11 Reasons Why Army Officers Don't Want to be Warriors

June 3, 1999

Comment: #281


Jim Tice, "2,300 Officers Assigned Lifelong Careers," Army Times, May 17, 1999, Page 8.

In the reference, Jim Tice reports on the results of the choices made by those officers eligible for the first selection by the career field designation board, a so-called reform initiative of OPM XXI or the Army's new officer personnel management system for the 21st century. Under permanent career tracks.

Tice reports that 45% of the Army officers eligible applied to the 25% of available slots in non-operations fields. A retired Lt Colonel, with three tours in Vietnam, brought this statistic to my attention, saying ... "Branches may be anachronistic, but the fact is that there is flight from what could be considered the warrior mindset."

Aware of the danger of relying on outdated old fogies who fought in messy wars that had casualties, I decided to ask an active duty Major for his reaction to Colonel's remark about the warrior mindset, which so alien to the inhabitants of Versailles on the Potomac who equate war to risk-free drive-by shootings with cruise missiles. What follows is the Major's email response:

----[Begin email from Major]------

The significance of this article [Attachment #1 to this message] is that it shows how out- dated the personnel system is, incl. OPMS XXI. I do not blame officers for opting out of the operations (OPS) field. I would not do it my self because I am a hardcore warrior -- I am a dying breed. But, put yourself in the shoes of a 29 year-old captain, consider these facts:

  1. 83 percent of officers are married. As you go up in rank, this statistic goes up. With this accompanies children. In the military, due to its medical care, families are normally larger than the outside. Equate this to three to four children--costs of college--got to find a job that pays after I retire.

  2. Only 10 percent of officers in OPS will get a battalion command. The rest will do the three Rs (ROTC, Recruiting or Reserve duty), or staff duty somewhere. Without battalion command, you do not make Colonel. On top of that, as a major you do two, not one year as a battalion S3 or XO. While this is better in terms of experience, it creates the opportunity for more errors to be made.

  3. One of the other three fields will ensure some type of graduate school--paid or partially paid for. Equate that to more after the Army job experience/skills (Also means more quality time with family). Also, there are few fields in the civilian world that equate to infantry, armor, or artillery--no matter how good of a leader you are.

  4. OPMS XXI ensures that you can make colonel, or even general, in one of the other fields without having to command (take risks), so your chances to move up and not out have increased.

  5. You do not, or rarely go to the field in the other three fields.

  6. You do not, or rarely will find yourself, in such places like Bosnia, or Rwanda in one of the other three fields.

  7. The laws that requires service in the three Rs--outside service in a battalion--especially with the reserves, mean these will come from the OPS field--equate more disruption, more moves, less time with families.

  8. OPS field means you have to count more on others--Equate to soldiers can mess-up your career, more risk in OPS because it is an "outside, contact sport."

  9. Due to less and less O&M funds, and more expensive equipment, your going to spend less time doing what is fun, and more time with admin duties, and trying to retain "statistical readiness" that your career rides on.

  10. You have to be counted on to be a leader, where unit turbulence is bad, and morale is worse--you do not get any assistance from the personnel system that moves people in and out of units. Equate, it is hard to build an effective team.

I think that is more than enough reasons to leave the OPS field. Not justifying it, I just understand why."

---[end email from Army Major]------

And that, dear reader, is why the warrior mindset is as welcome as a skunk at the Versailles garden party.

Chuck Spinney

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