No, the Army Will Not Make a Man out of You

That’s an old myth: the Army makes men out of boys, or the Navy, or the Marines. It’s an enduring myth, that’s even cemented in recruiting posters.

What the services do is help a youth find his inner man, his adult that has been suppressed by our society’s smothering, mothering tendency that produces such miserable neoteny in our youth. (Note that we’re saying, “man,” but there’s a lot of young women who are a no-go at the growing-up station, too).

What it does, more, is give one a chance to be a man among men — an adult among adults, to accommodate our many excellent service women, or xjies among xjies for those of you who can’t fit into one bin or the other because your genderfluid is a quart low.

Just as David the Good can teach you how to make seeds and cuttings grow, but you can’t do it without the seeds or cuttings in the first place, the Army can’t develop your character if your character is hollow to start with. We’ve all known a few guys in the service who were just not right, and it’s usually the case that their problems pre-dated their service, and will continue long after they get the last check on their outprocessing sheet.

Manning in Basic — note, facing the wrong way. Huweiler has the story. Jay Huwieler photo.

Case in point, failed soldier and successful traitor, Bradley Manning. A guy named Jay Huwieler was also some kind of MI weenie who went to Basic with Manning (Huwieler, a product of millennial political correctness, refers to the skunk by female names and pronouns. If he wants to write about Your Humble Blogger, tell him we identify as Aton the Sun Disk).

Here’s what Huwieler has to say about his experience:

Manning and I enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Surge in the fall of 2007 and attended the same U.S. Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. As new recruits, we were assigned to Charlie Company, 82d Chemical Battalion, 3d Chemical Brigade. Training began 12 OCT and for me, it ended 14 DEC. For Manning, however, graduation from Charlie Company never came. Her problems began the moment she arrived on station.

Manning actually was a no-go at basic training, an evolution that is almost impossible to fail. He managed it. The basic problem was that he was a quitter, unwilling even to try:

For the trainees of Charlie 82d, the sound of Manning’s voice may forever elicit the two words so commonly overheard from her during her six weeks: “I can’t.” In our comparison of memories over the years, fellow recruits in C Co. have confirmed for me: when the going got tough, [Manning] said, “I can’t.” ….Selfish acts which caused others to suffer were dealt with swiftly within the platoons.

Huwieler has much more detail on Manning, including incidents of lying and malingering (faking illness, in this case, choking). The drill sergeants were not impressed. (Pro tip for future malingerers: if you can say, “I’m choking,” then you’re not choking. You can’t talk without air).

Do Read The Whole Thing™, but here’s one of Huweiler’s main points:

What is not accurate is the false and felonious image of the U.S. military on which the defense of her conduct has been, at its root, predicated: that somehow everyone in her formative years in the military was practically part of a tribe of 6’2”, overly-aggressive Alpha males pumping testosterone out their pores who ganged up on the smallest in the group and tore her apart out of hyper-machismo intolerance; that War is so brutish and nasty, that Warriors too must be. That is simply not accurate. Chelsea Manning wasn’t being picked on at the Shark Attack when the Drill Sergeants said she had to lift her own bag like everyone else, and she said she couldn’t. She wasn’t being picked on when those Soldiers tried to help motivate her to lift the Jerry Can over her head and even picked up their own and did the exercise again, with her, out of solidarity. And when she faked a choking fit in the middle of the Dining Facility, it wasn’t because someone else was tormenting her – she was tormenting herself.

In other words, the service admitted a youth with severe mental problems, gave that person a security clearance, and reaped a somewhat predictable (but unspeakable in today’s PC enviroment) whirlwind.

Plenty of people who are small and physically weak join the Army. “Small” is less a handicap than you might think (many military tasks demand endurance and agility, and the short and wiry excel). For young people, “weak” is usually a lack of training, not potential; the service can fix that. The freshly-minted private or seaman who has to discard his or her pre-service wardrobe that no longer fits is a story told in practically every military family. But the Army, or any other service, can’t build your character except on a foundation of character.

We can fix your ignorance, we can grow and shape your body, we can bring out the team player that rested heretofore unsuspected inside you. But restoring your soul is not in the portfolio that is Rendered Unto Caesar.

 

64 thoughts on “No, the Army Will Not Make a Man out of You

  1. LFMayor

    Classic boss! Come to think of it I’d like Nefertiti to worship me, too! That was some kind of vulpine, beautiful woman there.

    My own frat boy brother in law benefitted greatly from his stint. Burned the dross right out of his pudgy jethro bodine ass and I actually like the guy now. Im sure them same was said of me, at least the dross part.

  2. Toastrider

    “Huwieler, a product of millennial political correctness, refers to the skunk by female names and pronouns.”

    Maybe, but it doesn’t change the picture he paints, and the picture ain’t pretty AT ALL. Let’s give Huwieler credit for being up front and shooting straight about Manning’s real problem, i.e. lack of character.

  3. Sommerbiwak

    So why was Recruit Manning not reported and taken to a shrink and then discharged for being a cracked pot and unable (unwilling) to serve? Our bloghost already touched in this in a recent post on Manning. Quotas to fill, boxes to check. Make reports look good. This policy obviously has been a bad idea. Better a few men short than having time bombs around endangering the whole army through their unpredictable behaviour in the end. Looked at it this way Manning is kind of like the child pointing at the emperor and saying he has no clothes. And how many ticking bombs are there still who have only been dragged through training to fill uniforms?

    Being mobbed by 6’2″ quarterbacks has probably been Manning’s perception in his/hers/its broken mind. Looking at the photo the other recruits look pretty unremarkable and average, but definitely giving an evil stare when Manning was having his special moments. But Manning did not have the butt in the pants, the spine or balls (well…) to acknowledge that joining has been a bad idea and throw the towel.

    1. Kirk

      The thing to recognize here is that they broke and destroyed the old informal systems, where blanket parties and peer pressure was used to weed out the weak sisters like Manning, and then failed to provide any sort of compensatory mechanism or system which would fill the same role.

      Why? Because the fucking idiots fundamentally do not understand the training/acculturation process in any significant way, and refuse to think these things through or study them.

      It’s a lot like the Obama administration, Venezuela, or a command economy: The bright lights at the top of the org chart think that their sweet words and PowerPoint briefing slides are what create reality, not the facts out on the ground. Because they think they have the power to dictate reality, they mandate things like “no hazing”, fail to comprehend the effect of that, not knowing what role that behavioral and organizational “tic” actually is, and… Boom. Manning.

      The Law of Chesterton’s Fence ought to be tattooed on the inside eyelid of every single senior officer and NCO who is put into a position to “effect change”. Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of ten thousand, they have not the slightest fucking clue about the actual function of the fence is, when they decide to move or remove it.

      And, understand me on this… I’m not advocating for cruelty, or saying that the basic training barracks ought to look like an iteration of the Lord of the Flies, but that when you start changing shit around, even things that are “existing tradition”, you’d better actually understand what the fuck it is you’re really changing. Barracks hazing was a cruel, horrible thing–But, it had a purpose, and it served it. Remove it, and you’d better be damned certain you replace it with something, because that purpose was necessary–Or, it wouldn’t have been there.

  4. Badger

    I suspect the answer but do not know: Is there no such thing anymore as simply a General Discharge due to “inability to adapt” – over things such as these that vividly pop a flare on themselves during BCT? (Disclaimer: I’m a C-rat, PRC-25, M-14 qual’d, pre-BDU kinda guy and hung up my spurs (and Class A’s) for the last time in ’80, so there’s the cultural math.) This stuff is madness, with such predictable outcomes.

      1. joshua

        My Corpsman was a genius at ensuring that sailors and sailorettes who arrived healthy but clearly would not work out mentally were set through the proper hoops to earn an Entry Level Separation for failure to adapt to the military environment.

        His efforts, lets call it coaching, kept the Chiefs, Department Heads and XO focused on the proper tasks at hand.

  5. customized

    in navy bootcamp in the 1970s our company commanders often said, “we’re not here to make a man out of you. we expect you to be a man already.” back then they didn’t coddle the losers. i remember the CC yelling at the worst recruit in our unit “you disgust me – you absolutely disgust me!” now they have to show “compassion” (which disgusts me!)

  6. Seacoaster

    When a minor force increase results in transgender traitors and Marine infantrymen running 99 PFTs (well, one guy in 1st MarDiv allegedly), and endemic PTSD claims despite very low casualties, we have canaries in the coal mine. About time to bring back national service, though more for the health of the citizenry and their Republic than for the Army that will have to make it work.

    1. Kirk

      The draft is no more the answer than anything else.

      You want to fix civil society, fix civil society. You want to fix the Army and Marines, fix the Army and Marines. Drafting citizens into those forces by force won’t fix a damn thing, and will instead create a whole new set of problems, which will be dealt with in a similar reflexive and blind manner, meaning they won’t actually get fixed.

      We’re at what is hopefully the end of an era; going forward to fix what’s wrong with civil society is work that has to be done, or we’d better get used to the idea of decline. Fixing the military is an entirely separate issue, although it is somewhat connected.

      You can fix a lot of what’s wrong with the military by fixing things that are wrong in civil society; you cannot, in no way, shape, or form, fix what’s wrong with civil society by trying to use the military to do so.

      Well, maybe you could… But, like with making American women effective infantry cannon fodder, you wouldn’t like the associated costs and/or implications thereof. Not a bit.

      1. Seacoaster

        Agree to some extent. The military mirrors society, with its own pathologies and culture mixed in. But a draft would:

        1. Expand the manpower pool for the services far more than the slickest recruiting campaign possible.
        2. Restrain the politicians from repeating at least some of the more moronic adventures we’ve embarked on in the last three decades.
        3. Bridge a civil-military divide that has grown wider and deeper every year.
        4. Inculcate a little bit of understanding for their countrymen into our conscripts, who are the children of what must be the most atomized and deracinated society that has ever existed.

        Not a panacea by any stretch, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

        1. Kirk

          “…But a draft would:

          1. Expand the manpower pool for the services far more than the slickest recruiting campaign possible.
          2. Restrain the politicians from repeating at least some of the more moronic adventures we’ve embarked on in the last three decades.
          3. Bridge a civil-military divide that has grown wider and deeper every year.
          4. Inculcate a little bit of understanding for their countrymen into our conscripts, who are the children of what must be the most atomized and deracinated society that has ever existed.”

          1. No. If anything, it would shrink the pool, as the politicians would do precisely what they did back in the old days, and implement massive amounts of “exclusions”.
          2. No, again. You want to restrain the politicians? Restrain the fucking politicians. Trying to do so through indirect means does not work. Want an illustration? Review the history of Proposition 13 in California; the thinking behind that bit of brilliance was “Well, we’ll restrict the tax base, and that will rein in the politicians…”. Did. Not. Work.
          3. Third time, no. You want to fix that gap, address it. You’re not going to do it by what amounts to forced slavery on the young, who are instead going to come to hate the military. You think this would work, you really, really need to talk to a larger fraction of the guys who were drafted–Not the ones who came to enjoy being in uniform, but the ones who hated it. All the draft did was make the separation exponentially worse, because it gave these types a real reason to hate the military.
          4. Again, no. You want to address this shit, do it somewhere outside the military. We have enough trouble trying to turn today’s civilians into soldiers without also trying to fix the issues created by class, race, and other bullshit from the rest of society. With volunteers, you can manage–Put these guys in the armed forces by way of a draft, and you’re actually creating the conditions for a recapitulation of the race riots the services had to deal with back in the 1960s and 1970s.

          The draft or conscription is not the answer, never has been, never will be. If it is ever anything other than a means of managing the intake of otherwise willing civilians during a major conflict like WWII, it ends in failure.

          You want to use the military to fix civil society, you are starting from the wrong end of the stick, and using a tool that is manifestly unsuited for doing so.

          I’m with Heinlein, in the thinking that a society that needs to use a draft to defend itself probably isn’t worth defending in the first place. I would not serve in an army where my subordinates were compelled, mostly because I could not in good faith see a way that I could issue orders to them that might result in their deaths. I’ve got no issues with the idea of managing the deaths of fellow volunteers, because they theoretically should have had their eyes open when they signed the contract; you hand me a squad of kids that were drafted, and I’m going to tell you to fuck off, I don’t want to be a trusty on a plantation where slaves are worked to death. Military service demands way too much for it to ever be something that should be compelled.

          The draft is as immoral as slavery, pure and simple.

          Now, if you were to say, implement some form of civil national service, where you might be able to go to work for the rest of society in lieu of paying a slightly higher tax rate for life…? Or, a CCC-like labor corps, for doing the things that we can’t afford to pay cash for? I could see that. Hell, I could even live with a “Yeah, you’ll either pay higher taxes, do two years cutting trail in a national park somewhere, or you can join the military… Your choice…”.

          Forced military service, where the ultimate price to be paid is inherently your life?

          Hell, no. I want nothing to do with that. You want slavery? Not in my fucking country, thankyouverymuch…

          1. Bonifacio Echeverria

            I don my hat to you, Sir.

            Agree with each single word. The establishment of some short of Public Labor Compulsory Service has been a pet idea of mine almost since… ever. And it will definitely do something towards the goal of creating societies out of the current nihilistic mobs.

            It only needs to be:

            1- Truly and equaly compulsory. Besides obvious medical handicaps no exemptions based on gender/class/daddy’sgotafriendintherecruitingbureau reasons. Actualy, made it a serious felony to try to find a comfy slot for your kids. Even the handicaped people should be able to find a slot to serve on, if willing.

            2- Separation from family. Geographicaly strong. Actualy, made it compulsory to serve most part of it at least 500 miles away from your native place (I know this doesn’t register with you Americans, but European people will understand what I’m talking about). Personaly mild. Long stints away from Mom and Pop, but visits/liberty allowed, travel free if low income is a problem, and free communications when off duty. Posibility, hell, encouragement, to spend the off duty time interacting with the locals. Try to avoid “pal battalions”, people gotta mix with people from all walks of life and every place in the same country, make it random with whom you end up with serving.

            3- Paid. At least, and at most, the minimum legal wage per hour.

            4- Hierarchical discipline and team work to complete meaningful projects. It’s not about making holes and filing them for the sake of putting some god ol’ discipline into those punks…, put them to repair/build highways or public schools. Make them feel the pride and the sore hands of making something for the comunity. You can even add some kind of profesional training to the mix. Not necesarily in what a person is thinking to make his/her career, in case they even know. Just make it random, like a bonus in the shape of useful skills (metal working, cooking, construction, carpentry, plumbing, first aid…). Maybe they won’t pour concrete again in their lifetime, maybe some disoriented teenager finds something that will become it’s trade or occupation.

            Damn, it will even be good for national infraestructures everywhere.

          2. Kirk

            I’d go with something like that, only I’d make it a voluntary thing. Don’t volunteer? Fine, but you’re going to pay a reasonably higher tax rate for the rest of your life. Nothing too terrible, just a couple of extra points on top of your percentage.

            The way I see it, if you don’t want to contribute time and labor to the nation, fine–Pay a little more money on your taxes, and that’ll be your contribution.

            I really don’t like this concept of the state basically mandating you must serve, or go pick up trash, or something. There is something inherently disturbing about that, but I think that if you lay it out like you’re essentially offering people a discount on their taxes for “doing the right thing”, then that is different.

            Kinda the difference between stationing snipers out in the parking lot, and having them shoot anyone who doesn’t put their carts away, versus how Aldi does it with the .25 cent fee to rent the things. Both techniques will serve to modify behavior, but only one of them is really at all what I want to see my country doing…

          3. Mike_C

            While I agree with most of your (Kirk) points on, let’s call it small-l libertarian principles, I don’t see how
            “Fine, but you’re going to pay a reasonably higher tax rate for the rest of your life. Nothing too terrible, just a couple of extra points on top of your percentage” can motivate/economically coerce that nontrivial portion of the population that pays no taxes and is unlikely to ever pay taxes.

          4. John M.

            @Mike_C:

            I don’t see how it keeps the unmotivated from just voting the scheme out of existence. Because fairness.

            -John M.

          5. staghounds

            As Huweiler said very well-

            “Like the Army itself, the Basic Combat Training company into which Chelsea Manning entered had on-hand and present for duty the living, breathing testimonies of virtually every story within the American experience.”

          6. Seacoaster

            I’ll go half Heinlein with you. A draft isn’t slavery. But national service would be best implemented as you and Bonifacio Echeverria describe it: choice between CCC/civilian service for two years or military for four, latter gets you Post 9/11 GI Bill. But minor tax rate change is nothing, and it’s a financial inducement to serve. We have too many of those as it is. Make your right to vote contingent on your service (either military or civilian). Responsibilities result in rights.

  7. Kirk

    Dammit, Hognose… I have things to do, today, and here I am firing up the desktop to reply to this…

    I think I started out on this theme awhile back, but this just reinforces what I’ve been saying for years: We do not, at a fundamental and profound level, have a farging clue what the hell we’re doing when it comes to manning the force. We should know, but we manifestly do not.

    My thoughts on the matter are pretty basic: The issues start well before little Johnny or Janey even get a chance to talk to the recruiters. The actual issues start up in the head shed, where the decisions about how to man the force are made. From that set of decisions, they decide how to advertise, how to train the recruiters, and how to operate the accession system represented by the various regional MEPS.

    The Army’s fundamental issue is that it’s basically embarrassed to be an armed service; you can tell that from its advertising, and how it tries to “sell” itself to the potential recruit as if it were some kind of used car, rather than the lifestyle, ethos, and vocation that it has to be, in order to properly acculturate and make civilians over into true soldiers.

    The Marines do a much better job of this, in some ways, but even they’ve got issues with what they’re doing with regards to not quite hitting the mark. Yeah, few Marines join with the fundamental misapprehension that they’re enlisting themselves into an actual armed force, but all too many of them have the idea that they’re getting the sizzle, not the steak. This results in a lot of junior enlisted Marines feeling just like their Army peers, as if they’ve been swindled.

    And, to tell the truth, they all have been. It’s not the pretty-pretty of the Dress Blues, it’s not the free college money, it’s not the vocational training that’s promised and never really delivered (try taking your experience and training as an Army mechanic somewhere…), it’s actually a pretty boring, dreary job that has occasional moments of glory. Because we chose to advertise the free cake and ice cream for the Army, and the emotional mystique of the Marines, when the time comes…? Yeah.

    We in the institution then actually have the temerity to be all butt-hurt when the young men we’ve recruited don’t share our enthusiasm or commitment to the institution, and are confused by what we did wrong–Fundamentally forgetting that most of us are the guys who didn’t join because of the advertising.

    In my case, it was actually more a case of “joined up despite the advertising”, in that everything I experienced in the pipeline was stuff that left me completely cold. Honestly, the minute the Marine recruiter started talking about how having a set of Dress Blues would get me laid, I was like “Yeah… I’m outta here…”. The crap in Leatherneck didn’t help; after realizing I would be serving with people who wrote fucking poetry to their rifles, I was about this far (holds up two fingers reeeeal close) from taking my stepfather’s advice, and joining the French Foreign Legion. Wound up in the Army mostly because I didn’t want to give up US citizenship or learn French.

    The Army is ashamed to admit that it is an armed service, and focuses its advertising on everything but. The Marines think that mature adults wouldn’t join, so they focus their advertising on the immature idealist who is going to fall for the idea that they’re gonna be fighting dragons or some such bullshit, and both are surprised when the men and women they recruit with those techniques turn out to have insufficient interest or motivation towards their real jobs when they encounter reality out in the forces.

    You see a lot of the same syndrome with the poor bastards we pump through the West Point accession pipeline in the officer corps. Those kids are given an entirely false picture of the Army as she is really run, and when they encounter reality…? Oh, holy shit… You can watch the cognitive dissonance and disillusion nearly kill their spirits. I swear to God, I watched one of my young LT’s go through an honest-to-God death of the soul, sitting there in one of those interminable staff meetings they’ve gotten so fucking fond of. You could almost visualize the soul leaving his body, there in front of you, as he got up and basically briefed bald-faced fantasy to the Brigade commander, knowing that every word leaving his mouth was essentially meaningless drivel about training that would never happen.

    A few days back (or, a few weeks…) I mentioned and quoted the Confucian Analect about the “Rectification of Names”. That is one of the most profound influences on my thinking that I’ve ever had; you refuse to call a spade a spade, and pretty soon PFC Johnny Jones is bringing you the pick-mattock out of the pioneer box in complete confusion about what you’ve been asking him for. Everything else that goes wrong flows from that. The language you use is vitally important, because it frames everything.

    We start making soldiers and Marines from fundamentally flawed concepts, and we continue on through training and acculturating them the same damn way. Again, the Marines do a better job of it, but… Wow. The former Marines I’ve had come under my authority in the Army were all pretty much in the same boat as the Army guys, in regards to the deficiencies I’m talking about, just in a different way. Where the Army seems embarrassed to admit they’re all about killing people and breaking things, the Marines seem to think that they can’t possibly be appealing to real grown-ups who aren’t motivated by the shiny.

    And, then there’s the training and how we run our units. By this point in history, you should have this down to a fucking science, and be basing everything on the precepts of how to properly form positive primary group, identify peer leaders and coopt them, and use human psychology to actually reinforce what we do. Instead? Oh, sweet fucking Jesus on a shiny set of metal crutches… I swear to God, the Army seems to be set up in diametric opposition to everything that you need to be doing to foster all this crap. You treat people like fungible replacement parts, and then wonder why they respond that way…? I don’t know for sure if the entire Marine Corps is as fucked up as the Army is, when it comes to things like personnel turbulence in the ranks, but the anecdotal evidence I have from talking to my former Marines seems to indicate that it is, just not quite as badly and in a different way.

    By this point in the game of making proper soldiers, we ought to have an exquisitely refined idea of what works, and how to do it. Building a proper squad should be a cakewalk, and we should have the techniques down to a damn science, taught in our officer and NCO schools, and fully integrated into our operations. Instead, it’s all a haphazard crapshoot, with various things passed on through osmosis, if at all. We all just assume these things “will happen”, and don’t really understand the means by which they occur when they’re successful.

    Observational point: The Army lost it’s shit, in terms of passing on accumulated institutional “tribal” knowledge starting about 1990, and a lot of us never noticed. Why? Because the mechanism by which we used to do an awful lot of our acculturation, training, and screening… It just evaporated underneath us, and we never noticed. “Back in the day…”, circa my generation of soldiers, we used to spend roughly 30 days a quarter out in the field, in big, huge blocks of time–Like, 30-40 days at a whack. By the mid-1990s, that kind of thing was unheard of, ‘cos money. What we in the mid-grade NCO ranks never noticed, and what was also missed by the seniors and O’s, was that a huge amount of training and acculturation had been going on during that field time, and we did nothing to substitute for it. As a result, one day we woke up in the late ’90s as senior NCOs ourselves, looked around and said “Sweet Baby Jesus… Why are these mid-grade NCOs so fucked up and ignorant…?”.

    We did it to ourselves, and never noticed. A huge swathe of institutional knowledge and unit culture evaporated in those years, and you could see it where I was at the NTC as an Observer/Controller. The NTC used to be facetiously called “The National Testing Center”, because fuck-all for training was really going on; that place was a nightmare of truncated careers back in the old days, and the amount of training that was going on was more predicated on whether or not you showed up with your shit packed tight in your bags. Yes? Yeah, some training effect was to be seen… No? You were fucked.

    By the late ’90s, that shit went out the window, because the troops just didn’t know their shit. When I was a fucking Corporal in Germany back during the 1980s, no Combat Engineer NCO would dare go to the field without a full complement of references, and know how to use them. The idea of ever entrusting something like filling out a minefield record or a recon form to the officers was anathema; that wasn’t their job, and they’d fuck it up. You’d also answer to the senior NCOs, who’d show no hesitation in wrecking your life until you got your shit straight. When I was an O/C at the NTC, it had devolved to the point where I’d be there in the Dustbowl, pre-exercise checklist in hand, and ask the NCOs of the platoon I was overwatching to show me their manuals; generally to looks of utter bewilderment and confusion. Occasionally some bright light would think “Oh, he wants to see the TM for the track…”, and pull out the -10 for the vehicle. Most of the time, these guys would tell me that the paperwork, which I’d had to master as a Corporal, was an esoteric, elite art that only the officers could or would be expected to do.

    Part of this crap happened because the morons in the senior NCO ranks thought it would be expedient to do away with the whole SQT/SDT system, but most of it was just due to that interregnum where we weren’t doing fucking training in any serious way. I had troops show up at the NTC for whom the longest period of time that they’d ever stayed in the field training was a workweek, five days. My earliest times in the field with the Army, ten-fifteen years earlier? Usually like 21-30 days, with some longer ones. And, we didn’t do weekends, either–It was continuous, you were in the field, doing training. The kids I was having show up in the late 1990s? Not a fucking clue how to survive that kind of thing, let alone prosper at it.

    The Army should know better, but for some reason, it doesn’t care to. All the things you need to turn a civilian into a real, truly committed and effective soldier are knowable, and things we could have known as far back as WWII. Trouble is, nobody cares to actually pay attention, or to really “know” them. The officers and senior enlisted make changes, willy-nilly, to the training process, and don’t pause to question whether or not the fad of the day is really something they need to change–They just do it. Likewise, the drill instructors and junior NCOs are out there, with no real ability to influence these changes, and just knowing that something has quit working, which used to. The policies are sent down from echelons above reality, and we then wonder how creatures like Bradley Manning sneak through the system. Back in the old days, he’d have been informally eliminated via blanket party, or something else. They cracked down on “hazing”, failed to compensate by stepping up supervision, counseling, and elimination, and Hey! Presto!!, Chelsea Manning pops out of the fucking hat.

    We don’t know what the fuck we are doing, frankly. Fifty years ago, Manning would have been cruelly eliminated from training via peer pressure, or the drills on the scene deciding to get rid of him. They eliminated the “cruelty” of peer pressure, disabled the drills ability to follow their instincts, and then act all surprised when this kludged-up system produced disaster. Who caused it? What caused it? A couple of decades worth of meddling by idiots who had no more idea of what they were actually doing than a pre-schooler sticking a fork into a fucking socket.

    I blame the officers and the senior NCOs more than anything. They could have actually paid attention to this shit, documented things, showed their work in terms of what works vs. what doesn’t, and then when the idiots at the civilian level stuck their noses in, then have been able to defend how we do things. Instead, we leave it all up to this informal, osmosis-based creature of chaos and confusion, and wonder why we don’t get the results we want.

    The Marine model for what should have been done, all these years, is how they set about trying to understand the potential and the pitfalls of integrating women into the combat arms. The fact that the idiot twat civilians ignored all that carefully produced and documented information doesn’t mean the approach they took wasn’t worthwhile; God himself could have put that data onto tablets, handed it to Moses by way of a burning bush, and the idjits would still have done what they did. But, we should have similarly systematized and documented all this primary group and individual acculturation crap decades ago, and then used it to build ourselves a much better Army and Marine Corps.

    Unfortunately, once you go below Battalion, ain’t nobody got time for dat sheet… Despite the lip service paid to it by people like one of my old bosses, who used to say that while good squads could pull the worst OPORD ever out of the shit and win through to victory, the greatest OPORD in history could not help you a bit, when your squads are shit and manned by poor soldiers.

    Keep posting things like this, and you’ll get even more of this shit from me. God help us all…

    1. Jake

      Worth noting that many other services had a grudging respect for the independent chaotic nature of our military. It was a strength.

    2. Sommerbiwak

      I nominate you as chief first assistant secretary for naming problems to Secretary Mattis, Kirk!

        1. Sommerbiwak

          I do not hate him. I thought of the slave that tradionally stood behind the victorious roman tribune whispering in his ear that he was only a human. Or as the voice of reason and common sense instead of the bootlicking career bureaucrats he has to deal with now.

    3. staghounds

      That is so accurate and so well conveyed. We betray ourselves first when we are afraid to present ourselves as we are.

    4. OBob

      God, I remember how pissed I used to get when all of the married guys would be flown out of the field for the evening on day 29 of exercises and flown back the next morning so as to avoid having to pay separation pay. Us single guys? Suck it up! LOL. As an LT the div standard was you had to do two 30-day exercises in the quarter prior to an NTC rotation. In the cav it was 7 days a month, and when I was in a line Bn 10-21 days a month for 7 months of the year with drills and rehearsals the other 5.

      When I ask kids now about field experience, it is all either deployments or “3-days in the simulated FOB” prior to shipping out. Lost is all of that tribal knowledge on how to set up, tear down, sustain life and maintenance, and move in the dark, cold, rain, snow, and in lights out silence.

      Man, I’m old!

    5. Seacoaster

      Great post. As others have said, don’t apologize for your verbosity.

      Both our training and personnel system are a mess. Agree that the Marine Corps has similar but slightly less grievous deficiencies. We do seem to push responsibility downward a little better – you don’t need an E6 for a squad leader.

      Stabilizing personnel via a true regimental system would do wonders for institutional memory, and probably help retention too.

  8. S

    The military I experienced prohibited manliness; at least, the kind that is abhorrent to modern females: we had a 25% quota of them in our rarified field. Only so much xy, and no more. Keep your nuts in your purse, play the game, get the perks. Go neanderthal and be ostracised. The Service Colleges therefore insist on reforming our graduates for a year afterward and still despair of the product, which is universally despised until housebroken. Once upon a time a Scheyville pressure cooker could make useful regimental subbies in a few short months (3), now it takes years to manufacture arse coverers worthy of the “service”.

  9. 6pounder

    The main topic of you story can, and should, be ended with a rope. Short drop, end of story.
    Now the Rhodesian army recruiting poster, that brings back some memories of a better time.

  10. Jake

    Amusingly in basic training I had a similar problem to the I’m choking thing.

    I ended up scissor kicking/push upping in sequence and my satchel ended up putting pressure on my neck. I could still breathe, so I continued, but the restricted airflow made it much harder to sound out. It was obvious what had happened, and the TI was watching me expectantly. After maybe twenty seconds he asked me what the f*** was wrong. I told him that the satchel was making it hard to breathe. He called me retarded and told me to stand up and take it off. He didn’t put me back on my face though. I think I disappointed him by not saying I’m choking.

  11. CJ

    My unit (AF Combat Comm) is currently at 85% manning. Talking to the recruiters as to what they can do to get our numbers up, even if they have an otherwise qualified volunteer, currently only 40% of potential recruits even make it through MEPS. They’re too fat, too broken, or too dumb. Un-freaking-believable.

    Kirk, I know I’m no soldier or Marine, but I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly. We are in the business of killing people and breaking their stuff, or at least supporting those who do so directly. We should not shy away from that one tiny bit.

    1. Kirk

      CJ, you’re an Airman. That’s not any less value than being a soldier or a Marine; it’s just different. Your perspective is that of the force you enlisted and served in, and that’s just as valid as anyone else’s. I’m not going to venture into the realm of what works for the Air Force, because that service is way too alien to my own, as is the Navy. You guys work machines and systems; the Army and Marines mostly work people, with only tiny, itty-bits of the force being crews on machinery. This militates for a different approach to things, and what might work in an Army squad sure as shit is contiguous to a Marine one, it also bears little or no relation to a Navy division on a ship, or an Air Force wing. Different missions inevitably produce different cultures…

      Although, I do have to admit that I’m sometimes looking over at my Navy and Air Force brethren, and going “WTF…?”.

      As to fixing the issues with getting kids into the forces that can pass the damn accession tests…?

      My solution? Do what the Brits have been doing for years, and start running our own fucking Cadet programs for the forces, ones where we start up our own charter schools out in the really fucked-up parts of the country, and try maybe growing our own. That kind of think might have an effect on the surrounding society, as well, but that’s as far as I’d take it. Select a bunch of likely-looking kids at a young enough age before they turn into couch potatoes or gang-bangers, and see what could be done. Hell, offer them a guaranteed career path after high school–Military service for a couple of years, followed by an option for civilian schooling of their choice, and see what happens.

      That’s about as far as I’d take “social engineering” of civil society via the military…

      1. DSM

        The AF is run like a corporation and it can’t find its own identity, constantly trying to reinvent itself. It’s a service of technicians mostly, and the people that carry a rifle for a living are buried in the background. Ask a group of airmen what a JTAC is or does and they’ll mostly give you a blank stare. I had the mundane task of CATM (think armorer meets firearms instructor rolled into one, AF units consolidate small arms training to one section per installation with few exceptions) and just getting people to take the ridiculously easy qualification (I think Army speak for it is a modified course “C” for the M16/M4, M9 qual is an AF peculiar affair but straightforward )seriously was a chore. It’s nothing but a traditional thing, if you’re in the military you’ll shoot a gun a few times, nothing more and you won’t see a rifle again for another three years when it’s time to qual again. Gotta check off that box.

      2. staghounds

        Janissaries 2.0!

        I look at the 15-18 year old criminals that pass through my work and think what soldiers they could make if the services, and not social services and the gangs, could have them for a few years.

  12. robroysimmons

    I joined the Marines because I read “Rumor of War” and “Fields of Fire” and wanted to shoot guns, they put me in supply, I whined to my DI I got boosted to arty. Never gave a damn for blues, never bothered, and I agree with the resident novelist Kirk the problem starts in recruitment. The Army recruiter was going to be my buddy, no thanks, GySgt Wagner (cocksucker USMC) a dress blues wearing son of a gun talking mil talk won out. Still he recruited two others who did the Afees ankle grab the same day as I one a fat body dropped to fatty platoon within two weeks the other barely squeaked thru. Last I seen of Wagner he was a WO.

    1. Kirk

      I’m sorry about the length of the things I write… It’s just that the damn questions are not ones that are amenable to short, succinct answer. And, when you have to include supporting facts and evidence, can touch-type, plus have ancestors who were Irish and probably tongue-kissed the Blarney Stone?

      Y’all are doomed, doomed, I tell you. I can’t do “short and sweet” with a lot of this stuff.

      Also, don’t take me wrong about the Dress Blues thing… I’m not at all critical of the uniform, or of the men who wear it. It’s an outstanding uniform, for a dress uniform, utterly classic.

      The thing I mean to be railing against is the mentality that embraces the form without the substance; like the guy who goes off to the Assessment course for SF with the idea and motivation that he wants to look cool wearing a Green Beret, using the uniform as a sole motivating factor is generally the sign of an immature mind and personality. While snazzy uniforms and elite unit names/reputations were once enough to get guys into uniform, and keep them in the ranks, that shit pretty much lost effectiveness about the time we quit marching into battle in nice, neat lines, with a spontoon-armed NCO behind us to make sure we kept our asses at the coal-face. You have to treat your military service as a vocation, and the uniforms and other shiny crap as being simple accessories to the real meat of the bargain, your simple unswerving and unselfish service to others.

      1. "Greg"

        i’d like you to STOP being sorry if you write something longer than a sentence or 2. I read your answers, and I doubt any 1 of them could be answered with a paragraph or less. Not sure how easy it would be, but you should write a book “How Kirk is going to fix the Army”… I take that back – you *COULD* write that book, but those “beyond reality” policy makers would probably never see it, and thus (as you clearly illustrate) thing never will be fixed… I dunno, maybe if we get new policy makers that *ARE* in touch with reality? But I feel like I am experiencing vicariously all the “opportunities” (problems?) that I probably never would any other way in this short life of mine!

      2. Mike_C

        >I’m sorry about the length of the things I write…
        Why? Usually well worth reading. On another post you wrote [paraphrasing] something about disquieting our host because you’re “feeling comfortable and settling in”. I’d say it’s pretty clear that Hognose’s Debatin’ Salon and House of Bangitty has a table in the back clearly recognized as your regular table, and some folks swing by expressly to see what ol’ Kirk has to say.

    2. LSWCHP

      “Fields of Fire”. I’m looking at it on my bookshelf right now. It motivated me too, back in the day and I think I’ll read it again.

      Anybody who hasn’t read it should do so. I think it’s in the same league as “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

    3. Stacy0311

      Was he THE Wagner of Marine Corps legend and lore written about in every porta-shitter globally?

  13. Bob

    When I arrived at Ft Benning weighing 143 lbs and left weighing 201lbs. Heck, I wasn’t even the stud of my platoon. When I hit ETS (recent history- geologically speaking) we were getting privates just back from the same MOSQ that can’t pass a PT test and told Senior NCO’s “No” that were shocked to find physical repercussions to the situation their mouth opened up. Quite the turn around for less than a decade, even if my brain is putting a silver lining on my previous experiences.

    Having served as a recruiter in the last decade I can assure you that modern MEPS only accepts those with the capacity to lie well. The standards are ridiculously high, particularly for medical/psych, and the only way I have ever seen someone pass is to slip by or lie. Ever taken an SSRI (almost every 18 year old these days) or thought about harming someone and feel like disclosing it? Going to be DQ’ed for years at the very least. The system is selecting for exactly the qualities that they end up getting, I can assure you.

  14. KPKo

    Only a civilian (Aerospace Engineer fit 30 yrs) here but I’d like tag along about something Kirk said about fixing society. We need to start calling things what they are and not falling for the renaming that goes on with many media narratives.

    It sneaks into the vernacular in small ways that have long consequences. For example, I have a boss that insists on using that old cliche “it’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity”. Well, it’s only a short slide to then calling someone an “undocumented resident” rather than “illegal alien” and then another short hop to calling someone a “she” when they’re clearly a “he”. That’s how this progression has worked its way through society.

    Society has become sloppy, and I’m becoming a lot more blunt in dealing with people. So my response to the boss is now “no, it’s not an opportunity, it’s just a problem, and here’s how to fix it”.

    1. Kirk

      Some of the bosses I’ve dealt with who have been like that have been people who were merely parroting what others around them were saying. I was dealing with one, myself, when I found or re-found that Analect of Confucius about the Rectification of Names.

      Put that sumbitch up on my door as a quote, and while it got some strange stares from other people, I found my boss-who-was-the-problem reading it one afternoon, and he just looked at it for about ten minutes, looked over at me, and said “OK, I get it…”. We quit playing buzz-word bingo shortly after.

      Language is a tool for thought; screw up your terminology, and you’re basically doing the same thing a mechanic is doing when he tries to turn a Phillips screw with a straight-blade screwdriver. Yes, it will work, for a given value of “work”, in some cases, but you’ll screw up the screw head, and probably damage the screwdriver into the bargain.

      We don’t pay enough attention to the use of language as a tool for thinking, in our schools, or in daily life. That’s something Confucius recognized thousands of years ago, and it is a profound point that bears thinking about.

      1. staghounds

        “I, on the other hand, have never seen a spade. Our social circles have obviously been very different.”

        Gwendolen Fairfax

        Sorry, autoresponse to spade a spade reference.

    2. Mike_C

      >it’s only a short slide to then calling someone an “undocumented resident” rather than “illegal alien”
      Yes. A lot of this stuff is deliberate. An egregious example on the civilian side has been, and is, the Starbucks nomenclature for coffee serving size: Tall (12 fl oz); Grande (16 fl oz); Venti (20 fl oz). Now any normal human being would call these small, medium, and large but no one wants to have a “small” in this greedy age, so you get a “tall” instead and feel good about your overpriced, burnt tasting swill. I’ve always complained that this is like, say a restaurant survey where you are given exactly three choices of rating your meal: good, excellent, or orgasmic.

      >that Analect of Confucius about the Rectification of Names.
      Hmm. Gonna have to look that up. I’m not a fan of ol’ Kong Tze and am shamefully unfamiliar with his works. The Confucian emphasis on “you’re not ready to comment on, much less criticize, your social superiors” (and you will never be ready, BTW) always rubbed my American hackles the wrong way. I understand the whole order and stability uber alles thing, but don’t like it.

      1. Kirk

        Not every system of wisdom need be adopted in its entirety; I’ve never been of a mind that anyone ever gets everything right, and I look at what I find useful, and take that. Most of the rest of that whole school of philosophy strikes me as being a bit too statist and paternalistic, but there are bits of wisdom in there, such as this, which is a somewhat different translation than I cited before:

        “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

        This is from the Analects, Book 13, Verse 3.

        From it, I take that the fundamental tool we use to think, language, must be in accordance with reality–Or, all thinking that flows from and which uses this improper language is inherently flawed and only progresses along a flawed path.

        The number of cases where this applies in our military and civic culture are legion. With regards to Manning, the whole issue of whether he should have ever been recruited, and the manner in which his training and screening were conducted flowed from the way in which the decisions that went into the process of failure were framed, discussed, and then enacted.

        Had someone laid out the reality of things, that they were creating a huge security threat by enabling Manning, one hopes that the recognition would have been there to put a stop to the process at a point where they could have just said “No.”.

  15. Aesop

    Manning was a substandard douchecanoe who should have been dropped from training by the end of the first week.
    Now, he should simply have been shot for treason.

    Twice now, the country got screwed because the Army lacked the balls or brains to do the right thing.
    If the Chief of Staff was worth as much as a brass pissbucket, he would have set aside Manning’s term of incarceration, and specified a firing squad, or turned in his stars. He did neither.
    He also didn’t track down Manning’s recruiter, drill sergeants, or CO in Basic, and have them all retroactively reduced three grades.

    The rest is just gravity, working.

    Manning’s size is immaterial: Audie Murphy was 5’5″.

    What the Army (or any service) cannot do, is grow a spine in some bitchified waste of skin with zero familiarity with the concept of having one.

    The miracle is that he joined the Army instead of running off to Broadway to join a chorus line, and how he was never weeded out at any one of thirty steps originally designed for just that purpose.
    That underlines a serious flaw in the entire recruiting pipeline and screening process.

  16. DaveP.

    Kinda makes me wonder how many other Mannings there are out there in the armed services, in capable and broken but impossible to eliminate because reasons, just waiting for an opportunity to blow up like a land mine.
    Hand out perverse incentives, reap perverse rewards.

    1. Kirk

      You don’t want to know. Just trust me on this… You don’t want to know.

      My unit sent a complete POS off to OCS, ‘cos that was the easy way out of an ugly situation for them. I plan on running down both the fools who enabled that, when I inevitably hear about this clown doing something off the charts stupid, and I’m going to pointedly remind them that I gave them a chance to prevent that from every happening… And, they didn’t take it.

      And, you’re absolutely right about the “perverse incentives”. Those are everywhere in the forces, and a lot of the time, you don’t even notice them until it’s too damn late, and the results are before you in the form of disaster.

  17. Tim, '80s Mech Guy

    Kirk writes it I’ll read it. I joined to kill Soviets with every intention of doing twenty and then moving on to another career. Four years of training to train while being “instructed” by illiterate fucks, some of whom could literally not read in addition to being stupid, was quite enough. At the tail end of it my unit was E-4 heavy as shit when we got handed a real world mission. Over night we got fleshed out by E-nothings straight from Benning while simultaneously having all the E-6 and E-7s rotate away to be replaced by “Light Fighters” who couldn’t maintain a fifty or a track let alone fight either effectively. Parts that had been on order since I was in middle school suddenly showed up, the new NCOs assererted thier authority and we moved out smartly. Next thing I know I’m 37 days short, sweating my balls off near a strategically important ditch and wondering why nobody else saw the humor in the question:

    What can you set your watch by?

    I’m betting a bunch of you folks know the answer to that one.

  18. 10x25mm

    Wasn’t Manning commuted to provide cover for the same day pardon of retired Marine General James Cartwright? Cartwright outed STUXNET to make Zero look like a great Commander-In-Chief just in time for the 2012 election.

  19. Tom Stone

    Manning is a symptom of a systemic breakdown.
    The Military is not the only vital system that is breaking down or that has broken down. We are witnessing the death of the Republic, slow at first then all at once.
    And a very sincere thanks to the commenters here, especially Kirk.
    If any of you make it to Sonoma County look me up, Coffee is on me.
    I’m a Real Estate Broker, easy to find.

  20. Keith

    I read what you write with joy and sadness Kirk.

    Joy because you are a man that calls it like it is in no uncertain terms.

    Sadness because of what you are talking about.

    I think the slide really started when criminals went from being ‘guilty’ in reporting to ‘convicted’. The one says to me ‘He did it!’ the other says to me ‘We say he did it!’.

    When a civilian society and a military society move so far apart that the only commonality they have is biologically. When all of the military from the lowest enlist the service heads come from families that going into the military is all those families do. When the entirety of the civilian leadership from the most local level to the highest national level never is a veteran. When both groups may share the same language but can’t really talk to each other any more. All of these conditions can only have two endings according to the historical record.

    The combined society collapses and is destroyed by an outside force or;

    The military society takes over the civilian society.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.

  21. W. Fleetwood

    In reference to the recruiting poster; I don’t think any of us who actually answered that call were disappointed. Actually meaning what you say, as opposed to trying to say what you think people want to hear usually works.

    Wafa Wafa, Wasara Wasara.

      1. W. Fleetwood

        Soldiers being soldiers there were, inevitably, some add on punchlines. The two I recall offhand were;

        “Be a Man among Men!” — “You might as well, the girls are all dating the damn Cops!”

        And, “Be a Man among Men!” — “Join the Left handed Blind guy Regiment Today!”

        Sua Sponte.

        1. John M.

          I’d love to hear the story sometime about how you went from your USian upbringing to fighting in Rhodesia.

          -John M.

  22. Simon

    Well, this question about national service being equivalent to slavery has come up a few times here in Austria. We had a plebiscite a couple of years ago about whether the present system should remain in force, and something like 60 % were in favour of retention.
    The length of service has been reduced from 8 months to 6 months. Earlier most people did 6 months, then were called back every few years for a week or two weeks for exercises, now it is just a straight 6 months. Earlier there was a conscience test for those wishing to do non-military service (helping out in hospitals and ambulances etc.), but now there is a simple choice. Non-military service is 9 months. To be honest, the people who would suffer the most if the national service were to be abolished are the hospitals, who rely on the free labour, so here you perhaps can call it slavery.
    The military is different – you would not have to occupy the posts if you got rid of all the conscripts, but if you get hold of the people who push wheelchairs in hospitals, then you will either have to pay people to do it, call for volunteers or tell the people to walk.
    One thing it does do is bring people together from most walks of society and make them live in close proximity without killing each other. This is especially necessary now that so many are only children or from small families, and have never really had to find a way of finding common ground with different people before.
    Since many of you are from a military background, then I am sure you understand that 6 months training does not make them into lean, mean killing machines, but perhaps you can see it as a sort of enforced socialization. It is also the first time for many of them to live outside the family, and maybe that allows them to make these changes in a more peaceful manner. It also provides a ready source of labour whenever there are major floods or avalanches.
    Most people who have gone through the military version do not look back on it in a particularly negative way. I have heard more negative comments from people who have gone the non-military route. If a group of strangers comes together, then the subject of military service and the people they met there will generally come up after a few beers.

  23. Ti

    My BT(’79) was with 50% female. I’m thinking the military stacks like minded MOS’s together for the Basic Part of training. The company was mostly made up of AL NG’s on summercamp(BT between junior/senior HS), people going on to other support positions (medic, av mech’s AIT in AL also, and reservists) from the SE US. The greatest piece of advice I got from a Vietnam vet I worked with when I left for BT was “They are going to F with you on purpose.” I remember seeing two people say no (over the course of 6 weeks)and were admin’d out. I remember a “creature” in the CO that was so pathetic that “it” didn’t even have to stand in formation. You literally didn’t know man, women or what. How did this get past any mouth- breathing room temp IQ person up to this point is unfathomable. The cadre handled it incredibly professionally – they acted like the person wasn’t even there. It wasn’t ever seen outside of a formation to go eat, that I can remember.
    This wasn’t the crucible of 11B’s.

    My point is the picture shows a group of pencil pushers getting their Basic on. He should have been opted-out administratively and we all know that. In my world the buck would stop with his chain of command. Immediate and then up the chain. It’s amazing how disease will burn it self out if allowed to do so.

    Kirk and all of Mr. HN’s readers comments have been awesome! Great reading!

  24. HORSE GUNNER

    QUALIFICATIONS: ZERO/NIL SF/SO training or experience, but 51 months Jump Status in The 82d Airborne Division during the Carter-era “Hollow Army”.
    The Army, per se, does little, but service in elite units (e.g., The 82d Airborne Division, SF, Rangers) definitely does. It bears mention that all of the Army’s “Bad Apples” of late–MAJ HASSAN, SSG BALES, PFC MANNING–were LEGS! Wings and Tabs mean something.

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