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!
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