This is a hard business some days...

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by scoutpilot, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    When folks think about the military and what makes it tough, their minds invariably leap to the rigors of physical combat. That is certainly not an inaccurate characterization these last 8 years or so. Nonetheless, there are a great many days that will require you to do things that are rigorous in other ways.

    I just concluded an administrative separation board. After hours of testimony, we determined that the soldier in question should ultimately be separated from the US Army. It's an easy decision to make when one looks at the facts, neatly arrayed as they are in a well-prepared board packet. It's easy to say that he should be tossed out in light of his poor performance and repeated misconduct. You are doing what is right for the command, the unit, the Army, and the Nation.

    It's all easy until you hear his side of things, and you see that the Army is just a small part of a life that is not going as anyone would plan. Then, it's easy to see that he's a man facing an awful lot of tough circumstances--and though many of those troubles are his fault, they are no less difficult to bear. It's easy until he admits that he "stepped in the ****" and swears that he'll make it all right if he just gets another chance. It's easy until all of that happens, because once it does you see the totality of the human being behind the rank and the uniform and the stack of counseling packets.

    It is a cold and lonely moment when you tell a man that his time in the U.S. Army is done--to shake his hand, bid him good luck, and end a career with the stroke of a cheap pen. Often, there is little solace in doing what is ultimately right.

    I'm sure this thread will soon fall to the bottom, to be replaced with endless and innumerable threads about CFA scores and waivers and LOAs and the like. I hope, though, that each candidate thinks about this while they rattle off the textbook reasons for seeking a nomination to their interviewer. Officership isn't always about the unforgiving minute when you first tangibly realize that bullets really do travel in both directions. In fact, it rarely is about that at all. Mostly it's about making tough decisions, even when they make you feel like a jerk.

    This is the business of leading people, and sometimes that's a very heart-wrenching business indeed.
     
  2. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    One of the hardest things you will ever do. Knowing that you have just made a major irreversable impact on the remainder of another human being's life. No one is all bad. I think most are good at heart. Some just have a real hard time doing the right thing most or all the time.

    I probably lost more sleep at night over these very types of decisions than anything else I ever did.
     
  3. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    It was certainly a trying affair. I think we did the truly right thing, but I'll never be sure.

    Sadly, this thread has thus far reaffirmed my general disappointment with the thought process that many of our candidates put into West Point. A thread about the less glamorous realities of officership gets no responses, but any thread about how to get in to West Point is overwhelmed with attention.

    I think there's a bit too much focus on admissions, and not enough on what admission actually means...
     
  4. Ken2012

    Ken2012 Prospective

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    I couldn't imagine myself ending someones career in the army.

    I imagine a lot of tough decisions are made in the military. I've always wondered what kind of decisions are made and what I could be potentially doing if I become an officer.
     
  5. tallbutshort

    tallbutshort Member

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    I love having an active duty officer on this forum. You have been an enormous wealth of information for all of us candidates. The threads you start, whether they contain incredible pictures of a day at the office or pay tribute to your fallen brothers, are always among the most thought-provoking on here. Yet I never respond. Why? Because what could I possibly add? I don't want to be that annoying person who always responds for the sake of responding but never really has anything to say. And since the threads about the less glamorous realities of officership tend to be more personal, PMs often seem more appropriate when questions do arise. I obviously don't speak for everyone, but I would imagine that many others feel the same way. We greatly appreciate your posts Scoutpilot, even if they aren't exactly always uplifting. We're reading and contemplating, even if we aren't responding. So thank you and please keep posting!
     
  6. Navy1981

    Navy1981 Member

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    Scoutpilot,
    I can certainly relate to what you are going through. Last week I had to tell a sailor he is to be separated and processed out of the Navy for repeated poor performance on his physical fitness tests. 16 1/2 years in the Navy down the drain. No retirement, just "see ya". But like you said in the case you were involved in, the individual bears the responsibility for getting into this mess. Same in this case. There were plenty of close calls where he barely met the minimum score. Eventually it all caught up to him and there are no more chances. It's a tough situation, but it would be unfair to everyone else who complies with the rules. And ultimately it really was no one's fault, but his own.
     
  7. Mongo

    Mongo Banned

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    Great rationalization. I have always thought that the Navy really only pays lip service to physical fitness. The typical sailor will spend more than half his career on sea duty. Even on carriers when they might open the flight deck to joggers occassionally, many times at very inopportune times, exercise is exteremely inconvenient. Combine this with very long arduous working hours and a galley that is open most of the time, serving a lot of starchy greasy fast food and the results are obvious.
     
  8. bdaMom

    bdaMom Member

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    Great posts everyone. It's so hard for these 17 year old kids to imagine what being an officer/leader is like. My son went through basic training this past summer, and that was truly an eye-opening, growing-up experience for him. Saying you want to be in the Army and an officer is one thing, but no one knows what that's really like until they ARE one.

    I watched the DVD series on inside West Point, and the scene that keeps coming back to me is when one of the graduated cadets went active duty and had to send his men into a dangerous situation for the first time. I don't think he knew how it would effect him until that moment, even after all the training and experiences he'd had at West Point.
     
  9. TheKnight

    TheKnight Class of 2014

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    It's true. No matter how strong you may think you are or how prepared you think you are, when bullets fly, and your adrenaline rushes through the roof, and your voice gets a couple pitches higher, and tunnel visions makes you so focused on what you're doing that you don't notice other things going on, you find out how you'll really respond.

    Hopefully good training simulates the real event well enough to ensure that you learn the mistakes you'll make when in that situation. I already know that I have horrible tunnel vision in situations like that. It's something I need to work on. On the other hand I realize that I am able to perform somewhat calmly also.
     
  10. Maximus

    Maximus Member

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    You've piqued my interest SP; without specifics, what did this soldier do? Military legal, civilian legal, financial or substance abuse.
    I ask because, just maybe, kids here might learn from knowing what mistake(s) the Officer made.

    Did he attend USMA?
     
  11. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    The individual in question was not an officer. He was an enlisted man with 13 years in the Army, 11 of them average and 2 not so good.

    His offense were not horrible trangressions in any one instance. Rather, it was a pattern of misconduct and failing to obey orders. He did not abuse any drugs, and even though he is 48 years old he racks up PT numbers like an 18-year-old stud.

    It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever been asked to make. He is, by all accounts, a decent human being--a loving father and a hard worker. In that light, I certainly did not wish to add another black cloud to the pall of misfortune that has colored his life recently. But as an officer, we have to step outside ourselves and view the situation in light of what is ultimately right for the Army.

    One of the great and rarely-acknowledged downfalls of the volunteer military is that it has, in many ways, become a very well-funded jobs program. Across all the services you will find many a young man or woman who joined for the benefits and the paycheck. That in and of itself is not wrong or necessarily bad, but it has given rise to a culture wherein we have become more reluctant to cast out marginal performers because we are concerned about their well-being on "the outside."

    In the end, as decent and genuine as this man may have been, the decision had to be made for the Army. Our charge was not to protect his paycheck or assuage our own sense of guilt at the prospect of taking food from his mouth. He was a marginal soldier in the best of times. His chain of command had done everything reasonable to teach, coach, and mentor him into a better soldier. They had exhausted their means of punishment.

    The Army is not a jobs program. It is not an organization that is the birthright of every citizen. Our mission is to preserve the American way of life. When the dust settled, the decision was made to do what was best for the Army.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that there were two choices for a discharge: Honorable, or General Under Honorable Conditions. Though the latter more perfectly characterizes the conditions of this soldier's service, in our hearts there seemed something cruel and needless about denying this man his GI Bill, which is the most the tangible difference between the two types of discharge available.

    I was once told that it is a wise person who allows his fellow man to retain as much of his dignity as possible while telling him that he has lost his job. He may not have been perfect, but he is a man who raised his right hand and gave 11 good years of service to his nation, and two more that weren't all bad. That is more than 99% of his countrymen will ever do for their homeland, and for that he deserves the best chance we can give him to pick himself up, dust himself off, and move on to a decent life.
     
  12. sprog

    sprog Member

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    Point him in the direction of VA. I'm sure there is a lot that can be done for him. :thumb:
     
  13. billyb

    billyb Member

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    I always thought the toughest part of handing out punitive punishment to soldiers was the effect on their family. To doc a solider's pay and make it harder for him to feed his/her spouse and child is an extremely difficult decision.

    We had to do it more than I ever would have wanted, but it is something that I never will forget.
     
  14. Maximus

    Maximus Member

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    Excellent points made here and you have no shame in what you did, the man was lucky to have such an informed and honest man evaluate him.

    Thanks for the follow up :thumb:
     
  15. BigNick

    BigNick Member

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    I spent over 30 years on active duty and faced many similar situations. I felt that some people should not be in the military - seperating these people is not only good for the Army but in most cases I believe is best for the individual.
    I was also in a large civilian company after retiring. Similar decisions are made in companies every day.
     

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