Leadership: January 27, 2004

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: Young sergeants who go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) often feel, once they have become a second lieutenant, that they have been demoted. While a junior sergeant (E-5) usually has 3-5 years of experience in the army when they reach that rank, and receive the respect that goes that kind of experience, most 2nd Lieutenants are recent college graduates with no experience in how the army actually works, and are generally tolerated, at best. Lieutenants quickly learn to be careful, for any mistake they make will simply confirm what senior officers, NCOs and their own troops already suspect; that they are totally inept and simply a disaster waiting to happen. A recent photo we presented in the Humor Section  illustrates this, if you look closely. On the left side of the front of the tank is the vehicle identified; B21. That means the tank is with B Company, 2nd platoon and the first tank in the platoon. That means it's the platoon leaders tank, and a platoon leader is a lieutenant.. The guys standing next to the tank are probably the crew, and one of them is a lieutenant who wishes he had gone down with his tank. He'll never hear the end of it from his fellow officers, and the NCOs and troops will yuck it up, behind his back, about the lieutenant who thought he could drive on water. But at that moment, the entire crew of the tank is not feeling too chipper, as when the tank retriever (a tank like vehicle without a turret) shows up, the tank crew is going to have to go into the water and mud to attach the towing cables. The damage to the tank is probably extensive, at least in terms of what it will cost to make it all good, not to mention the work the crew will have to do. Tank mechanics will take care of the water logged engine, bent road arms and road wheels, broken torsion bars and shorted out electrical equipment. But the crew will have to take care of putting the tracks back on the running gear, removing the ruined (by the water) main gun ammunition and cleaning out the water and muck. The tank is currently called "Bush & Co." (you can see it on the gun barrel), but will probably get a new, informal, name from everyone else in the company. Something like "Mud Hen."

Lieutenants overcome things like this by trying harder. Since Iraq is a combat zone, there are plenty of opportunities to do this. The army is probably more selective in who it makes lieutenants than at any time in its history. But two centuries of lower standards still hovers over today's lieutenants, like a dark cloud. It will take a generation or two of quality lieutenants before the stigma diminishes. 

 


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