Soldier discipline has deteriorated to the point where it risks becoming “cancerous,” a senior Army general said Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling told a group of reporters over breakfast that only a small percentage of soldiers lack proper discipline, but he stressed his concern that it be fixed, now that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down and more troops are returning to their home bases.
“In some cases there are discipline problems that we have not paid as much attention to as we should,” he said, adding, “If you allow that to go unnoticed, it becomes cancerous.”
I’d guess this is largely a result of two pressures. First, the rapid rates of promotion for junior enlisted to the NCO ranks (and NCOs are the heart and soul of soldier discipline) and to a lesser extent, rapid officer promotions.
Secondly, unit commanders are greatly concerned with maintaining unit strength, and are loathe to discharge soldiers that in my day would have been shown the door long ago.
I haven’t been around troop units recently enough to notice the small indicators of discipline. Do soldiers stand at parade rest when addressing NCOs? Do NCOs know where their troops are every minute of every workday? Are on the spot corrections being made?
So far, the Army has done a magnificent job of not losing the core of its NCOs in the mid-grades, in spite of repeated deployment cycles. But it needs to act strongly and swiftly to nip in the bud any trend toward a loss of discipline.