West Point Failing To Prepare Tomorrow's Officers

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by Luigi59, Jun 11, 2010.

  1. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    West Point faculty member worries it is failing to prepare tomorrow’s officers

    By Maj. Fernando Lujan, U.S. Army
    June 11, 2010

    I graduated from West Point in 1998, served several combat tours, then received a master's degree from the Harvard Kennedy School so that I could instruct the cadets in politics, policy, and strategy. I have worked on the West Point faculty for two years, and this summer I'll return to the operational Army in Afghanistan.

    From my own limited perspective, I can say that the Academy is falling heartbreakingly short of its potential to prepare young officers.

    While West Point has recently made an effort to change with the times by adding a handful of elective courses in counterinsurgency, expanding its foreign immersion programs, and hosting several high level conferences on key Army issues, the founding principle of the cadet system remains the same: We lecture the cadets on professionalism but we practice bureaucracy. To summarize the difference, professional cultures debate, discuss, and continually innovate to stay effective in the changing world. Bureaucracies churn out ever-restrictive rules and seek to capture every eventuality in codified routines.

    Consider this: From day one at the academy every possible situation that a cadet could conceivably encounter is accounted for by strict regulations. Not sure how many inches should be between your coat hangers, whether you can hold your girlfriend's hand on campus, or how your socks should be marked? Consult the regulations. Moreover, all activity is subjected to the cadet performance system, which essentially assigns a grade to every measurable event in a cadet's life (think shoe shines, pushups and pop quizzes) then ruthlessly ranks the entire class from first to last. Cadets at the top of the list get the jobs and postings they want after graduation. Those near the bottom end up driving trucks at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

    The result is two-fold: First, cadets have very little experience adapting to unfamiliar environments. After all, what happens when the regulations don't describe what's going on around you? Second, cadets devote zero attention to activities that "don't count." If it's not on the syllabus, and it's not for a grade, the cadets aren't learning it.

    Ask a cadet to spend a few minutes writing up a list of the skills, traits, and knowledge that he wishes he'd have when he finally takes over his first platoon in combat. Then compare this to his four-year curriculum and summer training plans. There will be surprisingly little overlap between the two lists, and the cadet has neither the time nor the incentive to learn what's missing. In the end, we graduate far too many cadets that are more bureaucrat than professional, lacking the expert knowledge of their trade and the flexibility to be effective in the complex environments they'll soon encounter.

    Read the rest of the article HERE
     
  2. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I find your taste in posting this in the USMA section as our young candidates prepare for R-day to be quite poor.

    That being said, this oddly disgruntled major uses an army of straw men to rail against a system which has produced an Army of young leaders who have excelled in every facet of counterinsurgency. The only thing missing from his article is reality.
     
  3. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    If the timing is bad, when would be a more appropriate time for the OP to post his opinion?
     
  4. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    It is not only a matter of timing, but a matter of forum. This would be better off in another discussion area, where our candidates don't have to look at "West Point Failing" as they seek information on boot styles and R-day preparations.

    If you simply must have a specific date...June 30th seems like a good start.
     
  5. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    What damage do you think will be done if USMA candidates "look" at the post?
     
  6. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    I find your taste in wanting to ignore articles such as this to be even worse.

    Let's all fiddle while Rome burns, let's all whistle past the graveyard, move along folks, nothing to see here.

    A young candidate preparing fro R-Day should be prepared with as much information as possible, and not just the "rah rah BEAT NAVY" type information.

    Information coming from a 1998 grad who is also a faculty member seems relevant to anyone entering or considering entering the USMA.

    How about refuting his points rather than whining about the where or when the article is posted?

    :rolleyes:
     
  7. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I'm sure in your expert opinion, this really does equate to Rome burning. :rolleyes:

    Information coming from a malcontent who has spent the last five years in academia, published through a self-admitted attention-seeking bomb thrower like Tom Ricks, is generally laughable to someone who's actually been out in the force for the last six years and has taken part in the very successful actions this disillusioned gentleman claims we're no good at.

    The fact that he is a Special Forces officer makes me even less inclined to take heed of his points. After years in this SF group, I can tell you that the average 18-series, regardless of rank, is so immersed in the luxuries and counterculture of SOF that he has precious little ability to comprehend the needs and realities of a large-scale conventional force. These are some fantastic claims from a guy who hasn't been part of an operational unit since (at the latest) 2005, possibly earlier than that. It's hard to take seriously the claims of a man who judges a seven-year war by the first two years.

    Until he offers something beyond anecdotal evidence about "officers I saw in Iraq" and pie-in-the-sky claims about what "lists" cadets might write if asked to do so, there's nothing to refute. Do I think there are some interesting ideas in there? Yes. But I don't think there's any truth to the claim that they are a dire necessity because West Point is pumping out automatons who fail in the operational environment.

    I know you're quite proud of your find here, but it doesn't take much to paste an article on a forum without any thoughts of your own. Unless you have substantive, experiential thoughts of your own to add, it looks like you just enjoy shoving controversy in these young folks' faces for your own sake.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  8. TacticalNuke

    TacticalNuke Administrator

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    Moved to appropriate forum.

    -TN
     
  9. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    Yes, it's easy to attack me, the messenger. But the criticism is coming from a fellow alumni, fellow active duty Army officer, and WP faculty member.

    What evidence are you using to contradict his points other than "he is a malcontent" or "his evidence is anecdotal"? :rolleyes:

    After all, what on earth can he know about what is happening there? :rolleyes:

    Keep attacking the messengers, use ad hominem attacks, and throw a red herring in there once in a while. No one will notice. :rolleyes:

    Better yet, write your own rebuttal to his points if you feel he is in error.

    But suggesting to censor or hide unflattering news or commentaries from a candidate or prospective candidate is ridiculous.
     
  10. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Yeah, that's it. Claim it's about you. When you're shown to be in error, claim it's nothing more than a vendetta against you.

    I said his evidence is anecdotal because IT IS. I said he's been in academia for 5 years because HE HAS. I'm sorry if reality blunts the arguments of a man you seemingly agree with. Life has a way of doing that.

    His entire hypothesis that WP is failing to produce leaders that perform in the current operation environment is backed by this one paragraph:

    "In Iraq, I commonly ran across young officers who were convinced that if they answered their reports on time, followed the unit operating procedures to the letter, and strove to make their casualty numbers look ever better, that they would "win" the war."

    That's it. That's his evidence that WP is falling woefully short. Wow, I don't know why I'm not swayed. An anecdotal remark about officers he saw, and some railing against a system he doesn't like now and probably didn't like as a cadet. I doubt the CJCS or the Supe are losing sleep.

    As I said earlier, he has some interesting ideas there. Some of them probably offer great value. But he offers nothing to prove his wild claim about WP failing, so what do I need to refute? His claim that he saw some linear thinkers who didn't do a great job?

    And please, show me the red herring.

    Oh look, the thread moved :smile:
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  11. aglages

    aglages Parent

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    scoutpilot: I may have missed it in one of your posts, but WHAT specific damage do you think will be done if USMA candidates "look" at the original post in this thread?
     
  12. futurepilot22

    futurepilot22 Member

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    As a 2014 cadet candidate and a lurker for over a year, I must say I find it amusing that Luigi throws a temper tantrum everytime someone says ANYTHING negative about USCGA or USMMA (both fantastic schools, BTW), yet 90% of his own posts is trash about how the "big three" are going down the drains. That's all I have to say. As merely a cadet candidate, I can't really refute what is being said from my own experience as scoutpilot can.
     
  13. futurepilot22

    futurepilot22 Member

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    And aglages....speaking as a cadet candidate who is about to start Beast, I have to say I do find it at least slightly demoralizing to be seeing an article about West Point failing, at least in someone's eyes. From what I've heard, we aren't supposed to get cynical until Gloom Period :wink:
     
  14. BR2011

    BR2011 USAFA Cadet

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    I'll refute him.

    The Academies are not a place to learn first hand knowledge, that can only come from experience. They are place to develop as a person and as a leader so that you are able to quickly tackle any challenge that you encounter. cursory knowledge is definitely a benefit and i'm sure they get that, but you can only know how to handle real world situations by being there.

    He also talks about how having regulations hold people back. First off, the military has regulations so the entire military has a problem if regs are bad. Second, from my experience, because regulations are so specific most "real" situations fall into gray areas not covered by the regs and require critical thinking to resolve.

    This guy has all the right and credentials to make an opinion and it should be considered, but he is only one person. I think more than one opinion would be appropriate on this forum

    Luigi, I also have to agree with previous posters that your continued negative posting on other Academies is disturbing. Its almost like you enjoy putting USNA and USMA down while saying why CGA outdoes them all. Its not a contest and I can promise you that in the context of this article, which addresses the very foundation of how the Academies run, they are all the same. And in my opinion its a good system.
     
  15. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    If you're not at the point where you can look at an article that claims West Point is failing all those who enter its hallowed halls and see how maliciously thrusting that in the face of young people who are trying to mentally prepare themselves to undertake the toughest challenge of their lives (a challenge that will deny them countless pleasures that will be available to those who take less challenging paths in life) is antithetical to the purpose of a forum whose goal is to ASSIST them, then I'm not sure you're going to grasp the concept at all.

    To the others who piped in: excellent points.

    Luigi, I think at this point many of us wonder if you may suffer from some form of inferiority complex. I'm guessing you probably didn't attend an academy and never spent a day in the service? I'd further venture that you use your "parent" status to cultivate a culture of mock expertise, which you leverage to the fullest in your attempts to make up for the inadequacies you perceive in a SA system that is traditionally viewed in terms of the "Big 3."

    USCGA is a fantastic school, as many have said, and I'm certain that the CGA grads with whom I've had the pleasure of working would not condone this vitriol toward the other academies, especially when conducted under the auspices of CGA "credentials."
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010
  16. WAMom68

    WAMom68 Founding Member

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    I can't speak about anyone but my own cadet son. From all he has told me Maj. Lujan has a valid point about the military training. My son has told me he wishes they had more military training during the academic year. He joined infantry tactics club so that he would get more training opportunities during the year. He also seeks any military training/schools he can get during the summers. He really enjoyed his time last summer while assigned to a real Army unit as an acting PL (CTLT). He learned a lot and wishes that assignment could have been longer.

    I have seen my son take responsibility for his own preparation to become an officer and PL. Maj. Lujan says "cadets devote zero attention to activities that "don't count." If it's not on the syllabus, and it's not for a grade, the cadets aren't learning it." This may be true of some cadets but not in my son's case and I find it hard to believe the majority of cadets feel this way. Maybe I am wrong...maybe my son only chooses friends who feel the same way about preparing themselves for the Army...I don't know.

    As far as cadet candidates reading this article, I don't think it helps anyone's preparation for life by ignoring other opinions, whether they agree or not. Cadet candidates should read this, think about what is being said, and remember it after they get through Beast. They should seek to improve themselves to become better officers even if the activity isn't for a grade. They should also seek opportunities to improve things at West Point for themselves and future cadets.

    I am just a parent but that is my 2 cents worth.
     
  17. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I've found that some opinions are best ignored, especially those which make sweeping, definitive proclamations without offering factual support.
     
  18. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    I've found that some opinions best ignored, especially those which make sweeping, definitive proclamations without offering factual support.

    Try again, scoutie. :rolleyes:
     
  19. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

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    Excellent points, glad to read your opinion. Seems you and the author agree, I wonder if you'll be attacked by "scoutie" and his minions.
     
  20. goldfarb1

    goldfarb1 Candidate

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    I clicked the link and read through some of the comments.

    I think this one summed it up pretty well--- "West Point may not be the Magic Kingdom kicking out Eisenhowers, but if you want to be an Eisenhower, it probably sets you up better than anywhere else under the current system."

    Luigi59, don't label me as part of "scoutie's" minion but I don't think the article really substantiates past the author's claims. He makes a claim, but does not provide any real warrants to back it up. I think he does make a valid point in that there probably isn't enough military training, but in all fairness this is why you go to MOS school. West Point's mission is "to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army." The mission of West Point isn't to make the world's best infantry officer right out of graduation,this is why MOS school exists.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2010

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