My inner cynic thinks not...
Published on November 19, 2007 By greywar In Politics

 *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.


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on Nov 19, 2007

I hear ya!

How much the Army values experience and expertise was revealled loudly and clearly to me after Desert Storm.

It seemed the NCOs and Officers who weren't deployed worried about their careers.  If they didn't get their "card punched" in the latest war, they figured their days in uniform were numbered.  The smart ones took the time to get into military schools or college classes while the rest of us were "over there".  The not so motivated ones just wrote letters to their congressmen whining over their woes.

The results?  Congressmen and people in the pentagon decided that, since individuals didn't decide if they were going to deploy or not, it wasn't "fair" to award promotion points for the real world experience.  On the other hand, taking the opportunity to go to school while not deployed, or writing to congress, showed initiative and motivation.  So, the end result?  When the drawdown hit, and they changed the rules for retention eligibility, those who didn't go had the points to move up, while those of us who did, were handed early out bonuses and the boot.   Within 10 years of the end of Desert Storm, less than 10% of the military had ever been in a real world situation. 

The fact that technical proficiency and tactical ability was never part of the promotion packet also shows how much either are respected.

That doesn't mean that I never saw high speed troops make it up the ladder, I did.  But as you pointed out so well, it wasn't their abilities in their job, or leadership that moved them up.  They were just good at both the technical job and playing the system.

on Nov 19, 2007

Ted - I agree with your point about the First Desert Storm and other intense combat ops. that being said though...


      In this round of the War we have a similar yet opposite problem. Many folks in "techie" MOS's stay back in the States and work remotely. Their counterparts in the same job who lack skill in the MOS are available to fill "taskers" to go forward to a FOB.

      One year later the guy with no skills comes back and has the magic combat patch while the skilled soldier who stayed in the US gets trumped at every decision because the guy who deployed has beeen "to the shit". Nevermind that "the shit" was a FOB and he never saw any Iraqi who wasn't mopping hangar floors. (BTW the pogue who went forward was ME.) Just because I have the damn patch on my shoulder doesn't mean my skills are better.

      In a deployment this large and this extended just wearing a patch shouldn't count for a damned thing. An objective measurement of skills is essential here. Even the old SQT and SDT were better than the current system of nothing.

on Nov 19, 2007
It sounds like they went from one extreme to the other... the combat patch meaning nothing, back to it meaning everything. I didn't begrudge those who did take the initiative and got some schooling, or training... what got me was, real world experience (combat or in country support) counted for nothing.

My whole sad story was just to back your point that experience and competence doen't seem to matter to the Army.
on Nov 19, 2007

My whole sad story was just to back your point that experience and competence doen't seem to matter to the Army.


True. The institution seems to swing wildly about with no clear direction. What is important? What isn't? These things change in largely cosmetic fashion with every Chief of Staff but never seem to go anywhere. It make's me long for the not-so-distant past when Shinseki believed he could fix the Army by giving us a different hat. 

on Nov 19, 2007
sigh. You are right. Period. What else can I say?

HW is up for reenlistment and frankly, I'm not sure it's in our best interest to stick it out. I've been wondering if a contract job might be a better option. But without a degree....sigh again.

on Nov 19, 2007

LH - Have him contact me. I think I can help a bit on the contract front. HW is a smart guy and can easy learn any number of things that don't require a degree. Hell, I even managed it fter a bit. (no more pizza jobs thankfully).


Even EL is getting out (and she is waay more of an Army 'Tard than I ever was).


I don't think that even HW can change the organization from the inside out. Colangelo himself has lost most of the faith he once had in it. When you lose that guy you have seriously got to look at your organization.

on Nov 19, 2007
You article has many fine points. The world today is far more complex and dangerous. That means our Army must be capable of dealing with force structures of a more conventional nature i.e. China. They must also be able to deal with a war where the battle lines are not clearly defined. It takes different organization and leadership to deal with these very different situations.

I agree we are losing talent in the Army at an alarming rate while at the same time lowering our standards. Both these are the result of over committing the force as Bush has done. The repeated combat tours are increasing the loss of our trained NCOs’ and Officers. Those same repeated tours are making recruitment more difficult and thus a lowering of the standards.

One thing is we need to insure we have enough of the right type of soldiers properly equipped for the type of mission that are asked to perform. When we send them into a situation like Iraq where after the opposing army was defeated we had the force structure in numbers and type needed to establish and maintain control until the new government is able to take control. We also need to carefully pick our fight. There was no danger in Iraq that was anything close to a level that required us to invade that country. We created the atmosphere that allowed the insurgency to take hold while at the same time enabling internal factions who opposed each other to organize and begin combat operations.

Although Iraq is not the cause of the problems we have with the radical Moslem insurgency and terrorists, it has made the job of dealing with them MUCH more difficult. We need to BOTH increase the overall size of our ground force as well as insure the training is such that all types of combat situations can be dealt with in the future. I believe that is possible with the proper support and with both civilian and military leadership that understands the capabilities and limitations of a military force. The current civilian leadership has no idea of the nature of the enemy much less a policy to effectively deal with the various threats. We have given our ground forces the job of Nation Building which is NOT what they are trained or equipped to handle! We have also given them a mission with only a small fraction of the overall force levels needed to accomplish that mission!!!!!
on Nov 19, 2007
This is from pages 20-21 of my book and is an insightful opinion from a professor at the Army War College:

In December 2003, Jeffery Record a visiting professor at the Army War College published a highly critical paper concerning the lack of understanding by the Bush administration of the threat facing America. Professor Record made some very perceptive points in his article. First, President Bush has incorrectly lumped al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq into a “single undifferentiated terrorist threat.” According to Professor Record, this was a “strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action.” He went on to say, “The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT (global war on terrorism) but rather a detour from it.”

Professor Record goes on to say that the Bush policy fails to understand a different nature of terrorism from groups like al-Qaeda and rogue states such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea. He pointed out, the United States has never been attacked by a rogue state and the danger from rogue states is very different than from terrorist groups. The reason lies in what each has to lose by their actions. Terrorists operate within an existing country and as such are not subject to large military action. They do not have a country to lose, just a relatively few number of followers and one of many bases of operation. Therefore, attacks like 9/11 will continue to be attempted by terrorist organizations that are at odds with the U.S. Rogue states will be much more careful and limited in the options available to them. It is true, the preemptive use of our military and the willingness of Bush to go it alone has and will help restrain the actions of rogue states even though it violates our long-standing policy that has made us so effective in world diplomacy in the past. It will not
have any significant impact on restraining groups such as al-Qaeda or the terrorists groups opposing Israel. The most significant short-coming with the Bush vision is that he fails to understand these differences and direct our response in the most effective way. Professor Record believes this is a major policy flaw with the Bush administration. He also made it clear that we do not have sufficient resources to engage every terrorist organization throughout the world. In addition, there are many terrorist organizations that do not pose a threat to the United States. Attacking such groups would squander our resources and help create more enemies.

Professor Record also points out some reasons why groups such as al-Qaeda and the terrorists fighting Israel are so willing to give up their lives. He states that, “terrorism is recourse of the politically desperate and military helpless.” Terrorists do not consider themselves doing things that are wrong but rather that are necessary to achieve their objectives. We can certainly disagree with their justification for their terrorist acts, but the fact remains there are millions of these individuals who are committed to their belief. We see this when Israel retaliates after a terrorist attack. Did the attacks stop or did they create a whole new group of individuals willing to die in order to kill more Israelis? It’s a cycle that is not producing a solution. The Iraq War has created a focal point for many of the terrorist organizations to attack the coalition forces and frustrate our attempts to restore order in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was not a terrorist per se and the existence of international terrorist groups was not an issue in Iraq before the war. It is a painful consequence of the failure by President Bush to understand the differences between how we can effectively deal with international terrorist groups and the evil dictators of rogue states.
on Nov 19, 2007
and gene attacks bush again.

did we forget that there was a president between the two wars. who tried to destroy the moral of the rangers.
on Nov 19, 2007
danielostNovember 19, 2007 11:43:20Reply #9
and gene attacks bush again.

did we forget that there was a president between the two wars. who tried to destroy the moral of the rangers.

I posted the comments of Professor Record. He attacked Bush!
on Nov 19, 2007
the rangers train very hard to earn their barrets. Clinton decided no one should be different so he ordered everyone to wear the barrets. meaning that he, in my opinion, spit in the face of the rangers and their hard work and training.
on Nov 19, 2007
danielostNovember 19, 2007 11:46:22Reply #11
the rangers train very hard to earn their barrets. Clinton decided no one should be different so he ordered everyone to wear the barrets. meaning that he, in my opinion, spit in the face of the rangers and their hard work and training.

Why did Bush not change that if it is such a bad idea? The issues Professor Record raised are for more fundamental and show just how inept Bush and those he appointed are in the DoD.
on Nov 19, 2007
What is gene going to do when he can't blame Bush for everything that happens in the world?

on Nov 19, 2007
I posted the comments of Professor Record. He attacked Bush!

you posted another attack on bush. just because it was said by someone other than you does not mean anything. you posted another attack on bush.

this thread had nothing to do with bush. it had to do with promotions and moral of the troops.
on Nov 19, 2007
Why did Bush not change that if it is such a bad idea?

by the time bush took office, the rangers had already done what rangers do, they adapted.
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