*For those wondering about my long absence: See the end of the article. -GW
Expertise in technical and combat fields should be a top priority for any Army. For the U.S. Army it simply isn't. The institution doesn't value it and your security as a citizen is put at risk by this fact.
This isn't the first time I have seen the following words in print nor was the first time I saw them printed the first time I knew them to be true. Nonetheless, I get a bit of an optimistic chill along my spine every time I see someone quote from David Kilcullen:
"Rank is nothing: talent is everything. Not everyone is good at counterinsurgency. Many people don’t understand the concept, and some who do can’t execute it. It is difficult, and in a conventional force only a few people will master it. Anyone can learn the basics, but a few “naturals” do exist. Learn how to spot these people and put them into positions where they can make a difference. Rank matters far less than talent – a few good men under a smart junior non-commissioned officer can succeed in counterinsurgency, where hundreds of well-armed soldiers under a mediocre senior officer will fail." Via Abu Muqawama.
We had hundreds of well-equipped intelligence soldiers fielded with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of airborne intelligence gear in a combat theatre under a senior officer and we failed. Miserably.
Guardrail was unsuited to the mission, a dinosaur system built to eavesdrop on bulky hidebound foreign militaries across well defined nation borders or battle lines. Unfortunately our enemy was hidden amongst a civilian populace and used the same comms systems that the locals did. Thus they hid under our electronic noses and operated largely without fear of being found.
The mission could have been better accomplished by picking less than a dozen of these same soldiers and fielding them with far less expensive versions of the same gear on the ground in and around cities and towns under sane and talented leadership (not mine BTW, although I might have been able to plan the concept of operation). You need the right people doing the right thing, not just a bunch of people doing something.
While the above maxim was intended as a doctrine to combat insurgencies it sums up the Army's current problems across most of it's variform occupational specialties including my favorite subject : Military Intelligence. The cancer of staggering incompetence is eating the Army from the inside out and the rate of metastasization is increasing each day. The talent in the Army is leaving the service in droves:
- The excellent infantry soldier or military police specialist who wants a chance to go back to combat and do what they do best (shoot bad guys in the fucking face) but can't because the Army is insisting hat they cool their heels stateside?
Blackwater or even KBR has a job for them where they are allowed to do what they do best (shoot bad guys in the fucking face) while getting paid roughly 500% more than they were without listening to the mindless babble of a mendacious "senior" NCO whose service has consisted of 23 years supervising garrison trash details.
- The one commo guy who actually understands how radios work, the way a switch fabric is configured, and how TACLANE routers function?
Well, his Platoon sergeant feels a bit threatened by this junior enlisted who knows more than him. So instead of sending this kid to ASI schools, certification courses, or letting him have time to finish a degree takes these opportunities for himself.
The specialist leaves the Army after one or two tours to work for Lockheed-Martin or Ratheon in Iraq or Afghanistan for 10 times the money and absolutely none of the bullshit.
- The HUMINT HVT leader whose successes are all claimed by senior leaders?
The companies looking to hire her are too numerous to mention. The money being thrown at HUMINT'ers leaving the military boggles the mind.
What keeps people in the military at all you ask? Is it altruism? Patriotism? Apathy? Yes.
Unfortunately the latter category is winning this retrograde arms race hands down. Altruism and patriotism frankly wont hold up against the daily onslaught of total fucking morons who stay in the Army simply because the standards of competence are so damn low.
Do you realize that there is no requirement for technical certification or testing in the Army (with the exception of a tiny minority of MOS's)? Further, even in the "tested" MOS's the test standards are laughably low and the penalties for failure are virtually non-existent or simply are never enforced. That should scare the shit out of you.
This is why the Army has to take a massive chunk of the "Contractor Corps" (of which I am now a proud bloodsucking member) to any operation that requires expertise:
- Need to set up SATCOM (even tactical SATCOM to a large extent)? Contractors do all the technical details while the military folks by and large monitor the boxes afterwards.
- Networking? Contractor owned and operated.
- Radar expert required? Contractor.
- Setting up a new type of SIGINT collector? Contractors to build it, service it, deploy it, and even more contract linguists to decipher it.
- Need a linguist who speaks fluent Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, Persian Farsi, Arabic and has a solid grasp of military intelligence needs? Good luck finding one in a uniform. Contractors have hired them already.
Expertise is currently not just undervalued in the Army it is simply is not valued at all on a systemic scale. Look good, pass your PT test, tape under your bodyfat percentage and promotions are guaranteed in perpetuity even if you know nothing whatsoever about your job now or ever.
Look bad, suck at PT, or tape over your body fat and none of your professional skills will matter to the military. Defense contractors could give a fuck less though.
In 3 months you will be back at your current duty station as a contractor doing the same job for way more money while sneering at the CSM who insisted that the country no longer required your services. Brilliant strategy if your intent is to fight a war in the least efficient and most expensive manner possible.
All this happens while the Army systematically lowers the promotion bar from already ludicrous depths of idiocy to shockingly stupid levels of rank ignorance. All this happens while 30 REMF's at a do-nothing TRADOC BN are inducted into Sergeant Audie Murphy clubs and are referred to as "Warfighters" and "Battle Captains" without having seen any aggression outside of a drunk biker at a strip club.
I hope that General Petraeus has enough stroke to turn the tide but I doubt it. Once standards are lowered, only a leader of a type not seen in more than 50 years or a stunning military catastrophe can turn back the clock.
Post Script : For the most part my muse has gone. I simply don't have the anger and frustration I felt every minute of the day while in the Army to give me the necessary grist for the blog mill. Frankly I am much happier for having lost it. I hope it never comes back in that fashion ever again. I will gladly trade in a better-written blog for a happier life.
Qlippoth - (Hebrew, "shells", "husks") In Cabalistic lore, the "Lords of Unbalanced Force," demonic entities from a former universe who have survived into the present one.