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Rebuilding our military

A reader asked me about the divisiveness being sowed by the current military leadership’s kowtowing to the “political correctness” demands of the liberals who are currently trying to transform our country.  He asked if I had ever seen anything so bad in our military?

I reflected upon the Army of the 1970s and its re-emergence as the force that won so decisively the first Gulf War.  This question brought back two distinct memories:

  1.  The strategy of Creighton Abrams as Chief of Staff of the Army in consonance with General William Depuy as the Commander of TRADOC, and
  2. My personal experiences in the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley from 1975 to 79 and then in the 11th Cavalry from 1982-84.

The Abrams – Depuy strategy to remake the Army had two basic components.  General Abrams was forcing change and “tough love” form the top down while General Depuy was changing how the Army trained at all echelons.  Army training was results directed.  Tasks that soldiers and units had to be able to perform under certain conditions were defined and the standards to be achieved/met were also defined.  This task, condition and standard training left little room for compromise of standards of performance.  And performance was what was being demanded by the Army leadership from the top down. The standards in most part were designed for the Army to fight and win against the Soviets in a war in Europe.

These resulting conditions were in some cases nearly impossible to meet.  Tank gunnery standards—based on round on targetntime were almost impossible.  We were able to show that the standards exceeded the technical capabilities of the equipment.  The answer we got back was: “TRY HARDER”

At the unit level there was an Army dis-spirited by Vietnam and being fought over by rival drug gangs around Army posts—at least that was what we had at Fort Riley.  But the leaders had gotten the message.  As a battalion Executive Officer I coordinated and carried out the orders of a battalion commander who was willing to use a crow bar to open a trunk in the search for stolen tools, weapons or drugs.  He found the missing tools and the lawyers decided that the division would pay the damages. What would happen to him today?  I am afraid to ask.  Training was demanding and at the beginning individuals and tank crews could not meet the standards.  But energy was focused on results not petty bickering.

However, by 1982 when I joined the 11th Cavalry things were changing.  In 1982 when I assumed command of 2/11th ACR I had the entire 1000-man squadron tested for drugs.  There were 39 positives.  They were dealt with swiftly.  By 1984 when I left command the same test only found 6 positives.  New standards of behavior also permeated performance of military tasks.  It was the Army that grew during the 80s that was so decisive during Gulf War I.

The question then becomes whether a similar strategy can be deployed once the military of political correctness is ended.  Again, leadership from top to bottom will require reaching down into the general officer ranks to find tough hard-fisted warriors who are willing to rebuild a military not a politically correct knitting society.  These warriors must be promoted and given the resources and support to accomplish the rebuilding mission.  In consonance resources must be made available for tough hard training that consumes energy so that there is not time or energy to worry about political correctness.

This will be the challenge for the next President.  How many years will it take to undo what is currently occurring?


  1. Robert Bruce Sinclair says:

    Excellent article, Bruce From my limited vantage point, I do not think the Army leadership is focused on strengthening the capability of the Army units but rather instilling “political correctness” in soldiers. I think the officers and soldiers who work in the Pentagon and other major headquarters need to be “political correct” but leave the troops to train for combat and to be become better soldiers.


  2. colonelbruce says:

    New comment from Bruce Kerwin
    I was a battery commander in 1967-68 and again in 1973-74 You outlined the difficult times faced by young officers/NCOs dealing with the indiscipline that accompanied things like “Project 100,000” and race oriented gangs within units. When I commanded a Battalion in 1984-86 the NCO corps had strangled that nonsense out of the Army in basic training. What finished the last of it off was the Bn Commanders ability to discharge soldiers quickly In an overseas unit I could have a bad soldier on the airplane home in 48 hours with a “Good Conduct” discharge. It only took my signature. What a powerful tool for the First Sergeant.

    I think that current information about the military as reported by rumor and unnamed sources is not true Truly evil groups of our fellow citizens will say anything to gain attention and advance their cause. They have no Honor and their only Duty is to themselves.
    Please Keep up the good work


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