Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

And the fraggings begin...

One of the things which sped the disintegration of the Vietnam-era U.S. Army, to the point where, by 1971, it was little more than an armed rabble more intent upon getting high than killing NVA soldiers, was fraggings of career NCO's and junior officers. Without the career NCO's to guide them, the junior officers were literally terrified of their men, terrified to give them any order that could possibly result in their men getting killed, terrified that if they gave such an order, the men would refuse to follow the order and instead kill the officer.

Iraq is not Vietnam. Iraq is different, in that the soldiers and NCO's are both volunteers, whereas in Vietnam, the soldiers were typically draftees and the NCO's were typically volunteers. There is not the divide between the grunts and their NCO's in Iraq that there was in the latter days of the Vietnam war. What there is, however, is disdain for their junior officers, who come in full of piss and vinegar without a clue as to how to conduct war, and too often are not allowing their NCO's to do their job, instead micro-managing things in a way which is completely outside of what they're supposed to be doing.

In case you're confused, here's how it's supposed to work. A platoon typically has a sergeant -- an NCO -- and a first lieutenant -- a junior officer. The officer gets the orders from HQ that say, "go to point A and kill the enemy." The officer looks at how to get to point A, and says to his NCO, "get us to point A via points B, C, and D, and call for an air strike on point A before we get there." The NCO then handles all the grunt work of getting the men together with the equipment and supplies they need to get to point A, coordinating the disposition of the men in the most militarily effective manner during the passage to point A, and then hopes like hell that if they run into something on the way to point A that they can't handle, that the officer will have some idea what their next move should be.

In short, the officer is the tactics and policy guy. The NCO is the logistics guy who makes it all happen, kicking whatever ass is necessary to make it happen, and sometimes doing some things that the officer carefully overlooks because no military can really run 100% "by the rules" and actually get the job done. That's how it's supposed to work. But nowdays, officers are coming out of the military academies thinking they know how to do the NCO's job. What they do, mostly, is get in the way -- the NCO typically has much more experience doing his job than some fresh-behind-the-ears first looey, and besides, the officer is going to be concerned about a blot on his career if he gets caught doing something that's not "by the book" and thus is likely to interfere with his NCO's getting the job done the, err, "illicit" way if he's in the middle of all that. If the NCO is scrounging armor for their Humvees out of scrap piles, for example, well, that's actually against the rules -- "hillbilly armor" overburdens the suspension of the Humvees and makes them tend to break down more often, which in Rumsfeld's Army (as in Robert McNamara's army in Vietnam) is a cardinal offense because it makes the statistics look bad.

So what is happening is that officers are interfering with the NCO's doing their job, and it's getting grunts killed. So the dynamic is completely different from Vietnam, where the NCO's and officers were equally likely to be fragged. In Iraq, it's the officers who are beginning to be hated more and more... and once the fraggings begin in earnest, the whole ball of wax is likely to collapse into a heap, much like the U.S. Army in 1971.

- Badtux the Military Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 11/01/2005 10:40:00 PM  


Don't you think it already has reached the disintergration level- much quicker than vietnam..I mean Vietnam - 2000 dead in the first Four years- we reached that much quicker...and also surpassing Vietnam in injuries also...
# posted by enigma4ever : 2/11/05 1:07 AM  

That was the way it worked when I was in. 1st and 2nd Lts respected the NCO's and looked to them for guidance because they were actually in the trenches. When I was a PFC I told a butter bar (2nd Lt) that he didn't know what he was doing, that all he had was book smarts and maybe he should be quiet.

He did. I got a nice date out of it, but we had to hide when his CO sat down behind us during The Stepford Wives. There was some respect between officers and ncos, something I don't see anymore and it will lead to major issues in a battle situation.
# posted by Debra : 2/11/05 8:52 AM  

Enigma, the situation is still nowhere near the disintegration level. What we're seeing right now is the first kernel or two of corn popping when you make popcorn. It's when the popping sounds merge into a big popopopopopopop that you know the whole thing is starting to blow up.

That said, what I'm hearing from the grunts *AND* their NCO's about the quality of their leadership is not nice. Of course, grunts always whine about their leadership, but usually it's about piss-ant things. When their leadership is getting them killed for stupid reasons, however, that's a whole different level of whine from the whine you hear when grunts get demerits for not properly spit-shining for the General's inspection...

- Badtux the Military Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 2/11/05 9:09 AM  

Here's a little Viet Nam era melody. Sung to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean."

Oh, they made him a second lieutenant,
And oh how we shouted with glee.
They found him with nine bullets in him,
But the enemy only left three.
# posted by John : 2/11/05 3:21 PM  

Bad Tux,

I ETSed in 1998 after nine years, and I noticed then that the micro management was becoming constant.

First the officers do not trust the NCO to do his job, and now there is a mind set of micro management, which makes for a bad situation
# posted by Ole Blue The Heretic : 3/11/05 2:46 PM  

I was in the Nasty Guard 2002-3
My sq. ldr could not read, my plt ldr would not go to the field, he sent an EM to us while he sat in an office and drank pepsi.
I got a profile the rest of the mission, got out as CO.
The NG needs to be overhauled.
# posted by ron tyler : 26/4/07 1:28 PM  

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