Skip to comments.Poster-boy losers: David Hackworth whacks military's inexperienced 'Perfumed Princes'
Posted on 03/27/2002 7:05:44 PM PST by JohnHuang2
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the guy who saved our nation during the Civil War, probably wouldn't make major in today's Army. He was mule-skinner abrasive, enjoyed his sauce and wasn't exactly what you'd call a pretty face.
Today most generals and admirals are highly attractive smooth talkers with some sort of master's degree and a Ph.D. in how to work the corridors of power.
But while these uniformed central-casting smoothies know how to schmooze for funds for their latest silver-bullet project, they unfortunately don't know how to fight guerrilla wars.
The Somali debacle, and now the recent major foul-up in Afghanistan, prove in spades that our warrior class has lost out to a professional-management culture that's virtually destroyed our armed forces, less the Marine Corps which is slowly veering in that direction as well.
Long before the first regular American soldier headed to Vietnam, the hardened vets who'd slugged it out on hundreds of killing fields knew the post-World War II ticket-punching personnel system was on its way toward destroying the leadership needed to win America's future wars.
Going, going, gone were the days when lieutenants like Frank Gunn stayed with a regiment from the first shot of the war until the last. Gunn led a platoon and company in Africa, was a major by '43 in Sicily, skippered a battalion in France the next year, and by the end of the war, at the ripe old age of 24, was commanding the storied 39th Regiment fighting across Germany. General Gunn, now retired, became skilled at his trade down in the mud with the soldiers he loved and would have died for and they, in turn, followed him to hell and back. Gunn never got caught up in the type of career management that produced the current lot of Perfumed Princes. He learned to soldier by listening to his old sergeants and being with the troops.
In Vietnam, officer leaders were churned almost as quickly as customers at Starbucks. Ticket-punching was in, and leading from the front was out. The Washington personnel chiefs' agenda was to use the war as a training vehicle for officers so they'd have blooded leadership when the big fight with the Soviets exploded.
Post-Vietnam studies concluded ticket-punching was a major cause of our failure, and that the personnel system desperately needed surgery. But nothing was done, and over the years the cancerous system disabled our senior officer corps and is now infecting our proud NCOs. Their foremost concern always used to be for the welfare of their troops and how sharply their unit was trained, not what kind of rating they got on a report. My First Sergeant in Italy took great pride in showing us 'cruits the chain scars from his time in a Georgia prison. But with his fifth-grade education, the old Top could still run a lean-and-mean company of soldiers.
Afghanistan was going just fine while the old-pro Special Forces sergeants, chiefs and captains were running the fight. But when Perfumed Princes like Maj. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck with his M.S. degree in exercise physiology (but no combat experience) and Pentagon punches such as director for politico-military affairs for global and multilateral issues (I kid you not) under his shiny general's belt took over the fighting with the conventional, non-mountain-trained 10th Division, our Army came away with that Vietnam Heartbreak Ridge look: high body count without many bodies and too many friendly casualties.
A fine sergeant in Kuwait says it all: "My generals worry about what kind of engraved Buck knives to buy to give as gifts to the foreign generals, do we have enough potpourri-scented Pledge to make sure our mahogany desks are dust-free, color ink for our laser printers, oh and let's not forget the staffers have to eat better than the rest of the Army, so we have to plan at least one big dinner function so the fat-cats can get fatter. I've seen these generals cancel a visit to troops training in the desert so they could drink coffee and have lunch with another general visiting from the War College. Where are their damn priorities?"
Good. I've read an article or two where Bill Gertz of the Washington Times talks about China's "princelings" in their military. A princeling is a politically-connected military officer that is on the promotion fast-track, receives a paycheck that is normally for somebody 3 or 4 paygrades higher, is utterly clueless about military matters, and can do know wrong.
The U.S. military has its own share of princelings and it is disgusting. And, their utter fear of sexual discrimination accusations has caused the military to promote female officers that are blindingly incompetent into command billets. In today's military, it is automatically sexual discrimination if a woman is passed over for promotion.
It must be a few people like this guy:
But when Perfumed Princes like Maj. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck with his M.S. degree in exercise physiology (but no combat experience) and Pentagon punches such as director for politico-military affairs for global and multilateral issues (I kid you not) under his shiny general's belt took over the fighting with the conventional, non-mountain-trained 10th Division, our Army came away with that Vietnam Heartbreak Ridge look: high body count without many bodies and too many friendly casualties.
When I was in the Marines, now some 15-20 years ago, I saw the system reward the "squared-away" buttkissers who worried more about polishing their brass and shining their shoes instead of excelling in the field, while the real leaders often got their careers sidetracked or even ruined over some slight infraction or offense.
I remember when Marines would be put up for meritorious promotions. Young privates first class or lance corporals would be put up for advanced promotion by their sergeants for outstanding work in the field. But invariably, the promotions would go to some clerk who worked inside, kept his uniform neatly pressed and knew all the answers to those nerdy questions that were always posed by the promotions board (made up of lieutenants and captains). Such as "What are the seven steps of treating a puncture wound?"
The Marines who worked out in the field would know exactly what to do and it wouldn't take the goofy seven steps outlined in the manual. But the admin dweeb typing up supply orders in an air-conditioned Quonset hut all day has time to study the manual and learn the "book" way of how to do things. But put a bleeding Marine in front of him and he'd probably panic and start rifling through drawers looking for a tourniquet while a field Marine was making a tourniquet on the spot by ripping his shirt.
Hack praises the performance of well-trained, well-led SF forces. It's the regulars, specifically 10th Mountain Division units which he accuses of screwing the pooch. And as for your assertion that "the era of bayonet charges is over," take it from one who knows: when the fighting gets close and desperate, you are back in the Stone Age. Bayonets, knives, fists and thumbs might be all you have, so you damned well better have the guts and skill to use them.
As this war continues, the perfumed princes... will fall to the wayside, replaced by true leaders and warriors. Just like they always have at the start of every one of our major conflicts.
I agree with you on this point. However, as you state, this painful process only plays out in major and protracted conflicts. The lambs can hide out while the lions fight the short wars. And they get a lot of people killed at the start...
To heck with the media. We better hope President Bush reads him and retires some of those perfumed princes.
She's been in the military since 1975 and is as battle-hardened as a sack of wet mush. Her list of Pentagon staff jobs sure is impressive! I'll bet the citation for her Legion of Merit medal is real impressive, too. Probably got it at the Pentagon for shining some General's shoes, cleaning his office, and keeping his paperwork organized above and beyond the call of duty.
That's today's military. If you're a good office b**ch, you can move right up that ladder!
Hagenbeck is Rambo compared to General Franks. God that guy is so afraid to utter a word that Rummy or Neville Powell won't like that he is constipated!
Why isn't Franks "In Theater?"
Lincoln wanted aggressivity (which was Lee's standout trait), and he found it in Grant. Took him 2-1/2 years to find him.....wonder if we have that long to shake the deadwood out?
Maxwell Taylor was the Army's in-house Whiz Kid in the 50's, brought back to be Chief of Staff IIRC by Kennedy, who reconstituted Franklin Roosevelt's "brain trust" by calling in all the rest of the Roosevelt-era Whiz Kids: Macnamara, Galbraith, Schlesinger, the Bundy brothers, various others.
I read a paper on varieties of human intelligence once that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, that documented how Harvard, even in the 40's and 50's, had created just the culture you describe, and which Hackworth vilifies, in which people were completely power-driven and whose most notable characteristics, as students, was that they sucked up infinitely more than regular college students to their professors. Roosevelt made this culture normative for the United States Government through the creation of the "brain trust" and its "whiz kid" protege's.
The upshot of the Atlantic Monthly article was that people who have problem-solving and creative intelligence, and people who are socially helpful and adept, all tend to get shoved aside by the power junkie/suckup types, who don't value cooperation (they compete instead) and don't value concrete results -- only differential, competitive "results" that put more daylight between them and their competitors. People like that aren't real leaders as much as they are self-absorbed schemers and power-seekers.
Notice how "Denny" is wearing jump wings? Why is it I suspect the jump school she went through had different standards than the one I went through in 1964? We started with 425 students (ALL male),and graduated 187 3 weeks later.
No,but there are times when it is the ONLY option. I know a man (Ola Mize) who won a MOH during the Korean War for attacking a Chinese force with a entrenching tool,killing several and chasing the rest off the top of the hill. He had fought them all night,moving from one position to another to fire machine guns at the enemy and tend to the wounded lying there. Even though he was wounded,he was the only man in his company still mobile. When he finally ran out of ammo just before dawn,he decided to go ahead and surrender rather than try to escape. He was going to do this because he could possibly help the wounded as a POW. When the Chinese started sticking bayonets into the wounded soldiers he had spent all night patching up and protecting,he went nuts and grabbed a entrenching tool and went after them.
Sean Hannity has him on his radio program occasionally.
Okay, here's the problem with Hack. Last time I checked, 10th Mountain did reasonably well in the Shah-i-kot battle, especially after adjusting from the surprises of the first 48 hours. I think that Hack is underestimating the ability of the junior leaders to learn from whatever went on there, and he's probably underestimating Hackenback as well.
I don't know why Franks isn't in theater. Probably should be: CENTCOM shouldn't be in Tampa, Florida, that's for damn sure.
Be Seeing You,
I offer the following, only as a further example of how long this policy has been going on and as a testament therefore of how long it will take to correct. I don't often share personal experience in public as example and do so now only to reinforce the position taken by the good Colonel.
In 1973 I was RIF'd (Reduction in Force) due to the cut backs in the Defense Budget. I was at the time a senior 1st Lt. with 3 years in grade, and ironically within 60 days in a Reserve Unit received my promotion to Captain from Washington. It seems that while the process for being let go from active duty was on going so was the promotion that had been sent forward by my Active Duty Battalion Commander.
Anyway when I was RIF'd it was at the end of 10 years active service; 5 1/2 enlisted (top rank E-5 Buck Sergeant) and the remainder commissioned after Viet Nam. I had 10 years of many special training courses to include NCO Academy, OCS, Special/Nuclear Weapons schooling, and to be honest a couple more I can't recall.
The only criteria for my release were three fold. A) I was an Reserve Officer (becoming Regular Army required a 4 year degree) and I was in an "over strength year group".
Trust me I was not alone. There were thousands just like me.
At the same time there were thousands of Ring Bingers (West Point graduates) that were begging to be realized prior to their 5 year commitment being completed and yet they could not even ask to be considered. I was so shocked to even learn I was being considered for the RIF, I called the Pentagon. I don't have a clue how I got through to him but spoke to a MAJ. GENERAL, who of course didn't know me from squat, but ascertained my Reserve/non degreed status and when I was commissioned and let me know I was ripe for involuntary release. He then went on, as to assure me that is wasn't due to the quality of my service only the three criteria listed. He further informed me there would be others much lower on the "order of merit" list that would not be considered for the draft. What a way to run an organization charged with the defense of the nation?
I can tell you also that my years enlisted and then as an NCO allowed me to gain the respect of the Non-Coms and EM working "with" me in my various assignments that our tasks were carried out with excellence. I owed all that to the absolute support and assistance from those same Non-coms in the main.
"He learned to soldier by listening to his old sergeants and being with the troops."
I have first hand knowledge that Colonel Hackworth absolutely knows what he is talking about. There are some great leaders in the Officer Corps today but they have to be so involved in "ticket punching" that much is lost in honing their ability to lead men into combat.
Not having been in during the Clinton years I can all but assure you that, in terms of principled and dedicated combat experience leaders wanting to conserve the actual combat effectiveness and readiness of the force did not make it to the top. Unfortunately as in most government agencies the "cream" stayed at the bottom (or quit) and the "suck asses" getting tickets punched made it to the top.
Remember the recent "Black Beret" fiasco and reasoning behind it? That is but one "small", albeit prime example of what Colonel Hackworth is talking about.
There was an old saying when I served that I am sure gained new meaning under Xlinton.
"If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance ... Baffle them with Bull $hit!"
10-4 on your right-on comments about "real combat situations." Hackworth knows the he big plus of this current war is we'll end up with Lieutenants and Captains having combat experience. Thank The Lord!
The 'bayonet charge' you refer to appears to have been replaced by a charge of a different name performed by special forces....and yet, their blood sheds just as easily as the bayonet charging infantryman.
..."As this war continues, the perfumed princes who rose to their positions by punching the right tickets, will fall to the wayside, replaced by true leaders and warriors. Just like they always have at the start of every one of our major conflicts"....
And at what cost....how many more men have to die or be seriously wounded before the perfumed ones fall away so the true warrior/leaders rise from the ashes?
I'm a female, never been in the service so I've never seen combat or even a make-believe combat scenario, but I believe this is what Colonel Hackworth is getting at......its the rank and file who are biting the dust while the strutting peacocks continue to preen...it seems his first concern is always with and for the men, as was great leaders like Gunn.
I can picture Gunn's men following him willingly through the gates of hell and back.....something I can't envision with the likes of a Wesley Clark.
This IS definitely Hackworths' point about what leadership has to be in managing true combat situations. My earlier point was - the importance of this current war has to do with Lieutenants and Captains getting REAL combat experience. That and our killing monsters, of course.
Yep, he sure does. The current conflicts where we have combat personnel (Columbia, Afghan, etc.) are true training for the ongoing guerrilla wars in front of us, IMHO.
Has it ever been different? I'm not saying that is the way things should be, but it is the way things always have been. I'm sure Hackworth isn't advocating putting Colonels and Generals on the frontlines. Can you imagine some 50+ year old man trying to keep up with a bunch of 20 year old special forces troops doing what they do best. Personally, the last place I want a commanding officer is anywhere near me in the heat of battle.
With regard to bayonets, I would be interested to know the recency of experience of anyone who still advocates a bayonet charge as a productive, useful tactic. For years our combat pilots were taught to ingress into a target area at low altitude. After all, that was the way we'd always done it. Nevermind the fact that we had developed technology that allowed even more precise bombing from higher altitudes outside the ranges of enemy air defenses. After we lost some great aircraft and even better pilots flying the old low altitude tactics in the Gulf War, we learned our lessons and shifted tactics to match the technology available. We've been kicking butt ever since, and haven't lost a man to enemy fire. It's not as dramatic as the old way, but it is a heck of a lot more effective. What's more important?