The Lewis Report: "Time to Regenerate:
A GenX Response to Dr. Wong's Monograph" 

November 27, 2000

Comment: #396

Discussion Thread:  #s 372, 353, 348, 344, 238, 126

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Attached References:

[1] Mark R. Lewis, "Time to Regenerate: A GenX Response to Dr. Wong's Monograph," November 27, 2000

[2] Thomas E. Ricks, "More Than Rank Splits Army's Stars and Bars," Washington Post, November 19, 2000 ; Page A02  Excerpts attached.

In Reference 2, Tom Ricks reports on an Army study that concludes captains are leaving the service because of a generation gap between baby boomer generals and so-called Generation X junior officers. This report, written by Leonard Wong, a retired Lt Col, now on the staff of the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, concludes that "today's senior officers do not understand junior officers or their perspectives." 

While there is much to commend in Wong's report, I think there are more fundamental reasons behind the exodus of officers and NCOs that the pop psychology of generation gaps and the implicit solutions directed at making the Army a "fun place to work" for the Nintendo Generation. So, I asked Mark Lewis, one of the captains we lost, for his analysis of Wong's report.

Lewis is articulate and thoughtful. He loves the Army and is dedicated to fixing its problems. He speaks from the experience as an enlisted man as well as an officer. Lewis enlisted in the Army at the age of 17. After a three-year tour as an infantry soldier and non-commissioned officer in 2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, he left the Army and attended Georgetown University. At Georgetown, he majored in the Russian language and continued to serve in the Army Reserve and National Guard. Commissioned through Army ROTC upon graduation, he then served eight years as an infantry officer with the 82d Airborne Division, the 2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 1st Infantry Division. During his 11 years of active service, he participated in operations in Central America, the Pacific Rim, Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans. He now works as a Research Associate at a defense policy think tank, and is a master's degree candidate in Georgetown University's National Security Studies Program.

Lewis, a Generation Xer, argues that Junior officers are leaving in alarming numbers because they no longer feel they can accomplish what they came into the Army to do. These "job satisfaction" issues indicate deep cultural problems that cannot be solved by perqs at the margin, like more pay, extra time off, or the right to e-mail superiors.

I urge you to read the Lewis Report carefully.

Lewis can be reached at

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 1

Time to Regenerate A GenX Response to Dr. Wong's Monograph
by Mark R. Lewis
November 27, 2000
Special to Defense and the National Interest

Reference 2

More Than Rank Splits Army's Stars and Bars
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday , November 19, 2000 ; Page A02 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42308-2000Nov19.html

Excerpts:

...

In 1989, just as the Cold War was ending, 6.7 percent of Army captains left voluntarily. In 1999, the number climbed to 10.6 percent, a 58 percent increase.

Written by Leonard Wong, a recently retired Army lieutenant colonel who is on the staff of the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, the report concludes that the heart of the problem is that "today's senior officers do not understand today's junior officers or their perspectives."

Generals and colonels incorrectly assume that today's captains share their values and life experiences, Wong argues

...

The report also takes commanders to task for reassuring themselves with the dismissive adage that soldiers always bellyache. The difference nowadays, he writes, is that "the complaining soldiers are acting on their grievances."

...

Despite that dissatisfaction, today's junior officers trust the Army as an institution even more than their predecessors,

...

Wong recommends that the Army build on that desire for community by making it a "fun place in which to work and live," with more social activities and more recreation geared to the "extreme sport" tastes of Generation X, such as mountain biking and rock climbing

2000 The Washington Post

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