DEFENDING AMERICA
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
18 January 2000

IN THE TOP BRASS WE DON'T TRUST

Talk about taking flak!

In last week's column I wrote, "If Gore becomes the prez, I bet a six-pack not one serving admiral or general will sell his or her soul for a chief's job if it means going along with Gore's open-homosexuality-in-the-ranks scenario."

Since this word went out, the troops have been shelling my position day and night.

I haven't taken so much incoming since Admiral Boorda shot himself during a Newsweek magazine probe into valor medals he claimed and wore -- an investigation that was recently justified when a Naval board concluded he'd never been authorized any awards for heroism.

The troops don't think their senior leaders will stand tall for anything.

A sergeant says, "How many times have you seen flag officers toe the party line, saying all was well with the military, but once they'd retired change their tune. I've little faith that flag officers today will do the right thing. They'll continue to protect their 'flagships' and take the easy route to the detriment of our military."

A lieutenant says, "Every day I see senior leaders without a clue. I see million-dollar buildings being built to house bloated staffs equipped with every imaginable bell and whistle. I see our troopers bend over backward to honor every visitor and potentate who decides to be seen with 'the troops.' Those same troops get ignored by the brass and screwed over by all the stupidity."

A lieutenant colonel wrote, "I watched my leaders' lips move and found they were lying. ... I heard the CJCS (Chairman of the Joint Staffs) personally tell me to my face the U.S. had no business in Bosnia past 12 months and then, less than a month later, stand next to the president when the deployment was extended. I read the classified CJCS' argument against operations in Kosovo and then watched him stand mute as we bombed anyway."

A colonel says, "I have no faith in the senior leadership protecting us from the fool policies and insane missions that the idiots at the top have been jamming down our throats."

Two recent studies support what these folks and scores more have said during this "Week of Friendly Fire." They both make a strong case that the Indians interviewed plain don't trust their Chiefs.

Now, when Indians don't trust Chiefs, battles are lost. This was clearly the case in Vietnam, where the term "fragging" was coined by the troops to rid themselves of CO's they didn't trust because of incompetence or Custer glory complexes. But obviously, the brass didn't get the message there, and not only did they lose most of the battles, they lost the war.

It's actions like the following that cause those at the bottom to distrust those at the top:

Air Force Capt. Debra J. Egan has been punished for writing a letter to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes questioning the effectiveness of anthrax inoculations being given to all U.S. troops. She expressed doubts about the safety of the drug and complained that GI Joes and Jills weren't getting the full word about the vaccine's "risks and possible side effects." She was told by the brass hats just before they destroyed her career, "It is your job to promote and support the decisions of your superior officers regardless of your personal beliefs."

Army Sgt. David Gloer, who's been in Korea since 1994 on what's normally a one-year tour, is caught in a Catch-22 nightmare and can't retire even though he's done his time. Red tape and an uncaring chain of command all the way to a supposedly kinder, gentler Pentagon keep torpedoing his pleas to hang it up. Now, since complaining, he's been stuck in a flunky job from which he continues to watch his connected superiors go home. "Rank has its privileges," he says. "And a lot of double standards, too."

"Will the top brass resign or support a policy that will destroy the military?" Gloer asks. "That's a no-brainer. Most generals and sergeant majors alike blindly support any policy that'll get them promoted. Their motto is: Get ahead; the troops be damned."

Looks like I may have to break out the piggy bank. And get ready to buy a lot of six-packs.
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