Here’s your weekend “must-read” on the woes of the current Army culture.
No, that doesn’t mean we need to be suicidal kamikazes. It does mean we accept that combat is a dangerous world, where even those who take every precaution can still be killed or wounded. It means we embrace the courage of those who disregard mortal danger and do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. It means we shouldn’t reduce bravery to a chart balancing risk versus safety. It means we don’t train Soldiers to believe something as mundane as talking in a classroom requires a careful analysis of danger (no, not even if it’s just a training method). It means we shouldn’t act as if a physical fitness test, which we’re all supposed to be able to pass at a moment’s notice, requires mission planning more worthy of a combat patrol.
Risk assessment is a great tool. The modern version of Risk Assessment came to us from the aviation community. And, understand, it IS important to do risk assessments there. In the post Vietnam era, the drive to accomplish the mission, always make every flight, led to some crashes, losses of aircraft, and worse, people, that really didn’t need to happen. And so, a risk assessment that takes into account the weather, the mission, the training and experience of the crews involved can give the commander a good idea of whether or not a mission is a good idea.
And to a goodly extent, bringing that concept into the ground forces is a good idea. Is your infantry battalion planning on conducting a river crossing exercise? What are some of the risks involved in that? Can soldiers swim? Is hypothermia a risk? Will there be medics and ambulances in site? What about a trained rescue team?
But the requirements that Hernandez describes in his (go read the whole thing) essay shows the bureaucratic imperative at work. The process has become more important than the product. We see now the question asked of NCOs is “Have you done your risk assessment?” The real question is, what have you done to reduce likely risks?
When small unit leaders find they cannot perform the simplest of training tasks because of unreasonable restrictions placed upon them by their superiors, their initiative is smothered. And that’s a tragedy. Because historically, one of the great strengths of our Army (and other services) has been that very initiative.
I’ve railed a time or two about the reflective safety belt becoming the emblem of this risk adverse mentality. The belt does little or nothing to enhance safety, but allows weak leaders to be seen doing something, anything, to promote safety.
Mind you, I ‘m a huge fan of safety. Soldiers don’t join the Army to die for a training event. But nor do soldiers join the Army to live in a bubble wrapped world.
*Yes, I see that Roamy posted a link to the same essay. She posted hers first because I was busy making brownies. But great minds think alike.