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There’s no question America has a mighty military machine. But are
soldiers being instilled with the right inner stuff to fight a hard war?
Over the last decade, thousands of soldiers have told me the warrior
spirit is disappearing along with the “Jody” songs and NCOs having the
to drop soldiers for push-ups simply for having attitude.
Sadly, this is true.
The loss of the factors that make warriors hasn’t happened just on
Clinton’s watch. The erosion began after the Korean War. Just the way
relentless rain beating down on a hillside eventually causes a mudslide,
the warrior ethic has slowly washed away.
Without a strong warrior ethic, we could lose against enemies like
Japanese and Germans.
Without the warrior ethic, we could lose regardless of the
our aircraft or the plethora of high-tech gadgets that are strapped on
tanks and soldiers — despite how many trillions of dollars we spend on
most whiz-bang gear.
Without the warrior ethic, we could lose regardless of the brilliance
the PowerPoint briefings or how handsome and articulate our generals and
admirals are or how completely our military has sexually integrated to
all genders social opportunity, equality and a level playing field.
Just what is “warrior ethic”?
It’s what the Spartans displayed at Thermopylae in 480 B.C when 300
warriors held off thousands of invaders for seven days until — with
weapons broken from the slaughter — they fought with bare hands and
It’s what Jackson’s Brigade showed at Bull Run in 1861 when it “stood
a stonewall” after it was attacked by a Northern force twice its size.
It’s what Sergeant Jose Lopez did in Belgium in 1944 when a German
tank-infantry force overwhelmed his unit. Alone, he moved a machine-gun
to an exposed position from which he killed 100 Germans, buying crucial
time for his company to withdraw and set up on better terrain.
It’s what hundreds of thousands of our airmen, soldiers, sailors and
marines have done on battlefields stretching from Bunker Hill to the
streets of Mogadishu, where Special Operations warriors Sergeants Gary
Gordon and Randall Shughart knowingly gave their lives so others might
Back in the 1940s, our military was run by sergeants and petty
Decentralization was the rule. NCOs made out the schedules, gave the
classes, handled most of the discipline problems and ran the show. NCOs
knew how to instill the magic warrior ethic into the men they trained,
molded and led.
Officers commanded back then before the birth of the term “zero
They did not micromanage every detail as they do today, terrified that a
mistake might hurt their climb up the ladder. Then, when soldiers
their leaders picked them up, dusted them off and told them where they
Today, a rifle company commander has less authority than I had as an
year-old platoon sergeant. Today, generals do majors’ work, majors do
sergeants’ work and those that aren’t quitting are atrophying.
Then, it wasn’t a game of musical chairs. My first CO stayed as
for three years and this was his fourth company command. He knew every
soldier, and he knew his job like a pro. He trained us. We didn’t, as
often the case today, train him.
Today, officers spend 80 percent of their career in schools and
a 30-year career, only seven will be spent in command of troops. Imagine
the skill of a surgeon who only held a scalpel 20 percent of his career.
Back then, we trained more realistically, without a risk assessment
wagging the training dog. Training casualties were an unfortunate part
a tough game, not a career killer or a training inhibitor. There was no
such thing as “consideration for others training.” Just
training that taught soldiers how to win on the battlefield.
Then, the military’s purpose was to win wars. It wasn’t a job, a
comfortable place to raise a family or a union-sensitive corporation
show was more important than go.
Back then, top brass knew their objective was to inspire warriors to
like a stone wall and that this could only be done by instilling an
unflinching warrior ethic.