Leadership: The Unpublicized Generation Gap



January 30, 2008: 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.