Emails from the Field on the Personnel Crisis

June 27, 2000

Comment: #368

Discussion Thread:  #s 365, 366, 367 and referenced thread in #365

The following three emails from the field reinforce and amplify the descriptions of personnel crisis described in Comments #365, 366, and 367. The first is a response to #366 from a highly regarded active duty Marine LTC aviator, with combat experience in Gulf War, who I will refer to as LTC YYY to distinguish him from the Marine LTC infantry officer who described the Personnel Death Spiral. Both LTCs comments are also significant, in part, because they are describing a deteriorating situation in the Marines, who up to this point have seemed much less affected by these problems than the other services. My sense is that this difference is disappearing rapidly.

The second email also responds to #366 and is from an active duty 1st Lt now serving in a battalion in the Army.

The third is from SSGT Kutznikolai, the nom du plume for an active duty staff sergeant in the Army who is a frequent contributor to this list. He is commenting on the Tillson Report, which was forwarded in Comment #367. Note his recommendation for a unit rotation system with a permanent home base.

------[Email #1 from LTC YYY]------

From: LTC YYY (fighter pilot in Marine)
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2000
Subject: Re: #366 - The Military's Personnel Death Spiral


LtCol XXX said it absolutely perfectly. Beautiful.

It's happening sideways, and in isolated pockets (specific specialties) among more senior officers as well. Marine fixed wing aviation at the Maj/LtCol/Col level is inarguably crumbling:

Poor leadership combined with limited flying opportunities and a great economy causes more pilots to leave than can be replaced. The remaining pilots get more staff work piled on--which causes them to hurry their exodus.

The poor leadership doesn't know how to deal with the problem (if there is indeed a fix), and younger, less experienced officers end up trying to shoulder the burden. Their decision to exit becomes very easy (bonuses or not).

We are very near collapse.


-------[Email 2 from 1Lt XXX]------


These e-mails are a detailed elaboration of my message last winter about the oncoming officer personnel problem in the Army. I can vouch for it's validity by saying that I only know of one Lieutenant in my battalion that plans to stay in the Army.


--------[Email #3 from SSGT Kutznikolai]-----

Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2000
From: SSGT Kutznikolai
Subject: Re #367 Tillson Report


I am glad that the personnel situation is finally being realized for the problem that it is. The next question is: Will the military do anything to change itself? Quite frankly, we need someone on the scale of General Marshall to come through like Christ cleansing the temple in order to shatter the bureaucracy.

I was also a little disappointed that the Tillson report didn't seem to go into as much depth regarding the enlisted side of the house as it could have. Many people at the 13-15 year mark have a pretty good idea what their futures hold, and if they realize that promotions are not likely, then they would gladly trade that promotion for stability, say rotating between Korea and "Fort Wherever" every three to four years. That way the kids don't have to change school, the spouse can start a career or education, and the family can purchase a home.

The Tillson report did an outstanding job of describing how units are torn apart after rotations to Bosnia and Saudi. It is really heart breaking to see these units destroyed in the name of fairness. Despite the complaints and bitching and moaning, soldiers are proud of their units, their colors, and their heritage.

AS far as long term stability goes, I often wonder how our country would have done in WWII if Roosevelt decided to step down after 8 years.

Best, John --------[end emails]-----------

These writers see the personnel problem up close and dirty and each paints a picture of an unfolding catastrophe in a sober, clear headed manner. Contrast their sobriety with the nuttiness in Versailles that was described most recently in Comment #364.

Chuck Spinney

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