Updated on May 14, 2013
It’s the “H” in our “LDRSHIP” Army Values. Of all the Army values, it’s the probably the most difficult to define. It means honestly. It means integrity – which is another Army Value in and of itself. I denotes respect. It’s really an abstract concept. But, I think another concept contained within “honor” is fairness.
The military has become a totally PC force. Our nation has kept us so busy, that even minor distractions easily become major issues. Good leaders can recognize these minor distractions as the ankle biters they are and adjust their attention accordingly.
What boggles my mind is how quickly the military can turn on its own simply out of convenience. When I was at Redstone Arsenal and involved in a bitter, public dispute with the Huntsville City School system, I was literally told by the Garrison Command Sergeant Major, CSM Ricky Cooper, that they would “rather sacrifice their relationship with one Soldier than an entire community.” On the surface, that seems to make a little bit sense. But, where is the honor in throwing a Soldier under the bus that hasn’t done anything wrong except stand up to, along with 50 other parents, an out of control school system?
I would actually argue that this statement was a strawman anyway. No one was asking the leadership to choose between “one Soldier and an entire community.” The honorable thing to do would have been to simply stay out of this legal dispute unless the Soldier was doing something illegal, immoral, or that violated regulations.
The leadership at the time threatened me with an Article 15 and I demanded a Court Martial. CID had cleared me, but the pressure from the school board to get me to back off was too great. Eventually, all the threats went away and I was told that I was being reassigned to get a fresh start. I was promised that this issue wouldn’t follow me. The honorable thing to do would have been to live up to that promise.
Instead, my previous command called ahead to my new command and ruined my chances for an honest fresh start. I only know this because someone did the honorable thing of telling me it was done. I was told it wouldn’t be held against me and that my actions would speak for themselves. I was put in charge of a travel and TDY program that was in severe disarray and turned it around. No one has been able to complain about my work ethic or professional results. I’m frequently the last one to leave from the HQ each day.
Because I was NOT given a clean slate as promised, there was already an obviously pre-determined impression about me. So, when independent journalist and blogger Michael Yon used his active duty readers to comb through my AKO files for information about my unit (something I’ve NEVER publicly discussed or released) and called my division command in June 2010 to complain that I was harassing him by email, members of my command found the allegations easy to digest having been tipped off already at the caliber of senior NCO they were getting.
Without asking my side of the story first, I got a nice little ass chewing about telling a civilian to “eff off.” To add to the hyprocrisy of being counseled for using a lack of professional language, every other word was the “f” word. When I was able to tell my side of the story, I went and printed out the entire email chain to show that Yon had actually contacted ME first with a wild accusation that I had created a fake Twitter account to ridicule him. I don’t answer to Yon, so I told him where to go using, yes, colorful language.
Recently, I was accused of communicating a threat by the same individual. Not only that, but he also accused other people I’d never met of being part of some fictitious “cult” I was supposedly the leader of. Yon defamed this other senior NCO for daring to speak out in support of me even though we never met. He then defamed a Captain. Then, he defamed a PAO LTC. He finished with defaming MG Scaparotti.
So, the fact that Yon was busy attacking anyone in the military that stood in his way of a good story and a few Paypal donations, members of my command took the opportunity to once again chew my ass. I can take ass chewings. It’s a part of Army life. There are all kinds of people that just don’t feel good about themselves unless they’re shoving their rank or position in your face.
In my experience, there are two kinds of leaders that get stuff done in the Army. The first kind of leader is the one that you follow because you respect them so much you don’t want to let them down. You will go the extra mile because you want them to look good and don’t want to disappoint them.
The second kind of leader also gets stuff done, but the difference is that they lead with fear. You will do what you’re supposed to do and accomplish the mission because the alternative is having to deal with that person. That person likes to yell, use profanity, and will levy all sorts of threats to keep you in line. He/she will employ intimidation and throw UCMJ around like it’s going out of style. You can always tell this type because the most frequent charge is Article 134.
Article 134 is the general article of the UCMJ, also known as the “catch-all.” It’s what leaders will revert to when they want to get you on something, but can’t pin anything on you. The most common charge is the first clause which covers “disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces.” Interestingly, this article also covers the charge of “indecent language” which seems to be the fallback of these types of leaders.
The military has become a PC monster. So much so, that yesterday a general officer was fired for speaking the truth about Pakistan.
In a recent interview with the website Politico, Fuller characterized Afghan leaders as erratic, ungrateful and isolated from reality. The interview quotes him as saying Afghan leaders don’t fully recognize America’s sacrifices on their country’s behalf.
Referring to Karzai’s recent assertion that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan if Pakistan got into a war with the U.S., Fuller was quoted as calling the comments “erratic,” adding, “Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me . I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, I don’t really care?”
Fuller said the Afghans have at times made unreasonable requests for U.S. assistance.
“You can teach a man how to fish, or you can give them a fish,” Fuller was quoted as saying. “We’re giving them fish while they’re learning, and they want more fish! (They say,) ‘I like swordfish, how come you’re giving me cod?’ Guess what? Cod’s on the menu today.”
I don’t think most people would disagree with these statements. We’re donating billions of dollars in monetary and military aid to a country that would turn on us on a dime. We’re over here building up a military force that would just as soon be used to go to war with us.
Last year, General McChrystal was fired for almost the same thing; only he didn’t personally say anything at all. I know that some writers would like to take credit for the firing to add a few more duckets to their Paypal slush funds, but the truth is that political correctness killed this career.
But, I digress.
Where is the honor? Where is the duty to accomplish one of the basic responsibilities of every NCO – to provide for the welfare of their Soldiers.
When my friend, Brian Cowdrey, was killed a few weeks ago. I sent emails asking to attend his memorial and got no response. I sent emails to attend his ramp ceremony and got no response. No one called to specifically ask how I was doing as I was wrestling with the guilt of losing another friend with unfulfilled promises made to him. No one called to check on me as I dealt with unsubstantiated allegations of supposedly wanting to murder an unarmed civilian writer.
But, I DID get a response when those allegations were made. I DID get a response when members in my command were asked about the allegations by someone of higher rank. I DO get responses when someone complains that I sent them an email that didn’t stroke their egos while I complained about either them not doing their jobs or their actions affecting my ability to do mine. Anything that can result in an ass-chewing is a PERFECT opportunity to engage in a conversation with me. Even doing what should come naturally to a senior NCO is a great time to engage in chest pumping and ass chewings.
The other day I sent an email to a select group of fellow First Sergeants and E9s. The subject matter of the email: a roll-up of Sergeant Major of the Army’s briefing to troops while he was here in Afghanistan. It wasn’t anything private, close-hold, classified, or even out of the ordinary. It was the SMA talking to NCOs about – stand by – NCO stuff. I sent this roll-up to these individuals who were peers or superiors. No one on the list was junior in rank and I didn’t send it to every peer; just those that I wanted to engage in conversation with on the subject matter. No opinion was injected into the email, just a “here’s what he said” roll-up.
In response, I was basically told to shut up. “MSG Grisham…..STOP! This is not you lane.”
In today’s Army, a Master Sergeant isn’t allowed to share information about the Senior NCO in the Army with his peers and seniors. Never mind that all this information is available through official sources within the military and in the media. Never mind that the SMA’s visit took place WEEKS AGO and nothing has been disseminated in that time.
The second type of leader leads with intimidation. To the second type of leader, knowledge is power and sharing knowledge is viewed as a direct challenge to that power even when the intent is simply to share information. As a matter of fact, prior to receiving that response, I had already gotten two responses thanking me for sharing this information since they weren’t able to hear it themselves. To this type of leader, there is only one trusted source with the capability to “digest” what the SMA said. Other senior NCOs are incapable of thinking for themselves and should be kept in the blind stovepipe of information from just one source.
The last time I checked, the Sergeant Major of the Army maintained a presence on Facebook and invites responses and input from EVERY Soldier in the Army. I’ve even weighed in on his requests for changing the uniform. So, if it’s “not in my lane” to talk with fellow Senior NCOs about issues the SMA is addressing in a public forum, am I also not supposed to respond when the SMA himself asks, “Tell me Troops: what equipment is the Army procuring that they don’t use (leave in the Connex)? Why are they not using it? (ex. LLDR that may be too heavy for high altitude patrols).” To the second type of leader, the answer is no.
The SMA has been steadily discussing the various aspects of our Army Values on his Facebook. He has not yet discussed “honor,” but when he does I question whether or not I will be able to share his thoughts about it.