Spectacular Failures

Those of us who served in the United States Army occasionally encountered people of dubious character, never quite sure what drove them, but most certain about what lay at their center. It was a large narcissistic, ultimately destructive ego that often led to their spectacular failure (a phrase I stole from a trusted friend). It was a self-centered approach that took advantage of cultural shifts to promote themselves and their like-thinking cronies.

Too often their approach to leading was at the expense of honorable men and women who did not stand to influence their careers one way or another – or so they thought at the time. At some point in their lives, demonstrated competence gained them promotions. At least, we like to believe that is what advanced them. At some other point, they lost focus of who they were and what they represented. Then their character flaws failed them, but not before the lives and careers of many others were harmed along the way.

In recent decades, there has been insidiousness at work that is destructive to the honor and integrity of our force. It has multiple heads, but a single focus. That focus, at least to this old retired Soldier, is the transformation of the world’s greatest fighting force into the world’s greatest social engineering laboratory. Added to that are the in-service politics driving selections for important assignments. Unscrupulous character deficient leaders are always standing by to benefit from social experiments and crony politics.

Understand one thing clearly. If our military is to remain the great force that it is, people who enter it and who are now serving must conform to the standards of the force. The force cannot continually reshape its culture and standards to accommodate individuals, groups and most frighteningly incompetence.

Writing this, I fully expect the sharp knives to come out. But, I do not care. I have had those stuck into me before, often from the same characters who at the time were smiling to my face and shaking my hand. When I was serving, I always said what I thought. Now I stand at a point in life, where it matters even less to me what people think or say about me. What is important is to speak out about what I see happening to the great institution that gave a wayward teenager a good home for most of his life. I pray that others in and out of the service will do the same. If we do not, we fail the many young Americans who dutifully and trustingly enter the United States Armed Forces.

In my book, The Three Meter Zone, in the chapter titled Build the Foundation, I wrote about Trust and Confidence. I recounted a story written in third person because I had no desire at the time to publicly embarrass the leader who owned this piece of my personal history. He was having enough issues at the time and the lesson from the story was more important than its characters. Leaders must have and keep the trust and confidence of the led.

It was not until I arrived at my new assignment at Fort Myer, Virginia that I learned the back story. My first assignment there was as the Command Sergeant Major (CSM) for what was dubbed “Headquarters Command Battalion.” Yes, it was as insignificant of an assignment as it sounded and rather disappointing to say the least. The man I replaced was headed for an assignment in Germany. One highly sought after by CSMs from the personnel field. It was not the assignment promised me in my trust and confidence story, but another. His experience level was much less than what one would expect for the assignment he was given, but he was well-connected to the Office of Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA). His selection angered senior and experienced CSMs from his field. Too make an already too long story short, after his assignment it became time for selection of a new SMA. The man selected to be the new SMA was the man who broke his handshake personal commitment to me for reasons he proclaimed “he was not at liberty to discuss.” What did the personnel CSM do? He decided that he did not want to be a CSM after all. He gave up the sought after wreath on his rank insignia and with it the privilege of leading soldiers to do what? Return to the office of the SMA and work for the newly selected one. I do not have to give any more detail about this SMA. You will recall that he flamed out rather spectacularly. Following his court martial on sexual harassment charges he was discharged forever to be remembered for the last thing.

There are some very important assignments for NCOs in our Army. They should always be filled based on merit with men and women of demonstrated competence and high character. One of the most important is the Commandant of the Army’s Drill Sergeant School. The person responsible for being the example to and training the trainers that teach young Americans how to be Soldiers. On September, 21, 2009, the New York Times ran a long complimentary article hailing the selection of CSM Teresa King, the first woman, as the school’s new commandant. Not long ago, the Army Times reported that she was suspended from her duties.

“If we outline the allegations, people will jump to conclusions that she is guilty of those allegations,” said Col. Chris Kubik, a TRADOC spokesman. “We don’t want any sort of prejudgment. There may not be any substantiation to it, so we don’t want to mar Sgt. Maj. King’s good name — she does have a distinguished record and we don’t want anybody prejudging her.” –Army News Service

It is quite interesting that none of the reporting news services will “outline the allegations” that caused CSM King’s suspension. I hope they understand that bad news does not get better with age nor does it just go away in today’s connected world. If true, the allegations are disheartening. Unchallenged rumors are of bogus college degrees in her records, a sexual relationship with an enlisted Soldier junior to her and a drinking problem. If they are true, it is another spectacular failure of Army leadership. For the sake of our Army, let us hope that CSM King is not remembered for this last thing.

The Army must take a hard look at itself. It cannot continue to select and place people of questionable character into important leadership positions. In the name of political correctness and social engineering, are we failing America’s Soldiers and ultimately America herself?

©2012

Looking beyond the wars he inherited…

That is the opening phrase of the Associated Press article announcing plans to further decimate our Armed Forces. And in the name of what? Frugality? It is the most irresponsible and dangerous act in recent history otherwise I might break into hysterical laughter.

Once upon a time in the Army, thinking and planning was based on what is essential. Not how much something costs, but whether doing it or not doing it is difference between success and failure. Living and dying. If the objective is to simply cut the national budget, then you can hack and slash until you get it where you want it, but not at the expense of putting our nation in danger.

What is our objective? Is it to defend our nation?

Some years ago, I participated in a research project on the World War I battle of the Meusse-Argonne. The offensive ended on November 11, 1918, which was also the end of the war to end all wars. The research did not begin with the battle itself, but necessarily with the pre-war years and the state of our Army from the beginning. It was important for us to learn what it took to win the decisive campaign of the war.

Before World War I, the strength of our ill-equipped standing Army was less than 100,000 men. With the rapid buildup for war we did not have sufficient equipment, even small arms, for the men we were sending to battle the Germans who had arguably the best Army on the planet at the time. We were so poorly equipped that many of our ”Doughboys” completed only rudimentary basic training and never fired a rifle before setting sail for Europe. Once there, they learned to shoot with British Enfield rifles. After all, we did not have any. The Europeans had a low opinion of us and our abilities, but welcomed the replacement stream of bodies.

So, how did we ultimately defeat a well-trained, battle hardened, and well-equipped German Army? We overwhelmed them. American Soldiers represented an infinite replacement stream of bodies while the German stream, worn down by years of war was rather finite. At the top of the Konigstuhl, in Heidelberg, Germany there is a German War cemetery. Some German Soldiers killed in World War I were re-buried there after the cemetery was built during the National Socialist years. Teenagers. We were not the better Army. We were not better trained or equipped. The Germans simply ran out of Soldiers. They filled their cemeteries with a lost generation of teenagers.

In the Army it is understood that the Generals will sometimes make mistakes. It is also understood that it is ultimately the Soldiers who pay for them. But understand clearly that it is the mistakes and ill-conceived miscalculations of politicians that ultimately fill our gardens of stone with the bodies of American Soldiers.

Not long ago, I wrote about Carter’s Army. It was an Army beaten down and worn out by years of combat in Vietnam. Its morale busted by liberal politicians, their allies in the media and a seemingly ungrateful public. Carter’s defense cuts further hollowed out the force. Our Army was in a sad and dangerous state. It was brought to that state by political bungling of a war and political disdain for those serving in uniform. Instead of regenerating the force, Mr. Carter cut it.

At the height of the Cold War, our standing active Army strength was around 760,000. Down came the Berlin wall and the Soviet Union. Washington politicians were dancing in the marble hallways of the Capitol as peace dividend dollar signs destined for pet projects and cronies rang up in their beady eyes.

But not so fast, insisted Sadaam Hussein.

Being the only nation on the planet with the ability to project such power, we ultimately deployed the heavily armored 7th Corps to the desert. They rolled through and over Iraq’s “elite” Republican Guard and decimated the world’s 3rd largest standing army in short order. Political intervention prevented the complete destruction and ouster of the madman. We encouraged revolution then turned our backs while Hussein filled mass graves with would be revolutionaries.

With that great victory, it was finally time to cash in the peace-dividend. There is no more 7th Corps and our Army was reduced to nearly half its Gulf War strength. We were built down, made leaner. Large conventional force on force wars were over or so we were told. Now we were able to focus on important things. Political correctness or the inability to tell the hard truth lest feelings are hurt and our diversity or better described as out of one many rather than out of many one.

Now we have been at war for a long time. Our Soldiers are tired. Their equipment is worn. Political bungling has been the norm. They have endured all of it. Now some politicians believe that we can cure the national debt by cutting the military while we are still fighting the war that Iran started with us in 1979. All of this while throwing money by the bucket load from every government window in the land. Liberal ideology once again trumps reality. Unless we rid ourselves of inept Washington leadership, more young Americans will necessarily become again the infinite stream of replacements trying to restore peace to a world brought to turmoil by political idiocy.

Do you ever watch those wildlife shows on television? The predators do not attack the strong. They cut out the weak and kill it.

Truthfully, he is looking beyond the fate of the country he inherited and the one thing that keeps our nation safe, the powerful military he inherited that keeps the predators away.

©2012

Do It Right Today

We are told that according to the Maya calendar we just celebrated our last Christmas on earth and are beginning our last year of existence. Call me skeptical if you like, but I put my faith in another source about that time. My source has a much better prophetical record than do the Mayans, but who am I to challenge the cable TV scholars on such a matter.

Hear ye, hear ye, the world ends on December 21, 2012. We are also taught that when the day does come, there will be no proclamation. The Maya calendar is interesting to some I suppose. If they are right and my source is wrong, I suppose the joke is on me. But, if my source is right then I am all set and the cable TV scholars, who are convinced that space aliens can account for most everything on earth and their colleagues at the ACLU better stock up on asbestos underwear.

Here is what I know for certain. We cannot fix yesterday and we cannot predict tomorrow. As a people, we do spend much of our time trying both. The only thing we can do is work to get today right. If we work hard to get today right, yesterday will not need fixin’ and tomorrow we can work hard at getting it right again. If we work hard to get it right every day, then we will be prepared for whatever comes.

Hey Congress! See how that works.

There are other proclamations I also accept as truth. An important one tells us if we do what is right today, we will be blessed and prosper in the land that we have been given. It is a declaration proven true throughout our brief history. Then it warns us if we stray from doing what is right, we will not live long in the land we were given. I am no Mayan and no prophet, but the signs are that we are feeling the pains from many years traveling that well known highway to perdition.

When we consider the state of the land with which we have been blessed and the impact it does and can have on the rest of the world, maybe the Mayans do have it right to some degree. Maybe the world as we know it, at least our part of it, will end in December 2012 or more likely on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

I was driving home the other evening, a day before the calendar flipped over to 2012. I prefer the old two-lane blacktop and the country side to the Interstate. I was pretty much alone on the road and contemplating much of what you just read – if you made it this far. Adding to the mood was the sound of Elvis coming from the CD player in the car. He was singing How Great Thou Art. No matter what else you may think of Elvis, he could certainly put some spirit into singing gospel tunes. I looked out ahead on the road and up at the hilltop. Evergreen and the winter brown from the hillside blended perfectly into the powder blue, soft gray and white of the evening sky. All of it was highlighted with brilliant orange and red streaks from the setting sun. The thought that popped into my mind is that no mortal artist could paint such a picture as that about the same time as Elvis sang “When I in awesome wonder.”

Elvis then broke into a spirited Joshua fit the battle of Jericho.

They tell me, great God that Joshua’s spear
Was well nigh twelve feet long
And upon his hip was a double edged sword
And his mouth was a gospel horn

It was about that time that I decided that I cannot do much about the state of our nation. I resolve in this year to avoid discussions about the stupidity of the stupid or the morality of the immoral or the corruptness of the most corrupt. These people can destroy a great nation and many people along the way, but they cannot take what it important. Instead, I thought I would better serve my country by focusing on the man in my mirror. It is said that a person’s eyes are the window to his soul. I need to take a long hard look into mine and ask if I am doing it right today. In my world, even if the Mayans made a lucky guess and it all blows up on December 21, 2012 our souls will live on and we control our own destiny by doing what is right today.

All of us control the destiny of this land with which we have been blessed. We must insist in 2012 that as a nation, we do it right. Today. “And the walls come tumbling down.”

©2012

Merry Christmas

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 8-12 NIV

Sometimes, I pull my wool hat down over my ears and go for a walk. Moving out of the neighborhood, I get the courtesy bark from the neighbor’s dog, a curious examination from a couple of squirrels and am nearly trampled by a rampaging buck in rut. He smells a doe somewhere, he just ain’t too sure about where. He disappeared into the tree line at a full gallop, so excited he probably ran into a tree and knocked himself out. The leaves are gone from the trees. The air is a little crisp, but for a few flurries, we’ve seen no snow. Houses and lawns are decorated for the season, some a bit overdone. Christmas cards are going out and coming in. The new Christmas movies are out. I’ve seen none destined to be classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, which we’ll watch for the bazillionth time. For the next few months, we’ll wonder if the angel got his wings whenever we hear a bell. We worry some about presents. What we might get, what we’ll give. The thought that used to go into them doesn’t always now. Getting something homemade is practically unheard of. Now, we savor the warmth of the plastic gift card we receive and worry if we spent enough money on the gifts we gave.

I can see smoke drifting up lazily from chimneys in the distance and smell the oak wood fires burning in fireplaces and wood stoves. It isn’t there, but my mind tricks me into smelling the spice cake my mother used to bake this time of year. I think about getting a big hunk of it fresh from the oven while it’s still steaming. Nothing tasted quite like that, especially chased with fresh milk or hot chocolate. I walk a little deeper into the woods. Nothing smells quite like the woods this time of year. The dead leaves I kick up while walking have a unique, earthy aroma. A squirrel skitters up the side of a tree right in front of me. He stops, safely out of my reach and watches. I come upon a wild holly bush and stick myself plucking a leaf from it. I make a pinwheel from the stiff holly leaf by putting the sharp points between my thumb and finger and blowing on it just hard enough to make it spin. I think of walking through the hills in the snow with my brother many years ago searching for a Christmas tree. I think about a wild sled run. I find a sturdy oak to lean against, pick a twig from a nearby branch and pluck it between my teeth. I survey the rolling hillside. The houses in the distance are visible only because the trees are naked of leaves. I ponder what might be happening in each. In one, Christmas cookies might be baking. In another, maybe they’re trimming the tree.

In my mind, the house is dark. Daylight’s not yet broken. My heart is beating slightly faster than normal. It’s Christmas morning. I slowly move the blankets away and begin to tiptoe toward the living room where the Christmas tree is. I step on a creaky floorboard and freeze, eyes wide. I listen, afraid that I might encounter an old elf gentleman and frighten him away. I peek into the kitchen and see that the cookies dutifully left on the table are gone. Then, in the dark, eyes still wide, heart still racing, I approach the tree….

I’m walking along the street in Chicago. A country kid in the city. I’ve never seen so many stores and all of them decked out for the holiday. Some have signs that say Xmas. I wonder why they’d do that. The sky is gray. The city is gray. The wind blows some newspaper down a slush-covered sidewalk. A panhandler begs for money. It doesn’t seem like Christmas. Something is missing, replaced by an X.

The air has chilled some so I flip the collar up on my down vest and I’m on the other side of the world walking a Christmas Eve post. I’m barely 19 years old. Sure, I have plenty of buddies around, but I’d trade it all for five minutes in that kitchen eating Mom’s spice cake. Then I think, because a few of us are willing to be here, many can be there at home. That thought perks me up some as I look into a glistening star filled sky and snug up the GI wool scarf around my neck. The clear night makes it colder. I wish it would cloud up and snow. Silent Night plays in my head.

It’s Christmas Eve. It’s nearing the end of the Church service and we light candles, each of us receiving the flame from the last Advent candle – the Christ candle. As the sanctuary lights dim, we raise our candles and sing Silent Night. There’s an incredible feeling of peace and hope.

Lying in bed, I realize it’s early. I hear something moving around in the other room. Slowly and cautiously at first it seems. Then I hear a rush of pattering feet and a curdling yell – Mom! Dad! Get up! Look what Santa brought! With huge grins and through sleepy eyes I share the joy and amazement.

From Su and I to you and yours. Have a blessed Christmas.

Copyright © 2004, J. D. Pendry

This time of year, there are things more important on which to focus than politics and politicians. Take some time off from the Internet and news. Focus on your many blessings and your family. Light a candle for the members of the United States Armed Forces who courageously serve us around the world. See you back here in the New Year. – JD

Is There a War on Christmas?

Is the real issue hidden beneath a catchy headline “the war on Christmas?”

A war on Christmas is a war against what we call a decorated tree. It is a war against what we call the school break that arrives each year around Christmas time. It is a war against public display of Christian themed decorations. It is a war of political correctness of whether one should wish you a Merry Christmas, offer you a sanitized season’s greeting, or refer to an alternative list of faith based and made up celebrations, all so as not to offend. To that extent, I suppose you can conclude that there is a war about defining the holiday.

The war is not against Christmas. The war is against Christ, against Christianity, and against Christians.

God gave us many gifts. He created the heavens and the earth and Charles Darwin. He is the one source of freedom, the principle on which our nation was founded. He gave us his Son, whose birth we celebrate on December 25, a date established by men rather than by the actual event.

For Christians, everyday is a celebration of the birth of Christ.

I might be a cynic and most certainly I have a biased point of view, but do you really believe that people around the world would flock in droves to their favorite market place to purchase winter solstice presents. So, God gave us another gift important to our survival. Celebrating the birth of Jesus helps businesses turn a profit each year and as a result keeps many millions of people employed. The employed are able to support their families and purchase the goods that are produced in our waning environment of economic freedom. Without His celebration, the current economic ruin brought to us by politicians would be infinitely more disastrous. Clearly, He does a better job stimulating the economy than any politician’s fictitious stimulus plan. Of course, that means little to the men longing to replace God in our lives.

The war on Christianity is not reserved for one day or one season of the year. It is continuous. I recommend that your read David Limbaugh’s book, Persecution.

Do you recall when George Bush during debates responded with Jesus Christ when asked who the most influential figure in his life was? He publicly professed his faith, although there are pundits who questioned it, and was not timid about it. He was not afraid to state that he prayed to God for guidance. The liberals and many squeamish establishment types openly questioned whether a president should “wear his Christianity on his sleeve.” I always thought that wearing it on your sleeve was a curious expression. Obviously, it is preferable to liberals that one hide his true identity from scrutiny while seeking public office, unless maybe he is atheist or homosexual.

Politicians routinely profess their faith because all of the polls indicate a Christian believing majority resides in the United States of America. For most liberals and other pundits, this does not raise any eyebrows or elicit wearing it on your sleeve comments. Professional athletes have been crossing themselves before stepping into the batter’s box and pointing skyward when slugging a homerun for ages. Could it be they are grateful for steroids? Could they be praying that they not get a nasty breaking fork ball? I do not profess to know their hearts. Football players have been taking a knee in the end zone in a prayerful pose for quite some time now – just before the dance and spike. But, when Tim Tebow did it the liberal pundits were beside themselves. Why does he insist on wearing it on his sleeve?

Why do you reckon the response was different for President Bush and Tim Tebow than it is for others? It is simple really. Faux Christianity does not frighten or threaten liberal beliefs, atheists and moral relativists. The real deal does.

If you profess Christianity with a political wink or if your body is covered in tattoos and all of your hair does not fit inside your hat, your pose may well be just that – a pose. Again, I do not profess to know anyone’s heart, but be assured no one will ask you why you wear it on your sleeve. It is when your Christian walk matches your talk that you become threatening to the many facets of moral relativism one encounters in free America. You are a challenge to the liberal America that insists other groups of people wear their identities on their sleeves.

Just one final thought that may highlight our national direction. Hillary Clinton announced to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (an oxymoron by the way) the President’s national strategy for the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) rights. I support the protection of the basic human rights of any person, but I do not recall such a national proclamation of support when the Egyptian army was killing Coptic Christians or for any of the many documented cases of Christian persecution and murder in Islamic states. Maybe we are no longer a Christian nation – or at least not Christian led.

Pray that God gives Tim Tebow the strength he needs to resist the multitude of temptations most assuredly headed his way.

The war is on Christ. Christmas is just one battleground.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

©2011

Merry Christ-mas, Mr. President: An Open Letter to President Obama

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