Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (IV) - CAPT XXXXX & CMDR YYY Respond

August 21, 1999

Comment: #311

Discussion Thread: Comment #s 81, 308, 309, 310

The two emails below expand on the earlier comments about the declining authority of drill sergeants and the policy to shovel $45 million to Hollywood simulation. In Comment #310, Maj XXX laid out his critique of simulation as a substitute for training in general and the Close Combat Tactical Trainer in particular. Capt XXXXX, who assisted in the evaluation of CCTT, agrees with the Major XXX. Commander YYY put his observations in a larger perspective

I apologize for the anonymity of the following comments, but the toxic smog of zero defects, retribution, and careerism oppressing the workers toiling in Versailles on the Potomac is not healthy for those who favor an open discussion about REAL issues -- which is perhaps the most fundamental reason we have ALL of the problems discussed in this list. The Captain's and the Commander's comments do help us, however, to understand why Hollywood wants to cash in on Pentagon's love affair with virtual war.

-------[Email from CAPT XXXXX]---------------

I think I know who MAJ XXX is and I totally agree with him. I was the Armor Center's senior representative in evaluating units in testing the CCTT [i.e., Close Combat Tactical Trainer], and if MAJ XXX is who I think he is, he was a DOD rep on that test. The test
was full of typical DOD pork. Rent-a-cars for everyone. Big dog and pony shows for VIP's. The training was ok, units reacted positively to the simulator but the bottom line is, it doesn't simulate real conditions. You can't replicate the wind blowing the map off of a 2LT's tank as he crosses the LD. You can't get off your tank in CCTT and recon a route or a danger area. All of the hocus pocus to get the Nintendo generation to feel comfortable in today's training is pork-barreling, not training. I never saw so many general officers at any of my 5 rotations at CMTC. To their credit, these officers recognized the shortfalls of this simulator as well.

But the question remains.....Why are we still replacing real training with simulators instead of augmenting it?

-------------[end email from CAPT XXXXX]--------------

Now consider the following email response from a Naval officer assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He overlays a well seasoned "Versailles" perspective on the Captain's direct observations"

-------------[email from CMDR YYY]--------------

Chuck, Just a couple of comments on this.

1. When I first read the Army-Hollywood article in the Early Bird, one thing stuck right out at me: ". . . lacking specific sights, sounds, and smells (my emphasis) of Bosnia, Kosovo, . . .". Naturally, no one can currently simulate the SMELLS of a location or combat in a simulator. It seems to me that this money is designed to -----

  • Push cash into a major university (a favorite political pastime) in a critical election state (California).

  • Get R & D money into Hollywood projects. The studios would love to be able to simulate SMELL in theaters, but even the major studios probably lack the money to invest in such a program. This way, they do it for the Army, and KEEP THE TECHNOLOGY FOR THEMSELVES in order to profit of it.

  • The Army gets enhanced "realism" in its trainers, something they could have contracted from a non-Hollywood company, keeping the technology for the USG to be sold to the highest bidder, perhaps even paying for itself.

2. If commanders can't anticipate the locations they may be called upon to operate in, how in the world can they "simulate" it for training? Would we have to create tactical level simulations for the entire planet so that troops can get trained up on short notice for deployment to anywhere? It reminds me of a memo reportedly circulated in a private company directing the employees to submit lists of "unanticipated and unknown" problems which might arise. Duh.

3. The Hackworth article and drill sergeant's comments are scary, but the Army (and other services save the USMC) have been headed for this trainwreck for a long time. As I pointed out to a colleague of mine, when I went thru BCT in '73 (the beginning of the VOLAR Army), you towed the line or you ended up in the stockade. If you couldn't take the stress, they ratcheted it up until you cracked, and then discharged you; they didn't go easy on you. We rarely SAW our officers, let alone talked one-on-one to them. The Brigade Commander was a GOD we were not privileged to see before graduation. There were no air-conditioned "Think It Over" barracks for those who think they want to quit; no one to sweet talk you into giving it another try because you're so special to the Army. If you were a f***-up, fat-body, or just weak, your ass went to the dreaded MOTIVATION PLATOON, and you didn't return to BCT until you proved yourself WORTHY of the chance to be a soldier. We were trained by Vietnam combat veterans who knew damn well the hazards a weak soldier brings to a unit. Those NCOs all had Combat Infantryman's Badges, and we respected them. I still remember my BCT drill sergeant's name after 25 years: SFC Johnson. My drill sergeant at the Infantry School was SFC Fisher; and my drill instructor at Navy AOCS was GySgt Daggs, USMC. I can't hardly remember any of my college professors' names or faces, and I had several of them more than once.

4. Back in the bad ol' '70s, the VOLAR Army had many deep problems, and about one third of the recruits never made it thru their enlistment commitment. Today, the training has been softened; it's kindler and gentler, and you know what? Over a third don't complete their enlistment commitments. What does that tells us? The services need to look at the USMC's success.

---------[end email from CMDR YYY]-------

Maybe the Acquisition Reformers ought to contract Hollywood to build us some VIRTUAL DRILL SERGEANTS -- then we can tell our talkative SSGT (Comment #309) and Colonel Hackworth (see Comment #308) to shut up and get with the REAL program, which according to General Gaddis's interview with Dave Moniz of the Knight Ridder News Service, no longer includes "Saving Private Ryan" [see Comment #308 and
Reference #3 to Comment 238].

Chuck Spinney

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