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Published on April 15, 2008 By OckhamsRazor In Ethics

Not only is this a rant, but it's a ramble, too.  I just got back from 9 days aboard a ship, and every time I go to one of these things, I see stuff that for me, at least, is a clear indicator of why the gears are starting to grind more often.  Morale on most of the ships I've been on is very low, but guess what?  It isn't because of the job itself.  It's something else - something deep.  So, in order to deal with it, I just started writing in a word document about some little things that bug me.  It isn't well written, but I publish it because...well, because that's all I ever intended this blog to be for.  For me to spew whatever I wanted to now and again.

 

Enjoy.  Or don't.




Once upon a time, men were conscripted into armed services.  They were conscripted by various means - law and societal pressure being the most prevalent.  Yes, there have been times when lots of people joined for a cause sparked by some international event, but for the most part, people don't grow up aspiring to kill others or be killed by others in a war.

 

These days, the military is different.  People join it voluntarily, but their choice to do so is varied.  Most do not actually want to go to some war and put their lives on the line for what they believe.  Hell...many would be hard pressed to tell you, and defend with anything that remotely resembles reason, what exactly it was that they DID believe.  The truth of the matter is, the military is a place to turn for many people that have no other marketable skills.  It's also a good place to go do a quick 4 years and walk out with a lot of college money.  The military offered me, as a musician, far more than the guy that ran the bar down the street.  That guy would have me play four hours a night for a pittance and no future.  So it isn't a stretch that I joined.  It was a good business decision for my family.  For our survival.

 

Over the 17 years I have been in, I have heard a lot of rhetoric.  Things like "Mission first, people always," and a whole bunch of lip flapping about "honor, courage, and commitment."  And then I walk by the closest 15 parking spaces to the commissary which are reserved for O-6 (high ranking officer) and above and it makes me wince.  Not because I want to park closer, but because it is so clear to me that the words "people always" are Orwellian in nature.  It’s “people always, but me first.”  In the military, all are created equal, but some are more equal than others. 

 

It is necessary in the military (and I would argue in ANY business) for some person to be definitively in charge - to lead the way ahead.  But why is it necessary to magnify the value of those in charge to the point that they get better parking privileges? (And hopefully you realize that parking is just an example of a whole trend of other perks that the "more equal" set gets)  It has been said that "rank has its privileges" but that is an outdated counterproductive way of thinking in today's age.  We are one team, set to accomplish one mission, and no person on that team should receive one iota less treatment in something that has nothing to do with that mission.  This includes who gets to sit where on a plane, who gets to board the plane first, who gets the first meal, what time liberty expires, best parking places, best housing, and etc... 

 

The people that join the military, though they do so for varied reasons, are preached to from the outset, that the military is one big team.  That every person doing his or her job is of equal importance, and they're right.  With downsizing of the military and limited funds an increasing political camping ground, every person doing his or her job IS of the utmost importance.  It is for this reason that I suggest lines between ranks need to be erased.  It isn't so that Private First Class Schmuckatelly gets to burn less calories on his long walk to the commissary door.  It's because if we're all the same team, then why are clean lines of differing values of individuals on the "one team" being drawn?  The answer is simple.  So that some team members can be more equal than others.  In other words, it's a lie.

 

Admirals live in large houses with servants, people to cook their meals, and a wealth of people, military and civilian alike, to do their bidding.  They have people to screen their e-mail.  And I grant - they have some rough decisions to make, and sometimes the things they do can be the deciding factor between failure and victory.  That’s why they get paid more money.  Why do they need more compensation beyond what they're paid if they value a "one team" concept so highly? 

 

Here's the real truth.  While they’re spouting off about the one team, they secretly harbor the belief that they deserve more than just their paycheck over the guy whose job it is to clean the toilets.  It's "Mission first, people always, as long as I get mine off the top."  And why do I say this?  Because I believe in honor, perhaps foolishly, and I have the courage to say it, and I'm committed to the idea that all people are created equally.

 

I remember one time me and three guys in my band were flying back from somewhere on an Admiral's plane.  And there were cooks on the plane!  And they were serving breakfast like it was a restaurant!!  And they started to serve us and went to me first because I outranked the guys I was with.  I said "screw that...serve them first.  I can wait."  It wasn't that I was trying to be noble.  It's just that the idea that because I had some extra stitching on my sleeve made me more valuable than they were made me sick to my stomach.

 

The fear I have is that rank-based respect will be our undoing.  It may seem trivial to the average reader that I resent having to call a man "sir," with the clear implication that I am "not a sir," to a guy who was in diapers when I graduated high school.  But I have seen the effects of this rank based thinking, and it isn't good.  People deserve respect based on their merits that they prove over a period of time, and it doesn't matter whether they are enlisted, officer, or how many years they have in.  If their character, and especially their competency, is such to warrant the respect of the people around them, they need to be compensated as such.  And I don't care if it's an 18 year old Seaman Recruit just out of boot camp who happens to be a ninja at his job or if it's a venerable Admiral who's seen a world that's hurting and has had to make some tough decisions along the way.  If the "one team" paradigm is going to work, it means that each team member has an equal value.  Extra perks that accumulate with every 10 cent stripe you add to your costume – er, I mean uniform - are an indicator that “one team” is just more rhetoric.  And though the financial compensation may differ due to the gravity of the situations dealt with and the responsibilities that must be born along with those decisions, the individual team members will not be at their best on the "one team" if they are taught to perceive themselves as "less than."  Cloths don’t make the man, I hear.  Well rank doesn’t either.

 

Rank is archaic.  It's unnecessary.  And it makes people on the "one team" feel like they aren't a major part of that one team when, in fact, they most definitely are.  Once upon a time, it worked and it made sense.  Today, not so much in my opinion.


Comments (Page 1)
on Apr 15, 2008
There are a lot more serious things to rant about than who flaps the Admiral's jacks in the morning. Most service members are so far removed from that strata that they don't even know it exists. Morale isn't based on what the stars get, it is based on Joe in the hole and what his life is like...and who gives a crap. Morale is most strongly affected by middle managers, the 5's and 6's who virtually run the services. When they know their stuff and...as you instinctively demonstrated with your breakfast story..take care of their troops, the troops see that and respond. When leaders truly care about their folks and prove it with actions and not just words, then Snuffy will feel like someone does shivagit. I was never in the Navy, but I spent 17 years on the dock watching it...enough to know I would NEVER join it...but in the Army, Snuffy will bitch about anything and everything, cry the blues and wish he had chocolate milk. But that isn't morale...that's just being Snuffy. Even as stretched as things are for the services now, middle managers make a huge difference in the life of the troops. Having said all that, I fear that all the services are bleeding off their good mid-management, and if the deployment circus they face now doesn't improve, it won't be morale that is the problem, it will be whose gonna carry the machine gun...everybody else is gone.

It's a good rant, Ok, did I detect a bit of personal bitterness?
on Apr 16, 2008

It's a good rant, Ok, did I detect a bit of personal bitterness?

 

It's hard to answer that without knowing more specifically what you're implying.  Instead of guessing, I'll just hope you come back and clarify.

on Apr 16, 2008
Daddy has it!
Q: Do you know the difference between the Army and a well run Business?


A: Adult Leadership!

Now that I am a corporate slave I am truly amazed! When they can be fired, people actually work towards their bosses goals!. (The PC atmosphere is worse though)
on Apr 16, 2008
I said "screw that...serve them first. I can wait." It wasn't that I was trying to be noble. It's just that the idea that because I had some extra stitching on my sleeve made me more valuable than they were made me sick to my stomach.


Not all bosses are good ones. And that goes for Admirals and Generals. I think you demonstrated a quality that would make men want to follow you and respect you. It is apparent that the officers you are relating to do not share that quality. Whether it is just your perception of them, or the reality, is the problem, for in the end, what is perceived is how we react.

It would be nice to believe that the officers really cared for "the men first", and they may. But the fact that the perception is different is a real problem.
on Apr 16, 2008

It would be nice to believe that the officers really cared for "the men first", and they may. But the fact that the perception is different is a real problem.

 

I'm sure that many of them do.  Many might agree with me so far as to say that they shouldn't receive "extras" due to their rank.  The individual officers aren't at fault (nor the upper enlisted, nor the upper brass.)  It's the system itself that is flawed.  The paradigm is broken.

 

As I mentioned, this was something I literally brainstormed out onto virtual paper as a catharsis.  It was published here as is...a very rough rough draft of an idea.  But I alluded to something deeper, and I'd like to probe that depth.  This isn't about who gets what and what perceptions that may cause.  It's about what is right.

 

You can find the salary tables of the US military on the web.  You basically get pay increases for two things (aside from yearly cost of living raises).  Time in and what rank you are.

I think my overarching point here is that as an E6, I get paid more than an E5 because I have extra responsibilities that the E5 doesn't have.  And THAT is my compensation for that.  My pay increase.  I shouldn't then get special treatment for things that have nothing to do with completing the mission, aka my job, on top of it.

 

And in the pay department, our base pay isn't all we get.  We get something called Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to offset the cost of setting up a home.  But an officer with a wife and 2 children gets a much bigger sum than an E1 with a wife and two children.  Why?  The space they require is the same.  They're both humans and they're both integral parts of the military machine.

 

I think examples like the above one can cause that E1 to feel "less than" when the truth of the matter is he's anything but less than.  This affects his morale and can possibly affect the quality of the work he does.  Whether or not he should let it bother him is a different article.  My point is that since it doesn't have anything to do with accomplishing the job at hand, Human A with a wife and 2 children = Human B with a wife and two children.  The difference in rank is absolutely irrelevant.

on Apr 16, 2008
Sorry, Ok, I wrote a lengthy and insightful reply here, pushed the wrong button and POOF, it is gone forever. I just don't have the energy to go back and do it again. I was referring to your apparent bitterness over the gap between the pay and perks of the Brass and the grunts. Unfortunately, it is worse out here in the outer darkness of civilian life. In the final analysis, we aren't in it for the money. The prestige that goes with the rank is a large part of the draw. Something I didn't understand when I was a private was the fact that the higher you go, the more is expected of you. My work day as a First Sergeant very nearly doubled my workday as a rookie. I am not really defending the extravagance, I have some issues with some of it, too. But the burning issue remains...SO WHAT? I didn't do it for the money and I'm betting you don't either.

HEY GEEZER. Good to see you again. How is the transition going? Did a lot of fish have to die to settle you down? Fill us in!
on Apr 16, 2008
I don't really know how the military rank system works. I thought you got promotions based on time in service.

I think the perks are necessary. I want the officers who know what they're doing to be compelled to stay by the awesome perks they get. I don't care if someone takes their 4 years and leaves, but if someone stays longer, and is getting significantly better at being a soldier or an officer due to experience, I don't want that person leaving because the budget only has room for a small salary increase.
on Apr 16, 2008
When I was serving at a company level unit, I felt pretty much the same way you do. Then I got on a team at command level and learned a lot. I was a radio operator on a logistical contingency team, which gave me little to nothing to do when we weren't in the field. So I became the 1st Corps Support Command Deputy Commander's driver. Doing that job, I literally lived in both worlds. I was an enlisted man thrust into the world of the Flag Officer.

I don't really care how many "perks" a flag officer has, the responsibilities of the job far outweigh them. We're talking about a person who has more responsibilities than the CEO of a fortune 500 corperation who makes as much as the mid level executives.

Don't take this as some brown nosing admiration, out of the three Colonels I drove for, only one earned my respect beyond his rank. I got along great with the other too, but I was also glad I never had to serve in a unit they commanded.

As an NCO, I was the kind you describe. I was the last one in my section to eat, the last to go to bed and the first to wake up. But that is leadership at the NCO and Company grade level. Sad reality says that a Field Grade Officer can't know the troops, there are too many. For them, the "team" concept is a holistic thing, not a personal thing. Some of them like it that way, but for others, it's one of the downsides of getting promoted.

Basically I learned there are two kinds of Flag Officers; those who are worthy of the perks and those who aren't. The ones who are worthy of the perks understand that they are merely trappings of rank and position. The other kind are those who think the perks are bestowed upon them because of who they are.

I also learned that, perks or no, I wouldn't ever want to be a Commissioned Officer, much less a Flag Officer.

~~~~~~

All that being said, great rant! I wouldn't dispute any of the details. We used to joke that "a complaining soldier is a happy soldier". I'm sure you understand what that means. ;~D
on Apr 16, 2008

I was referring to your apparent bitterness over the gap between the pay and perks of the Brass and the grunts.

 

Ah no, not really.  I understand the higher pay thing.  Maybe if I narrowed the scope a bit, it would make more sense what I'm driving at.  I tend to get an idea and then make it extreme as a form of example.  So to be less extreme...

 

As an E6, do I deserve to eat before an E5?  A better parking space?  More money to buy housing to house the same size family?  First choice of seats on a C-130?  Is it ok for a 30 year old E6 (um, that wouldn't be me) to have a liberty curfew of midnight while a 30 year old E5 has to be in by 2300?  @Jythier, I can tell you that those perks have NOT been what kept me in.  All they breed is resentment.

 

There's another facet that bugs me between E6 and E7 in the Navy.  E7 is the transition to khaki.  It's sort of a big deal - for some reason.  I had a friend who picked up Chief (E7), and about 6 months later I was on the phone with her and asked her how it was.  She said that for the most part it was good and that only one thing bugged her.  As an E6 she had taken an idea for an improvement in systems and operations up the chain and got squashed flat for even suggesting there was a better way to run things.  When she made Chief, she took the same idea up and suddenly, *poof*, it was brilliant.  It's only one paygrade - what gives?

on Apr 16, 2008
I'm only a "dependent" so my opinion doesn't count, haha, but yes, it is annoying the way things are structured.

The parking space thing sticks out particularly. You have all these open slots for Officers ...no one parked in them...they're empty...and then half as many (or less) parking spaces for handicapped and stork parking (if there even is stork parking).

I'm not sure why parking close at the PX or commissary is something you earn with rank. Weird.

The housing thing is strange, too, but I guess it's another piece of compensation. My husband is an E6 (less time in grade than you, though, I am sure, so lower on the totem pole, haha), and although we don't get a big housing allowance, we would have a hard time finding housing that fit our family at a lower rank BAH. Of course, family size is a personal choice, and it's really not the military's responsibility to make sure we can house our children, disregarding how many we choose to have.

Adrian is like you, though, takes good care of his guys. When he was taking leave during the last deployment he was offered a free upgrade to first class. He was sitting near a private, also going home on leave. He gave the seat to the other guy. He typically does things like that.

Handing out "perks" based on rank is sort of silly to me also because you can have an awesome E4 and a douche bag O3. Sometimes rising in rank is a matter of being the right place at the right time and kissing the right ass. Very political and not always based on virtue.

Ha, I guess I should stop soon, but I just thought of one more thing. Last deployment my husband qualified for the CMB. The higher ups he served with put themselves in for theirs and received them despite some of them having not truly met the qualifications. Adrian did receive his, but much later, and only after many guys complained about not having received what they had rightfully earned.

Army NCO Creed:

No one is more professional than I. I am a Noncommissioned Officer, a leader of Soldiers. As a Noncommissioned Officer, I realize that I am a member of a time honored corps, which is known as "The Backbone of the Army". I am proud of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the Military Service and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself. I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety.

Competence is my watchword. My two basic responsibilities will always be
uppermost in my mind -- accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of
my Soldiers. I will strive to remain tactically and technically
proficient. I am aware of my role as a Noncommissioned Officer. I will
fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that role. All Soldiers are
entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership. I
know my Soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own. I
will communicate consistently with my Soldiers and never leave them
uninformed. I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards
and punishment.

Officers of my unit will have maximum time to accomplish their duties; they will not have to accomplish mine. I will earn their respect and confidence as well as that of my Soldiers. I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers, and subordinates alike. I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage. I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Noncommissioned Officers, leaders!



Ok, enough from me! haha.

on Apr 16, 2008

I'm only a "dependent" so my opinion doesn't count, haha,

 

Only us military folk would fully get the point of that comment.  Even with multiple powers of attorney that basically allow my wife to make my mind up for me in any situation, some people just won't talk to her because she isn't the service member.  That sucks, too, but that's another thread.

 

As for the rest of what you wrote, TW, thanks.  Very illuminating and spot on.

on Apr 16, 2008

Rank is archaic.  It's unnecessary.  And it makes people on the "one team" feel like they aren't a major part of that one team when, in fact, they most definitely are.  Once upon a time, it worked and it made sense.  Today, not so much in my opinion.

Here's another opinion. 

Those higher rankers are in the positions they are because they have earned it. They have put in the hard work and built their way up. The military doesn't work like the civillian world where you might become CEO of a company just because your Daddy owned the business. All military members begin on level playing ground, the first few promotions are virtually guaranteed, after that the decisions they make as individuals and the hard work they put in to the job influence their ability to climb the rank ladder.

It's pretty well known that in order for any organization to function, be it a business, the government or even the home, there has to be a pecking order. Someone needs to be in charge - generally someone who has earned that position - and someone has to be low man on the totem pole. Otherwise you have chaos....."Everyone equal" has been tested and doesn't work. It's called Communism.

My son is actually struggling with this at his own work. He has a handful of 2nd LTs who came in about a year ago, who he was instructed to mentor. They won't have it. He has tried to give them advice, and guide them, and they have yelled and put up a fit telling him he's stepping on their toes. They try their hardest to knock him down, then turn around to ask for help when they don't understand something.

The way he describes it is they want everything handed to them on a silver platter. They see his awards and the respect he has earned in the labs. They want the hard work he has put in, without actually putting in the work. So while he goes in every morning at 7, and leaves every night between 5:30 and 6, often skipping lunch to work, these guys stroll in around 9 or 10am, take a two hour lunch break to play video games together then call it a day at 4. Yet they are angry at him for gaining all the recognition. This is exactly why the productivity in our country is so low. Everyone wants to put in minimal effort, but expects equal recognition.

I saw this same thing in Little League years ago.  Somebody got the bright idea that we need to give all the kids the same exact trophies at the end of the season no matter what place they come in.  By the second year of this we could see a noticeable diff in the kids.  They had no incentive to work for it.  They knew no matter what all would receive the same prize at the end regardless of output.  I remember one kid shrugging his shoulders and saying,...."what does it matter, I'm still getting a trophy anyhow." 

As far as parking goes.....I know Wright-Patt is a good sized base. At their commissary only the first TWO spaces are reserved for high rankers - after handicapped of course. The next two are reserved for pregnant ladies and patrons with small children.

Just be glad you're a fit individual due in part to your walking a few extra paces through the parking lot.  There's a lot to be thankful for.

But yes, I agree nice rant.  


 

on Apr 16, 2008
LOL, KFC, that was a lot of boastful douche-baggery.

Yes, your son is sooooo great. He has done soooo much. No one listens to his wealth of knowledge.

He's still a FNG and he needs to get over himself. Perhaps if he did that he might have more influence. Sounds like he's lacking leadership skills.
on Apr 16, 2008
LOL, KFC, that was a lot of boastful douche-baggery.

Yes, your son is sooooo great. He has done soooo much. No one listens to his wealth of knowledge.


Actually TW that wasn't my main point but since you're interested...he's been written up, picture included in USA today about a month or six weeks ago or so now and among newspapers across the country. He was involved in a special project that did well and he was well commended for. I got a phone call from someone back home who said they saw the article in a Maine newspaper. This is the first time I've even mentioned that BTW.

Tova has seen the article since I emailed it to her privately. He also has had some awards....I can't say for sure what they all are but could find out easily enough. He was also up for Engineer of the Year...he lost but made the top three finalists. So yes, I have lots to be proud of not only in this son but in all three.

Is that something I should be ashamed of?

on Apr 16, 2008

Brandie:

I'm only a "dependent" so my opinion doesn't count, haha, but yes, it is annoying the way things are structured.

When it comes to military spouses, I'm not sure who has it worse.  There are the enlisted and NCO spouses, who don't seem to matter at all.  Then there are the Officers' spouses who, every word they say, every party they don't attend, every friend they don't make, every club they join, or don't join effects the career of the Officer.

You've known me long enough to know the soft spot I have in my heart for military spouses.  Whether Enlisted, NCO or Officer, I always considered the spouse just as "in".  The only differences are the pay, job description and acknowledgements for service.

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