Military leadership 101: Set the standard

Politicizing the military chain of command continued full-throttle with today’s Senate Armed Forces Committee grilling of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the recent spate of high-profile sexual assault cases.  (Reuters report here).  The most idiotic comment came from Senator Kristen Gillibrand, from New York, who stated, ““Not every commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and rape.”   The political solution that Gillibrand proposes adds a layer of bureaucracy between commanders and their troops – a special third-party entity to handle sexual harassment and sexual assault issues.  This will further erode trust between soldiers and their chain of command.  This smells like one more effort to turn the military into a politicized social engineering project of the left-wing politicos.  

As a female in the Army decades ago (circa 1980), I was sent to a Pershing missile unit, as I’ve mentioned before.  My battalion had less than 100 women and around 1,ooo men.  The Army back then had a pretty bad drug problem in Europe too, so things were a little rough.  Since this in my blog, I’m going to speak the truth.  I love the Army and I learned so many important lessons that have carried me through life and truly taught me how to face challenges head-on.  The integration of women into the military rates as a mixed bag of results.  One of my sisters completed a very successful career in the Air Force and she never experienced anything remotely what I did when I arrived to my Pershing unit.  Each service grappled with how to integrate women into the ranks amidst a great deal of politicized decision-making , where actual military excellence has always taken a backseat to the feminist-driven objectives.   Many women do excel in the military and certainly our military benefits from having as many of our best and brightest young people serving in uniform, so I’m not against women in the military.  What I’m going to say, is my opinion, based on my own personal experiences and observations – not some poll or what someone else said.  I’m going to speak about the real life problems that persist by integration being about politics, not what’s best for the mission or the soldiers.  It’s the real life proverbial elephant in the middle of the room that no male soldier dare speak about

In an earlier post I sort of tongue-in-cheek referred to my experiences in a battalion with so many men and so few women as the best diversionary tactics training in the world and you know what, it really was!  The minute I arrived at my battery, men started swarming around me and I guess the most accurate description would be, they were talking a lot of shit.  Yes, men talk a lot of shit, that’s a fact.  A young man grabbed my arm and I grabbed him by his shirt and slammed him against the wall and told him, “Don’t touch me!”   The other guys started laughing and talking more shit, but not a single one of them ever touched me again and the one who did grab my arm became a friend.  A female sergeant walked me down the sidewalk, past the next battery and on to the end of the parade field (those German kasernes usually have central parade field with the barracks arranged around the perimeter) .  The men were hanging out of the windows screaming vulgar things at me and the female sergeant told me not to look up and to just keep walking.  We went and retrieved my TA50 (field gear) and then she marched me back to my battery.  I was very scared my first few weeks there.

I have always felt thankful I was assigned to a battery with a good battery commander and an outstanding first sergeant.  My first sergeant (in the Army he’s called Top) was a Special Forces Vietnam vet, who taught me how to be a soldier.  The first time I met him, I was standing in front of his desk and he asked me where I was from and he looked me up and down and said, “Young lady, you don’t belong here!”  He was at a loss with how to deal with women, but he assigned us tasks, just like the men, and one thing I learned very quickly with him was if you worked hard and did what you were supposed to, he made sure to praise your efforts.  After several months there, some commander decided they should have a female M60 gunner to impress the NATO evaluators who observed many of our field training exercises.  Top picked me to be a machine gunner.  And the morning he told me that  I was going to become a machine gunner, this cocky infantry sergeant (Mr Hotshot 82nd paratrooper) said, “Top, girls can’t be machine gunners!”  Top told him, “Sergeant, you’re going to train her!”  So, I became a machine gunner and that sergeant took me to the range and as many times as I said, “I can’t do this” and I told him, “I’m scared of guns!”  He told me, “the mind controls the body, the body does not control the mind!”  Well, I learned.  Top made sure I learned a lot of other stuff when we went to the field too and to this day, I rank him as one of a handful of men whom I respect the most.  That cocky sergeant later became my husband.

Now, what kind of stuff happens when you’ve got so few young women and so many men – lots of drama and the men would make comments about why most of these women were pregnant and the rest were lesbians, totally oblivious to their roles in events.  Here’s another thing that seems to be part of the male mindset – they divide women into categories and treat them accordingly.  I behaved like a lady and was treated respectfully.  Once a few men determined I was a “nice little country girl”,  they insured other men treated me respectfully.  Men do some sort of internal policing from what I observed.  A typical occurrence would be some man would say something vulgar to me and other men would jump in and tell him that he couldn’t talk to me like that.  I quickly had many men “protecting” me and I felt safe almost anywhere on post.   I observed that many young women arrived there and went to the club and got into bad situations quickly, because men perceived them to be sluts.  Men really do divide women into groups.   One friend of mine was a young woman, who arrived at the same time I did, and she got involved in a few abusive relationships with men and after several months, she joined what I referred to as the “lesbian alliance” – it sure seemed more like a safe sex group from my viewpoint than it seemed to be about some heartfelt “sexual orientation”.  I asked this young woman why she decided to become a lesbian and she told me about her bad experiences with men and how this was safe sex and she didn’t have to worry about being beat up.

Army experiences can vary even in the same battalion and the biggest difference is in the quality of your chain of command.  I felt very fortunate to be in a battery with good order and discipline.  The friend mentioned in the previous paragraph ended up in a battery where there seemed to be little order or discipline and we had a couple of batteries like that in our battalion – in fact, I dreaded even walking into those batteries in broad daylight and going to the orderly room for official  business.  I sure wouldn’t have walked in there after duty hours.  I had another female friend who lived in a battery where the standards weren’t like in my battery.  Top had the female soldiers on the first floor with a female CQ at our end of the hallway and there was a male CQ down by the orderly room.  I felt safe in my room.  Now, this female friend, her first sergeant stuck the women on the top floor with only an unlocked door and a female CQ sitting there.  I walked up to her room only one time by myself and after that I always had a male friend with me.  You don’t ever want to get cornered on a stairwell.   My female friend who lived there was barely 5 feet tall and I bet she didn’t even weigh 100 lbs and she had to walk up that stairwell several times a day and sleep knowing only one female soldier was guarding her from a battery of men (many who used drugs and got drunk frequently).  As an aside, most of the females I met were from blue-collar or below backgrounds.  They weren’t the Hillary Clinton “experts” on women’s issues, but their very personal safety was impacted by these feminist harpies, who continue to push their idiotic feminist agenda on the military.

We had an old school battalion commander and since my public affairs job had me in close contact with the command group, I got to know the entire command group well.  My battalion commander took me along with him for many German/American events and he treated his driver and me fantastic.  He spoke fluent German,  could explain German history as well as he could military history and I loved listening to him explain things.  I had a battalion executive officer, who was a whiz at explaining how Pershing missiles actually worked and he could explain our entire nuclear posture in simple terms, where it all made sense.  I liked talking to him too.  My battalion commander nicknamed me, Fraulein Wunderbar, and he hadn’t quite grasped the female soldier thing.  He always stood up when I walked in his office and one time he had some young officers in there and he told them, “you stand up when a lady enters the room!”.  He made one of them give me his seat.  One time I had to travel with him to a Combat Alert Site, where the firing battery had been there a long time.  He had his driver stop at a nearby village and he bought us dinner in a nice German guesthouse.  When we were ready to leave he handed me over to a German lady and he told me that I was staying in this German guesthouse for the night and he would have his driver pick me up in the morning.  I told him I would be fine at the CAS site and he said, “I wouldn’t dream of having you stay there, those men have been out there for 3 months!”  He treated me like he would treat his daughter.  However, the gap in this is each of those firing batteries had a handful or so of female soldiers, so one can only imagine how they fared.  I can say that I never saw any female soldiers who were physically strong enough to be a Pershing missile crewman, but the Army had them.

I learned to handle a machine gun, but was I strong enough, if I had to pick up that machine gun and move quickly with it – hell, no!.  Yet, I could max the female PT test.  Therein lies the main rub with all this integration hoopla – the feminist harpies in political circles want women in every job in the military, yet they possess not a lick of understanding about these jobs or about unit cohesion, or about how we fight or how to win wars.  All they care about is their lame feminist agenda and waxing on about smashing glass ceilings.  There are females in the military like this too – totally centered on being the “first female” this or that – with no regard for the big picture – how their feminist agenda affects the whole team.  No one ever speaks honestly about the problems of women serving in positions where there are two different sets of physical standards for the same job, yet everyone has to pretend there aren’t.  No male commander can mention how pregnancy in actual deployments creates a gap in mission performance, nor can he impose any sensible policies for fear of the feminist harpies who monitor women in the military issues.  (ABC news story of one such attempt)

When we went on field training exercises, I spent many hours being a perimeter guard and I slept in a two-man tent with my machine gun partner, who luckily for me was a young man whom I could trust and who never said a single inappropriate comment to me.   So, when he was sleeping, I was on guard duty and the thing these feminist harpies fail to realize is their idiotic decisions could cause someone’s death in real war.  When we went to the field they used the few infantry soldiers we had to play the opposing force.  One young infantry sergeant would toss a stone near my guard position at night and whisper my name (he always approached from in front of my position).  He would come sit a few minutes and talk, then he’d head back to be the opposing force.  Now, that cocky 82nd sergeant, he’d approach my guard position from behind me, which meant he already had breached our perimeter.  He would often whisper my name in the dark too and then he would come over and he always checked that machine gun first to make sure I had it set up properly, then he asked me if I remembered this and that and after that he would sit a few minutes and talk.  He would then say, “Okay, back to fighting the war.” and he’d head back into the dark.    I always heard the young infantry sergeant long before he tossed a stone, but that 82nd sergeant, well most of the time I didn’t hear him until he whispered my name and by then he was close enough to take me out.  I would sit there in the dark after he left, telling myself, “I jeopardized our mission again!”  And I would try harder, but I thought about if we were at war against the Soviets – any Soviet infantryman could have killed me in a  heartbeat if it came to one on one fighting and I would think about my partner sleeping a few feet away and his life would have been at risk too.  I always knew that no matter how much I trained, the physical advantage was on the man’s side.  Smart armies should want the strongest men to be infantry soldiers – they best fit the mission.

The answer to the sexual assault and rape problems isn’t to get Congress involved or to have more sensitivity training.  The solution is to train better leaders in the ranks – we need to get back to basics and away from all this politicized claptrap and turning the military into a political correctness experiment.  Back to good order and discipline, back to treating soldiers fairly and consistently, back to focusing on setting high standards.  And most of all we need to decide all missions based on what best fits the mission ( in some cases that will mean men perform those missions) !

And here’s the truth about women and men, we need to get back to teaching them to be ladies and gentlemen, especially in the officer ranks.  Teaching respect at every level in the military will set the standard, so that every soldier will have confidence in the chain of command again.

6 Comments

Filed under Culture Wars, Military, Politics

6 responses to “Military leadership 101: Set the standard

  1. Don Kaag

    Ms. Belle, you rock. You nailed it. The name of the game is good leadership, first, last and always. And you lead by example. My military career pattern is odd. I did 4 years as an enlisted Marine, finishing up as a combat-seasoned sergeant. I then did college and returned as a Marine officer, a “Mustang” like my father. After another 4 years as a Marine officer I got out, got talked into the National Guard to command an Armor company, and was so good at it the Senior Army Adviser of the State AG, a full colonel who had become a friend and mentor, recommended that I apply for full-time active duty as an Army Armor officer, which I did. I retired as a lieutenant colonel with 22 years in. There are too many officers in the Army—careerists rather than professionals—just getting their tickets punched, and the “old boy network” and the WPA ensure that they advance regardless of their leadership skills or lack thereof. The same applies to many NCOs. I have been a proponent of women in the military since before it was popular, but I understand the physical limitations involved and agree that women should only be assigned to those positions in which they have a chance to excel and add to rather than detract from combat readiness. Upper body strength is a major determinant. Leadership, leadership, leadership. Good on you, Mate!

  2. Thanks, You’ve had broad experience leading and see the obvious solution to this problem, but in Congress they sure seem clueless to how a military functions. These politicians will hire more social engineers to develop more sensitivity training and more avenues “to report” abuse, undercutting the chain of command’s ability to lead. The military already has open door policies and many avenues to bypass the chain of command if that’s the source of the harassment or sexual misconduct. A sad trend I’ve noticed in recent years is the military keeps trying to water down standards across the board to accommodate diversity and other PC agendas rather than raising them to bolster unit cohesion and stronger leadership objectives. Just the total breakdown in situations like that Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse and watching that female commander hit the airwaves to save herself, rather than taking responsibility, because she was in charge (whether she knew or not – it happened on her watch) and the lack of leadership allowed for such flagrant, widespread prisoner abuse to occur. And other instances of serious debauched behavior that have been reported in recent years leaves me wondering about the quality of leadership. General McCrystal, supposedly a military genius, not only formulated a ludicrous strategy that defined success in terms more fitting to an Oprah episode than to a military mission (really, no “take that hill” type objective – just win their hearts and minds) and more alarmingly, he couldn’t even maintain good order and discipline among his own staff. I remember in the old days, we were told not to talk to reporters and in Pershing everything we released had to be cleared through the chain of command. Now, we’ve got troops posting everything on YouTube and on social media websites and no one seems to care about operational security. GEN Casey was more concerned about protecting “diversity” goals than about the troops killed and injured at Fort Hood, GEN Petraeus showed a high degree of disregard for the trust placed in him and the list goes on and on. I’m still waiting for GEN Dempsey to disavow this new attack on Christians in the military, but so far he’s willing to carry water for the leftist loons in the Obama administration rather than stand up for traditional military values.

  3. JimC

    Nicely done. i joined an Army that had a WAC unit at Fort Carson and frankly that was the way to go. You are 100% right in your assessment of the feminist agenda. I commanded women and fortunately had no issues with harassment. My male soldiers were safe to be around but cut the women no slack.

    • Thanks for you comment. I appreciate hearing other perspectives on this issue. In real life, military men are very cautious about speaking candidly about the women in the military issues.

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