try for at least Lazy Competence, but they're taking the sick, the halt and the lame at this point, mentally included, and the system just makes it damned hard to motivate yourself to work hard. He who works hard and does well is always punished for their sins.

And the promotion system is downright broke. Seven years now, and without having screwed up/lost rank, I'm just finally looking to hit E-5. Points for my MOS were locked up for four years. No promotions. (except frickin' Stripes for Skills). I had 6 years time in grade when I got out for all of about five minutes, so all the automatic promotion for time in grade shit is out the window. (and wasn't in place for E-5 when I did get out.) Woot. Saw that shit all the time. If you had the wrong MOS, you couldn't get promoted. Period.

Oh yeah, and I'd pick the altruist, but they've got to be not a complete moron. Seen way too many that meant well, but just screwed up all the way from enlistment to chapter because they were too dumb to function in the military.
on Jan 27, 2007
This is true, but it was also the Corps. I've always been impressed by the Marines. They are well trained and highly professional, if frequently brainwashed pro-corps, out of their damned gourds, and or not the brightest in the bunch. Still mostly awesome to work with.


I will let this slight slide because we are on neutral ground and this blog belongs to an Army person, I am just visiting.

From what I have seen of the Army it only has one major problem. You have officers. The Marines don't have any commissioned officers only NCO's and Warrant Officers. Get rid of your officers and you lose 80% of your dead weight. lol The Corps is streamlined, If it does not kill the enemy or support killing the enemy we don't have it.
on Jan 27, 2007

If it does not kill the enemy or support killing the enemy we don't have it.

Even the Marines interpret the last part about "support" pretty broadly, but not as broadly as the Army does.

The Marines don't have any commissioned officers

Dude are you high? Here is just the first link you get searching for Marine Colonel. Marine still have plenty of commisioned officers. There was a Marine General Officer at teh SOTU last week in the front row.

 I have no idea why you would say that they don't? Was this just a typo or something? Thats just strange.

At this level you get the polygraph after your 5th year and then every three to five years for the rest of your service. The next step is the PRP, or Personal Reliablity Program.

I did them both at the Agency and prior to my 5th year. Just to get into the Building and work you have to poly no matter how little time in service you have.  All these programs are/were/will be subject to change based on needs and the sensitivity of the project. There is no cut and dried all-encompassing rule.

on Jan 27, 2007

I have no idea why you would say that they don't? Was this just a typo or something? Thats just strange.

I think it was bragadoccio.  After all, there is no "Marine Academy" (just Annapolis graduates who decide on the Corp).

on Jan 27, 2007
Dude are you high? Here is just the first link you get searching for Marine Colonel. Marine still have plenty of commisioned officers. There was a Marine General Officer at teh SOTU last week in the front row.
I have no idea why you would say that they don't? Was this just a typo or something? Thats just strange.


Not a type-o. This is our dirty little secret. All Officers are augmented from the Navy and belong to the Navy. Yes, we allow them to wear our uniforms and made some accommodations to make them look like they are in charge but the facts are that the Marine Corps has no officer corps or medical staff, we do have a small administrative staff of just under 3% of the Corps. I strongly suggest you don't tell a Marine Officer he is not a Marine, they want to be us so badly that they sometimes get violent when faced with the truth but every time I wanted to twist the tail of my colonel or general I would bring it up. Tongue in cheek but it is true that they belong to the Navy and can be recalled to full naval service at will. Officers are on temporary loan to the Marine Corps but the Navy finds them so corrupted by us they don't usually want them back. If an officer messes up he or she is returned to the Navy for discharge. It is an administrative thing.

Doc it is spelled Corps not corp.
on Jan 27, 2007
Doc it is spelled Corps not corp.


Sorry for the typo.

I spent 4 years at Pendleton. As a brat, but I learned.
on Jan 28, 2007
Sorry for the typo.

I spent 4 years at Pendleton. As a brat, but I learned.


I was just twisting your tail. I work with a kid at DHS who was in the Army and I mess with him all the time. We are on the same team at the VA clinic, he was beat to crap by and IED in Iraq, but he believes in this war and the importantce of winning. As much as I mess with him for being an Army puke I have a deep respect for him and his service. Please don't be offended when I make jokes about the other branches of service they are meant in the spirt of humor not hate.
on Jan 31, 2007
Not a type-o. This is our dirty little secret. All Officers are augmented from the Navy and belong to the Navy. Yes, we allow them to wear our uniforms and made some accommodations to make them look like they are in charge but the facts are that the Marine Corps has no officer corps or medical staff, we do have a small administrative staff of just under 3% of the Corps. I strongly suggest you don't tell a Marine Officer he is not a Marine, they want to be us so badly that they sometimes get violent when faced with the truth but every time I wanted to twist the tail of my colonel or general I would bring it up. Tongue in cheek but it is true that they belong to the Navy and can be recalled to full naval service at will. Officers are on temporary loan to the Marine Corps but the Navy finds them so corrupted by us they don't usually want them back. If an officer messes up he or she is returned to the Navy for discharge. It is an administrative thing.


The entire Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy. So, if your officers belong to the Navy, so do you.
on Jan 31, 2007
The entire Marine Corps is under the Department of the Navy. So, if your officers belong to the Navy, so do you.


Nope, November 10 1775 the Continental Congress decreed that a Corps of Marines will be established. Our charter is to take and hold advanced naval bases, protect the naval ships from people with guns. It is the only ground force by order of Congress that is offensive in nature. The Army can be offensive but is designed to hold the ground taken by the Marines. Though our charter has changed over the years the Marine Corps is the only branch of service that does not have long term defensive capability. Since the Congress only commissioned a Corps of Marines we are by law a small force and since part of the job is protecting important things the Navy is trusted with we were put under he Navy Department they had to show they had some control over us and administratively they took the officers. Just like the TSA is under the Department of Homeland Security. More to the point the Marine Corps is the only branch of the military that is under the direct control of the President of the United States all other branches need Congressional approval in order to send them to war. It is also why the Marine Corps is forbidden to act within the borders of the U.S. without the President giving his permission. This was enacted by President Johnson after the LA riots when the Marines were sent in to do what the Army could not do. The mess was so bad when the Marines were finished the President apologized to the American people and made an executive order forbidding the use of Marines except in extreme conditions. The riot was ended in less than 12 hours after the Marines showed up.
on Jan 31, 2007
More to the point the Marine Corps is the only branch of the military that is under the direct control of the President of the United States all other branches need Congressional approval in order to send them to war.
Nope. They all can be deployed by the CoC any time. "War" however can only be declared by Congress and The President cannot do so even with the marines. This is the root of the current debate in the Senate to end funding for the troops even thought the President can keep them deployed.
It is also why the Marine Corps is forbidden to act within the borders of the U.S. without the President giving his permission.
This is from the Posse Comitatus Act actually and it also applies to all parts of the military. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act
on Jan 31, 2007
we were put under he Navy Department


I don't understand how your own words are different from what I said. Pretty up your explanations all you want, the Marine Corps is under (subordinate to) the Department of the Navy.

There is no doubt to the fact that the force is special. Just remember that by creating divisions, you can either feel special by your own uniqueness or you can feel special by denigrating those surrounding you. I read from your words about how your officers are not really Marines and that the Corps is "this and that and whatever was rammed down my throat at Boot Camp" that you feel the latter and that is no way to work in today's (very often joint) service environment.

I'm proud to be a Soldier and a NCO. But my pride doesn't make me feel better than my officers to the point I'd consider disowning them. Well, maybe individual officers... but not the officer corps completely. By the same token, while I deal with people that have problems from all four services on a daily basis, I gain no self righteous "Ha, I picked the Army" superior feeling when a Marine doesn't do his homework in my class.

Well, I've done a good job derailing this thread! My apologies to greywar.

I'll end with a joke, though - Why does the Navy keep Marines on board their ships? Sheep would be too obvious!
on Jan 31, 2007
Nope. They all can be deployed by the CoC any time. "War" however can only be declared by Congress and The President cannot do so even with the marines. This is the root of the current debate in the Senate to end funding for the troops even thought the President can keep them deployed.


The war powers act after President Johnson messed up says that the President can still deploy troops without Congressional approval. The President has 180 days from first deployment before he is by law requird to noify Congress he deployed troops. Another 180 days before Congress can cut off the money for those troops deployed. No declaration of war needed. This is as close as the congress can go without being in conflict with the constitution.

This is from the Posse Comitatus Act actually and it also applies to all parts of the military.


Yeah, but when there is civil unrest the feds can be called in by the Govenor. which was the case during the riots Mr. Johnson never wanted to be tempted to use the Marines again.
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