I’ve served in units where I had complete trust in the chain of command, and I’ve served in units where simply no trust existed between the commander and the troops. And here’s the thing about units with mutual mistrust between the command and the commanded. It is always the fault of the commander if his troops don’t trust him. And it’s always because he doesn’t trust them.
Mind you, my perspective was usually that of a private soldier or junior NCO looking at the company, or battalion command, and very occasionally at brigade command.
CDR Salamander has a guest post by an author who (likely for career reasons) takes a look at the issue from the perspective of the sea services, specifically, how junior Naval Aviation officers see their environment with respect to the admirals that run their slice of the pie.
“When the Tailhook investigation began, and certain political elements used the incident to bring discredit on Naval Aviation as a whole, and then on the Navy writ large, one is entitled to ask, on behalf of those magnificent performers who have never failed their leaders, where were their leaders?” As Naval Aviation leadership begins to face one of the worst retention crises in its history, readdressing this question, originally posed by former Secretary of the Navy James Webb at the Naval Institute’s 122nd Annual Meeting and sixth Annapolis Seminar in 1996, may help explain why some of aviation’s best and brightest have decided to leave.
Naval Aviation leadership is currently struggling with the real threat of not having enough pilots to fly the aircraft on its flight lines, and it’s not solely due to cyclic and predictable factors (economy, OPTEMPO). The more insidious problem, going largely unaddressed, is one of trust and confidence; more accurately, the fleet’s loss of trust and confidence in its senior leadership. This breakdown in trust has spread well beyond junior officers reaching their first “stay or go” milestones. Large numbers of post-command Commanders are electing to retire, instead of pursuing further promotion and increased retirement benefits. In both cases, officers are saying “no thanks” to generous amounts of money (for some, as much as $125,000), choosing instead to part ways with an organization they competed fiercely to join; one that, at some point, provided tremendous satisfaction.
I strongly suspect this dissatisfaction with the leadership isn’t restricted to this community alone. I’ve heard from quite a few people that feel the services have treated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a distraction from the real business of the services, of career building and social engineering.
Believe me, I’m all for hammering those who violate the regulations, those who break the law, and especially those who violate the laws of war. But it we need to ensure we’re not judging decisions made in battle with 20/20 hindsight from a safe office. Nor do we judge leaders for past actions based on the specious complaint of one servicemember, a complaint lodged months after the leader departed for another assignment. Or even years, in one infamous case.
Many people have complained of the onerous burden placed on training that is mandated, for such things as sexual harassment and assault prevention that does little to actually prevent sexual harassment or assault, but paints the vast majority of servicemembers as potentially guilty, and adds nothing to the ability of a unit to fight and win.
There’s a great deal of life in the service that is quite attractive. It’s rewarding to be a member of something larger than yourself, to work as a team, to accomplish a hard, worthy mission, to share burdens and joys with your fellow Americans.
But there’s also a word that describes that which sucks the enjoyment and noble feelings from service.
Maybe we should look at cutting back on the chickenshit.