Thursday, November 20, 2008

BLUF*: I'm a Leader and I'm Embarrassed and Appalled.

I've been asked over and over, "But what do you think about this movie?," meaning 'Lioness'. "Don't you have an opinion?" Yes, most assuredly I have an opinion and thoughts on many things highlighted in the film. Leadership is the topic that immediately jumps out at me. I'll try and conceal my anger and frustration, but it's going to be difficult.

On Leadership: We, the leadership, failed these women on many levels, starting with the most basic principles of squad infantry tactics and mission preparation. Yes, I said infantry. At a Soldier's base, to include female Soldiers, we are all infantry Soldiers. Both males and females, all of us, get the same training in infantry tactics in our basic training. It is also reinforced in advance schooling and daily training. So in many ways these women were equipped with the knowledge necessary to participate and succeed. The reason many of the engagements they were involved in left them feeling confused, angry and sometimes alone in the street was due to a failure in leadership, not training. And it was inexcusable.

I can only speak for the Army, but there are a few things that are required before you embark on a mission. I assume the other branches of service have similar requirements. It's part of Army doctrine. It’s also pretty much common sense type stuff so I can't imagine how it was overlooked. It's called pre-execution checks and rehearsals. If adequate pre-execution checks and rehearsals had been performed, many of the near death and tragic mistakes that occurred could have been prevented.

It's the leader's responsibility to make sure that every person on his/her team knows the hand and arm signals that will be used, knows the route, understands how to use every weapon system that will be employed on the mission, knows how to operate the radio, knows the frequencies for the radios, understands where the rally points are, knows what to do in every possible scenario you could imagine, etc. You just can't assume that everyone knows all these things and run out guns a blazin’.

And simple common sense tells you that if you are going to marry up two different branches of service and ask them to perform a mission together, there better damn well be some communication and briefings on the "how tos, what fors and whys." Any leader worth his/her salt knows that these are important pieces of information and they can determine whether the mission is a success or failure, whether people live or die. Hell, privates know this, so how the leadership chain missed it I have no friggin' idea.

On Recognition: Again, the fact that these women weren't adequately recognized for their bravery, participation and contributions to the mission is inexcusable. I also attribute this to a failure in leadership. Oh... and the stupidity of the press for assuming that women weren't involved. It's called asymmetric warfare (Media, do us all a favor and read up on it.). There is no more "front line." We simply don't have the ability to isolate women from combat. It's also not practical given that women comprise a large percentage of the ranks. Like it or not, they're (we're) here to stay, and they deserve recognition for their contributions. As my father says, "Give credit where credit is due." And it is certainly due. Now overdue.

On follow-up and basic Soldier care after the mission: Again, a leadership failure. Thankfully Soldiers are now getting the help that they need, but it is way after the fact and now delinquent. Trees have been killed and electrons burned over this topic. If you have missed out on the news that virtually thousands of our men and women are returning from theater with PTSD, depression, substance abuse problems and other like illnesses, then you've been living under a rock. Wake up!

In short, I’m a leader and I'm embarrassed and appalled. We owe these women an apology.

* BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front


Sojack said...

P.S. - When I saw Shannon Morgan at the Little Rock Film Festival last year, I wanted to run up, hug her and say, "I'm sorry."

CI-Roller Dude said...

When my Guard unit deployed to Iraq, some of us who'd already been on a deployment (I was back for 3 months from Bosnia when they called us up again)...tried to tell the leaders above us what we had to do to prepare. I was former combat arms in an MI unit...and we explained everybody who goes on a convoy needs to know how to drive and how to gun. They told his there wasn't time.
So in Fallujah, I had to train my team how to fire a SAW one hour before we had to roll out with the Marines into one of the worst places in recent history.
When we returned to our unit in Baghdad after Fallujah, they then understood and allowed everyone to qualify on the SAW.