Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (V) -- Professionalism or Patton's Mob

August 21, 1999

Comment: #312

Discussion Thread: Comment #s 81, 237, 273, 308, 309, 310, 311


[1] Email from LTC Evans USMC (ret), "Re: #308 - Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood The Army Trips Out," Fri, 20 Aug 1999. Attached.

This comments ends our series on Hollywood vs. the Drill Sergeants for the time being. The email from a Staff Sergeant stationed at Ft Gordon should give the reader an idea of how dedicated grunts view and how they deal with day to day problems. David Evans, a retired Marine LTC who saw heavy combat in Vietnam, contemptuously dismisses Hollywood but adds additional comments on the importance of realistic training under stressful condition and brings us full circle to Colonel Hackworth's opening comments in #308.

The courtiers in Versailles too often forget about the sacrifices the mud soldiers in the trenches make each day in their struggle to undo the effects of lunacy in Washington and keep our military glued together, in good working order. If you think the courtiers in Versailles value the contributions of professionals like the sergeants discussed in this thread, just look at FOUR YEARS of official Defense Department Armed Forces Day posters that celebrate technology (which will apparently soon include the mind numbing effects of Hollywood) but FORGET TO INCLUDE PEOPLE.

[see Comments 237 & 273]

----[email from a SSGT @ Ft Gordon]-----


Thanks for supporting the Drills, they need it badly. There is a shortage of Drill Sergeants at Fort Gordon. One company has 102 soldiers, and 2 Drill Sergeants. Walking through the barracks after hours with a Drill Sergeant, gives you an appreciation for what they go through.

I had staff duty one night, and as part of my rounds, I was to do a walk through of our barracks. I was escorted by a Drill Sergeant. It took us 2 hours to complete the walk through. Not that anything untoward was going on, but every soldier that we came upon had some business to conduct with the Drill Sergeant, usually it was in the form of an on the spot correction, or a question regarding some ongoing non-punitive issue. And this was at 10:30 PM. This Drill Sergeant's duty day began at 4:00 AM, and he was nowhere near going home. And to add literally insult to injury, 2 NCO's have been charged with various and sundry forms of fraternization with students. It will put the Drill Sergeants under even more scrutiny, and will make it harder for those doing the right things. 

These are all contributing factors to the shortage of Drill Sergeants. It has never been an easy job in the first place. Now, the feeling is you have one foot in jail, and the other on a banana peel. Recruiters are in much the same boat. If you make your monthly mission, you are a hero. But on the first of the month, you are a zero. With 50% of all enlisted PCS's to Korea (a hardship tour, one year away from the family), and frequent deployments to the Balkans, Saudi, Kuwait, and other garden spots of the world, is there any wonder why the army is having retention and recruiting problems?

---------[end SSGT's email]-----

Chuck Spinney

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[ Reference #1]------------------

Email from LTC Evans USMC (ret)

Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999 09:16:46 -0400

From: [deleted]

Subject: Re: #308 - Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood The Army Trips Out

To: Chuck Spinney


That's a nice juxtaposition of the silly Wash. Post article with the drill sergeant's lament. It seems to be that boot camp now reflects the price of having too many officers and fostering a "look good, avoid looking bad" mentality that is deemed necessary for career success. So now we have legions of officers fretting more about whether things look right rather than making sure things are being done right.

Stress on day one is critical. I went through it at OCS, with a sergeant instructor screaming in my face for talking in the chow hall. I really got on his black list when I failed a rifle inspection (specks of surface rust) a couple days later, which earned me the sobriquet of "Midshipman Turd." I was one of four so marked, earning the right to do push ups until the sergeant instructor got tired of watching us sweat and strain. I finally earned his respect by keeping up with him on a forced march, matching him pace-for-pace (I was guidon bearer). We parted with a profound mutual respect. The experience was one of the reasons I never came even close to cracking in combat (during...I can't say the same for the emotional after effects).

The Army is suffering a crisis of concept. It starts with this insidious "be all you can be" recruiting slogan, which puts the emphasis on individual gratification, rather than on the institution and the unit. I must say, I stand in slack-jawed and appalled amazement at the erosion of training standards. I daresay the soldiers who slugged it out in downtown Mogadishu were not products of this system (or maybe Ranger training was necessary to make up for what sure likes like a pussified curriculum at the so-called "home of the infantry" at Ft. Benning).

They're worried about recruiting quotas not being met? The Army should remember what Gen. Patton once observed: "No real man can take pride in being part of a mob." They may be wearing uniforms, but they're a mob nonetheless.