From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sometime Back I Found a Significant Army Study about Leadership

At times I become so discouraged and jaded concerning the leadership of the Army that paranoia takes over completely and I begin to doubt that there is anyone anywhere near the top who can be counted as anything but military mafia heads.  I know that seems a strong and irresponsible statement, but in case you don't fully understand what I am saying, or think I am just another ranting lunatic, I mean in the silent moments of the darkness of night I lay awake praying the most urgent and pressing requests of my heart, that my husband stays safe from the enemy... and I am referring to "the enemy within."  I have found this enemy to be powerful beyond anything I could have imagined even five years ago, and so pervasive that in recent weeks I have considered divorcing the institution known as The United States Army, and pledging my loyalties solely to those honorable men and women, and their families who stand in the gap everyday for me and mine.   

If you serve, have served, or reap the benefits of those who serve, (of course that takes in every citizen in the world, ) I urge you to carefully read this material referenced, and I paste my own comment in response to having read the findings of this study, which I feel is the most critically important issues our country, and in fact the world faces today, the credibility of  The United States Military in reference to duty, honor, country....

Guest Blog

This blog was established to provide a forum where military personnel and civilians can publish posts that pertain to military affairs.

Provide Me Your Perspectives

In the past eight years plus our Army has transformed its organization, how it fights across the spectrum of conflict, and how we create and define mission success.  From where I sit, it has been an amazing performance, but I wonder about the long term impact persistent conflict is having on our Army, our shared values, and our professional military culture.

I am interested in gaining your perspectives on how eight years of war, modularity, decentralized operations, and ARFORGEN have affected our core leadership attributes. I believe that a professional dialogue is essential to clarifying the issues we need to address to ensure the future health of our Army.
GEN Pete Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army
Only published comments... Feb 08 2010, 07:45 PM by GEN Chiarelli Filed under: , ,

Debra LeCompte said:

I am not a member of the military, but I have served and sacrificed.  My husband, Colonel Randy LeCompte, has served in the Army for the past 29 years and is currently deployed to Afghanistan.  One of my daughter's was in the Army for 8 years,  she currently works in the civilian sector, leaving the Army after 9/11 due to concern that both she and her husband would be deployed at the same time.  I have watched her and our two grand-daughters cope with multiple deployments, and in June their whole family will leave for a three year tour in Germany.  Our 16 year old son is seeking an appointment to the Air Force Academy.
We also have another son-in-law who was blown off a tank he was refueling and then shot in the shoulder; this happened in 2003 in Iraq.  He has a 45% disability and would give anything to be allowed to return to the Army today.
My husband had a difficult upbringing, coming from an abusive home without many resources.  He will tell anyone that the Lord used the United States Army to raise him and give him most of the opportunities of his life.  He received an appointment to West Point, and graduated in the top five percent of his class and is a graduate of the Army War College.  In his civilian position he serves as Program Manager for the Caimon, the second generation MRAP produced by BAE Systems.  My father served in World War II, and my grand-father in World War I.  I will tell anyone that life as a family in the military offers so many more positives than negatives.  What better principles are there to raise children by than those 7 Army Values?  What better model for successful family living can there be than that of the "Army Family."  My husband gives a recruitment speech where he advises that the Army can give and individual SIP, skills, identity, and purpose.  It can do the same for a family.  The Army provides resources and opportunities not only to the Soldier, but to the Soldier's entire family.  It also requires those sacrifices I mentioned before.
I have worked extensively in Family Readiness and have found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I have found it so because of the opportunity it afforded me to come to know so many uncommon men and women in service to this country.  Their families, when successful, and not all military families are, are made up of incredible men, women, and children.  I have had the opportunity to come to know them very well also. I  feel that the families of career Soldiers serve and sacrifice with the same measure that their Soldiers do.  It is not the same service and sacrifice, however it is of the same value.
As in all organizations and endeavors, there are those who serve always from a place of excellence, some middle grounders, and some who should not even be there.  However, I have found that those ratios are not the same as your ordinary civilian work place.  There is a much higher percentage of Soldiers who serve with a consistent excellence and the mind set of selfless commitment to honor and integrity.  Sadly, one of the rare, but still present, personality types drawn to military service is the "school yard bully" type.
I have noted that a good Soldier will perform any mission, anywhere, whether he/she is provided the resources with which to do it or not, and ask for only two things: leadership that they can confidently follow, and that their families be taken care of.
Even though I am not in the military, the transformation has affected my life profoundly.  I have some observations, life experiences actually, which I would like to pass on to you.
An effective, organized and continuous FRG can be make a huge impact on whether a military family is successful or not.  That kind of FRG only happens with the complete and total support and commitment of the commander.  I have seen commanders who hold FRG in little regard, with the attitude that it is a regulatory obligation that is a waste of time.  I make that statement from personal observation and from listening to the comment of hundreds of FRG leaders in training events across the nation.  I also make that statement from personal experience.  My daughter, who spent 8 years in the Army, is married to a Soldier, and has spent the last 14 yeas at Ft. Hood as a military family first heard of Military One Source from me, long after she should have.  In the three deployments her family has been through in the last 6 years, she has had little to no support from FRG or the rear detachment.  She has gotten her support from friends and our family, it has been a struggle, but their family has prevailed and come through stronger each time.  That is not always the case.  Go to facebook and the Army Wives group and listen to thousands of young Army wives and the situations and challenges they and their young families are facing.  The FRG model works... it is a tremendous tool for training these young families for successful living, even during deployments.  HOWEVER IT MUST HAVE THE COMPLETE SANCTION, AND SUPPORT OF THE COMMANDER, AND THE COMMANDER'S COMMITMENT TO ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE IN HIS/HER FRG ORGANIZATION.  IT MUST ALSO HAVE THE UNIT RESOURCES COVERED IN THE REGS, PLUS THE BEST LEADERSHIP THE COMMANDER CAN FIND.  A COMMANDERS ATTITUDE TOWARD FRG WILL GREATLY INFLUENCE THE LEVEL OF PARTICIPATION AND THE QUALITY OF THE FRG ORGANIZATION.
Soldiers, without exception come from families, and when their service is completed, if they still have one, they return to families.  Sometimes they return as the families sent them, and sometimes they return with wounds both visible and wounds of the heart, and sometimes a family makes that complete sacrifice, and they return borne on the shoulders of their brothers, a fallen hero.  A Soldier does not experience success and fulfillment unless his or her family is taken care of.
The other thing a Soldier must have is leadership that they know they can trust to lead them only from a place of honor, from a complete commitment to the Army Values.  They need to know them to be fair, honest, and trustworthy.  Again, the finest men and women I have known in my lifetime are numbered among Soldiers, and there are far more of them than the other kind.  But I have encountered, self serving, lying, and dangerous people, who will stop at nothing to gain their own agenda.  It has been my observation that those persons can be in extremely high positions of power and can make or break a Soldier, and wield their power in the most destructive ways.  They use the 15-6 process, because the process allows them to, in down right illegal ways.  In the past four years I have personally encountered 8 Soldiers who were suicidal.  In each of those persons, the claim was made of "bad command."  Two of them committed suicide.  I am a grain of sand in my connection to the Army... IN FOUR YEARS I HAVE ENCOUNTERED 8 SOLDIERS!  That is an average of 2 a year!  Soldiers seem to be able to withstand a girl friend running off with their money, the separations, the hardships of war... but if you add... "bad command," which causes them to question if the service and sacrifice has been made under the leadership of someone of less that honorable intent, they question everything, and sometimes come up with the wrong answer.  The thing that perpetuates "bad leadership" is the Army's reluctance to own up to a leader's failure.  In fear of embarrassing the Army, things get swept under the rug, no one wants to risk their career to stand in moral courage against this cancer.  It isn't a Soldier fighting against the Army, it is a Soldier fighting for the Army, for those values, for the honor of the Army, that builds the confidence of a Soldier to follow.  The system must be made less capable of misuse, and more accountable to itself.  The Army monitors it's own integrity, and leadership MUST give due diligence to this fundamental task in order to keep from discouraging those Soldiers of the caliber that are most desirable and keeping them from walking away.  If they do not, soon the bottom of the barrel folks will be the norm.
I can tell the story of a 19 year service Soldier sleeping on the floor of a jail in Garland, Texas, because of failed leadership.  I can tell the story of a friend's husband who questioned unethical behavior and found himself the subject of a 15-6 and death threats while serving in Afghanistan.  There are so many more.  One of these situations is too many.  That it has happened in front of me, with family members reaching out to me for help has given me pause.... I often wonder what feelings it caused in those Soldiers watching these events, in those family members experiencing this betrayal by the Army.  I do not know what the solution is, but I find the Army so good at being the emperor with no clothes.
Finally I would like to say to each of the men and women who have posted here, and to you Sir for being the leader I so readily see you being, thank you for your service.  Our country owes each of you a debt that cannot ever be paid in full.  Soldier on, for the sake of us all.

Then I had the nerve to post a second post... they posted that one to...

Debra LeCompte said:

Nate Nelsen.... you nailed it.  I would ask you to reconsider your decision.  You are the kind of man of moral courage who can make a difference.  The Army needs you, those Soldiers who will ruck-up and head off to war need you.  As the mother of a Soldier, the wife of a Soldier, I need to know men like you are on the job.  If men like you leave, we must trust those we love most to the leadership you speak of, and it doesn't stop at the company level.  If you won't stay and go the distance, who will?  I know too well the stress it brings, the risk it brings... but I will stand behind you personally, and I know others who will too.  They have called me in the middle of the night, and even I have been effective, and I'm a nobody.  Please reconsider, and what ever your decision, thank you so much for your service, I personally feel a debt I know the rest of the country shares.  We will forever be grateful for what you have already given.  Hoo-ah Sir!
February 26, 2010 12:46 AM 

Debra LeCompte said:

Bob King, I read the article you referenced in the Washington Post.  It conflicts me somewhat.  I have recognized, and in a couple of cases, experienced two distinct types of command failure.  Any human can make a mistake in judgment which causes tragic consequences, all of us fall in that category.  When it is found that a leader makes a mistake in judgment, when there was no way to judge what the outcome would be before a decision was made by that commander, how can the Army choose to act in discipline?  When that commander carefully gathered information, sought input from appropriate resources and experts, and sometimes time constraints make that almost impossible, and hesitation guarantees failure, and the that commander makes and carries out a decision, I believe they should have the full backing of the Army.  I just can't see if he or she makes a mistake in that decision process, that there be negative consequences invoked in the form of punishment from the Army, the investigation process itself will be punitive for any good Soldier.  The idea that he or she might have made a decision that harmed a Soldier, to a good commander is so painful that nothing the Army can do to them comes close to what their own mind does to them.
There is another kind of commander, the kind Nate Nelsen references in his comment above.  Much of the damage they do has nothing to do with being in a combat zone and under the gun.  When that type of "command failure" occurs it is the result of a power monger using his or her power to the detriment of the Army and all who serve.  Usually threat, implied or spoken is involved, and that threat is directed at an individual Soldier, but almost always other Soldiers are drawn in by "toxic command," in order to gain submission of the individual.  When there is a clear tolerance of the power monger, it takes moral courage that is of suicidal nature to stand against the power monger.  Facts and evidence do not matter, all involved understand what the outcome will be, and the targeted Soldier is often advised... just let it go, take your licks, don't risk your career.  Each time that happens in even the most insignificant situation... you feed the monster.  Junior officers hear the message, this is acceptable and tolerated behavior.  Everyone who has any knowledge of the situation sustains injury.  In a profession where those in charge have the job, power, and sanction of the Army and the country, to order the taking of a human life in the act of war, all who are subject to their authority, or can view their authority and how they use it, need to be absolutely certain that their character and honor are beyond question.  If that is the case, and mistakes are made that result in harm that could have been avoided, but the judgment of that leader whose character and honor are beyond question caused the harm... nothing will be gained by their punishment.  Every officer or leader worth anything knows the position they place themselves in and the risk of losing everything with a single wrong decision that exists.  It is that calculating, self serving, manipulative, career advancing "leader" who will malign, and yes, even for entertainment, deliberately cause harm to someone under, OR ABOVE him or her, for any reason, that causes good Soldiers to think to themselves... "I'm out of here before I am the next victim."
Sometimes, before a good Soldier can realize what is happening, they are trapped by one of these individuals, falsely accused, and to that Soldier it feels like the Army is betraying them.  That isn't the case, it is the toxic Soldier who doing so, causing them harm, and doing so deliberately for the cause of a personal agenda.  However, when the Army fails in the process of the "investigation" to do due diligence, and allows even the most minor abuse of power, there indeed is leadership failure.  Again, any time good Soldiers observe this type of behavior and failure of the "Army system" to REALLY explore facts and REALLY judge justly the situation, whether they are involved or not, many will leave, too disappointed and fearful of their own encounter with toxic leadership.
As I sit and type here and recall the look and words of Soldiers whom I have encountered who have experienced the shell shock of this type of leadership failure and assault by the "enemy within," a sadness and despair floods over me at remembering the broken men and women I have seen.  With one exception, they each admitted to suicidal thoughts.  There is a young man who haunts me, he took his life, and I can not prove why, but I know why.  I have tried to call legal attention to this death, and the refusal to investigate stands as irrefutable evidence to me of the deliberate tolerance of toxic leadership by the Army.  As the mother of a Soldier, as the daughter of a Soldier, as the grand-daughter of a Soldier, as the wife of a Soldier, this toxic leadership is intolerable.  The Army belongs to good Soldiers, those who bring honor and respect to the Army, and the FIRST obligation of the Army is for every Soldier who has authority over another to ensure that the rules are enforced without regard to WHO a Soldier is, but to WHAT they are.  Investigations should be conducted from the top down, not the bottom up when something has gone wrong, because the top always has the most power and authority to prevent wrong doing.  When a toxic leader exists... someone had a part in promoting them, it then is a case of accountability.  If my statements make this blog, it will be a clear indication things are moving in a right and honorable direction, and it will be due to the kind of leadership that can be trusted, that is honorable, accountable, and when followed, a Soldier is ensured of moving for the benefit of our country, our people, and the good of mankind, as well as it can be determined by the best of the best.  Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, and all who love Soldiers, can confidently loan them to the service of the Army, assured that if it cost us what we value most, it will have been a worthy act of valor that took the Soldier we love.  I love all that the Army stands for, I have the greatest admiration for those who take upon themselves the responsibility to lead the great men and women who stand in the defense of democracy and each of us, who sacrifice, and who are unable to do anything but the right thing. May God grant you wisdom, moral courage, and grace as you serve.
February 27, 2010 10:28 PM