Back to the Future*

Author and soldier Jessica Scott has a thought provoking post on the trend of nostalgia for The Old Army and how things were better back in the day.

It seems there is always time for nostalgia when it comes to the Army of yesterday. The 80s Army looks back on the Vietnam Army, the 90s Army on the pre-stress card Army of the 80s. The OIF/OEF Army looking back on the 90s Army…

Wait, what?

Well before the last MRAP rolled through K-Crossing in Kuwait, there was a large push by big Army to “return to the standards” and to “get back to basics”. As though our force, after a decade at war, was somehow broken, less professional, more criminal and more inclined for behavioral health problems.
Cue the Red Book, the first in depth look at suicide in the ranks. What they found was that in 2008-2009, the rash uptick in suicides were NOT among combat veterans but among 18-25 year old white males who had never deployed. There was also a disturbing amount of folks who remained on active duty who had committed felony offenses. Looking at the numbers, yes, the Army had a problem and we affectionately named that problem after Chapter 3 of the Red Book: The Lost Art of Garrison Leadership.

I was almost exclusively a garrison soldier. By that I mean, other than short trips to training centers and local training areas, I made a grand total of one deployment. And the outlook of my generation was almost painfully naïve about what the battlefield would look like, in terms of Rules of Engagement and dealing with local populations. And the complexity of low intensity conflict in populated areas was something we did our best to ignore.

I’m constantly in awe of the ability of our troops today to operate in an environment orders of magnitude more complex than anything we trained for. Today’s force is an incredibly adaptable and flexible force.

Having said that, there is something to be said for a “garrison reset” and reintroductions of standards. And while I’m certain there are any number of commanders and Command Sergeant Majors out there who can’t wait to pounce on the minutia of soldierly standards, I suspect the vast majority of them have a “hit list” of which troops to send home that is far more sensible.  I certainly hope so, anyway.

Read the whole thing. Go, it’s a short post.

*I was actually watching Back to the Future when I wrote this post.

2 thoughts on “Back to the Future*”

  1. People are quick to forget, the Military that went to Iraq with out of date body armor and soft skinned HMMWV’s was a creation of 90’s Clinton-era neglect.

  2. Interesting read, which I haven’t formed an opinion on yet. I suppose that somewhat like the Reagan army was formed by the survivors of the Vietnam era, the current army is led by those who stuck out the 90s, when, people probably have forgotten, the lame mantra was “relevant and ready” and we were desperately trying to survive force cuts and the idea that technology would some somehow replace soldiers. I don’t look at the 90s army with nostalgia, except the high degree of lethality and proficiency that we still retained from the 80s, despite the Clintonian budget constraints. We were pretty busy, but not like today. What we had down were the functional administrative systems that made garrison life easy, and the maintenance, accountability, and property systems that allowed us to “do routine things routinely.” We no longer have that, but we have a lot of good, experienced leaders who no longer know how to do routine things. We need to reinstill the garrison systems while retaining the combat experience. The other good thing about the 90s was we were a decade further off from the current, and worsening, “me generation” weak-mindedness that pervades society and much of the army today.

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