Godless Army—Thoughtless Army
America will lose its next war.
This was the conviction of a former boss of mine. The force, though well-equipped and well-funded, lacks heart. Commanders have no time to prepare their soldiers for battle as they tarry with administration and deal with the affliction of soldiers. Present skirmishes aside, the force dallies with much minutiae and political correctness as our soldiers self destruct and our enemies gather. We may continue in the low intensity conflicts of yesterday but someday, someone’s gonna rise up and punch us in the mouth. How will we respond?
The godlessness that has spread across the force has introduced another plague, thoughtlessness.
And because thoughtlessness pervades, we scarcely scratch the surface of whichever issue and soldiers continue to die in their affliction.
I sat in stunned silence, crestfallen. “That was it…?”
Our commanding general had assembled all the company grade commanders and higher for some professional development which I definitely looked forward to. I have always loved to learn. I have always loved to read and I love academically rigorous discussion. I arrived at the assembly with no small measure of anticipation.
The subject was…driver’s training.
Our division had experienced a rash of vehicle accidents and the division leadership attributed it to an improper understanding of what a driver’s training program should look like. Several hundred of us sat for a couple of hours while the Division Master Driver explained the standard to us.
“Okay, that was helpful, I guess.”
A particular colonel stood to speak.
At some point, a first among equals emerges. In my circle of battalion commanders, there was one officer who everyone already knew would be a Brigade Commander and eventually a general. It wasn’t me! Well, the same was true of the Brigade Commanders and he had my attention.
This was it. I was literally poised, pen at the ready, prepared for deep wisdom, enlightenment.
“I like to think of it as the five ‘T’s’,” he started with.
“You have to have the troops available to do the work.”
“You have to have time to do the work.”
“You need the training for the soldiers to do the work.”
“You definitely need the tools.”
“And most of all…”
This was it!
“You need the task. You have to have the task. These are what has worked for me, the five ‘T’s of vehicle maintenance.”
Again, I was crestfallen. Here was this man’s chance to impart wisdom and what he had for us was…’the five T’s’?
I sat stunned, amazed at the surface-level, shallow nature of this thought. Now, this officer was unquestionably highly intelligent and extremely well-educated and I’m sure he participated in frequent instances of deep, higher-order thought. But this instance highlighted, in my mind, a rampant issue throughout much of the Army leadership that I observed: the absence of deep thought or higher order cognition or at least the open display thereof.
Of Transformed Minds
Christianity is a thinking man’s religion. The Bible calls the believer to be transformed by the renewing of his mind. (Romans 12:2) God calls us to question, to consider. If you truly believe what you say you believe, the blinders have finally been removed, the veil lifted. Your mind is no longer darkened and enslaved to sin, free to think clearly.
The believer is a thinking man.
If you ever find yourself doubting this aspect of Christianity, secure a copy of John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ—I’ve never actually met anyone who finished it—or spend some time in Romans chapters 9 through 11.
Thinking itself, reason and intellect, are a function of being created in the Image of God. God has given us the capacity for cognition, the capacity to reason, and the Christian is to implement it, to think.
Of Darkened Minds
After our second suicide, one of the senior division leaders called my boss who was deployed at the time, “Jim, we need to stop these suicides!”
My boss was speechless. How do you respond to something like this?
“Well we have, Sir. It’s been two days since the last. They are definitely stopped.”
As we confine ourselves to the secular, as we examine the affliction of the force, we are left with nothing to do but treat symptoms, or attempt to treat symptoms. We may have no real discussion of issues and solutions.
Our division maintained a council that I was a member of as a brigade-level leader. The council sought to promote the health of the force and the community, and it consisted of several working groups. There was the suicide prevention working group, the crime prevention working group, the health and welfare working group, and the sexual assault working group among others. At each meeting, the group lead would present the status of their program, give updates, entertain questions, and perhaps discuss the way ahead.
The sexual assault working group always infuriated me.
Most recently, they discussed a motorcycle ride to bring awareness to sexual assault. This spawned much discussion despite the fact that this will likely not prevent a single sexual assault. Did they actually think that the drunken soldier alone in his barracks room with his passed out drunken female friend would ignore his erection and think to himself, “Oh yeah, the motorcycle ride…I shouldn’t do this.”
Please forgive my sarcasm, but this type of activity does nothing to truly address the affliction of soldiers as born out by the facts. Sexual assault, if anything, becomes a greater issue each year despite the commands frantic efforts to display otherwise. Things like the motorcycle ride allow the command to say, “We are really getting after sexual assault,” which never fails to frustrate me.
At the monthly Sexual Assault Review Board (SARB), the Division Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) expressed a similar frustration, that they had been implementing the Army SHARP program for over three years and the trends continued upward. Young male soldiers continued to assault young female soldiers while under the influence of alcohol.
Unable to contain myself, I raised my hand and mildly suggested that as long as young men and young women were essentially living together with access to alcohol then there would be an issue. Why not segregate the young men and young women’s living quarters? The silence was deafening. I looked around the room to a few nodding heads but mostly blank looks. The Commanding General dismissed the thought with a wave of his hand and continued with the meeting.
Segregating the sexes would, in essence, acknowledge that there is a difference in the sexes…a thought that runs contrary to prevailing secular notions.
As we remain confined to the secular, we may only turn the red bubbles green.
The Thoughtless Charts
Charts! I can make some charts now.
The Army loves to codify things into charts, and over the last several years, stoplight charts became de rigueur. Each issue is denoted by a bubble and if it’s red, that means the issue is not being handled. It’s still a problem. If it’s amber, then it’s being worked. Green is good. The issue is addressed, no more problem. With a quick glance, the senior commander can pass instant judgement on a unit based upon the predominance of color.
The more a commander can brief green on his charts, the better for all involved.
At some point, the green bubble becomes the goal…aside from addressing the actual issue.
It is not as if leaders do not care or understand. Almost any military leader will acknowledge frustration with the approach and the limitations of programs. It’s just that they are confined to the secular and as such, have no other option than to focus on the bubbles, particularly because their boss wants green bubbles…as does his boss.
The Army standard for readiness is 10% or less, meaning that less than 10% of the assigned soldiers can be non-deployable. Our division solved this problem be declaring our standard to be 8%.
By meeting our own internal standard, we effectively always met the Army standard though it changed nothing in reality other than the integrity of commanders forced to bend facts and manipulate data to obtain the requisite 8%. It reminded me of the band in This is Spinal Tap, talking about their speakers going to 11.
“Well it’s one louder, isn’t it.”
“Why don’t you just make 10 louder and make that the top number?”
“…these go to 11.“
Again, the facts on the ground never once changed, just the color of the bubbles.
As we fought the war of the bubbles, the fact that soldiers actually languish in their affliction became secondary. If the bubble was the right color, all was right with the world. Never mind that soldiers continue to self-destruct independent of the color of the bubble, a side effect of pervasive thoughtlessness generated by an even more pervasive godlessness.
For them, the bubble is always red.
The Brave Rifles Series
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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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