Monday, February 17, 2014

The Disillusionment of Ranger: The Genesis

 Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters
cannot be trusted with important matters
--Albert Einstein 

I prefer to be true to myself,
even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others,
rather than to be false,
and to incur my own abhorrence
--Frederick Douglass 

In a room where people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot
--Czeslaw Milosz 

Scratch any cynic and you will find
a disappointed idealist
--George Carlin

The Disillusionment of Ranger Pt. II -- The Genesis. (This is an extension of Ranger's Disillusionment, PT I):

One of the most common comments heard in the Army is that it eats its young; here is one of those tales.

All Ranger ever wanted to be was a soldier, and his start was stellar. Number One cadet in his ROTC class, Distinguished Military Graduate, regular Army commission, Jump and Jump Master qualification, Ranger, and then onto his first assignment. But within four months of his first troop assignment, his career was over before it started. He was dinged on his first Officer Efficiency Report (OER), and for the next 44 years he has agonized over the question of why his Battalion Commander hated him, and/or why was he willing to kill him before I even left "shavetail" status.

Why? It's a small and pitiable story, but not unique.

As a Mortar Platoon Leader there was a lot of time spent planning and running range firing for the Battalion. This was one of my duties and I excelled at the task, but one day changed that -- the day that began my professional death. (Keep in mind that Ranger's Commission was Regular Army/ROTC, while the Battalion Commander was a West Pointer, if you think that matters.)

The Battalion was a bad luck unit as was the entire European Command at the time Ranger entered. The war was raging in Vietnam, and the seams were stretched tight. While his Platoon passed all of its tests and was ready to perform its tactical mission, the Battalion and Company failed its Command Maintenance Materiels Inspection (CMMI), and was dinged badly on several operational evaluation tests.

So we find our young LT on a freezing hillside in Germany with a range set up to familiarize and qualify the HQ Company personnel in their in their assigned weapon -- the M3 grease gun, a .45 cal submachine gun assigned to support personnel found in the support platoon of HQ Co. This was simple, clear and unambiguous job, until the S-3 (Operations Officer) and Battalion XO (Major) drove up.

The S-3 and XO directed Ranger to pencil in all the personnel requiring training because they were preparing to be re-tested for the annual CMMI (as the Battalion failed their first attempt.) Failure usually equates to Battalion Commanders being relieved, or at least, not promoted.

So young LT Ranger stood before the S-3 and the XO who, in the name of our lord, the Battalion Commander, were directing him to pencil in the trainees as having received instruction which they had in fact, not, which meant he had a choice: either falsify official records, indicating that soldiers had received training that they did not receive, or to not lie on an official document. You can guess the decision made by an idealistic young LT unversed in Army politics.

Neither Infantry Officers Basic Course nor ROTC mentioned any scenario like this in either ethics or leadership training. As a result of the absence of a bootlicking unit in his education, his career died the day he chose not to lie, as did his hopes and aspirations. You may call him a fool, but the moral dilemma surrounding honor and integrity in the military forces of our nation remains the same for both him and others today.

In his 20 years of active and reserve duty, the "grease gun" scenario  was replicated many times, on much higher levels.
In mobilization drills and exercises, there were major units certified for deployment which were measured with elastic yardsticks. Units were certified as combat-ready which could not pour piss out of a boot. (If you doubt this, look no further than current scandals concerning cheating, lying and corruption regarding the certification of nuclear weapons specialized units.)

It is a long way from that frozen hillside in a 1969 Army unit and our little submachine gun training to 2014 and nuclear surety problems, but they are the same issue. If you will lie about a grease gun, then what else will you lie about?

Lest you think these are isolated events, ask a veteran if they have their own "grease gun" story, for the issue is pervasive and universal. The upshot is, I never again believed any official, unofficial or any other word uttered by any government or military official. I know the system is not run on honor.

Ranger's disillusionment is insignificant in context, but it indicts the system through and through.

[Cross-posted at RangerAgainstWar.]


  1. Damn. That's a sadly familiar story, but it never fails to hurt no matter how many time you hear it. I'm sorry that you had to find that out the hard way.

    And the sorriest part is that the whole business of falsifying training and qualification records is a self-detonating land mine. There's a reason that there's a section in the Ranger Creed that tells you not to lie to a fellow Ranger or officer; because what you think you know that's not true will kill you or people around you.

    I won't pretend I'm as cynical about this as you are, but I've also seen enough pencil-whipping to be skeptical of the sorts of water-off-a-cat's-ass sort of pronouncements from whatever Power The Is...

  2. My personal favorite was when the battalion XO came up with a vehicle characterization outside of the NMC (not mission capable) or (fully mission capable) which was NNMC (not-not mission capable) which didn't mean the vehicle was "fully" mission capable, but didn't require us to report them right away. Or something.

    I think you can't put a price tag on integrity, and it's incredibly shitty thing to do to have superiors come to an underling and tell him to get on a grenade "for the troops" when it's really for someone's career or ego.

  3. Chief/PFK,
    MY confusion is that the SGTMAJ was a ww2 cib type and also Korea and RVN , but yet he was a player in this false reporting thing.I can understand a WP LTC wanting to get a glowing oer,even supposing that he was second line quality,since the hot dogs usually got combat command time. USAEUR was a back burner,BUT THE SGTMAJ he's another story since his career was pretty much over, and he could afford to be honest..
    The other problem was eating the young,as i wasn't the only 2LT devoured in that BN.The story of the Army in Europe during RVN would make a really good historical study.The Army was as over extended then as it was in the PWOT, but we've forgotten that fact.
    Also i wonder what KvC would say about all this?

  4. This is really outside the scope of your post, jim, but I've had problems with the whole idea of the E-9 position as well as the sorts of people you often run across filling it.

    I have no idea why, but I can't think of more than a handful of SGMs in my career that I'd trust with my cold beer or hot meal. There seems to be something in the position itself that turns a guy who, as you say, is pretty much in the retirement mode into a raging careerist. I've seldom heard or seen one tell an officer, any officer, even when it had been in private and out of the earshot of the troops, that his stupid idea is stupid. I've seldom ever run across one that has acted in the best interests of troop training or readiness.

    I've known bunches of them obsessed with military minutia, everything from haircuts to shoeshines to the length of the grass outside the barracks. But on the kinds of things that would have actually improved the fighting ability of their units? Almost never.

    It's like there's some sort of invisible line between the First Sergeant's office and the Sergeant Major's; cross it and all the practicality is sucked out and you're stuffed with ass-kissing chickenshit, and only a tiny handful of soldiers seem able to resist that.

    But on the larger point, this is something the U.S. Army has been struggling with since the end of WW2. I don't know about other organizations, but somewhere in the late Forties or Fifties the USA developed the "zero-defect" mentality. You couldn't admit to ANY sort of problem or failure. If you did you WERE a failure and you got dinged for it. Badge-hunting, pencil-whipping...all that stuff became epidemic, and as far as I can tell that attitude is still around. At this point I'm not sure how you rip it out and replace it with a realistic training and evaluation system.

  5. PFK: I may be dating myself, but somewhere in the back of my mind is the memory that the commander could "circle" a deadline gig if the vehicle or equipment a) could still "function" even in a degraded mode and b) was mission-essential that would take the thing off the NMC list. That would be the equivalent of your XO's "NNMC" thing (but credit to him for coming up with one of the more precious examples of military bullshit-speak I've heard in a long time, right up there with the platoon leader in my old Panama battalion that explained to his company commander that the reason his platoon was training on the battalion parade ground right outside the air-conditioned/soda pop and beer-machine-having barracks was that they were conducting a "JEWT"; a "jungle-exercise-without-trees".)

    But, mind you, for the CO to take responsibility for circling a deadline would require the CO taking the responsibility for what would happen if that deadline caused the unit to fail at some critical moment and some of his people got killed...

  6. Chief-

    "Circle X", FMC and NFMC are widely misunderstood issues, as is the informal term "deadlined".

    You are correct. A unit commander (significantly different rules for aircraft) can "circle" an "X" status condition recorded on a DA 2404 Equipment Inspection and Maintenance Worksheet if the vehicle or piece of equipment can be safely operated under clearly stated limitations.

    For example, Fault - "Headlight switch inop." Corrective Action - "Vehicle limited to daylight operations only."

    Similarly, a tank with an inop fire control system can be used for non-firing training purposes until the system can be repaired. Again, this tank may be running all over the training area, but it is still NOT reported FMC.

    Or, a vehicle with a stuck transfer case (e.g. can't be shifted into "low") can be put on "circle x" status for a one time drive to higher level maintenance facilities. Upon arrival, the status would immediately be changed to "x".

    However, the vehicle cannot be reported as FMC, and the "circle x" condition must be recorded in the equipment log book, thus alerting the operator to the limitations.

    Based on operational considerations, a "circle x" can be considered FMC for reporting purposes IF the fault is not anticipated to impact normally anticipated unit operations. Such determinations are made at echelons well above small unit command. For example, a fault that precluded instrument flight did not necessarily make a helo NFMC for reporting purposes in Viet Nam, as instrumented flight was a remote possibility. Thus, USMACV waived this type of fault, to a certain degree, and IIRC, allowed a max % of a given fleet, but not all, to be reported FMC even with limitations on instrumented flight.

    I once flew a Chinook to Saigon for evacuation to the US for scheduled major overhaul that had 25 or 30 "circle x - one time flight" conditions. We used numerous good components from it to replace failed and time limit expiring components on other ships, and put those failed components on the turn-in ship. The crew chief joked about having to make a set of 25 to 30 entries in the log book redefining every one of the "circle x" entries to "x" upon arriving at Tan Son Nut, describing his job as a "secretary", not a crew chief.

    As one mentor pointed out, a commander can lie about FMC rates, or circle "x's" to his heart's content, but the log book is the final line of safety for the operator. A "circle x" must explicitly state the fault and allowed limitations. I don't know about current practice, but on my watch, an "x" froze the records until properly disposed of, either by correction to fully operational, or reduction to "circle x" with stated operational limits. And, it is the operator or inspecting mechanic that enters the "x", not the commander.

  7. Back to jim's point. Unfortunately, "pencil whipping" for harder to detect lies, such as attendance at training, is an age old issue, and sadly, the OER system leaves room for punishing ethical behavior without saying that is what a commander is doing. While it is no consolation, jim, the Army does not have a patent on this. It occurs in the corporate world, and before you say corporations do not deal in "life or death", I would add that "pencil whipping" airline pilot qualifications is not unheard of, and "whistleblowers" in the civilian world do not fare well.

    Once, while doing a services suitability survey at a civilian airfield under consideration for fuel support to the Presidential Flight Detachment helos on a one time basis, I found that a fuel handler had recently been fired "for absenteeism" shortly after exposing that his supervisor was pencil whipping daily fuel quality assurance test results. The supervisor was simply making records of acceptable data every day for all of the fuel trucks, to include one that was in a repair shop for a month. A friend of the fired employee pulled me aside and told me in confidence. So, when I reviewed the firm's records, sure enough, there was an awkward and unexplained gap in the record resulting from removing the sheets with the bogus data. Rather than get involved in their issues, I simply did not certify them due to "inadequate record keeping".

  8. Thanks for the clarification, Al. It's been a long time since I held a 2404, and my memory of how the various faults and deficiencies were reported and dealt with was hazy.

    And I'll second you on the whole business of "who does this". The armed services are not alone and all you have to do is look around at the latest news to discover all sorts of people in private business doing everything from "lying by omission" - like the fertilizer plant in West, Texas did by just not bothering to mention they had what amounted to a big ol' ANFO bomb sitting around their plant - to flat-out, bold-face lying-type lying about everything from safety conditions to remediation to qualification of their employees.

    And I should note that anyone who questions this is immediately denounced by a certain subset of the U.S. political scenery as "anti-business" - thus ensuring that this pencil-whipping sort of lying remains not just unpunished but encouraged.

  9. FYI, Aviator and Chief,

    This was a heavy artillery unit so we spent most of our work days in the motor pools. I'm not talking about circle x faults, I'm talking about the vehicle does not move, but it can still shoot or it cannot shoot but it can move somehow being NNMC 'cause you know' we'd have to fix it right away!

    Additionally, this was Korea and the whole "Fight tonight" attitude was prevalent but ignored in reality.

    Ultimately, that a 2LT gets dinged up for this is the failure. Where was your commander, Jim? Why wasn't he running interference between you and Majors and LTCs? To me, that's the true failure. Relying on 2LTs to be moral compasses is a dumb idea because they don't have the power to back up their integrity.

    1. "Ultimately, that a 2LT gets dinged up for this is the failure. Where was your commander, Jim? "

      Becoming a Major and then a LTC by making sure that some dumb 2LT either got slammed for lying, or got slammed for not lying.

  10. Note that there is a big difference between military and civilian careers: lack of portability!

    If the military, if you lose your career because you are unlucky enough to have a dishonest superior, that is pretty much it. In civilian life there is no single personnel record that haunts you forever. You can usually change employers without loss of career. In fact, changing employers is almost mandatory to advance in many careers.

    This difference affects a *lot* of attitudes.

  11. Actually, the info available in a "verification of employment" can haunt you forever. Five little pieces of data: Start date, end date, starting pay, ending pay and "Eligible for re-hire?". A "No" to that final question is a red star cluster that is difficult to ignore, and unless the applicant is totally irresistible otherwise, usually is a game stopper that will not merit further investigation.

    Man's inhumanity to man. Makes countless thousands mourn! --Robert Burns

  12. I have a different take on this. Went through my disillusioning experience as a Marine Corps Private in 1975 . . . after bootcamp went out into the Fleet for MOS training being just a humble reservist as I was . . . there the absurdities were overwhelming and it quickly became apparent that any idealism would simply mark you as someone who could be preyed upon . . . so I became a cynic before I was 19 under the conditions of that time and place.

    Let me add that imo Infantry battalion commanders seemed to fall into three broad categories: psychopaths, "generals" and Dads . . . not excluding any mix of the three types. I think the first two are self-explanatory. Dads were those honest, competent, committed and respected officers one would do anything for and their character set the tone and moral conditions for the entire battalion, ditto of course with psychopaths and "generals" . . . This would cover the commander's direct influence from a strategic theory perspective . . . it's CvC btw.

    Finally there is the nature of the military itself which is about the projection of power, organized (potential at the least) violence and constant "friction". "Honor" in this context is always going to be at a disadvantage in this environment (especially with two of the types of Bn cmdrs mentioned above) and will probably only come to the fore after the fact . . .

  13. PFK,
    My Co Cdr was a reserve 1LT only looking to get thru his tour in europe without being levied for RVN. He did whatever and whenever according to the Bn Cdr.
    He years later told me that the Bn Cdr told him to max me out on my oer(negatively of course) but he would not go on record and put this in writing.

  14. seydlitz,
    One of the things that i've noticied is that exceptional soldiers give exceptional oers, and poor O's give poor oer's.
    I was in the Army for 2 years before a field grade officer ever talked to me as a man rather than as something of derision.
    AS a Co Cdr my Bn Cdr gave me full faith and confidence.
    My point is that yelling is a form of leadership in the infantry and true leaders are in the minority.

  15. jim-

    Agree. I would only add that my enlisted reserve service circa 1975 hopelessly influenced what active service as an officer (both uniformed and civilian) I later experienced . . .

    Nice thread . . .

  16. In the late Nineties and early Oughts my ARNG FA unit was badly understrength; typically a gun battery (authorized 6 M119A1 105mm gun systems) would field anywhere from three full crews and part of a fourth to two crews with the second short a spare number or two. My FDC, which was authorized 8 pax (1 FDO, 1 Chief, 2 computers (BCS operators), 4 13C fire direction specialists) ran with anywhere between 5 and 7; luckily we were usually only short snuffies.

    The rest of the battalion was about the same. You can imagine the effect this had on training.

    Typically a section going into annual training had about 2/3rds "P"'s on their collective tasks (meaning that they were trained in the task but not up to army standards for either time, execution, or both). The remaining third were equally divided between "T"s (trained to standard) and "U"s (nowhere close).

    This pretty much reflected the problems with time and strength; we couldn't train on all the METL tasks, so we had to prioritize the most critical and train hard on those. The "important but not critical" got hit every couple of months or so. The "this would be good to know but it takes time/troops/equipment we don't have" would get backfiled.

    Every time we went to AT the RA training group would go totally bugshit about this. Why weren't we trained to standard!?! Why did we have so many "P"s and "U"s????

    Regardless, they'd start us off at combat speed the first day in the field. Unsurprisingly, the unit was fucked up like a football bat. After the screaming died down the RA types called the unit together for an After-Action Review. They asked everybody to talk about what went right, what went wrong, and what we could do about that. They were deadly serious and seriously assed-up about that.

    When they came to my section, I just said "Look. We're fucked up right now. Right now it's kinda like how you know that sometimes "the bear gets you"? Well, right now the bear just kinda pulls our t-shirt over our heads and pokes us up the ass until our eyes pop out of our skull.

    We need to accept that and move on. Everybody is basically re-learning half of this shit and learning how to do the other half BOTH quick and accurate. Most of what we need is just time to do this over and over again. We'll get it, we've done it before, just let's quick dicking around and train."

    My FDO laughed, my section grinned and, sure enough, within a week we were processing every damn mission from battery adjust to battalion TOT and coordinated illumination within Army standard times. By the end of the AT we were shooting well under the standard mission times (and any grunt will tell you that arty needs to be not just accurate but FAST on target...)

    But my battalion highers were PISSED. By God, I wasn't taking this seriously enough! I was blowing off the RA evaluators' concerns! I was pulled off to the side and told that from then on I would NOT say anything at AARs unless I had a positive comment to make.

    It wasn't worth fighting over. But, damn, people; YOU should have known better than anyone else what shape your own people were in. All I did was SAY it. It you thought that somehow not mentioning that the unit was fucked up meant that the RA guys wouldn't see it was fucked up..?

  17. Sometimes, ignorance of the "system" leads to less than desired results. For example, while serving as Chief of Collective Training at 4th Army, I noted that NG MEDEVAC units had the UH-1V, while USAR MEDEVAC units were still flying UH-1H's. Besides some better avionics and a higher capacity eletrical system, the V also had a rescue hoist. The USAR units were locally modifying their H models to add some of the better avionics, but were totally unable to successfully requisition hoists. And, of course, an H could not really be made a V at the local level.

    So, since one of the NG State Aviation Officers in the area was a friend from flight school, I asked him how the NG had the high speed suck to get V Models, but not the USAR. His response, "Is the USAR reporting their H Models as "acceptable substitutes" on the their Unit Status Reports to raise their "C" rating? If so, the system is not showing a shortfall of V models in deployable units. You don't requisition a V Model, the Army programs conversions of H models going through depot maintenance to meet deployable unit needs. Took my state two years of declaring our MEDEVAC unit C-4 for equipment shortage, but it got us V Models. The Guard Bureau made it clear that we were to do this."

    Next stop was a call to a buddy in the UH-1 Program Manager Office. Yup, programming and budgeting for conversions to V Models came from the USR system in response to identified shortfalls in "Equipment Readiness".

    Well, a quick check of USRs showed that the three USAR MEDEVAC units in the 4th Army area were reporting their H Models as "acceptable substitutes" for the "V". Self inflicted wound. However, trying to convince the two ARCOM Commanders to allow their MEDEVAC units to be rated "C-4" with appropriate explanatory remarks was no easy task.

  18. To PFK,
    Re; your cmt about my Co Cdr kept me awake thinking about it.
    I don't fault him.The problem is that i was too inexperienced to even know that i was being executed in the career sense.
    I could have fought if i only knew. A few years later my Bde Cdr told me that he questioned my oer as the senior rater because he thought me to be a fine young officer. The BN Cdr confirmed orally that i was a shit bird.There was not one ounce of objectivity in my report and the fact that there wasn't anything positive should raise a flag.
    But it didn't because i was too inexperienced to save myself.
    I moved to Div g3 and worked for GS Meloy and he wrote that i was one of the finest young officers in the division. In my killer oer i was rated as a 5 for written expression , and at g3 level i wrote the division marksmanship regulation.When it came time to be involuntarily separated the oer trumped every thing that i ever did.
    I just didn't know, and it doesn't matter since i came and went, but this stuff is still a fact of young O's lives.If this is doubted pls read my essay on Cpt Swenson, or the Purple Heart mag coverage there of.My battle analysis on RAW also reflect this fact.

  19. jim-

    I am assuming you were RIFed versus twice passed over. Is that correct?

    The Post VN RIFs were a cluster screw. The Army had no way to identify the lowest performing officers in the numbers to be RIFed. A buddy of mine was at Engineer Branch during the RIFs. If a branch had to cut 2,000 career status CPTs, the branch had to forward about 2,500 officer records to the RIF Board, so that it didn't look like the Branches were making the RIF selections. The Branches simply looked for anything that could be an "excuse" for being RIFed. My buddy said that over 90% of all Infantry CPTs were rated in the 92nd percentile or higher, so percentile rating on OERs was useless.

    At least one branch put records forward of what they thought were excellent candidates for the target number to be RIFed, and then used the records of much better rated officers to make up the difference between their required RIF number and the total number of records required to go forward for consideration. They figured this would guarantee that the "real" RIF candidates were indeed RIFed. Such to their surprise, a fair number of CPTs they really didn't want RIFed were indeed RIFed. Obviously, the Boards and the Branches had different ideas of who should stay and who should go. And there was no way the Branches could go on record that they were trying to stack the deck. Some records went forward solely on non-official info that was not in the records seen by the board, such as an argument with your assignments officer. The Boards knew the records were allegedly the lowest rated in the year group and assumed the records came forward for good reason, and thus, often read more into an officer's record looking for the "reason" the record was sent forward.

    The point is, there was no way RIF boards could review every last CPT in the Army to pick the "best candidates" for being RIFed. Thus, an OER that could be overcome in terms of promotion boards was easily a "killer" in the RIFs. Also, whereas a successfully appealed OER that caused a passover would result in being considered again by a standby promotion board, no such avenue existed for someone who was RIFed.

    It was not a time of sterling performance by the Army's Officer Personnel Management System.

  20. "I asked him how the NG had the high speed suck to get V Models, but not the USAR."

    My experience in both leads me to suspect that there might have been an element of command pressure involved.

    During my USAR service in the late Eighties and early Nineties the USAR was very much the poor stepchild of the RA. Because it was a "federal" branch of the service it was completely dependant on DA for its needs, and DA seemed to pretty much care less, so the USAR tended to get the last and the least.

    The ARMG, on the other hand, had a powerful sugar daddy in the National Guard Bureau as well as being a pretty sweet way to shike federal cash for the various states. The Guard tended to get a sweeter deal - particularly in handouts for large facilities - than the USAR in a given region.

    In Oregon the State Guard HQ as well as many of the Armories were upgraded or replaced in the Ninties and Oughts while the USAR was still drilling in the old USAR centers built in the Fifties and Sixties. The money spent on the ORARNG maintenance facility at Camp Withycome would have made my old RA maintenance sergeant weep.

    So perhaps it was a reflection of the USAR helo unit getting command pressure to STFU and go along so as not to cost DA any money..?

  21. Chief: "So perhaps it was a reflection of the USAR helo unit getting command pressure to STFU and go along so as not to cost DA any money..?"

    The money was not an issue. It was paranoia over declaring a unit C-4 when there was a way to be C-3 or higher. That commanders were not in any way "responsible" for a C-4 based on equipment shortfall didn't compute in the USAR mindset. Point was, in case of mobilization, these units could be quickly upgraded to C-3 or higher by a pen stroke. The UH-1H was a reasonable substitute, even if not optimal.

    Now, the Guard Bureau was a factor, of course. Their Aviation Directorate knew what needed to be done to get DA to program their MEDEVAC birds through conversion. There was no equivalent office for the USAR, but rather a bunch of individual fiefdoms at the ARCOM level, and two star Reservists whining, "But I would have to carry them at C-4, just to get hoists? That will reflect on my ARCOM's readiness rates. The book says we can declare the H Model as an acceptable substitute."

  22. So it sounds like it was a sort of perfect collision of organizational politics and leverage. Yep; sounds like the Reserve components I knew and loved...

  23. Aviator,
    i was RA .
    i can't say the words.

  24. jim- I knew you were RA, but there was one post Viet Nam RA RIF as a result of Congress passing special legislation because of the depth of the cuts in officer strength.

    Not trying to pry in your personal affairs, but the officer personnel management system was in serious disarray at the time. Since the RIFs were "quantitative", not "qualitative", there was no recourse for those selected out. Sadly, that's why the Army chose a "quantitative" tool.

    You might also remember that in 1975, several promotion boards for temporary officer promotions were incorrectly constituted, and the result was the infamous "Re-Look" Boards in 1977 that selected a fair number of passed over officers for promotion, and passed over an equal number of officers originally selected for promotion. Of course, no one lost their promotion via Re-Look, but it did raise questions about the selection process in general.

  25. Al,
    This is not prying or personal.
    Whether qual or quan the product was the same. The boards both rif or promo were tools for the reductions to be implemented.
    At the time Benning had a high suicide rate and i actually saw infy officers crying.But u know all that,but the taxpayers are unaware or unconcerned.We served faithfully and ended up on the street.
    Now for quan. the DA rep told me that my 2LT oer of this essay was what got me. Man what mealy mouth stuff that is.
    If i was so bad then they should have taken my commission the day the report was issued. In some Armies they would have shot me if i was that deficient.
    I had an associate that beat the rif b/c his rif board was improperly constituted. His name was Maj. Tommy Poole, one of the finest rifleman and a national level shooter. He's the only one i ever heard getting recalled.
    Thanks for your comments.

  26. Al,
    I didn't ans your question.
    I was a passover.
    It's still hard for me to say the words.

  27. Al,
    I reckon i might as well get personal.
    Back then when a guy got a letter of being invol separated the entire brotherhood of officers avoided and pretended that the O in question was no longer worth talking to or associating with.
    Then when u get to trying to get a Reserve assignment most units didn't want you b/c '"they wanted to give 03 slots to their faithful members who did everything in their power to avoid AD during wartime.
    Now here's the cute part, and i still don't understand the logic or the inequality. My DOR started over when i was recommissioned in the USAR. They turned my 03 speedometer back to zero,so i stayed a CPT for 12 1/2years. This was 51/2 active and 7 reserve before i made 04.
    Then let me further remember that not one officer in the chain of command offered condolences or said good bye or even bothered to tell me to fuck off and die before i signed out with my letter in hand.
    Yeah,i believe in leadership and loyalty and all that stuff.
    This is not said with any hostility to your question of passover.
    It was a fair question to my essay.

  28. jim

    I remember the phenomenon of shunning RIFs and passovers back then quite well. Made no sense to me.

    As to the RC's reception of people from AD at the time, I had a buddy that was a UH-1 Instructor pilot (IP) who ETSed and joined the NG. They would not make him an aircraft commander until he had 250 hours "Guard experience"! He was the first VN Vet to join that unit, and had over 1,500 hours more Huey time than the unit IP.

  29. Here is this veteran's M-3 story (the M-3 and the 1911, by the way, were the small arms kept inside an M48, the M-3 widely thought by tankers to be a real POS).

    I got drafted out of grad school in 1969. I swam in college, and was in pretty good physical shape when I started BCT. Early on we were timed in the low crawl, and we had to attempt the 100 bar monkey bar test. I figured the monkey bars would be a piece of cake, similar to some of the reps I had been doing in swimming.

    To my considerable surprise I failed the monkey bars miserably, because , it turned out, the bars were set loose so they rotated, and you couldn't swing to the next one. The low crawl was timed in a sand pit with soft fluffy sand which made your time very slow.

    Fast forward to BCT graduation. We went out to be tested again, but this time we went to a different site. The bars were fixed, I rolled through all of them without breathing hard, and the new low crawl pit was packed earth with slick canvas stretched over so that every trainee flew across it.

    And everybody in the training unit had to know that the results were phoney.

    I didn't get dinged the way Ranger did, but I figured it out pretty quick.

  30. Walter-

    Brings back a memory of Warrant Officer Flight School. There we were, just "graduated" from Pre-Flight Training and moving in to new barracks in a "Flight Company". We had to low crawl, in khakis, across the parade field to the barracks building. Then we were called to formation and inspected. Obviously, each of us received enough demerits to preclude being able to leave the company area for the next two weeks, not to mention the hours of "punishment tours" (marching back and forth across the parade ground in "off duty hours") involved. As my roomie put it, optimistically, it did ensure we spent time in our studies.

  31. Walter,
    My memory came to life when i saw the cartoon that leads this essay.
    The soldier is carrying a grease gun.

  32. From 1968 into the the first half of the 70's, Army promotion to MAJ (AUS) was a complete circus. First off, there weren't enough MAJs, so time in grade to MAJ was reduced and selection rates to MAJ were damn close to 100%. Even that didn't produce enough MAJs, so there were two promotion boards convened about 10 months apart. This caused an interesting situation, as the few CPTs passed over twice as a result of these two boards were not released from active duty, as the two passovers had to be at least 12 months apart.

    Then the drawdown began, and the backlog of CPTs selected for promotion was so great that no board was convened for 2 1/2 years! That still couldn't address the glut, so selection rates were lowered to force more CPTs out.

    Why the Army didn't just fill MAJ billets with CPTs, rather than accelerating the promotion process is a mystery. By 1970, it was clear that a significant downsizing was in the cards, yet accessions and promotions were moving at a breakneck pace. Our CG at Ft Wolters, who arrived following time at DCSPER, hypothesized that Westmoreland, who pushed through the acceleration of promotions, felt that increased rank and pay would be a just reward for the "inconvenience" of Viet Nam.

    Also, Westy really though that given the "proper training", you could produce "instant" anything. Thus, just as we suffered "Shake and Bake NCOs", we had a similar dilution of experience in CPTs and then MAJs. 70 Colonels were sent to flight school to address a shortfall in O-6 Aviators! Three generals were given the equivalent of "correspondence course Flight School" to make them "qualified" to command the two Airmobile Divisions. They received 80 hours of training by a local Flight Instructor (versus the 210 hours required for non-flag officers) to qualify to fly strictly in co-pilot status. Westy received Aviator Wings the same way during his "Free Time" as CSA. One "Instant Aviator General" died in a totally senseless mishap in VN, flying co-pilot with his Aide, a recent flight school grad.

    Westy did more damage to the Army than just his performance in VN.