Affliction in a Godless Army: The Sins of Generals

by | 9 Mar, 2018 | 0 comments

One only needs to serve for a short period of time before becoming intensely aware that our Army is an afflicted army. You may disagree with me concerning the source and that’s okay, but one may not deny the affliction minus some extreme intellectual dishonesty. Returning to the divisional Army after 13 years, nothing could prepare me for the reality of our soldier’s afflictions.

Aside from sexual sin and a vast misunderstanding of masculinity and femininity, numerous other afflictions scourge our armed forces today.

From the Top

I cannot address the sin of the rank and file without first addressing the sins of generals.

When the soldier partakes of the maddening wine of the whore of Babylon, the fallout might resonate across his unit or his family, but when a senior officer transgresses, the fallout can resonate across the legions.

In recent years, the United States military finds itself wrestling a surge in senior officer misconduct. From 2011 to 2014, the number of Army officers disciplined for misconduct has tripled. Why wouldn’t it? As godlessness pervades and the common grace of the Gospel is suppressed, unrighteousness penetrates to every echelon. Godless generals pursue godless affairs as do any fallible men.

The most widely-known account is the tragic fall of General Petraeus who got caught in 2012 in an adulterous affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. His fall stunned as Petraeus was a star, one of the most successful officers ever produced. “This is a man who has never failed at anything.” But fail he did, losing his job, his reputation, and damaging the nation’s war effort in the process.

He’s not alone. There’s the Major General who got exposed by an anonymous tip. Leading a licentious, “swingers” lifestyle, visiting sex clubs, having sex with multiple partners, for three years he betrayed his family and his profession. Then there’s the general who had a three-year affair with a junior officer.

A Brigadier General gets fired for assaulting his mistress. Another is busted using his government credit card at strip clubs. Still another general sexually harasses subordinates in a sex-and-bribery scandal.

One drinks on duty. Another accepts illegal and expensive gifts from foreigners. Another treats himself and his wife to a $750-a-night Caribbean hotel at the taxpayer’s expense. Another general takes numerous unauthorized, personal trips in government aircraft, also on the taxpayer’s dime.

Another general sends repeated, racy texts to a junior enlisted soldier’s wife. Still another makes off-color jokes in an email to other generals about masturbating to the ‘hot’ visiting congresswoman.

Epitomizing the affliction, Major General John Rossi committed suicide becoming the highest-ranking officer to ever take his life. A West Point graduate who was set to be promoted to Lieutenant General and assume command of the Army’s space and missile defense command, Rossi took his own life and left behind his wife and three children.

This is not the rank-and-file…but it sure sounds familiar. If you removed mention of rank, any First Sergeant would think this sounds like business as usual in a standard Army company of soldiers, certainly not those entrusted to leadership at the highest levels.

A New Level of Service

I fear this may be viewed as a hit piece. I’ve served for several officers who attained the rank of general officer and at this point, several of my classmates are starting to flirt with the general officer ranks.

The vast majority are committed patriots, intensely competent, highly-educated. For the record, Brigadier General is the toughest rank to obtain in the Army. A former commander of mine who became a Lieutenant General remarked that service at that level was, “a whole new level of service.” When you pin on stars, you literally sacrifice the entirety of yourself, every last vestige, to the defense of the nation. The company owns you…all of you. This particular officer was told once to report to Fort Drum, New York to be the rear detachment Division Commander with less than two-day’s notice. Pack a bag and go. We’ll send your stuff and family later.

I asked another general officer I worked for how much control he maintained over his career and profession. “About 10 percent,” he laughed, “and even that is an illusion.”


No senior officers get fired for incompetence. The competition is fierce and most senior officers are driven and highly competent individuals. Senior officers generally transgress in one of three areas:

– zipper issues,
– bottle issues,
– money issues.

A cursory review of the individual accounts reveals every single one of these, especially sexual transgression. This invites some uncomfortable question. How does this happen? Where is the accountability?

At some point, the institution begins construction of the cult of personality as we build leaders into hyper-actualized images of their true selves. As you progress in rank, people begin to want to do things for you, edging into moral and ethical gray areas. Senior officers become increasingly isolated and insulated, with fewer peers, surrounded by affirming subordinates.

Did no one notice General Petraeus spending so much time with a younger woman, not his wife? Did no one have the wherewithal to pull him aside and ask what was going on?

These are fallible men, no different in their capacity for sin than any other men. Yet, the military puts them on a pedestal, gives them access to things that no other soldiers has, and removes accountability. Then, we are astonished when they fall.

In dealing with this issue, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling and career management programs “to shape stronger, more ethical leaders.” These are mere secular band-aids on a gaping spiritual wound.

This is a spiritual issue, the permeation of godlessness into the ranks of our senior leaders.

The force has no choice but to follow suit.


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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).


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