The Twisted Reality of Military Leadership

Published by Ryan Miller on

I’ve been mulling over writing an article about how the military, specifically the Army, fails to teach leadership and do right by soldiers at an alarming rate for some time, but when a friend of mine retweeted the thread below, I finally found the motivation to move my words from tweet storms to something more lasting. I will break down the thread into individual tweets where I will explain my thoughtcrimes and the personal impact as a result.

Here is the context of the situation. I will be referring to “a policy doesn’t exist” in the above tweet later.

This attempted corrective action by these NCO’s highlight the most basic failing of leadership. What reason does the NCO’s have to yell at anyone, junior enlisted or otherwise, in this situation? A snap reaction like this is a result of continuing basic training like attitudes toward decision making. You’re taught to react and be loud about with your reaction through marching and running cadence, and the reliance on muscle memory developed during training.

The purpose of basic training is to teach the baseline standards of military dress, survival, marching, shooting, follow orders without question, and how to handle fear in a simulated combat environment. NCO’s often continue similar behaviors of Drill Sergeants in garrison and are never taught that there are a time and place for yelling and, in general, flipping out on soldiers. Some NCO’s figure out that combat NCO shouldn’t be garrison NCO unless there’s specific training that requires it such as at the National Training Center. The former outweighs the latter by a wide margin.

The effect of having drone NCO’s is an atmosphere of fear rather than teamwork, and the teamwork that happens under this fear is often touted as a success despite the often needed herculean effort needed to accomplish tasks. A lot of times, the reaction from NCO’s rise to the level of psychopathic by using threats of physical harm, screaming in soldier’s faces, and smoking someone (physical exercise) until they become ill. Often this is explained away as being necessary because the lives of teammates are at risk in combat or that it’s “just the Army way.” Pure. Psychopathy.

The saying “you might be stupid but at least you’ll be strong” is a confession by NCO’s that they have failed to lead through teaching rather than the soldier being unable to correct their incompetencies, but is almost always taken as the soldier being a continual mess up.

I wax poetic on my personal website about hiding behind rank and chronic mismanagement that soldiers pay the price for unnecessarily.

This is where cognitive dissonance begins to show. My words are not an indictment of the thread’s author, but on the broken system that produces these interactions. They have no idea what to do because they’ve always been taught to unquestionably follow orders.

The 8A Blue Book contains all of the standards for the 8th Army in South Korea. Although the Sergeant Major is correct in that standing at attention is not in the Blue Book, standards can be exceeded and individual camps can have separate policies dictating that you’re to stand at attention for TAPS, but this is never discussed…because of a book or something.

There’s a root cause analysis waiting to happen in the first sentence of this tweet, but alas it’s a missed opportunity. These NCO’s were told to stand at attention for TAPS by someone for some reason, and that should be explored in the event that standing at attention for TAPS is or isn’t policy and correction can take place on part of the Sergent Major or these junior/mid NCO’s. I’ll touch on the last sentence of this tweet in what I have to say about the next tweet because they go hand-in-hand.

I’m resisting hitting the caps lock for this paragraph, wish me luck.

NCO’s haven’t lost their power. Based on the drug problems, alcohol problems, overall low moral I’d say NCO’s having unchecked power is one of the driving causes BECAUSE OF THE VERBAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE.

I tried.

You have to ask yourself what kind of leader pits junior enlisted and NCO’s against each other when the abuse that’s doled out in the name of “life and death” “corrective action?” The answer is a bad leader, and the Army is full of them.

Being with the people is certainly the right track, but instead of going around proselytizing maybe you should ask questions then sit and listen. Humility is an admirable trait for a leader.

The way professional is tossed around in the Army reminds me of the movie Man on Fire where every character involved in abducting and killing children that he faces says “I’m just a professional.”

Right. Better.

Thanks for being a good sport?

I’ve been verbally stoned to death by peers and had my family threatened for voicing the problems with “leadership” in the Army. I’ve been yelled at in the middle of dining halls and humiliated because I stood up and identified abuse and didn’t back down when I was told to know my role.

But sure, keep patting yourselves on the back.


Ryan Miller

A husband, a father of 3, my daughter's sounding board, writes on all topics of cybersecurity, an expert at dad humor, a security engineer, an analyst, a network administrator, and Desktop Support Tier I-III.