Recently, I attended graduation of NCMA OC56 and spent a little time with the new Lieutenants prior to them taking the oath of office. In 1984, I graduated in class OC26 and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant as well; yes if you do the math, that’s 30 years ago. To state the obvious, the world has changed, however I’m not certain for the better.
Then: my studies of world threat as a newly commissioned officer were centered on Soviet doctrine and how their army functioned, their weaponry and tactics. Now: the new officers will study an enemy we are fighting utilizing tactics of fear; the use of small arms, suicide bombs, videoing the decapitation of Americans, slaughter of people that have a different religious belief than theirs, have no issue of attacking us here on our own soil and willing to die based on their religion. Then: America was a place when you get pushed by a bully, we responded with a punch in the nose. Now: when a bully attacks, if the attacked responds with force, everyone gets punished.
Prior to the graduation ceremonies, I had the privilege to observe a “ritual of passage” that is still in place even 30 years later. The officer candidates were excited to participate because it truly has meaning; there is just something about tradition. Then: we conducted the ritual with vigor observed by senior staff, family and the world as they encouraged our “purging” of the last remnants of “enlisted blood” flowing through our veins. Now: a bystander observing/bitching and quoting “regulations” that are contrary to the traditional ceremony. The sideline comments by the “Doug Neidermyers” of the world has not changed, however the response has. Unfortunately, much of today’s military leadership is more reflective of “PC” and regulations rather than thinking “what does it take to motivate our young troops to kill an enemy that will blow themselves up, rape women, kill children and video themselves performing atrocities?”
I believe that the new Lieutenants are well educated, have access to technology for better combat tactics, possess a desire to serve our Country, and because of the training they received, they’ll lead troops in combat successfully. Then: we had to learn how to actually use a compass, read a map, polish boots, shine brass, do a minimum of 20 push-ups for corrective actions, and if we did not measure up, there were no “equalizers” in place and sent home (yes, I’m guilty of my own restraint here for the sake of PC). We had to be accountable for our failures or lack of standards, period. Now: GPS will tell us where they are, where they should be going, boots/shoes require no effort for appearance, brass?, conduct a maximum of 5 push-ups for corrective action, and everything is made “equal” with regulations. Some reading this will think “sounds better to me” and of course, there is no way that you would understand in the first place, so have another sip of Starbucks coffee.
My favorite conversation on my visit was with a young Captain that is a current TAC Officer (basically a drill instructor) regarding changes that he viewed as ridiculous (this Captain is a graduate of the same program). At the core and initiation of training, the Basic Officer Candidates must learn the definition of military leadership. “The art of influencing and directing men in such a way as to obtain their willing obedience, confidence, respect and loyal cooperation in order to accomplish the mission” is actually etched in stone and placed prominently in the OCS operational area. The Captain explained to me when he arrived for duty, he was “corrected” that the definition had changed. His response was exactly the same as mine “you can’t change what’s written in stone,” God help us.
Many of the Officer Candidates I trained as a TAC Officer are now in leadership positions, some leading our troops in combat roles and many reaching the rank of O-6, Colonel (interestingly, they still addressed me as “Sir”). I was blessed to have conversation with some of them over this visit and share my personal pride of their service along the positions they have earned. They privately shared their dismay of how “things are today” and the restraints placed upon them for realistic training to fight an unrealistic enemy. I know and understand that I would struggle to lead in the environment that they must now operate. I get it…I’m a relic of the past and “out of touch with the way things are” today. On these particular subjects, I wear those badges with pride.
The graduation ceremony was conducted at the very place I took my oath of office 30 years ago. Unfortunately the Army Band that played the National Anthem, the Army song, etc. has been replaced by recordings for the music played (I guess the funds for the band have now been diverted for additional “sensitivity” training). The atmosphere of excitement, pride of accomplishment, and the seriousness of the ceremony has not changed.
The oath of office for commissioning has not changed which includes the final words “SO HELP ME GOD.” When I heard the proclamation, I actually had a sinking feeling that this phrase may go away one day, just like so many of our many American values we hold dear. When and if it does, help us God! Cheers y’all. #thefuneralcommander