Over my years of Army service, I reckon I lost track of the many things required of leaders and Soldiers that added little or no value to their ability to fight and survive. Top down “mandatory” training subjects were and likely still are the bane of any leader’s existence, especially at the small unit level where war fighting skills are honed and skills beyond basic combat training are taught, learned, and reinforced.
The mandatory training subjects are just the tip of the iceberg detracting from the mission of training Soldiers. Soldiers deserve leaders that are battle focused. I have been away for awhile so I do not know if that remains a common Army concept. Battle focus means that leaders and the led are able to focus their time and energies perfecting the skills that enable them to accomplish the mission of defending our country and themselves. From the small unit perspective that means perfecting individual, team, squad, platoon and company level skills without which higher levels of military command cannot accomplish any mission. It is where the rubber meets the road – the most critical level of training for any military service. It is the foundation on which all else rests. It is a foundation that requires daily maintenance lest the remaining structure crumble.
Many of these training distractions emanate from implementing policies that come down from the mountain. Policies to which leaders must adhere and enforce adherence less all manner of lightning bolts and hail stones are hurled in their direction. Implementing and enforcing them cause leaders to focus upward toward the top of the mountain for blessing from people who breathe rarified air rather down in the valley where the Soldiers live.
Up until the early 1970s, pregnant females were honorably separated from service. After that, it became an option for them. It was my first experience with a policy that changed military culture. Whether you feel the policy was good or bad, it was certainly a cultural adjustment adding new leader responsibilities that did not enhance mission accomplishment.
For my first Army tour in Korea there was no female Soldiers stationed north of Seoul so I never saw a pregnant Soldier. My first experience with that was around 1973 and I would not have known then had someone not told me because the Soldier was wearing civilian maternity clothes. Maternity uniforms came later. I never gave it a second thought then, but I did when I was a unit First Sergeant stationed in Germany and unit readiness was my bread and butter. Lost to a unit for a year Pregnant Soldiers are not deployable. During my time, the non-deployable Soldier was carried against unit strength which means an able bodied replacement could not be assigned. The Army may have devised a method for dealing with that during the years since I left.
It was not just pregnancy, but the downstream issues that also affect unit readiness. In Germany, readiness tests were necessary and routine. When my phone rang in wee hours, the clock was already ticking to have my unit ready to roll out within a couple of hours. Personnel accounted for, weapons issued, vehicles loaded and staged and ready to roll. That is when single parents, mostly female but sometimes male, had problems that created a readiness headache. When we accounted for personnel, we also had to test single parent and dual member family-care plans. Who’s watching the kids while you head off to greet the Russians? Family care plans were too often no better than the paper they were recorded on. A broken family care plan meant a short-handed unit. Single parents could not enlist into the Army unless they relinquished legal custody of the children. First term Soldiers who become single parents couldn’t reenlist for the same reasons. As rules go, these were sometimes circumvented leaving leaders to deal with those problems as well. A single parent whose child was supposed to be in the custody of someone else would arrive in the unit with child. Convenience marriages often resulted in additional issues for leaders. By the time you add single parents to the list of non-deployable, unit readiness can degrade rather quickly. Additionally, leaders must dedicate time to resolving the single parent problems. This was always a readiness issue for support units, without which the tip of the spear cannot succeed. For a myriad of reasons, there will always be some non-deployable Soldiers, but rolling in pregnant Soldiers and the downstream issue of single parenting was a burden created by social engineering. It is a burden for leaders taking away their valuable time from mission training and readiness.
© 2017 J. D. Pendry