December 1, 2005  

Write at your own risk

Ralph Peters believes that senior Army leadership encourages written criticism from its junior leaders (“Fighting and writing,” October). I wonder what Army he served in. The small numbers of junior officers who are fortunate enough to have served under progressive, open-minded commanders probably have had good fortune in publishing. However, based on my soda-straw view of the big Army, publishing is OK so long as the young officer endorses the senior leadership “groupthink.”

I have seen several of my good friends’ military careers destroyed for speaking and writing about failures of Army leadership to perform even the most basic responsibilities in taking care of soldiers. One man’s hero is another person’s gadfly, and the Army is quite adept at killing gadflies.

Most junior officers want to do the right thing and facilitate change. However, from what I have observed, many senior officers are quite happy with groupthink and the status quo, and they will go to great lengths to ensure their subordinate leaders agree with them (at least on the outside).

Mr. Peters must certainly be aware of the many forward-thinking officers in the history of the Army who met an untimely career death in pressing for change.

Since this may be one of the few times I feel the urge to write about the military, here goes. The Army will eventually get fixed when a fair draft is reinstated: no exemptions, no excuses. After a generation of Americans (in all social strata) is once again exposed to enlisted military service and an unfiltered view of Army life extends to all classes of citizens, change will happen. When the sons of America’s movers, shakers and power elite are at risk of going to war with no hope of getting out of it, poor equipment, poor facilities, poor pay, poor training and poor leadership will quickly evaporate under the onslaught from the big money and big power of their parents.

Retired CWO2 Steve Bennett

Fairfax, Va.