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:
- The strategy of Creighton Abrams as Chief of Staff of the Army in consonance with General William Depuy as the Commander of TRADOC, and
- 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?