Ahhhh, military regulations. Few topics evoke a more volatile cocktail of insatiable, fanatically polar opinions. Casually mentioning the subject from the top of a four-stack bunk in a lower deck berthing area or during a game of spades under a ripped piece of cammie netting in the middle of the San Bernardino desert can quickly lead to years of indoctrination and dissidence being proselytized ad-hoc by everyone within earshot, convictions being arbitrarily launched into the stratosphere like bottle rockets from the depths of institutional belief structures that forego all reason or common sense. Truly one of the more fascinating phenomena of military life.
Think about it; the United States military is the only organization in the world today that has somehow managed to trick-fuck an entire generation of impressionable young idealists into thinking that a Hitler Youth Movement haircut looks cool, or that tucking your t-shirt into your 1970’s nut-hugger PT shorts during your morning trot is even remotely socially acceptable.
Newsflash: fashioning your receding hairline to resemble the pubic hair of an S&M dungeon dominatrix and slinging your glow belt cross-body like a teenage mutant ninja turtle when you head to the PX to pick up your daily Monster and can of Skoal Wintergreen doesn’t make you look like a cock-diesel blue-blooded freedom fighter, it makes you look like you just went full retard on the short-bus driver while en route to your field trip at the petting zoo after you didn’t like the taste of the particular window you were licking and your normally sunny disposition turned from I Am Sam to The Hills Have Eyes, leaving you confused and having soiled yourself. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news…
The fact is, if we spent less time celebrating the abundant layers of mediocrity present within the American military and congratulating ourselves for “earning” a title that – let’s be honest – doesn’t exactly require the ability to split atoms to attain, we might actually awaken from our catatonic state long enough to realize that our attention might be more productively focused on things other than Charlie Fridays and whether or not we should roll cammie sleeves, but I digress. The tightening of standards has gone from RUMINT to SOP in a few short years and, unless I’m crazy, it’s getting nuttier by the day. Whoa, I know I didn’t just see you walking and talking on a cell phone – the ultimate sign of a shitty warfighter. Hey gunslinger, did you just pull out of the General’s parking spot at the commissary? Fucking heinous. Oh, you’re at the square bay all day on Friday? Better have some chucks ready for that 1600 formation hard-charger. Tattoos? Not anymore. No room for that gypsy bullshit in today’s Corps. Got a silver star and you run a 300 PFT huh? Is your ass PME complete? No? Well, step right up shitbag, have we got a velvet-dagger loaded fitrep for you! One wonders what historical context surrounds the evolution of the current shenanigans abounding in the realm of military regulations… how the hell did we get this insane?
This unfortunately is not an easy question to answer. The history of incompetence, overcompensation and insecurity that brought us to the forefront of this three-ring circus is not easily defined, although instances of the catalysts for it can be observed everywhere: I’m sure most of you reading this have at least once witnessed that “senior enlisted leader” arrive fresh from a two year stint on I&I duty preceded by three tours on the drill field, only to show up on your unit’s doorstep with a lazy eye and barely able to tie his fucking boots, let alone string two legible sentences together, yet all the while barking indiscernible orders. We all know him; the guy who quietly pulls PFC Schmuckatelli into his office to show him how to attach a MOLLE pouch to his vest, only to demand profusely afterwards that everyone else configure their kit identically to his, in the interest of “uniformity”. You can’t make this shit up. The guy who has cirrhosis of the liver so severe that his skin looks like he patched it together Buffalo-Bill-style from beached octopi that sat baking in the sun for a few hours, yet he pushes for a battalion NJP of the Lance Criminal fresh off his third pump who got caught with a six-er in his wall locker during a “health and comfort” inspection. Ah yes, the would-be high school janitors of America my friends, rewarded with rank only for having no other option in life besides their “illustrious” military careers.
Or the field-grade officer, so hell-bent on reinventing every wheel that can be reinvented in the interest of “pioneering” his way to full-bird that he fires an entire company staff three days after his change-of-command – to make it clear that he means business – only to send every clown he just shit-canned downrange as SOTF augments, so as to ensure that the morale of external units unfortunate enough to be in his backblast area is obliterated as well. Pain shared is pain divided right? Yes friends, the douche-rocket O. His self-righteous sense of entitlement knows no boundaries. He peppers briefings with clever buzzwords like “long-ball hitter” and “onus” to demonstrate his mental prowess. He has his XO put the entire company staff, including himself, on a “disruption” CONOP, and pulls a team off of operations to participate in this critical endeavor as “bravo element” – but only after having them shave, of course.
The species I’ve just described are responsible for the aforementioned insanity, my friends. It is a very real, very dangerous combination of an overinflated sense of self-worth, coupled with a flagrant level of incompetence and insecurity, that cooks up the type of “leadership” that places haircuts and velcro above proficiency and work ethic. The type of policy makers that conduct a site visit during a work-up, and the only debrief point they have is that such-and-such team had their hands in their pockets, because the team was so dialed in that their operational capability was beyond the shadow of reproach (not that these impostors would know the difference anyway). The kind of freeloaders that cannot comprehend, no matter how articulately the cultural dynamics are explained to them, the tremendous relevance of wearing a beard while conducting operations in a country that recognizes the ability to grow said beard as a universal sign of authority, competence, and wisdom. Don’t get me wrong, there are a significant amount of senior level leaders, on both the enlisted and officer sides, who are progressive, forward-thinking professionals with a genuine desire to evolve, constantly seeking out ways to improve, refine and enhance operating capability. I’ve worked with some of the most driven, brilliant people in the world who help comprise these ranks. But there is a disconnect somewhere; an obscure dynamic that accounts for the lack of natural selection at these levels, and the disparity is staggering, to say the least.
At the end of the day, the reasons for this phenomenon could be explored ad nauseam and would likely generate more theories than could possibly be vetted. But let’s face it; the military is on the treasury dime. When there’s no fiscal consequence for giving the rank and responsibility of an E-9 to the guy who would otherwise be picking up my garbage every Tuesday, there’s no physical consequence either. In the business world, where incompetence equals profit loss, these frauds would swiftly weed themselves out. But unfortunately, under the federal umbrella, their ineptness is the cauldron from which a cornucopia of bogus, irrational, often detrimental standards is spawned. The point I’m trying to make here is simple, and it boils down to a universally digestible philosophy: professionals don’t need to be force-fed institutional propaganda. And if you find yourself treading in a sea of said propaganda, your organization is most certainly not run by professionals. End rant.