Fixing the Army’s Broken Culture

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Military elements often retain a degree of tradition, sometimes to their detriment and well past any meaningful use. Examples include the foolish and ineffective approach that initial entry training (“basic”) continues to be conducted and long-obsolete and useless holdovers such as drill and ceremony. I’ll begrudge an exception to D&C for personnel formally directed to conduct a tattoo while also pointing out the general fraud, waste, and abuse of such pompous displays.

Things like this are continued under the false guise of instilling discipline and learning how to pay attention to detail despite no evidence that they accomplish either:

http://changingminds.org/disciplines/leadership/styles/lewin_style.htm
http://www.kurt-lewin.com/leadership-styles.shtml

Kurt Lewin’s research on leadership and group dynamics indicates an over-bearing authoritative approach typified by the drill sergeant stereotype may be the worst way to lead people in many situations, especially if you want them to be capable of thinking and leading on their own one day. Test groups can revert to even worse undisciplined behavior than those put into laissez-faire control groups when the authority figure is removed. If you enforce babysitting measures upon personnel as the only means of enforcing discipline, then you’ll have to always and forever ensure a babysitter is present.

Forward-thinking leaders have commented on the need to break obsolete and detrimental traditions, even directing that future leaders must be able to function under disciplined disobedience.

Here are some examples:

https://soflete.com/blogs/knowledge/surfers-hippies-hipsters-and-snowflakes-counterculture-in-sof

https://warontherocks.com/2016/09/six-ways-to-fix-the-armys-culture/

https://www.army.mil/article/187293/future_warfare_requires_disciplined_disobedience_army_chief_says

https://warontherocks.com/2017/05/three-things-the-army-chief-of-staff-wants-you-to-know/

https://medium.com/s/story/10-dumb-rules-that-make-your-best-people-want-to-quit-8491b446dde5/

Future warfare requires ‘disciplined disobedience,’ Army chief says

“I think we’re over-centralized, overly bureaucratic, and overly risk-averse,” Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said while speaking at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C., as part of the Atlantic Council Commanders Series.

Leaders on the battlefield could expect to be out of contact with their own leadership for significant periods of time. Those officers would still need to accomplish their commander’s objectives, even when the conditions on the battlefield change and they are unable to send word up the chain of command.

“We are going to have to empower [and] decentralize leadership to make decisions and achieve battlefield effects in a widely dispersed environment where subordinate leaders, junior leaders … may not be able to communicate to their higher headquarters, even if they wanted to,” Milley said.

In that environment, Milley said, the Army will need a cadre of trusted leaders on the battlefield who know when it’s time to disobey the original orders they were given and come up with a new plan to achieve the purpose of those orders.

“[A] subordinate needs to understand that they have the freedom and they are empowered to disobey a specific order, a specified task, in order to accomplish the purpose. It takes a lot of judgment.”

Such disobedience cannot be “willy-nilly.” Rather, it must be “disciplined disobedience to achieve a higher purpose,” Milley said. “If you do that, then you are the guy to get the pat on the back.”

Milley said that when orders are given, the purpose of those orders must also be provided so that officers know both what they are to accomplish and how they are expected to accomplish it.

More:
https://www.army.mil/article/187293/future_warfare_requires_disciplined_disobedience_army_chief_says

None of this is new. This formal 1978 study Military Self-Discipline: A Motivational Analysis reveals the same things
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a055017.pdf

Worst of all, despite having formal, studied, decades-old evidence that a self-discipline approach selects for and produces better outcomes than an overbearing, authoritative approach, there is NO formal evidence that the current model provides any benefit.

The topic of leadership has been extensively studied in a range of occupational settings. Findings indicate that employee ratings of leaders predict occupational outcomes such as job turnover, satisfaction, and performance in both military and civilian occupational settings.

Approximately 72,000 soldiers go through Army BCT in the United States each year (http://www.jackson.army.mil/sites/info/) … [A]lthough there are several possible leadership qualities that could be displayed by Drill Sergeants, from being harsh and demanding to mentoring and motivating, there have been NO studies that have systematically assessed Drill Sergeant characteristics. [emphasis added]

Trainee Perceptions of Drill Sergeant Qualities During Basic Combat Training was published in 2013. The Department of Army spends money to send 72,000 new recruits through initial entry “basic” training every year and has done so for many decades but has never bothered to study if the established approach is effective.

Despite the hallucinations of personnel imagining that the stereotypical drill sergeant approach is “necessary” or even useful, there is no evidence for it.

What has the Army response to this been? As expected of the illiterate majority, more of the same failed nonsense.

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/04/24/army-making-more-drill-sergeants-increase-discipline-ait.html

https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2017/11/28/its-official-the-army-is-bringing-drill-sergeants-back-to-ait/

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The Developmental Model

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The Developmental Model presented here is the work of 1SG Joe Garcia, a successful shooter and coach with the National Guard.
https://ngmtc.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/NGMTC/
https://www.armytimes.com/story/military/guard-reserve/2015/02/27/california-guard-marksmanship-champs/24081399/
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Combat Readiness

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Members of the U.S. Army Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program discuss their combat experiences and how competition shooting helps with military training and readiness.


SSG Bonjour

MAJ Garcia

SSG Porter

SSG Rosene

MAJ Rosnick

MAJ Sleem

SSG Fuentes

SGM Gerner

SGT Hall

SSG Hartley

Drill Sergeant Willis

CPT Freeman


SSG Volmer


Service Personnel and Shooting Skill

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How Important Are Uniforms To Shooting Skill?
So that means as a normal citizen [competitive] shooter my [cold] performance was a bit over six and a half times better than the best SWAT team shooter in a multi-state area.

So let’s get away from thinking you need to be a cop or soldier to have great skill at arms. Let’s also get away from thinking that wearing a particular uniform. or having a particular job. automatically makes a person a shoot shooter.
Duane Thomas

This article by Duane Thomas nicely sums up something I discuss this at length in Beyond Expert: Tripling Military Shooting Skills using U.S. Army qualification standards as compared to NATO combat competition courses. This is another data point further demonstrating this.

Shooters interested in and pursuing competition shooting will likely triple the skill needed for military qualification “expert” (or even “perfect”) standards as a starting point. For handgun events, this can be increased by a factor of five or more, as Thomas demonstrates. Neither Mr. Thomas nor I are national champion shooters, which means that the actual champs are even more skilled. It also means every gun owner could shoot as well as us if they’d put in the work.

More:
https://self-defense-handguns.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/How-Important-1-2.jpg

Humorous and related side note…

Halfway through the stage. Half the targets still left totally unengaged, he is completely out of ammo… We score the targets. He has not hit any of those three targets. Not. Even. Once. Not after blowing off 40 rounds in their general direction. Not even T1 he was practically standing on to start.

I say to him, “Y’know… you only had to fire two rounds per target, right?… And you do know, you have to actually hit at least one target at least one time to get any points on-target, right?”

He puffs up like a banty rooster and says, “I’m training for COMBAT.”

“Oh… okay. You do know that in COMBAT you actually have to hit the targets, too. Right?”

More:
https://self-defense-handguns.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Silly-Things.jpg

Beyond Expert: Competition creates greater skill

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People outside the competition world often fail to understand the sort of skill levels possible. Routine qualification is the most vestigial level of basic understanding. Police and military qualification is the equivalent of a simple arithmetic quiz considered easy by elementary school children. It’s a perfectly acceptable level for a student actually in elementary school and basic/recruit/Academy training because we’re working with a brand-new novice. It is no longer acceptable years later because the student should have progressed.

Even students taking courses at quality shooting schools sometimes fail to gain this. Taking a class is receiving instruction, it is not training. Real skill development takes more on-going effort.

I discuss this at length in my book Beyond Expert: Tripling Military Shooting Skills using U.S. Army qualification standards as compared to NATO combat competition courses. In it I show that anyone interested in competition shooting needs to at least triple military qualification “expert” (or even “perfect”) standards as a starting point. For handgun events, this can be increased by a factor of five or more. Shooters consistently winning need to be better still. For more details, read Beyond Expert: Story Behind The Book

In case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s Rob Leatham at Gunsite (off camera to the left) shooting against and beating threeother shooters in a video posted on Gunsite’s Instagram page:

Qualification and Skill

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People outside the competition world often fail to understand the sort of skill levels possible. Routine qualification is the most vestigial level of basic understanding. Police and military qualification is the equivalent of a simple arithmetic quiz considered easy by elementary school children. It’s a perfectly acceptable level for a student actually in elementary school and basic/recruit/Academy training because we’re working with a brand-new novice. It is no longer acceptable years later because the student should have progressed.

I discuss this at length in my book Beyond Expert: Tripling Military Shooting Skills using U.S. Army qualification standards as compared to NATO combat competition courses. In it I show that anyone interested in competition shooting needs to at least triple military qualification “expert” (or even “perfect”) standards as a starting point. For handgun events, this can be increased by a factor of five or more. Shooters consistently winning need to be better still.
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Beyond Expert: Story Behind The Book

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I had always wanted to write a book about shooting. Turns out, I would be asked to publish it.

While spending 2003-2010 as a mobilized small arms instructor with the Army Reserve Marksmanship Program I noticed a trend in the different range of skills found among typical military-trained personnel and skilled marksmen, such as those involved in competition. On average, skilled competition shooter were able to exceed Army “expert” qualification standards by 300% or more. Military qualification standards are such that even an “expert” score may still be a novice-level effort as the course of fire isn’t capable of measuring higher skill.

Note I said “skilled competition shooter.” Not National champion or Olympian, just a competent marksmen among competition shooters. As one of my fellow instructors put it, a shooter that doesn’t finish in the top ten percent at a match isn’t competing, he’s participating. Now, there’s nothing wrong with participation (I still do it sometimes :) but a skilled competitor will manage to top out in the top ten percent of his/her shooting peers. That is good enough to at least earn “leg” points towards a Distinguished badge, earn a Master classification or something similar.

After managing to stumble into the Gunzine game and getting some articles published, I queried an Editor at Harris Publications to write this up. He agreed (see, sometimes gun magazines do publish actual marksmanship material.)

I originally wanted it to be a series of articles but was directed to make it a single, very large article. I titled it 300: Tripling Military Shooting Skills and it published as Shoot 300% Better (http://www.tactical-life.com/magazines/tactical-weapons/shoot-300-better)

Of course, my originally-intended-series-turned-article piece was considerably larger than most. When it wound up in the word processor of a Harris copy editor, he was directed to cut it in half! He sent me the cut-to-fit revision to review in an email with the subject “Buol Chainsaw Massacre.”

Turns out this copy editor was friends with the Editorial Director at Paladin Press. While lamenting over hist chopping and dissecting assignment, he quipped that she should ask me to write a full length book for Paladin about it because, “he practically wrote a damn book about it already.” So I was contacted, contracted and the rest is the ISBN-indexed dead trees package here:

http://www.paladin-press.com/product/Beyond-Expert

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