The large number of
soldiers and marines who have seen combat, or at least been close, comprise a
group of military leaders that will be changing the U.S. Army and Marine Force for the next two
decades. The large number of combat experienced NCOs and officers creates a
different leadership climate, and a different attitude towards combat, and
getting ready for it.
Many people in the military now perceive
a "generation gap" that is marked by a specific date; September 11, 2001. Those
who joined after that day, were more likely to have done so for patriotic
reasons and were in to fight. The
pre-911 troops had served in a peacetime military. The 1991 Gulf War lasted
only four days. The Balkans peacekeeping operations of the 1990s involved very
little combat. In other words, the pre-2001 troops had seen very little action.
A lot of the pre-2001 officers and NCOs had a hard time adapting to wartime. This
is nothing new, and happens every time there is a war. As a result, there were
a lot of transfers (to other jobs) and retirements. Yes, the army was offering
re-enlistment bonuses of $150,000 to some senior combat NCOs. What the army did
not publicize was the large number of officers and NCOs that were encouraged to
leave, or get out of their combat job, to make way for people who wanted to
fight and were willing to learn how. This is something the military would
prefer to keep quiet, despite the fact that it happens every time there's a
war. Journalists tend to miss it as well, although historians often catch the
scent and dig a bit. But, by and large, the changing-of-the-guard in the
leadership ranks is something that goes unnoticed outside the military.