Members of the military must learn to connect with American civilians

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by LineInTheSand, Apr 1, 2013.

  1. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,747
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    Interesting article in the Washington Post. Kirby is the Navy's CHINFO.

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-27/opinions/38064765_1_air-shows-americans-veterans


    Rear Adm. John F. Kirby is the U.S. Navy’s chief of information. This article is adapted from commencement remarks given at the Naval War College last month.

    In more than 10 years of war, we in the military have gone to great expense and trouble to listen to the concerns of foreign peoples and cultures. We have learned Dari and Arabic and Pashto. We have sat cross-legged in shura and tribal councils. And yet I worry that we do not pay our fellow Americans the same courtesy.

    It’s time that we do a better job understanding and relating to the people we serve.

    We do not talk with them. Too often, we talk at them. We are the guest speakers, the first-pitch-throwers, the grand marshals. We show them the power of our capabilities through air shows, port visits and other demonstrations. This outreach is important, but it isn’t always a two-way street. And it doesn’t improve our understanding of the society we defend.

    We tend to focus on the fact that, because so few Americans serve in uniform — something like 1 percent — they don’t understand us. There’s some truth to that. But is it solely their fault?

    We are, after all, volunteers in a proportionally small military. Americans can choose to serve or not. Not everyone in the world has that option. Even among those who want to serve, there are only so many qualified to join our ranks. And those ranks are not likely to expand in this time of fiscal austerity.

    Being honest with ourselves, we would admit that we have been well-resourced and fully supported by the home front. From lifesaving force-protection gear to counter-IED technology to the finest in unmanned systems and much more, the American people have — through their elected representatives — given us the tools we’ve needed to fight two wars.

    They’ve also helped us find jobs when we come home. They’ve given us world-class education benefits. And they’ve helped ensure that returning troops get the physical and mental health care they richly deserve. Americans have built homes for wounded warriors and wrapped their arms around the families of our fallen. They have thanked us in airports, bus stations and parades.

    They may not know us. But they certainly support us.

    Of course, more can always be done to care for our troops and their families. A recent government report says we lose a veteran to suicide nearly every hour of every day. While veterans represent less than 9 percent of the population, they are about 15 percent of the homeless. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to report a traumatic brain injury and to have received mental health treatment than veterans of other wars — treatment that must continue without the stigma it carries.

    According to some estimates, more than 1.5 million active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops will transition to civilian life in the next five years. We must continue to ensure that Americans are ready and willing to help them make that transition.

    We haven’t been neglected or forgotten. American civilians are simply confronted by problems other than war, problems we might have difficulty understanding from the relative permanence of our profession. They are not losing life and limb on the battlefield, but they are losing their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods. They can be forgiven for being distracted and even a little tired of war.

    I’ve been a spokesman throughout these wars, not a soldier. It’s been my job to explain military strategy and operations to people far and wide. I believe that many Americans don’t try harder to know us because they are so confident in our abilities. Better we should belong to a society that trusts us and winces at war than one that lusts for it.

    When someone thanks me for my service, I always thank them for their support.

    I also try to remember that, to the degree there is a civilian-military gap in this country, all of us in uniform are responsible for closing it.

    We can start by being better listeners — by finding out what Americans think, what they need and the problems they face. It’s fine to give speeches and take questions. But we shouldn’t be afraid to ask our own questions. If we can do that on an Afghan rug, surely we can do it on Main Street.

    Second, we would do well to better understand U.S. politics and politicians. I’m not suggesting we suddenly declare for one party or another. The apolitical nature of the military is vital to the health of our republic. We can never surrender that independence.

    But I have worked hard to learn about our democratic system so as to understand how and why policies are made. I’ve also tried to develop healthy relationships on Capitol Hill and with colleagues in other federal agencies. These are, after all, the decisions and decision-makers that drive our budgets, strategies and operations. We ignore them at our peril.

    I have been struck in just the past couple of years, indeed the past few months, by how some military officers dismiss Washington’s bitter partisanship as something beneath them. It’s not. Political discourse may appear messy, even unseemly. But it is the very business of governing. And if the military has any hope of properly advising our civilian masters, we must take the time to understand them and even their most acrimonious arguments.

    While he firmly believed that the military should play no role in political matters, my former boss, Adm. Mike Mullen, recognized that we could not be wholly divorced from them. Though he had developed solid relationships on the Hill, he was surprised early in his chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that each week he would be at the White House so often, and for so long, that he and the chiefs needed to discuss and understand political factors as much as operational ones. He refused, of course, to make political decisions or give political advice.

    “My job is to tell them what they need to hear,” he told me, “but I also have to listen to what they need to say.”

    Listening to what people need to say extends to other aspects of communication as well. It troubles me to see military doctrine, plans and operational memoranda that refer to public communication as some sort of weapon that can be fired downrange. It is not. Rather, it is an obligation to explain ourselves, to put into context what we are doing and why.

    We live in a participatory culture, a post-audience world. People don’t just want access to information anymore. They want access to conversation. They want to be heard.

    To take part in that conversation and guide it, at times, requires a humility that we don’t always possess. It requires us to listen as well as speak, to solicit as well as inform, to admit our shortcomings and accept sometimes brutally frank feedback.

    I know my credibility — and that of the Navy — is enhanced when I join a discussion rather than merely lead it. That can be a hard thing for those of us in uniform to do, to let go of leadership a little. But letting go means getting ahead. It gives us a better sense of the mood and attitude in which our words and actions land. It helps us communicate more comfortably across regions, dialects and generations.

    Finally, we shouldn’t become too enamored — as I fear many commanders are — of our ability to speak directly to people through technology. There is a place for social media, of course, but there is no better validation or check of our decisions than an independent press. Some of the best relationships we can form are with members of the news media — who, by the way, feel every bit as certain that they, too, perform a valuable public service. They’re right about that.

    We are taught almost from the beginning of our careers that military service is something special, apart from other forms of citizenship. We hold ourselves to higher standards of conduct. We tell ourselves that not everyone is good enough to join us. All this is true.

    But it’s foolish to believe we are better than the society we protect. To believe that only further separates us from the rest of America. Not everything we do is or should be accessible to the public. But as public servants, answerable to the taxpayers, we as individuals absolutely ought to be.

    We need to better understand the American people and the leaders they elect, to build relationships with those outside our Spartan lives. We need to talk a little less and listen a whole lot more. It’s time for this 1 percent to say thanks to the 99 percent. They deserve it.
     
  2. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Messages:
    2,807
    Likes Received:
    443
    I am confused - what am I (as a NG officer) supposed to do to connect with civilians?

    "We can start by being better listeners — by finding out what Americans think, what they need and the problems they face."

    As a part time civilian, my answers are

    We are facing many challenges
    I am paying too much in taxes
    Federal government, esepcially DoD, is spending too much money
    I am worried about my childern's future
    I want to be finanically secure when I retire
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,747
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    I'm guessing as a National Guard officer you are probably pretty connected with civilians.

    I did find a general disconnect between me, as a active duty officer and the civilian masses. It was easy to think of it as "they don't understand me," but I think once I got to Washington, D.C., in an office setting as opposed to a ship, it became clearer that maybe I wasn't on the same page as civilians.

    I've never whined about officer pay, but I didn maintain that we weren't paid like kings. Then I got out and had 100% of my paycheck taxed, which was painful.

    I never appreciated how easy healthcare was (although it wasn't the best), it was nice to walk into the clinic whenever I wanted without paying a dime.

    It was nice to have free shoulder sugery, a free tooth implant and free rehab for said shoulder....

    I was certainly isolated from co-pays and appointment scheduling and taxes....

    I think the point of the article is the 1% of service members generally complain about the gap without realizing they have a part in closing it, not just by showing others what they do, but by figuring out how "the real world" works.

    I actually think the admiral is spot on.... although there are some pretty interesting comments in the comment section of the Washington Post.
     
  4. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    606
    No, you're not. Based on a $100,000 income, the average American total income tax burden is 18.7%, which ranks us 61st out of 94 developed nations. The average Botswanian pays about 23% tax.

    You don't pay too much. In fact, we all pay too little for the society we expect to have.

    I posted this article on my Facebook about a week ago. I think it's spot-on. We are very guilty of being writers, but not readers. We're talkers, but not listeners.
     
  5. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,747
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    Well then I do more than my fair share based on that 18.7% (one of the reasons we will be returning to Va. from Md. later this year). Montgomery County, with Md. is about 9%.

    Of course, he said "I pay too much in taxes" not "the percentage I pay is too high."

    And he would be right. I don't pay too little. I'm just in the minority that actually does pay (two income household at that). I do find it interesting that someone who makes maybe $20K-$30K that ISN'T taxed would have something to say about people who pay taxes on their entire income. It makes a huge difference. My first job after getting out, knowing my salary, I looked at my first paycheck and was shocked to find a much smaller pay day. Sure, if it was a higher salary, but I took less home.

    I would love to know how much the average Botswanian plays each year. I'd guess I pay more, even if it's under than 23% mark.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  6. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Messages:
    2,807
    Likes Received:
    443
    I love the word "average" if Person A pays 1% in taxes and Person B pays 19% in taxes, the average would be 10% in taxes.

    I also doubt Botswanians gets better government service than us Americans by paying more % in taxes

    Not sure what kind of society "we" expect to have.
     
  7. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    4,963
    Likes Received:
    872
    Margaret Thatcher - "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

    Here Here!!! I'm all for paying LESS taxes, and receiving LESS social assistance.

    You also said: We are very guilty of being writers, but not readers. We're talkers, but not listeners. Well, a lot of our society is also: "Takers, but not givers". There are definitely those that NEED help. But there's way too many that are simply LEACHES. But, a politician who can promise people something for nothing, gains control and power over those people.

    Yes, the military needs to be more connected with civilians; but I think our entire country needs a CTRL+ALT+DELETE. The majority has to kiss the butt of the minority. Citizens have to kiss the butt of illegal immigrants. No one is allowed to lose, everyone has to be a winner. I don't think the military being in touch with civilians is the problem. The problem is the entitlement attitude of the entire society. Civilians knew at one time what our military did for them. But with the loss of nationalism and political correctness trying to shame people for wanting to be successful and self sufficient; the problem is a lot bigger. Don't pawn this off on the military. Our entire society is FUBAR.
     
  8. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    606
    The problem with shouting down the concept of "averages" is that when you're talking about a sample size of about. 220 million people, averages get pretty darn meaningful. The variance in the tax rate is the real kicker: it's small, only about 8% across one standard deviation. What's that mean? The vast majority of Americans pay between 14% and 22%.

    I'm not surprised that CC and others have immediately trotted out the tried and true Fox News bogeyman: the "takers" and "leaches" that we're so often told are the real cause of our ills. If only the data supported that (it doesn't). I doubt that will stop the uninformed, self-appointed "last-hard-working-man-America" guardians of the American work ethic from using it as a straw man.

    I'm always amused when someone who retired from the military gripes about the "takers" in the rest of society who are leading us down the path to ruination. We in the military have built quite a glass house on that front...


    MemberLG, you really don't know what sort of society we expect?

    We expect...
    -A top-notch military capable of defeating any foe
    -A world-class ground, air, and sea transportation infrastructure
    -Unsurpassed scientific and technological advances
    -Peerless education access and quality from preschool through college at an affordable price
    -Care for the aged and infirm
    -Strong, capable police forces
    -Trained and responsive emergency services
    -Global alliances which promote peace and protect democracy.
    -Vibrant national parks and landmarks

    And we get pissed that it can't all be bought for 18 cents on the dollar.
     
  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,747
    Likes Received:
    1,002


    Except that.... that half of the population that doesn't pay income taxes really messes with any average.

    There are a number of things on the list that could, and are, provided by the private sector, however you have to admit a number of those "wants" are crowded out by liabilities than CAN NOT be supported. Give it 20 years and that list can be reduced to "trying to make payments of the interest of our debt."

    So, whether you like to think about it or not, there are takers and there are givers and even someone who gives 5% but makes tens of millions gives more than I do. In the end, it's the dollars, not the percentage.... and when you give $0, but take even a dollar, you are a net drain on the system.

    If you want to see an example of that, come to my street, Maryland seems content of mixing low lifes with productive members of society... and the affect is, the houses around mine look like crap... and someone breaks into my Infiniti.
     
  10. MedB

    MedB Parent

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2012
    Messages:
    593
    Likes Received:
    116
    Outstanding Article

    The points the article raises are spot-on. Although, I would say they are not unique to our military...

    There is a natural esprit de corps that develops any time you have a group/organization that is executing at a level above their peers over a long period of time. Our military certainly qualifies on that count; they are extrodinary in many ways.

    But that appropriate esprit de corps does have the potential to turn on itself, and morph into a sense that you are somehow "above" the common person. Perhaps not overtly, but becase your group/team/service consistently accomplishes more, works harder, faces more obstacles, gets better results, etc that somehow it's less important to be open to other points of view. After all, they don't "get it"... they haven't "been there"... etc etc

    It is not an easy balance to strike, and many pockets of high achievers struggle with it. But as the author stated, listening more and talking less is important. Showing that kind of true humility when you are already elite... that's the kind of thing that only the very best organizations and teams can do.
     
  11. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Messages:
    2,807
    Likes Received:
    443
    I would say most folks that visited other countries might say we already have the society you are describing with some differences. Simply, some goals are not achieveable or becomes counter productive. Did we defeat Taliban and Al Qeada. Yes, but did we destroy them completely, no. What happens if we offer peerless education access and quality from preschool through college at an affordable price? We are going to have bunch of highly educated minimum wage workers. The difference will be little college debt. If you remember SS307, do you think a global alliances which promote peace and protect democracy is possible?

    Forgot the living wage jobs regardless how hard or little your worked for it. If a high school graduates should have living wave jobs, why bother getting a college degree.
     
  12. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    606
    The problem with that statistic of "the 47%" is that it grossly distorts perceptions of what is actually paid and by whom. It's a talking point generated for the sake of being a talking point and creating leverage.

    According to the Tax Policy Center and the Brookings Institute, the lowest 20% of earners paid a 1% post-deduction total tax burden. The 20-40% quintile paid a 6.8% post-deduction burden, and the 40%-60% quintile paid an 11.1% burden after deductions.

    The poor, overtaxed 80-100% quintile paid...wait for it...23% in total tax burden. That means, on average, the top earners in America wiggle out of about 11% of the taxes they're expected to pay based on income tax rates.

    We can pretend that it's those damn moochers all day long, but the fact is that we pay almost nothing in relation to what we expect to see paid for in America every day. That goes for poor and rich alike. It goes doubly for the military.
     
  13. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    606
    I would agree that in many ways, we've achieved a society like that.

    We've just never paid for it. Hence our debt.

    It's the difference between buying a Rolls Royce and buying a Rolls Royce until it's repo'd.
     
  14. BigBear

    BigBear Class of 2015

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    1
    Unless I missed it in the article, I still haven't seen anyone address how I, as a new 2LT, am supposed to get more in touch with the civilian world.
     
  15. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    606
    Honestly, it's not geared toward you. It's geared toward a military that's been engaged in a ten-plus year conflict in SW Asia.

    You should, though, take heed of why it was written. We've been living a separate life. It has been a life of long deployments, endless training cycles, and frantic personnel management. We've dealt with all the horror and misery of war. We've asked--nay, demanded--that the American people hear our story and remember us.

    At the same time, the American people have largely been on an odyssey from which we've been often isolated. The economy was in tatters. Hundreds of thousands saw their jobs vanish. Life savings were wiped out. Parents worried about how they'd pay the mortgage, how they'd put their kids through school, and in some cases, how they'd buy food. For all that we as a military have endured, we have been insulated from the worst travails of the economic collapse. We haven't had to worry about layoffs. If we had to move and were upside down in our mortgage, there was potential relief for that. Our paychecks came, rain or shine. Our deployments were tax free. The GI Bill is great. And transferable.

    You, as a young grad, should still try to connect with your civilian counterparts right out of college. Understand what informs their votes. Understand their concerns as citizens. Let them know yours. It's important.
     
  16. another13mom

    another13mom Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2008
    Messages:
    295
    Likes Received:
    2
    ^ excellent post. Again.
     
  17. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Messages:
    8,747
    Likes Received:
    1,002
    Um... walk out the front gates and talk to 91% or 99% of the people you run into....
     
  18. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    4,963
    Likes Received:
    872
    I like how it seems that whenever someone doesn't agree with you, they are automatically simply spouting "Talking Points". You just can't admit that some people can actually think for themselves, and it doesn't happen to agree with what you believe.

    Yes, your list of expectations are indeed valid. I think most of us do expect those things from society. Unfortunately, your list is so limited. There's a lot of people who also expect to be rewarded for having a child when they're a teenager, not married, and have no education or skills. There's people who complain that you can't make a living on the minimum wage. "ALERT: You're NOT SUPPOSE to be able to make a living on minimum wage." I don't even believe in a minimum wage. Such employment was intended to develop skills and work ethics. They were designed for the unskilled person. If you're the unskilled worker, then you have no business having kids and dropping out of school. When I was growing up, if an individual ran into hard times, they got help from their family, neighbors, community, and church. Not from the government.

    That's the problem. Your expectations are valid. Unfortunately they are the complete list of expectations. Too much of today's society has the "Entitlement" attitude. Even the debates in congress is about "Entitlement Spending". Sorry; but people shouldn't be "Entitled" to half of what they are getting. The intent of many social programs was to be a helping hand up. Not a way of life. But politicians have learned that "Entitlements" equals "Dependency". And that's what they want. If you truly believe that the status quo politician actually wants the lower class to succeed, then you are very naive. Even when the unions started off meaning to protect employees, that too has turned into a means of controlling people.

    So believe what you want. I grew up in poverty. I know what it means to be poor. I also know what it means to have a family that wouldn't take food stamps, welfare, or even free school lunches. But today, if a family member speaks to another about hard times, the FIRST CHOICE is to apply for some government program. These are not talking points. This isn't fox news or shawn hannity. These are facts and there's a lot of people who recognize these facts. They aren't the "Sheeple" that so many others are. But again; if teens weren't getting pregnant; if the traditional family structure was encouraged instead of poverty and dependency being rewarded; we wouldn't need to have these discussions. Don't assume that you know any of us here. You don't. You simply believe that your way is the only way, and any opposing thought can't be rational or with merit.
     
  19. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    606
    Disagree in a way that isn't mindless rhetoric and we won't have this problem.

    There are also people who think there are UFOs at Area 51. And segregationists. Could you find someone who thinks they "deserve to be rewarded" for a pregnancy? Probably. But the idea that this is some pervasive and budget-wrecking population in America is based on no actual data. It's a red herring. If anything, it's just another incarnation of the racist "black welfare queen popping out babies" trope that has been rehashed in one form or another for decades. (I know, I know...you meant white welfare queens, of course).

    Considering Medicaid and Welfare came into existence before you were an adult, you're only fooling yourself if you think people didn't turn to the government for help when they fell on hard times.

    Again...zero data, zero evidentiary examples, just right-wing talking points. "Sheeple." "Traditional family structure." "Dependency." Your perfect use of catchphrases makes Reince Priebus feel funny in his pleated-front pants.

    Never mind that teen pregnancy is at its lowest rate in the past 45 years (it peaked in 1990 and is now lower than it was in the good ol' days of 1972 when the world was good and wholesome and the traditional family hadn't been destroyed). But again, I don't want to slow you down with facts that challenge your assumptions.

    There's plenty of room for reform on all form of entitlements, including our cushy military medical benefits (especially retirees).

    If you want to talk about reality, lets stick to facts, not baseless slights against the unnamed rabble of "takers." In fact, if we want to talk about takers, we should mention that corporate welfare spending eclipses social welfare spending. There's a real problem there.
     
  20. BigBear

    BigBear Class of 2015

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    1
    That's my point. The original author never gives specifics about who exactly is supposed to be more in touch with the civilian world or how they should do it. I'd argue that even with some of the more archaic restrictions here at USMA, I am pretty in touch with my ROTC and civilian peers. I would also agree that the senior officers who have been in for 20+ years are probably not as in touch as we like to think or need to be. But where does that disconnect occur, and what does the author expect the military to do? Until that question is answered, the article is simply reiterating what others have already said and what most people agree is true.

    If DoD can give my generation a plan now, we will be much better prepared to solve this problem in the future.
     

Share This Page