There Are No Bad Regiments…

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Mon, Oct 12 - 9:00 am EDT | 3 years ago by
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Lines of Departure - No Bad Regiments

I’ve written before here1 about some of the problems in the United States armed forces that make the idea of reform – and we badly need reform! – problematic; indeed it is problematic to the point of preposterous. I’m going to talk now about one of the phenomena that goes into that: the excess of officers. Mostly, I will center on the Army, but the problem cuts across the services and cross-fertilizes from one to the other.

Note: I am pretty dispassionate and objective about this sort of thing. If it offends anyone, tough. Most of you knew that, right?

Excess? The German Army of WW II somehow managed to fight off for six years – that, or beat the ever loving crap out of – nearly the whole world with under three percent commissioned officers.2 Roman legions, perhaps the most formidable fighting machines of human history, got by with six to eight. Six to eight percent? Not on your life; six to eight, period, six military tribunes, a legate, and – arguably – the praefectus castrorum, who was more in the line of a late entry officer, as per the British system.3 Think about that one, one officer per every eight hundred men. And it was plenty.

What have we got? As of 2013 we had over eleven percent commissioned in the Marine Corps, seventeen percent in the Navy, almost nineteen percent in the Army, and nearly twenty percent of strength being commissioned officers in the Air Force.4

The problems with having this many officers are multifold. I can only cover some of the more important ones.

This high a percentage of officers almost certainly means that there are people running around with bars and leaves and even eagles and perhaps stars who probably should have been non-coms. They may have the education and intelligence to be officers, but as a matter of attitude, outlooks, values, and approaches to things, they’d have been happier if they’d been wearing multiple stripes. I used to see a lot of this among lieutenants who decided to go Special Forces. In almost every case I have seen, these were guys who really wanted to be squad leaders which, in SF, they could be. The effect of commissioning so high a percentage of people has tended to be having an NCO corps weaker than it should have been and weaker than it needs to be. This tends to exacerbate another problem, officers will tend to micromanage if they’re allowed to. They will be allowed to, if there is a common perception that the NCO corps needs to be micromanaged, which, because some numbers actually do need to be micromanaged, casts them all in a questionable light in some circles. There’s another reason, one having little or nothing whatsoever to do with NCOs, for that kind of micro-management.

Secondly, officers demand coddling. And they’re sneaky.5 They need an unhealthily large slice of personnel managers and more senior officers to supervise the personnel managers. They demand better treatment in everything, unless in the field. We’ve long since chopped the number of official servants (yes, uniformed and on the strength) for generals quite a bit, but the numbers remain non-trivial. And more officers means more generals who demand more servants. Moreover, when the flag officers’ enlisted aide staffs are cut, generals will often loot the ranks for services and time.6

Thirdly, the costs in salaries and other perks is much higher for many officers doing the jobs they’re doing, than it would be for some smart Spec-Fours to do the same jobs. I’ve held at least one of those jobs, myself, for about fifteen months, in San Antonio, at 5th Recruiting Brigade. Sure, about twenty percent of my duty time was actually spent doing something an officer should do, mostly manipulating the system to get kids jobs they were qualified for and wanted, and inspecting subordinate units. The other eighty percent? I’m not sure a bright Spec-Four wouldn’t have been overqualified. I’m not entirely sure an intelligent and tractable chimpanzee wouldn’t have been up to it. There were three captains and a major in that office; surely three of the four weren’t needed.

Now one might say it would all be worth it, if only all or most of those hundreds of thousands off officers pulled their weight, and had the brains and other talent to do so. Sadly…

No. Just no. It would make no difference if they were Napoleons to nearly a man (and woman). Why not? It has to do with duration in command, and the relative values, military but also moral, between building for the long term and putting on a show for personal aggrandizement.

The way one tells who should command at higher levels is by having them command at lower. However, there are two possible kinds of command. If one can command a company (or battery or troop), say, for three or four years, and everyone else is doing the same, then the criterion of success is success in building for the long term. Moreover, it is not only possible to do so, it is impossible to do anything else and succeed, because nobody in our Army – Nobody! – can maintain a show for three or four years. The truth will start creeping out through the seams, the core systems of the unit will begin to fray and fall apart if someone were to try. And the troops will, rightly, rat you out.

Conversely, with many, many, oh, too goddamned many, officers, command tours must be short, a year and a half or even just a year. Anyone, well, nearly anyone, can put on a show for a year or a year and a half. And, again, if everyone is doing that because no one has any choice to do anything better and more lasting, then that’s all anyone will be able to do. And you must – at least it will seem you must – micromanage your non-coms to a sickening degree, because if you don’t they – Heaven forbid – might actually not be all that interested in putting on a show to support your OER. And that, that micro-management, is what really does to death your NCO corps, far more than the occasional over-promotion of someone who’s really a sergeant at heart, mentioned above.

Again, note well, this would still be true of an officer corps mostly composed of more or less Napoleons. Within that mass of short but terribly ambitious Corsican geniuses there would still be some better at the show and others best at the long term. The system would advance the former and drive out the latter. That system is driven by excessively large officer corps, which size dictates short command tours.7

How to fix it? The services will never fix themselves; indeed, they have to have large officer corps and bloated numbers of flag officers to compete amongst themselves and each other. The service that tried to change this would be murdered in the bureaucracy stakes. Could congress simply say, “Have as many officers as you like of whatever grade you like. We’re only going to pay for 3%.” That might help some, in the long term, but I will virtually guarantee that the ones retained will be the ones who had previously shown themselves best at putting on a show. That’s not the way to reform things.

Frankly, I think the only way to do it would be to set up a parallel Department of Defense, “DoD 2.0,” we might say, and build it right from the start, while gradually closing out and putting to pasture those who prospered under DoD 1.0. And I don’t really know if that’s possible short of a dictatorship that was finely and remarkably attuned to military needs.



2 2.87%, IIRC. The figure can be found in Gabriel and Savage’s Crisis in Command, my copy of which is apparently stowed in a box somewhere.

3 No one can really say definitively – and yes, I have discussed the matter at length with Roman Army expert, historian Adrian Goldsworthy – how many centurions were by direct appointment, which is not uncommon for officers, and how many came up through the ranks, which is normal for non-coms. Here’s what I think is true; I think centurions for the legions mostly came up through the ranks, because they were simply too tough to have been directly appointed off of Daddy’s latifundium, while most centurions of the auxiliary cohorts were directly appointed, because it was important to maintain political control of these foreign, non-citizen formations. I _think_.

4 Do the math yourself. Note, the Marines are not as good and the Navy not as bad as would appear, since a certain number of naval officers go directly to support the Marines. Some of that Navy percentage, in other words, should in justice be attributed to the Corps.

5 Guilty, at least of the latter charge.

6 third paragraph from the bottom. General officer staffs used to be officially huge, on the order of 21 or 24 enlisted gophers for a four star. Yes, as a matter of fact this does offend my puritan soul. Yes, I do think using forced troop labor for personal services is unutterably corrupt, hanging levels of corrupt. Yes, I’ve met Huntoon at Carlisle, several times, and, as far as it went, liked him well enough, but it’s still hanging levels of corruption.

7 I would say it’s impossible, overall, but it is possible – at what we might call the tactical – level for an officer to still build for the long term, even if his presumptive command tour is short. If you try though, expect to be at least threatened with relief for not putting on the show your higher commander’s next OER from his boss demands. If I hear enough demand from serving soldiers, or those still closely involved in the military community, I’ll do a column on that someday.

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through

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  • KenWats

    I think you’ve covered some of the costs of having an over-large officer corps pretty well. Also worth mentioning that officers tend to be folks with degrees and other options outside military service -meaning you probably have to entice them to stay somehow- and that more than likely costs something.

    The benefit I have heard attributed to having an overly large officer (and NCO) corps is as cadre for an expanding army. Personally, I doubt it. Did we have more admirals than ships in the 1930s? Seem to have made out pretty well in WW2, after the “minor setbacks” at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, we seem to have made out OK.

    • Tom Kratman

      Yeah, that theory was blown decades ago. There is no, literally _no_, legitimate justification for it anymore.

    • Duffy L. Sauers

      So in the first year of the next major war you can fire assloads of Officers for the obvious problems that will occur, giving the public it’s requisite buckets of blood for the failures that we can be pretty sure will occur?

    • Tom Kratman

      Yeah? And who and what does justice for the poor privates killed to iffy leadership in organizations made rotten from the head down?

    • Duffy L. Sauers

      Nothing at all, but there is a precedent for firing Officers all around in the first year or two. And the point I am making is a lot of things will have to change, and it is all not just about the Officer level, how much of the senior NCO leadership in a unit of any given size is tied up in Equal Opportunity and Sharp and other formerly additional duty positions, but now have become full time jobs held by career NCO’s and are becoming “the important positions” required for selection by centralized promotion boards? The NCO ranks followed the Officer Corps fairly quickly. But I do believe there is a case to made for a lot of Platoon Leaders, with the caveat most of them should not be promoted to Captain, and no, there is no good reason for 3 or 4 Company Grade officer to be sitting in Staff Billets over at the Battalion, being “Seasoned” for greater things. But keeping those Platoon leaders around Platoon Level Leadership is no bad thing, as long as what they are doing is actually leading platoons.

    • Tom Kratman

      You’ve been reading Ricks. These days, the ones who got fired would be the ones we should keep. Which is why Ricks was full of shit; he just doesn’t understand the inner workings and ethos of the organizations he purports to critique and advise.

    • Duffy L. Sauers

      No, I actually have not read Ricks, is it worthwhile? I would also think that the ones we need are quitting when the quitting is good. Or, like I told two sons, not even bothering. The problem with that is, they won’t be there when they are needed. Or if they are, won’t have the skills and experience they should when they need them.

    • Tom Kratman

      He is clueless about at least many of the things he pontificates on.

    • Neil

      I think Ricks has made one very good point–in his discussions about WW2 generalship, he points out that flag officers got relieved pretty quickly if they weren’t up to the job. That could result in a very risk-averse officer corps, but the trick was that getting fired from one particular job was not career-ending. Marshall would fire somebody, send them home for a bit, and then send them out in another capacity pretty quickly. So it behooved them to take calculated risks that might lead to great success, knowing that they could fail a few times and still come back.

    • Tom Kratman

      That happened in a few cases; where it was especially meritorious or the relief was patently unjust, as with Terry Allen. More commonly, failures disappeared and were not heard from again. But that also doesn’t matter. We are not the society we were then, and the army we field is not the army we had then. Now, it would be all the Terry Allens disappeared and they’d not have a second chance. And that is what makes Ricks a fool, that he thinks you can translate across time like that, without reference to how much things have changed.

    • Neil

      True enough, but I learned something about managing my teams.

    • KenWats

      What flag officers have we relieved for anything other than PR disasters or criminal behavior we wouldn’t tolerate in an E-4?
      Of those who were relieved for criminal behavior, how many got to keep their rank and retirement?

      My contention is that we don’t punish general officers at all now. We don’t even remove the incompetent.

    • dirk gently

      You mean like the 509th Maintenance Company? As I recall, there weren’t any officers left alive to be fired.

      That’s not a solution — it’s the worst-case scenario come to life.

    • Duffy L. Sauers

      Not advocating a point Dirk, making a prediction, and I anticipate far worse that 509th Maint Co wrong turn into disaster.

    • akulkis

      I think you misunderstood. I was reinforcing your position. Sometimes, it’s best that officers whose training of their company can only be described as “criminally negligent” can’t be sacked due to the fact that they’ve taken up residence in a grave someplace.

  • McChuck

    So, from this, I would assume you’re in favor of the “Starship Troopers” sort of officer selection, training, and strength? A very limited officer corps, drawn strictly from experienced enlisted men, with slow career advancement to give them time to learn how to handle each level of command.

    I would love to see the entire officer corps reduced by a factor of about ten, and the expansion of the warrant officer corps. Combat units need real officers as leaders – support units don’t. What they need is experienced people who know their business, who have been selected and trained to be leaders (managers) in their specific fields. Pilots don’t really need to all be commissioned officers, either.

    But, like you said, they only way it could possibly work is a ‘tough love’ solution across the board, with all services reformed at one single time. After all, these days the primary purpose of any officer is to protect their people from the machinations of all the other officers.

    • Tom Kratman

      Covered that; the people who would be retained would be the wrong people. The system is configured for that, too.

      I wouldn’t expand the WO corps; they’re just as bad and, in many branches, worse. I _would_ make doctors, chaplains, and JAGs warrants.

      As for SST, and very slow promotions, with all officers drawn from experiences EM, not exactly. That wasn’t the way it was described in the books, a) see here, “Birdie,” at OCS, aged about 18, and b) there is a problem with having old commanders. They’re simply too conservative and timid, not energetic enough, they’re not healthy enough, and will usually have lost their innovativeness and initiative. In the back of JFC Fuller’s pamphlet, “Generalship, it’s diseases and cures,” there’s a table of highly successful generals. Only one or two were in the seventies, most were in their thirties and forties. Commissioning late means our senior officers will almost always be less than fit for the job.

    • KenWats

      As opposed to now when they’re young and virile and ready to chase their biographers around the TOC…

    • Tom Kratman

      Not sure who was doing the chasing. Could Duty-Honor-Blowjobs Broadwell (West Point, 95) have caught Petraeus while on her knees? Yes, if he didn’t run very fast.

    • Rick Randall

      Maybe she really *is* that good in the sack?

    • Tom Kratman

      Maybe. She has, apparently, kept up her practicing, anyway.

    • Lone eagle

      That is a perfect example of letting the “little head” do your thinking for you. But about officers, what about the British army? Are not all their company commanders Majors? What do they do with them, they can’t all become Lt.Col.

    • Tom Kratman

      I’ve discussed that with a British Army friend of mine. Our consensus is that when they went from the 8 or so company battalions to 4 company battalions, just before the Great War, the companies became all major slots to provide sinecures for the few companies that had been majors slots previously. I suspect it continues as a way to keep field grades on the strength. It has its plusses and its minuses. On the whole, we tend to forget that military organizations are inherently intensely political, and not always in a bad way, and rank is sometimes inflated, and more or less legitimately, in order to give someone more clout to deal with people he has to deal with. To take an extreme example, imagine a tank company of Russki design with modern equipment. 30 men and 10 tanks; even if you count the turret and everything in it and the hull and everything in it as comparable to a man each, that’s still only 50 men worth of trouble. That’s just a big platoon. Now take that company and attach it to a motorized rifle battalion. If the CO is a captain, he can deal with the other captains and even the Bn Cdr in reasonable terms. Make him, however, an E-7 leading that large platoon-equivalent. What if it’s our company of ten tanks (ours are 14, but I have no doubt we will continue to reduce it until its as small as possible to justify still more officers)? What happens to an E-7 having to deal directly with majors and lieutenant colonels? “Fuck off, sergeant, and do what your told,” which is a virtual guarantee of misutilization of the tanks. Somewhat similarly, I am pretty sure the hidden justifcation for majors commanding aviation companies (which used to be twice the current size, roughly, and often commanded by captains) is so that the expensive asset isn’t abused or misused by outsiders.

    • Lone eagle

      this is all so disheartening. It feels like in some not so distant time we will see a Kasserine Pass/Task Force Smith/Pearl Harbor combined. If the dust settles we will be using different passports and told to learn the new language or else.

    • Tom Kratman

      Possibly, though our breaking up and ruining ourselves with an updated and much expanded Beirut cognate seems more likely.

    • Lone eagle

      In that scenario how will the army and other branches slice themselves up. The active duty army had no problem breaking up the bonus army in 1930 under some guy named Macarthur, I feel the current crop of flag ranks would do the same thing. It is nice being an admiral or general rather than out in the cold.

    • Tom Kratman

      Really hard to say.

    • Lone eagle

      As for command tours, didn’t the inter war US Army have lots of 40 year old captains and older majors. My understanding is that in the interwar US Army someone had to die before they advanced. Maybe a happy medium between what we have now and then could work?

    • Tom Kratman

      Simply offering a 15 year, 30-37.5% retirement, provided one finishes a good 20 in the reserves, would probably do for that.

    • PeaceMaker

      I remember some LPD, on leadership, that stated the Army was not good at selecting leaders during peace time…. one of the examples given was: 10% of the leadership in the US army prior to Pearl Harbor, was in a combat leadership position in 1945. Just because you can look good does not equal being a good leader when men are dying and the enemy is trying to get you to make the grass grow.

    • Tom Kratman

      Nobody’s army is going to be all that good at it, even to include the Huns, without a lot of recent experience of real war. The most you can really hope for is to improve the odds and the percentages, and that takes a LOT of hope.

  • Cherine Derbala

    That might just be the only solution. About a month ago, I read that the Navy Seals will have to lower their standards to admit women. Why can’t they open another unit to admit both genders with lower or compatible standards rather than ruin such an elite unit? It doesn’t make sense.

    • Tom Kratman

      Because we’ve given the keys to the asylum to the lunatics.

  • Anthony Aristar

    I’m wondering if one possible solution might not be to instantiate a regimental system, similar to the one the Brits have (and, when you come down to it, the Roman legions had) with a mandated limit on the number of officers each regiment were allowed to support. Instead of doing this all in one go, move over to the new system gradually, with a place in the regimental system being something one earned, rather than something you were automatically assigned to.

    • Tom Kratman

      Okay, now red flag that for yourself to see why not. If in doubt, refer back to the column I footnoted to, below. “It’s a jungle out there.”

    • Anthony Aristar

      You may be right. But I can’t help thinking that one of the problems with the American system is that officers are essentially fungible, and can be moved anywhere at will. In a regimental system, there’s a natural limit to how many officers can be supported.

    • Tom Kratman

      No, they get moved around, too. That’s where officers in staff and training and embassy slots come from, after all. For officers in a regimental system, the regiment is a home they come from and where they may hope to someday go back to, but they don’t stay there the way NCOs and EM do. (Edit: Short version, all that will happen is that a regiment that needs 150 officers will have 6-700, few of them having more than a couple or three years with the regiment.)

    • Pugmak

      Would it help if, say, like your triarii system but different, instead of serving officers in all these non command slots (embassy, weapons industry babysitters, etc, so on, so forth unto nausea) there was a cadre system of retired personnel to fill those seats? And, let those outfits they work for also pay for the work.

    • Tom Kratman

      I think that would help and I believe I mentioned something like that elsewhere here.

    • svartalf

      The rub’s in trying to institute it, as Tom’s been trying to say here. You’re going to be savaged bigtime if you try to do this within the current framework. You really very probably need a hard reset here (which is why Tom’s talking “DoD 2.0″…) from outside…but the big burning question there is…could it and would it happen?

    • Pugmak


      LOL. Yeah. In the current framework, there is no direction but down and with enough velocity that bedrock ain’t gonna stop the fall.

      In a way, though, it don’t matter anymore. Our homefront isn’t going to allow for a military that’s actually competent at fighting and winning wars. Their sensitive little hearts couldn’t handle it.

    • dirk gently

      Until the public gets *-slapped by reality. Then they’ll demand it.

  • Jack Withrow

    There is no easy answer to this problem as you rightly point out. I am not sure even building a DoD 2.0 would work. I think the biggest part of the problem is that both the Military and their civilian masters have been convinced that all those officers are needed, when in reality they are not.

    The first thing IMO that needs to be accomplished is make 75% of all PLT LDR billets SNCO billets. An E-7 or E-8 can command a PLT better than most 2LT’s. Start at the bottom when reducing officer numbers and eventually you will reduce numbers at all levels and more importantly extend the time an officer can stay in a position. But as you will undoubtedly point out that is impossible in today’s military.

    • Tom Kratman

      That would help on a couple-three levels. One is training the lieutenant via what amounts to a mahout system. Another is simply better led platoons, on average. But the biggie is probably in the ultimate flattening of the promotion / rank pyramid so that, once past a very difficult selection, the typical and competent officer could be confident of making at least retirement, so would be in a better position to stand tough on moral and training matters, to the extent those differ.

    • Jack Withrow

      Second, the “Up or Out” system needs to die. If a person can physically and mentally perform at a given rank and wants to stay in that rank and position, IMO they should be allowed to do so. Career Pvt’s, Sqd Ldrs, Company Commanders, etc. should not only be allowed but encouraged. Give them a couple of courtesy promotions just prior to retirement if needed.

      I have seen far too many Enlisted and Officers ruined by promotion. They performed well prior to their promotion, but after the promotion were useless. They could not handle the added responsibilities. Then they get a couple of bad NCOER’s or OER’s and are forced out before they qualify for retirement. I saw a lot of knowledge forced out of the Army and the USMC that way.

    • Tom Kratman

      Ah, but again, the real world intervenes. You still need young commanders, while lack of up or out creates bottlenecks that make it all but impossible to have them. I’d suggest something more like the “triarius status” I mentioned in the back of one of the Carrera books, whereby a certain, not all that large, percentage of officers and NCOs can take themselves out of the running and just do what they’re good at. It could work if it were a flat enough pyramid of officers and senior non-coms, such that that small percentage didn’t create bottlenecks. We could also do a bit better by creating fields where up or out needn’t apply, or where we could put the old and crusty out to semi-pasture. ROTC and Readiness come to mind, there.

    • TBR

      There is actually something like that in Germany, though it is not codified and only can be done by gaming the system. I had a crewmate (classmate) who was not intellectual enough to get a master’s in computer science at Armed Forces University but turned out to be a superb programming officer (doctrines for combat management systems) in a billet where he was just supposed to work as a glorified classified materials courier on the way out of the Navy after washing out of university.

      He was so good the system was gamed for him and he was converted from an Unrestricted Line Officer O-1 on the way out of the service to a Limited Duty Officer O-1 with a “life” commission though his final rank will be O-3 (that and in the duty posts is where the “Limited” kicks in). Rumor has it this was done years earlier, at O-3 level, with a Navy URL pilot who simply could not pass the staff officer’s course but was a kick-ass helicopter pilot.

      Oh, and second that on the PL billets. There actually used to be only one officer PL per company even recently in the Bundeswehr, the rest being NCO’s (including the odd E-6 to E-7 officer candidate in his first of two to three PL tours) and with the XO as often as not being a ex-NCO Limited Duty Officer to boot, at least if there was anything “special” about the company/battery/troop like engineering, maintenance or UAV drone operation.

      But this has ended, beginning in the combat companies CO’s postings are being converted to major, XO to captain and all PL’s will be O-2′s by the time they show up for their very first day in command of a platoon.

    • Tom Kratman

      Always comes as a shock when it happens to an army you know….

    • Rick Randall

      Ah. Sounds like they’ve adopted the British system.

    • Jack Withrow

      There were still a few career PVT’s around in the USMC when I enlisted. I don’t know how many there were at the height of that program, but would guess it never exceeded 20% of the total E-1/3 strength. Normally those Marines were a jewel for any squad leader, every one of them wanted at least one Career Private in his squad. I am just guessing here, but I would not think much harm would come from putting 20-25% of the strength of any given EM or Junior Officer rank at “Triarius status” would be very harmful.

      I have also come to the conclusion, that the Military, especially the Army promotes people far too fast, both EM and Officer. Just when a soldier starts to understand their job, they are promoted and have to start all over again learning their jobs. “Up or Out” is the chief cause of these too fast promotions in my estimation.

    • Rick Randall

      We had a handful of “Career Specialists”. Unfortunately, the good ones eventually got promoted, and all too many of then were too used by that point to being in the Spec Four Mafia for them to readily adapt being a junior NCO leading the specialists and privates.

    • Jack Withrow

      Career Privates were just that. Marine L/CPL’s (E-3) with often times over 18 years in service, never been promoted past L/CPL. They would be promoted most times, meritoriously to SSGT in their last year in service to give them a decent retirement check. They did not want a leadership role or the responsibility that went with a higher rank. When they got close to retirement and were starting to be promoted to a decent grade for retirement, they often times were used for running range details, or other details where they could ease into retirement without any major responsibilities. Units took care of those guys as long as they didn’t screw up.

    • Pugmak

      Imo, a good part of the tenacity that USMC infantry outfits demonstrated in the PAC AO in WW2 was due to the “career privates” in the ranks at that time.

      They’d been around the block enough times to know the suck sucks and there’s nothing for it but to endure it. There’s a perspective there you just don’t get with younger troops.

    • Tom Kratman

      Actually, you can. But it takes a lot of training time and resources and for two reasons the Corps, post initial entry training, does less well at that than they like to think.

    • Pugmak

      Concurrent with a DoD 2.0 would be a recognition that our military force is meant to fight and win wars. It’s not a social club. It’s not a federal employment program. It’s not a social experiment testbed. It’s not a place for those who can’t compete in the open market to hide out.

  • Victor Bald

    The ratio is actually pretty low in line units, 2-3 PLs, an XO, and CDR, about 5 per 150-170, if all the slots are filled. Where do you end up cutting? At BN, sure, S1,2,4,6 could all be NCO only, but you might want an officer S3, XO, and PBO. Where do we reduce officer slots beyond that?

    • KenWats

      Go higher up the food chain. Brigade and higher staffs. I lost count of how many captains were stuck in our Bde staff waiting for command (or waiting for their next school assignment after command)- that was 15+ years ago. Also there’s an entire “Corps” structure at I Corps that near as I could tell existed to make sure everybody on post did PT from 6:30 – 7:30 and to make sure nobody on red cycle had any soldiers for anything other than post cleanup.

    • Tom Kratman

      True story; I had a slug of a supply sergeant, “My pal, Willie,” as a company XO in Panama. Only soldier I have ever seen who would only perform if chewed out daily and viciously. Nothing else, NOTHING else, worked. To put myself in the mood for his mandatory morning ass chewing, I would start perusing the brigade wiring diagram, counting only the colonels and lieutenant colonels important enough to have their own phone number. There were others, of course, not important enough. It was about 47 with phones, IIRC, For one brigade.

      Why did that piss me off? Any idea how hard it is to get helicopter support for a rifle company when there is half a company’s worth of senior field grades convinced they need helicopter transport all the time?

      So I’d look over the wiring diagram….maybe pull a rejected request for an air assault training event / mission out of my desk and muse on that a bit, and then, when I was just furious, I’d call out to the commo rats, “Go get me my pal, Willie!”

    • Tom Kratman

      Even that’s too high, 3 is all a company needs, one CO, one XO, and one 2LT PL pending the decision of whether he’s worth keeping on or not.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      So an SFC handles each remaining platoon, with a SSG vice handling one of his squads, while SGTs to handle the remaining squads each with a Corporal vice who also handles a fire team?

    • Tom Kratman

      For the Corps, maybe. But if we went back to rank parity, I’d say a MSG or senior E-7 as PL, and junior E-7 or senior E-6 for PSG.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      I thought a SFC was an E-7? Does rank parity change that?

      I could not imagine having a 1SG or MSG (E-8) for each platoon. It would be like having a minor deity for your platoon leader!

      Anyway, I wholly agree there are waaaaay too many officers. A CPT, a 1LT for XO, and 2LT for a spare is plenty. The services, esp. the USAF, ought to bring back NCO and WO pilots, too.

      Boy, could you imagine the screaming, though?

      And you’d need a good pool of replacement officers, since, IIRC, company grade or junior grade officers have a shorter life span in combat than their troopers.

      Waaaaay off the mark – Do you know if the Royal Navy uses “up or out” or can an RN officer still be a Lieutenant forever just like in the old Hornblower books?

    • Tom Kratman

      SFC is, but Army platoon sergeants are E-7s, while Marine PSGs are SSGs/ E-6s. It goes back to the same thing that gave us the CIB, the EIB, and the Bronze Star, an attempt by the Army to give more prestige to the infantry in WW II.

      Yeah, there’d be exploding heads over blue suits all over the Pentagon.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      What a lovely thought!

    • James

      You say this like its a bad thing?

    • TBR

      In the RN “up or out” is not as stringent. There are plenty officers who retire after comparably long careers as Lieutenant Commanders, especially in specialisations such as weapons engineering, with no stigma of a “failed career” attached.

      Think of a RN LtCdr more as the career equivalent of a US Army Lt Col (in the sense of relative accomplishment). But when you figure in that in the RN O-1 to O-3 is basically the same effective rank (those in URL get essentially the same postings aboard and, depending on age and education, O-1 can effectively be skipped) then that is only one truly substantial promotion. If you go one further to the history of the ranks in the RN the LtCdr is essentially a senior Lieutenant and not a junior Commander, before the rank was formalized in March 1914 all Lieutenants above a certain time in grade already wore the additional half cuff ring.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      Thank you!
      How easy is it to get from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander. My dad said there was a big gulf between O-3 and O-4 and again between O-6 and O-7.

    • TBR

      AFAIK the location and size of the “gulfes” in the RN varies with an officer’s specialization. I can only tell something about Germany.

      In Germany there is a “gulf” after O-3 because practically only lifers advance beyond that. But that is more of a matter of volunteering to stay in if you have ticked all your boxes.

      The bigger “gulfes” in Germany are actually between two paygrades at the same rank. The first one is at O-3 where only few officers on the standard 13 (used to be 12) year contract reach the senior paygrade A12.

      But the first really big gulf in the German Navy (and the Bundeswehr) is between two paygrades at O-5. Every URL lifer in principle reaches the junior O-5 paygrade A14 but only around 30-40% advance beyond that to A15. The next gulf is the jump to junior paygrade O-6, A16, which 15-25% (depending on year and service/organisation) make.

      “Flag equivalent” in reality in Gemany already starts at the senior paygrade O-6, the first ” B” paygrade, B3. From then on the relative size if the “gulfes” cannot be determined by the distance in paygrades. O-7 is B6, O-8 B7, O-9 B9, O-10 is B10 (with the Genralinspekteur getting additional pay) because advancement can be very quick and political. There is an example of a jump from B3 to B9 within 6 months (VADM Ulrich Weisser).

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      Thank you!
      My Dad said there was a gulf between O-3 (Army Captain) and O-4 (Major) because there simply were not as many positions for Majors as there were for Captains. Most officers (esp. Reserve) get passed over twice, go into the Reserves for a while, then end their military careers.
      For the same reason he said there was a gulf between O-6 (Colonel) and O-7 (Brigadier General), because there were not nearly as many places for General officers as there were for Field Grade officers. Most officers (mainly academy graduates) who made the leap to O-4 would end up retiring as an O-6.
      Generals, of course, do not have to retire until they feel like it.

    • dirk gently

      If the USAF allowed NCOs to be pilots, the Ossifers would be upset that the mistique of being “an Air Force pilot” would be damaged with respect to women in the bars.

      A fraternity is a drinking club disguising itself as a benevolence society.

      The USAF is a fraternity disguising itself as a military branch.

    • Rick Randall

      I always viewed the proper role of a 2LT platoon leader as being an apprenticeship for the officer. I even told more than one lieutenant, “Sir, your job is to learn to be a captain. This platoon was doing fine before you, and we’ll do fine after you leave.”

    • Tom Kratman

      I tended to take a similar approach to OPD (Officer Professional Development) as an XO and CO. Short version: OBC, Ranger School, and your platoon sergeant will take care of your current duties; my job is much more to teach and train you to command a company.

    • Justin Watson

      And it’s amazing how few officers do anything to develop their subordinates at the company level nowadays. Most of my commanders idea of development was just, “do your job, make sure I don’t get yelled at by the field grades.”

    • Tom Kratman

      Some of that lack is simply damned criminal. Example: OBC may teach someone to lead a patrol. OAC (yes, I know the names have changed since the 80s) may teach one to plan a defense or attack. But no course teaches a combat arms officer how to do a change of command inventory, or to maintain property accountability during command (and they barely touch on how to eliminate losses from the property book). If you’re a CO, and presuming you know what you’re doing, you have an obligation to teach your lieutenants how to do that, along with how to administer an Art. 15 (prep and rehearse the ass chewing), how to plan, organize, conductm and manage training, how to snivel resources for your unit, how to counsel…a million frigging things that all officers should be able to do and few are really any good at.

    • Justin Watson

      Sadly, nowadays, if you want to get ahead and be ABLE to mentor your LTs when you’re a captain, you probably will learn the bulk of it on your own with minimal if any guidance. Which I did.
      And I think I did well enough. My FDCs and guns could always shoot fast and accurate. My observers were always proficient and present with their maneuver brethren. I actually got criticized for spending too MUCH time training my LTs when I was a battery commander (ironically, the maneuver BN CDR I worked for loved it).
      I had them in the FDC and on the guns and on the aiming circles and sweating over maps and compasses. I dragged them all over Fort Carson and then the Kuwaiti desert getting them to consider where they should put firing positions, how they should defend them, where and when they needed to place an R3SP (rearm, refuel, and resupply point for your studio audience) and mobility corridors for self propelled artillery, and so on and so on. To me, it was a no-brainer, not only is that shit vital- it’s FUN. It’s how you KEEP people in the Army in the first fucking place.
      But that was all for nothing because they should have been making power point presentations ABOUT the training they were doing instead, you see. Also, I may have skipped my EO and SHARP requirements for two or three…quarters…in a row.
      And the bastard who bitched at me about it didn’t even have the decency to recant when my four LTs scored nothing less than the high 90s on their written and hands-on exams, exams which every other JO in the battalion failed. We were the only combat effective battery for MONTHS.
      But I’m not bitter. Not even a little bit. Nope, not me.
      In summary, yes, the structure needs to be burnt to the ground and rebuilt into something that remembers its primary purpose, which is to win wars at the lowest possible cost in blood to the nation. Anything else, ANYTHING ELSE is folly.

    • Justin Watson

      Rephrase, it most certainly was not all for nothing as far as I was concerned, just in the eyes of my superiors.

    • Tom Kratman

      One of the few things I think the Army I spent my company grade time in was generally good at was OPD. Some of it was harebrained, sure. Some was a boondoggle, no doubt. But on the whole, there was a serious commitment to training lieutenants to be better lieutenants and captains. That said, on the whole we didn’t do nearly as good a job with NCOs, which may explain some – not all, but some – of the Army of today.

    • Justin Watson

      The Army still makes noise about OPD, but, as the Scottish Play puts it, it usually signifies nothing. There are some shining exceptions, of course, but they are just that.

    • Tom Kratman

      Well…if you asked my lieutenants they’d probably go apoplectic. They had to do a weekly book report presentation to the company officers, including self (I generally chose the books at first then let them pitch their own later on), after hours, roughly a biweekly training, tactical or operational, or admin or log OPD, after hours, usually, Tewts or Jewts or Penis’ about bi-monthly, sometimes during but as often after hours, command the company, in rotation, for certain events so that they wouldn’t go all bug eyed if I got killed and they found themselves in charge, wargame on weekends, spend 18-22 or so days and nights in the field, monthly, prep massive amounts of training for the company…and then there was the more limited battalion horse manure.

      In retrospect, it’s amazing more of them don’t hate me to this day.

      Oh, on the plus side I only permitted one meeting per week , a mixed C&S and training affair, and it stopped at 1 hour, even if I was still talking.

    • Justin Watson

      Honestly, It took a lot of effort just to make sure my LTs were tactically, logistically and administratively competent (and they were almost all good kids). Even skipping everything I thought I could get away with, the remaining horseshit still ate up half our time, easy. As good as we were in comparison to 2013 standards, I drool over what we’ve could’ve done in a more permissive environment.
      There were very occasional complaints that they worked harder than Alpha Battery’s LTs, but the older platoon leaders and my XO would usually hush this up rapidly by pointing at WHAT they were working on, versus what Alpha’s LTs were working on.
      And after they left my command, many of them spoke wistfully of the days when their boss only expected effort, competence and character.

    • Tom Kratman

      Ft. Stewart and Panama, both, really were amazingly permissive environments. Panama – more or less the Farm Team for the 75th, was just grunt heaven, but Stewart showed much better what was possible in any CONUS unit. We didn’t have anything resembling an alert battalion / DRF because, as a practical matter, no transportation was going to be arranged for us in any hurry greater than we could get ready to roll, anyway; it would go the the 82d and 101st first. (DRF is a tremendous distraction, if you guys didn’t know that.) The training areas were generally unsuitable for anything much bigger than a company, and there were a lot of them. Maybe best of all, my worthless battalion commander (the first one, not the second) wasn’t remotely interested in going to the field, or much of anything having to do with commanding the battalion, so we company commanders could do whatever we wanted.

    • Justin Watson

      They were just talking about reinstituting DRF before I left, but I was at Carson, not a designated rapid unit.
      Germany and Carson both had ridiculous range restrictions. And the majority of my superiors were unrepentant micro-managers. If I’m out there training the men hard enough to break machines and possibly cause an injury or two, that might make them look bad, don’t cha know.

    • Tom Kratman

      Quite. Which is why the thing – DoD – must be closed down and something else put in its place.

    • dirk gently

      Oh god. Meetings. Now EVERY organization, down to and including company level … from CSS to combat arms has a BUB (Battle Update Briefing) EVERY FREAKING NIGHT. Commanders and their senior NCOs have to attend next higher’s BUB before running their own BUB.

    • Jack Withrow

      NCOES is a joke. I went through that system and never learned a single solitary new thing in any of the courses. Then the open book tests that I had were worse than a joke. I did not then, nor now, understand how anyone could fail an NCOES course academically. I know it happens, but how it happens is beyond me when everything is force fed to the students.

      I have been in units that claimed to have an NCO Professional Development Program. Never once saw one that actually was worth a damn. I blame the SGM/CSM Corps for that. They think the NCOES teaches a soldier how to be an NCO. What they don’t understand is that a school teaches you nothing really. The book answers seldom work in real life. You have to learn the job under the tutelage of a real NCO to become one.

    • Tom Kratman

      Not just folly, but immoral.

    • dirk gently

      There was a movie made back in the 1950′s, Kiss them for Me. Cary Grant’s character is one of 3 navy pilots in San Fransisco on a short leave. Some reporter asks him about how the war is going.

      Cmdr Crewson: Which war do you mean? The one between the Army and the Navy, the one between the Army and the Marines, or the one between the Marines and the Navy?

      Reporter: No, against the Japs?

      Cmdr Crewson: Oh, nobody gives a damn about them.

    • Pugmak

      I’m gonna get yelled at, again, by our host, but…

      I’ve long been of the opinion that there shouldn’t be entry into the service as a fresh out of school officer.

      I’m not all commie proletarian or any such, but in my personal utopia, everyone enters as a private. Min 4 years to make NCO or officer.

      Promote those who show the officer type traits and skill sets up that line as needs, those who show NCO type skills and traits up that line, as needs.

      There’s also rank bloat in the enlisted ranks. I know from experience that there’s L/Cpls that can do fantastically well as squad leaders and met a Sgt or few that did very well as platoon sgts.

    • Tom Kratman

      Why would I yell about that? Indeed, I would much prefer we adopt the aspirant approach (that’s what you call it), though for various reasons I wouldn’t be averse to keeping different sources of commissioning, Academy, Special Military Schools like VMI and Norwich, ROTC and OCS.

      However, purely military considerations aren’t the only ones. An officer corps, at core, is as much about retaining political control over the armed forces as about anything else. Think about how people get appointed to the academies. politicians of varying parties, thus generally insuring that the armed forces become neither unmitigated right or left wing strongholds, which is, on the whole, better for the republic.

    • dirk gently

      Yeah. I 1-125th Infantry, more than 50% of the time, we had no S-6 officer, and everything went fine.

  • Ming the Merciless

    The US armed forces in 1945:
    Army: 10.8% officers
    Navy: 9.8% officers
    USMC: 7.8% officers

    So that’s a lot less than today, but still a lot more than the vaunted Wehrmacht… which these guys defeated.

    Looking at the figures from 2013, one immediately notices that the bloat is in the non-fighting functions. The “combat specialty occupations” officers are only 23% of the Army, 6% of the USAF, 21% of the USMC, and 11% of the Navy total officer corps. From the descriptions given, all the other weenies could have their functions outsourced or performed by NCOs/WOs. If Army scientists, “managerial officers”, doctors, and lawyers were not officers, would that be so bad?

    • Tom Kratman

      We defeated them? Funny, I thought 900 or so divisions of the Red Army did most of the heavy lifting.

      Edit: Oh, and Army included Army Air Corps, then, as now, overofficered. It wasn’t nearly so bad on the ground.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Eh, that is a needlessly abject and self-abasing view of the US role.

      Our campaigns against Germany were not walkovers, and the US Army defeated the Germans that it faced for all that there were a lot of other Germans fighting elsewhere.

    • Tom Kratman

      Doesn’t matter if they were walkovers or not. When 75% of the enemy force is facing an ally on the other side of Europe, you are a sideshow, you did not defeat anybody (and they usually got more of us than we got of them, even when the odds and circumstances were terribly in our favor) in any way as to suggest you had anything like the quality and sufficiency of leadership the enemy had.

    • Ming the Merciless

      The ratio was not 75% in 1944, and in particular, half the German panzer formations were facing the Anglo-Americans, including the elite SS units. The cream of the Wehrmacht was in France in 1944, and we defeated it, period.

      Stalin didn’t think the Second Front was an unimportant sideshow, or he wouldn’t have spent so much energy demanding it. It was the number one thing he wanted at Tehran, in December 1943. Obviously he didn’t think he had victory in the bag at that point; if he did, then he would have been indifferent about whether we landed in France or not.

      The American role in WW2 was decisively important. The course and outcome would have been very different without it.

    • Justin Watson

      But he did by June, 1944, Ming.
      America’s role was critically important, that’s true. Obviously, the Pacific. Second, without GMC and a few other American manufacturers, the USSR could conceivably gone under. Also, having half of Europe not under the Iron Curtain was good too.

    • Tom Kratman

      But that, too, has nothing to do with the proper percentage of officers.

    • Justin Watson

      True. Just pointing out that our biggest contribution wasn’t the Western Front.

    • Ming the Merciless

      In June 1944, the Wehrmacht was still occupying Soviet soil. Stalin still wanted a Second Front at that point – and for the Anglo-Americans to keep fighting afterward – in order to ensure victory and to reduce the cost to the USSR. If the D-Day had failed, or been called off, then Stalin would certainly at least have contemplated a separate peace with Germany after expelling German forces from Soviet soil.

    • Tom Kratman

      Which has what to do with the proper percentage of commissioned officers?

    • Ming the Merciless

      If you win with an “improperly high” percentage of officers… so what?

      What was the Soviet officer percentage in WW2? Proper or improper?

    • Tom Kratman

      Human and material cost and timeliness is what matters. Because you will not have every advantage most of the time is what matters. Because an excessively large officer corps will grow and grow and ruin your armed forces, eventually, is what matters.

      The Soviets didn’t really have an NCO corps, in general, so the size of the O Corps that was doing both jobs makes it almost as apples and oranges a thing as merely counting end results, without reference to long and short term costs.

    • Tom Kratman

      So what the fucking diff does that make?

      Okay, let me try this to get it through your head. The Persians won the Battle of Thermopylae, ergo the creme of the Spartan Army stank. Does this work for you? Logically? The Marines lost at Wake Island, therefore the 1942 USMC stank. Does _this_ work for you, logically? We lost in Vietnam, in 1972, therefore the 101st airborne, in 1966, stank. Does this work for you, logically? The German Army, which had been fighting for five years, suffering massive casualties, facing us, without air parity or anything like it, with 75% of its formations, overall, in the east, still managed to kill us and the Brits at about 1.25 to 1, even when we had every possible advantage, and the reason we were able to achieve this not too appalling rate of exchange was because we had twice as many officers as they did, of half the quality. Does _this_ make sense to you, logically?

    • Ming the Merciless

      Your flailing furiously at a point I’m not even making. I did not claim the US Army was solely or primarily responsible for defeating Germany. I said that the US Army defeated the Wehrmacht. This should be an uncontroversial claim. Even if you want to vomit all over this achievement by saying that the US Army only defeated the limited, less effective forces facing it after the Soviets did the heavy lifting, it remains true that the US Army defeated the Wehrmacht.

      Was the campaign from Morocco to the River Po, and from Normandy to the Elbe, an unopposed administrative movement? Or was it a fight? If it was a fight, who won that fight? Was the US Army defeated, or was the German Army defeated?

      I am also not arguing that the German Army stank in 1941 or in 1944. We defeated an army that did not stink.

      You don’t get points in war for elegance. You get points for winning. If your over-officered army uses massive firepower and vast materiel resources to defeat, without much in the way of elegant maneuver, a “better officered” army… so what, what matters is you won.

    • Tom Kratman

      And, again, whatever point that makes as to the proper percentage of officers, I just cannot see. And, no, it doesn’t just matter if you won. You have to consider longer term costs. We won WW II, but that bloated officer corps of that day led to the even more bloated officer corps of Vietnam, and the preposterously bloated officer corps of today. You might have noticed we have not won lately. You might have noticed that we’ve largely ruined the NCO corps by having too many officers, too. Those things, the ruination _and_ the repetitive losses, link _directly_ to the overly bloated officer corps of WW II.

    • Major_Mike

      While the Soviets did eviscerate the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS, we also kicked their ass.

    • Tom Kratman

      The asses we kicked were from a crew already bled white.

    • Major_Mike

      Tom. while I respect your opinion – I disagree. The Wehrmacht and Waffen SS formations in Italy and France weren’t bled white prior to our landings at Salerno and Normandy – the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS formations in the East were.

      For example, 1. Fallschirmjaegerdivision at Monte Cassino and indeed through the entire Italian Campaign.

      I dealt with quite a bit of “Wehrmachtophiles” conducting staff rides in Italy in the late 90s up to 9/11. American officers who were unabashed admirers of anything feldgrau and dismissive of anything in OD #7.

      Had one bright young military genius-in-training captain tell me that our 1944-5 movement to contact tactic of reacting to any German hasty or deliberate defense by breaking contact and pounding the fuck out of them with tacair and artillery, then maneuvering around them to force the Nazis to withdraw or surrender was “unprofessional” – apparently killing the bad guys while not slaughtering your own guys isn’t done. I hope that idiot was not in charge of troops in the GWOT.

      But as my father (3x CIB awardee – WWII, Korea, RVN x2 and DOMREP) pointed out one day in the German cemetery on the Futa Pass, the 338th Infantry’s fight straight up Monte Altuzzo and their breaking the Gothic Line was a feat of arms equal to any in history. Just Joes – in a wartime regiment – against the battle-hardened 12. Fallschirmjaegerregiment. In the coldest, hardest winter in European history.

      At the end of the day, the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS landsers in the West lost. And it was the sadsack amateur US Army that carried that fight.

    • Tom Kratman

      And, again, at the end of the day, Leonidas and his 300 (- 2, IIRC) lay dead at Thermopylae. Does this not prove that the Persians were the better force? (Of, course not, they were just the bigger one.)

      You can’t really measure things like that or that way, though, and you know you can’t, Mike. Anymore than you can take a regiment – a level of organization remarkably subject to special circumstances, to include a superior commander – and judge an army from that, either.

      “Bled white.” in any case, doesn’t necessarily mean understrength, itself a nearly useless concept when people – to include Germans – will almost invariably change their organizations to keep maximum feasible flag officers on strength, even when the rank and file are depleted. Rather, it means some reduction in strength, from that previously held, reduction in quality, as the best die or are wounded, reduction in training time, and – by no means least – timidity in action, because a commander doesn’t know if his losses even _can_ be replaced. Pretty sure all of those were at least somewhat true of LSSAH and 1st FJD. What are you going to call it when a “full strength” formation on the Atlantic wall is actually about 60% strength of a proper division and, still worse, replete with unreliable HiWis, to include Koreans on their 3rd different army? Me, I’d call it a manifestation of an army bled white.

      Now, me, again, my problem is that the US Army – qua Army – has never – “What never?” “No, never!” – been as good, or nearly as good, as it should have been. And a huge part of that is an excessive percentage of officers.

    • James

      A part of it is just down to the simple massive brass balls of the Russians. They were fucked they knew it but also knew if they stopped everything they loved died. So they fought and fought and fought.

      I heard a story once about how after WW2 the Russian women got used to sharing husbands. It had literally killed off so many men they had to do that.

    • dirk gently

      The worst part for the Russian soldier was that he was placed in a position of defending his homeland, and as such, was also defending the anti-Russian government which had hijacked his country

    • Pugmak

      A good part of the officer bloat in the USMC is the airwings, namely the fixed wing squadrons and groups. The helo chopper squadrons weren’t so horrible but still bad enough at it.

      Can’t be a pilot unless yer an ossifer. Ossifers is spayshul.

      Get a proper computer simulation for flying the various aircraft, make all inductees sit and play the damned thing. Pick those who show the skill sets necessary. Train em up as enlisted pilots. One of the worst things I saw when playing intel weenie in the wing was the efforts gone to to make up bullshit jobs for officers to keep them occupied while they weren’t flying. Of course, each bullshit job required its own brand of paperwork that fertilized all the other paperworks in all the other jobs and made lots and lots of baby paperworks that grew to breed their own offspring.

      - Pug.

    • Stephen W. Houghton

      That is part of the problem, but the marine corps has enough general officers to staff an army group for crying out loud. It is supposed to be corps for g-d sake. Ok ONE 4 star to be Commandant so he is of the same rank as the other chiefs of staff, maybe ONE more if they want to make a marine theater commander or CJCS. But the corps has four of them.

  • Justin Watson

    Christ, this shit’s depressing. I almost wish I was blissfully ignorant of how fucking spot on this diagnosis is.

    • Tom Kratman

      Cheer up, I’ve been living with this knowledge since I was a second lieutenant and my CO handed me a copy of Crisis in Command.

    • Justin Watson

      I always knew we were over-stocked on officers. Every time I thought I had a handle on the toxicity of that condition, the Army surprised me with something new.

    • Tom Kratman

      To the degree?

      I couldn’t do a lot more than scratch the surface in a couple of places, and focus on the very worst aspect, in another.

    • Justin Watson

      Yes, the degree of toxicity. While my career was half or less the length of yours (unless you count Hudson High, which in terms of witnessing flaws in the officer corps, I think you can), like you I could write a very thick book about all the issues I saw that spring directly from having too goddamned many officers hanging around needing to justify their existence.

    • Tom Kratman


    • Justin Watson

      Basically, I’m just emphatically agreeing with you.

    • Tom Kratman

      You know, that knowledge has a certain – borrowing from Marx here – immiserating effect on one while in service. That first company commander, years later, expressed regret for handing me that copy of Crisis in Command because of the recular octitis that came with the book.

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    • GOPnoMore

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  • James

    If only we had some type of system that could set up and bring about a new military structure while we canceled out the last one. We could have say a Legionary structure of some kind…

  • James

    Seems to me a good part of the problem is that for a group in charge of those officers or who build up part of them is that for them to ever get any bigger or more powerful they need to train more officers. So eventually its a completely self serving machine.

    Seen the same shit in the business world. People who are given status who don’t need it who’s sole reason for being seems to be to give those above them some one else in charge. Also some one to blame.

    Hmm. SO do we know the percentage of officers to enlisted that the Legions had from when they first came about to when the Empires lost it?

  • James

    A question: Does the Military seem to follow the same form as a corporation now or does the corporate form come from the modern military? Or is it one of those commonly evolved things from similar sized organizations.

    I say this because:

    I have heard time and time again people say something in the military about officers or certain policies that can be directly linked to certain things in the business world.

    So I guess the thing is something similar is happening in the corporate and military world that leads to basically the same fucked up problems.

    • Tom Kratman

      Some of both.

  • John Becker

    Please, please, pretty please with every damn sprinkle in the world on top, write about how to build for the long term! (currently serving soldier here)

    • Tom Kratman

      Okay, that’s one vote.

    • Pugmak

      Not serving but still irritated about what I saw when serving, so count me as another vote?


  • Andrew Foss

    ..I’m not even convinced NCOs are as necessary as they’re seen to be: There was a week where 3/4 of my Troop was out doing brad gunnery. (or supporting it) The only “adult supervision” was my PSG. He had a list of things to get done left by our (rather excellent, Napoleonesque in his effectiveness) CO. He walked into the platoon area, hands the list to a new SPC, turns to us brand new E1-E3 HMMWV crews and says: “Figure it out and get it done. I’ve got paperwork to finish with the LT. You have a week.” and walked out. We looked at the list and started divvying up assignments and got to it, figuring out how to get each task accomplished on the fly.

    We finished the list (TRP and PLT milvan layouts and repackings, battery disposal, vehicle PMCS and repair, excess equipment turn-in, weapon repair and maintenance, new Troop equipment draw, supply room organization and cleaning, vehicle repaint, bumper number application, motor pool cleaning…) in three days. The second (longer) list of tasks dropped when we finished the first. Done before lunch on that day. The Brad crews and NCOs came back and the “hurry up and wait” followed with them.

    The problem is that a shift in duty expectations needs to occur: Too often I’ve seen a section of Joes working and a handful of NCOs “supervising”. (By “supervising”, I mean “E5s and E6s Standing around shooting the breeze and harassing the Joes”, not “making sure the task gets accomplished correctly and rapidly”.) This is needless: It’s not time to socialize, it’s time to work. When 1/4 of the personnel are standing around doing nothing (or worse, actively hindering those doing things) things take longer.

    I forward a solution: Bring back E#(T) ranks and couple the rank with the situation: You’re back in the rear, you’re a damn Spec-5 or Spec-6 Joe, just like the E3s and Spec-4s. Now pick that cotton, coolie. But if you’re at war, you get laterally appointed to (staff) sergeant.

    • Tom Kratman

      As mentioned, if your NCO corps has become crappy, look to the officers; it’s _their_ fault.

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