Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Senior NCO takes me to task (not the first time--nor the last, I reckon)

OIF Vet SFC posted in the comments section about "The Blame Game"
I personally think your BLOG on WRAMC is the NEGATIVE spin an Army OFFICER should NOT put in the publics eye. Its easy to point the fingure [sic] at the commander of WRAMC but im confident that he faces political walls your can't even imagine in trying to get things done at "phasing out" facility. I was there ... wounded in Iraq from a IED ... fought the fight at MED HOLD ... rolled up and down the hill at Malogne House in the snow in my Wheelchair. I did what I had to do ... got the mission done... because im a soldier and thats what we do. You and I both know when you outprocess ANY post you have a checklist and a pain in the ass to deal with. Anyway .. before I start ranting ... I just wanna say the fact you put negative spin in the publics eye shows you have never been at the "TIP of the spear"

Sappers Lead the Way!

My reply:
"Sunshine is the best disinfectant."

OIF Vet SFC--I'll answer your ad hominem (look it up) attack with a fisking. You've earned it.

Blow me.

You have no idea what I've done or been through, or took the time to fix. How dare you tell me I've never been at the tip of the spear, you fuckwit, I've always lead from the front, especially when things were hairy or dangerous, sometimes to my detriment, often to great success. One doesn't get his Armor Company Team headquarters section tagged as "Squad Leader Chuck and the Maniacs" by (jealous) battalion staff officers for hiding in safety. You have no right to come into my house and question my abilities or my service--how would you feel if someone said "I'll bet OIF Vet SFC was in a wheelchair after surgery for hemorrhoids he got while spending long hours sitting on his ass doing powerpoint slides working in a JTOC in Quatar?" I give a rat's ass about what you think I have or haven't done, because it's usually the fobbits and REMFs, and the never-was's who question others' wartime service without any factual basis.

It is quite possibly because senior non-commisioned officers like yourself simply throw up their hands and quit, or accept mediocrity and set new lower standards every time you do that, that these conditions continue to decline until they are brought into the public eye.

Why didn't you, while you were at WRAMC, wheel yourself into the CSM's office and tell her about the conditions that your soldiers (and any decent NCO would claim any subordinate soldier as "his") were living in? "My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind -- accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers."--Sound familiar? It's from your own NCO Creed. Do they stiil teach that at PLDC? Or BNCOC? Or ANCOC? Or did they take that out with the hemorrhoids?

,blockquote>"...easy to point the fingure [sic] at the commander of WRAMC but im [sic] confident that he faces political walls your can't even imagine in trying to get things done at "phasing out" facility."

You're goddamn right it's easy to point the finger at him. If something is fucked up in my company, and I either don't know about it or let it slide, I take that personnaly as my own leadership failure. I don't blame the budget, administration, lack of parts, too much OPTEMPO, or even higher headquarters for the situation. If you can't command a unit effectively for any reason: be it lack of communication, (LTC (P) Hall can tell you a story about me on that one) lack of understanding of the situation (Former BG Karpinski) or any other roadblock, you shouldn't be in command. Politicians make excuses. Commanders identify, determine courses of action, weigh those courses of action, choose a course of action, and implement said course of action, then supervise and refine that course of action. It's called the decision making process, and it's at the heart of the Troop Leading Proceures, ever heard of them? I don't care how hard it is for the commander to make changes. He said he wasn't aware of the problem. That is his fault. Goes back to responsibility for the care of the soldiers under his command. WRAMC seems to have no trouble garnering funds for new clinics and buildings, and there's little doubt that if the commander had simply mentioned these conditions to GEN Cody on one of his very frequent visits, the proble would've been fixed years ago.

Here's a few things maybe you should remember, I imagine you've heard them all before: " I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own." "I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage." Moral courage is the courage to stand up and do what is right, leagally and morally. I still have a right to speak, provided I don't do so with regards to opsec or sensitive material, and without officially endorsing any political body as a representative of the Army. I speak for myself on this Blog. Read the very bottom of the page, it's been there, unchanged, since day one.

I have never brought discredit upon myself, my unit, or the the Army. I have brought discredit upon the very shameful way that our wounded are housed, and also highlighted the bureaucracy of the system that exists for the sake of the bureaucracy. The fact that our leaders accept responsibility for their failures and are willing to speak truthfully about them only serves to their credit as honorable men.

I didn't air WRAMC's dirty laundry--the WaPo did. I confirmed that it's been happening for longer than the 4 months. I told my story. I didn't speculate on areas I have not seen.

It is stupid to require someone discharged from a hospital to outprocess from post like they PCSed there. It is stupid to have a med hold company run by the wounded, who suffer from their own physical and psychological injuries. It is stupid to require men who take vast amounts of pain medication to wake up, get in uniform, and show up for an early morning OUTDOOR formation, because you worry about scuffing up the gym floor. Here's a thought--stagger your platoon formation times, and have formation in the mologne house dining room. See? Id the problem, give viable courses of action, etc. If you were honestly happy that you had to pull yourself up a hill to the mologne house everyday, than good for you. Personally, I endure to make the lives of my soldiers better, not just embrace the suck and endure perpetually crappy conditions. That whole "constantly improving your position" thing.

If you, as a non-commissioned officer, think that your job is to keep your head down and "just do it" when the men aren't being taken care of, then I definitely wouldn't want you in my Unit. I learned from my NCOs daily, from the time I first enlisted until today. I take their advice and counsel as a leader, but I recognize that I make the decision, I have the final say, so the blame lies with me if we as a unit fail. If we succeed, it is because of the men, they do the accomplishments, but they do what they're told, so if they fail it's because they either a. weren't told, or b. we told the wrong thing--which it seems is the dialy dose of reality at WRAMC.

I will not lie when asked about the conditions, I won't rebut the truth. I won't make excuses for leadership failures. If the Commander of the hospital finds that doing the job right is too hard, and places the welfare of the wounded on the sacrificial altar of political exigency, he really hasn't deserved his last seven promotions. If he fixes it, wonderful. When it is all fixed he should quietly retire. Commanders get about 30 days leeway to identify what is fucked up and blame it on the system, their predecessor, or anything else. Agter that, they adopt the problem and it becomes thier problem, and they fix it. Maybe that's only true at the brigade and smaller level. I don't know. I do know that the chain of command at the Med Hold company, at the very least, if they can't prove that they have been continuously trying to correct these problems from that 30-day post guidon taking mark, should all be given permanently filed General Officer Letters of Reprimand, "Do Not Promote" OERs, and quietly asked to leave.

I am not the "silently working from within" type. I've heard about them lurking in the corridors at the pentagon, but never sensed that they've actually done anyting--which could be to their credit--god knows what kind of stupidity they have stopped. I am the type of person who refuses to accept the world around me as is, and therefore I am one of those few people who actually try to effect change. I don't air my unit's dirty laundry. Ever. I wrote about MY experiences. If people did things YOUR way, Lyndie Englan would probably be the NCOIC of Abu Gharib, because no one would've brought light to the problems there, or if they did, it would've hit Karpinski's desk and been swept under the rug. Whistleblowers are protected from retribution for a reason. I didn't discredit or disgrace the Army or Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The dereliction of duty, the leadership failure, of the Chain of Command and NCO Support Channel failed the soldier, and by doing so, embarrassed the Army and discredited WRAMC.

Finally, there is a time to just shut up and do it. I have had tolead countless missions that I didn't think were necessarily good ideas, but once the decision was made, I executed without bitching and accepted the orders as my own. There is also a time either before the decision is made by the leader, or after you have followed the order, when it is okay to give input and ask why (in case you're wondering, that's why we do AAR's.) If a policy or order causes undue or unneessary hardship on the soldier or thier family, or places a soldier in danger needlessly, then the order or policy is definitely stupid and probably wrong. If you just blindly folow orders and policies, never seeing if things pass the common sense litmus test or finding out why things must be the way they are when they don't, then you're little more than a Private E-7 and I have no more time for you.


Post Script: I have absolutely no contempt for NonCommisioned Officers. After all, Dad was one. I have worked with many who embody the first sentence in the NCO creed: "No one is more professional than I." However, I find it in very poor taste when anyone makes personal attacks on me, questions my service and my leadership without basis of fact, and does so in an impolite and speculative manner. I have not only worked with some of the best NCOs in the business, but I've also cashiered a few really incompetent ones. I have utter contempt for incompetence at any level, and an incompetent NCO is a combined leadership and integrity failure of his rating chain, promotion board(s), and chain of command.

I have held the Hospital Commander and Med Hold Company Commander and Hospital Command Sergeant Major and Med Hold 1SG at WRAMC up to the light and found them wanting when it comes to the care and well-being of outpatient soldiers and their families, managing the bureacracy, and allowing problems to fester for years. I base my opinions on facts presented in several articles in the Washington Post, (and not disputed by the Army in any way) and on my own personal frist-hand accounts and other primary sources (hospital medical staff and other patients.)

I readily admit that I don't have the breadth of experience to fully understand the full-spectrum of General Officer-Level Command. But I also acknowledge that in every command, two things remain constant: The Mission Comes First, and the Soldier, Always. If your priorities put anything above either of them, you don't deserve your guidon.

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