Where is the Army I Joined?
By Steven Hildreth Jr.
I recently attended drill with my Guard infantry unit. Turns out, there has been a shakeup at the highest levels. There has been a pattern of misconduct and unprofessionalism that has brought great discredit upon my state’s National Guard. The new head honcho has been brought in by the governor with a directive to fix it or lose his job. In addition to Army-wide directives, such as one by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to include sexual harassment on NCOERs and OERs, the penalties for any sort of misconduct have been made more severe.
Sounds good, right? The problem is that the burden of proof is upon the accused to prove that they were not in the wrong. If the accuser is offended, then the accused is as good as guilty, especially if the accuser is a female and the accused is a male. The mantra that is being passed around by the new head honcho is, “How is this going to increase your lethality on the battlefield? If it won’t, then you should not do it.”
I would not have a problem with this if it were not coming from a place of hypocrisy.
I could talk about how training has become lax, how tools traditionally used to discipline soldiers have been taken from leaders, but the best example of this hypocrisy is a hot-button topic: political pressure to not only let females apply for combat arms units, but to ensure an “acceptable” number make it into these units.
My first experience working with a female soldier was when I arrived at my first unit. As an infantryman, I did not have any females training alongside me, nor did I have any female drill sergeants. There were no females at my line unit. Out the gate, I was tapped to attend a Combat Life Saver (CLS) class. This class includes a block of classroom instruction on how to treat emergency issues on the battlefield, some hands-on demonstrations on dummies, and then a mock patrol where all of those skills are put into practice.
I was one of a couple of infantrymen in the class. The majority of the people there were combat service support, admin types that would never venture outside the wire if deployed. I was placed in a patrol group and I was the only grunt in the ranks. Being the eager infantryman I was, and being that patrol ops were my bread and butter, I volunteered to lead the patrol. Instead, they picked a very obese black female E-4 type with a weave whose ACUs barely fit her to lead the patrol. I shrugged and went with it. After all, they taught her the same things they taught me in the first eight weeks of her training, right?
She took point, and I waited for her to throw back a wedge sign. Nobody did anything, so I took it upon myself to look back and throw back the arm-and-hand signal. The pogues looked confused, so I had them just go to a staggered column and spelled it out for them. We walked down an alley and we reached an intersection. I expected the patrol leader to call a halt and set up security, or at the very least clear down the intersection on both sides before continuing on. What did she do? Waddled right through the intersection without clearing her corners. I looked to the cadre member as if to say, “Sir, are you fucking serious?” He just shrugged and motioned for me to continue patrol. Fortunately, the point man was “killed” in rather short order and I immediately took control of the patrol, where we fared much better.
I wish that was a stand-alone incident, but the more time I’ve spent in the Army has taught me that this actually happens to be the norm. The vast majority of female soldiers I have encountered think it’s some sort of game and view the Army as a playground for them. Despite what anybody says, the Army is very much still male-dominated, and rather than aspire to show they can do what the males do, the average Army female adopts that playground mentality and engage in a variety of unprofessional conduct, the most common being flirting and sometimes sleeping with upper ranks. A female E-4 I encountered during in-processing to my first duty station had told me stories of sleeping with lieutenants and captains and her philosophy was that rank only applied on duty.
To segue back into the topic at large: it’s no secret that the Army is going to force combat arms to accept females amongst their ranks, as mentioned above. The Army will make it happen, even if they have to lower standards to do it. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that if females could not make it into combat arms due to none being able to meet current standards, then why did the standards have to be that high?
I’ll tell you why the standards have to be high: because this is combat. This is war. You must be capable of moving from point A to point B, through any terrain, under any condition, wearing between forty-five to one hundred plus pounds of kit, often on little sleep. If we take contact and I get shot, I have to know my buddy is capable of grabbing me and dragging me to cover. Lowering the standards to enforce a politically correct standard is going to get people killed. When it’s not getting people killed downrange, it will wreak havoc upon morale as the problems of combat service support are unleashed upon combat arms.
“But they’re professionals! They should be able to keep it in their pants!” There are two problems with this train of thought: it places the blame entirely upon male soldiers, and it assumes that an eighteen-to-twenty-two year old person is capable of such maturity across the board. The truth is, the average person in this age group is fresh out of high school, on their own for the first time, and their hormones are raging to the nth degree. Throw in stress and you have a guaranteed formula for comfort sex. This is not just the males’ faults, either. Sure, they can’t keep it in their pants on average, but just as common, the females can’t keep their legs closed.
Now, there are exceptions to all of the above. The best example as far as a female soldier who takes the job seriously would be a CST I’ll call Bobbi, who was interviewed by SOFREP for her experience working alongside SOF units. She approaches the job seriously, she is technically and tactically competent, and she carries the same kit as the male soldiers and does not fall out. If all of the females I’ve met in the Army were like Bobbi, then there wouldn’t even be a discussion. Unfortunately, she is the exception to the rule and not the rule.
And yes, I can hear the feminist screaming in the background that a lot of the sexual misconduct in the ranks is rape. Yes, the military has a rape problem, particularly with abuse of authority to the end of rape. That is not because the military is some rape-promoting machine. The fact is, the military is a coarse reflection of the United States. There is a rape problem in the United States, by developed world standards. People like to say, “Would you like your daughter to join the military knowing she is at risk to get raped?” By that logic, I should lock my theoretical daughter in my basement and have her live there. She is very much at risk to be raped at college, where alcohol and rohypnol are readily available. The military is just a convenient target of blame because of its status in society. Want to reduce rape, then teach your sons to seek consent and what consent is, and teach your daughters how to defend against the predatory mindset. But I digress.
Females in combat arms units and lowering standards to that end…tell me, O Exalted Brass, how in the hell is that going to increase my lethality on the battlefield?
Those words are disingenuous at best. They truly don’t care about fighting wars, not anymore. They’re more concerned with creating a politically correct Thought Police state within the military, where soldiers spend their time worrying whether they’ll offend somebody and attending sensitivity classes when they could be spending time honing their skills in closing with and killing the enemy. They’re worried about getting their next billet or star by way of showing their political puppet masters they can dance and follow orders with the best of them.
The Army used to be a place where boys were turned into rough men. It used to be a standard of how an army was supposed to operate. What the hell happened to the Army I joined? Where did it go? Can we get it back? If current trends become permanent patterns, then I fear the Army’s best days are behind it.