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Troop Cuts

February 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Troop cuts have been a big topic the last several months in the Army. The force needs to cut roughly 80,000 (originally 50,000) soldiers and they have 5 years to do it. Retirements (20+ years) and ETS’s (soldiers finishing their enlistment contracts) are helping with thinning this number, but it is nowhere near enough. Originally, major offenses like murder, rape, robbery, etc. or testing positive on a piss test were grounds for starting the paperwork process to chapter somebody out. Being faced with a staggering number like 80,000, commanders are now giving the boot for DUI’s, multiple punitive actions taken against the soldier (Article 15’s, Court Martials, etc in a given span), and failing PT tests. Since last March, the top two positions have seen new faces take over; a new chief of staff (Gen. Martin Dempsey) and a new Sergeant Major Of The Army (SMA Raymond F. Chandler III).

SMA Chandler has made several changes since taking over the lead enlisted position of the Army, both good and bad. He got rid of the black beret for all soldiers, which was a failed attempt to match everyone with the green berets, worn by Special Forces, red berets worn by Airborne soldiers, and black berets (now tan), originally worn by Rangers. He is in the process of updating several regulations, and has completely revamped the tattoo policy to what it once was, making it harder for current soldiers such as myself to get more tattoos and almost impossible for anyone with tattoos to enlist/become an officer. Currently having 12 tattoos, this puts me in the middle of the issue, but I have seen many soldiers (including those of high rank) with almost full coverage in most areas. With the current cuts in place, this appears to be another reason for booting people out.

One of SMA Chandler’s main targets of these troop cuts are the deadbeats, people who honestly serve no purpose to a unit or the Army (and these people are floating around in every unit). What annoys me the most, is that these are the people that need to be kicked out the fastest, yet they are being pushed too slowly to meet this goal in a way the Army would like. From a basic observation of my own unit, it has taken nearly 9 months just to get the ball rolling for paperwork to start kicking these people out. The average time it’s taking to medically chapter/retire someone is close to a year (far too long). Ironically, it’s taking longer to cut someone early than to go through the normal retirement process. Sadly, what ive witnessed in less than two years since Basic Training, is that many who have joined in the last 3-5 years seem to think that they’re just going to get a free pass for an entire enlistment without ever putting in any work. Despite joining to “get off the streets”, or to make something of themselves, many of the guys I’ve served with still seem to think this is the block back home and “how hood you are” dictates what goes on. I don’t want to make an issue out of this, but most racial/gender stereotypes that ive largely ignored early on in life, exist everywhere in the Army. With the role of  women becoming more prominent, many leaders are considering allowing them to serve in roles previously allowed only for men. Yet many of the women that I attended Initial Training with have done little more than show up to a unit, get pregnant, and sham out. I have no issues with a woman’s right to create a family, but the realization has to be that you plan your life around being a soldier first.

What I’m seeing on a daily basis is that no one seems to care anymore. Signing a contract to serve and protect the country seems to have little meaning these days. They tell you in Basic, “remember what you’re getting into isn’t a job, it’s a life changing experience”. I beg to differ. I see a group of people who stumble into work at 5:45 am with a cup of coffee, and are trudging back out at 5pm, in a hurry to get out the gates and go home. I’ll be the last guy to tell you that I want to embody everything that the Army stands for and be a “Super Soldier” every day, but I aim to finish my enlistment with an Honorable Discharge.  This Army has become completely watered down, as Basic Training lacks everything that it used to be about, and AIT consists of everything that your unit will teach you on the job once you arrive anyway. Discipline is being stressed in all the wrong places, and daily life on a regular Army base  has become more serious than going through an overseas deployment. Two of the four people I came to Fort Carson with are already out of the military after less than a year and a half of service; one dead from a car crash he could’ve survived with a seat belt, and one for being “crazy” (the easiest excuse to cut ties nowadays).

The Army Times ran a headline article (taped on the door of my office in Afghanistan) on why people were getting out (“Quitting”, as they put it), blaming bad officers for poor leadership. The truth is, the people that have stuck around long enough to make a career and get promoted to sergeant and above, with a few exceptions here and there, are far less qualified than they should be for their rank, and they use their position simply for their own personal gain. Most of them don’t have a clue on how to lead or treat people like human beings. The NCO (non-commissioned officer; (sergeant and above) Creed states that an NCO is a leader of lower enlisted soldiers and has a responsibility to train and teach these individuals. All I’ve witnessed is a group of power-hungry individuals who are either trying to push everyone around, or using their rank to stand around and get out of any kind of task. As I’ve seen during my time in “Goof” company, most of the NCO’s here fit that description. I can probably name 4-5  NCO’s in my time in service that have had any kind of positive influence on how I should do things and how to conduct myself. These guys will all be retired within 3-4 years, leaving us with a bunch of complete jokers to run our units. All I can do for the next 607 days (yes, I’m counting down, I have been for a while) is hope to avoid the cuts and not get caught up in the bullshit that goes on daily.

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