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OK, OK, I confess. I coined the label “Perfumed Prince.” When I
wrote “Hazardous Duty,” I couldn’t resist naming the parasite destroying
our armed forces.

PPs are not a new disease; they’ve been around since biblical times
– but never in such epidemic numbers. Smooth, slick, sweet-smelling
opportunists who stand for nothing but themselves, PPs are masters of
masquerade, manipulation and mentoring their mirror reflection in
younger leaders.

In peacetime, PPs have quite consistently weaseled their way into
running our Army and Navy. They started bringing down the Air Force in
the 1960s. The Marines have fought this outrage as valiantly as they’ve
resisted putting women in the trenches, but lately insiders say the
Corps has begun breeding these creatures too.

When I first put on a soldier suit, PPs were almost exclusively full
colonels and generals. They were most always staff men who dodged troop
duty when the slugs sang as desperately as cockroaches avoid light.
Whenever a fight flared, they’d find a staff rock and slither under it
until the two-fisted, abrasive warriors took charge and made the world
safe again.

Back then, almost before the ink dried on the peace deal, the
warrior-leaders were in hot water because they told it like it was
instead of morphing into PPs. These “troublemakers” were quickly
replaced by the staff smoothies who immediately returned the
war-fighting priorities to tent peg alignment and staff studies. And
convincing everyone at the top that they and they alone made the world
go around.

Now with few real wars to fight, the warrior leaders are pretty much
gone. Guys like Patton (WWII), Ridgway (Korea) and Abrams (Vietnam) are
history and, instead, the PPs are passing as warrior-leaders.

Bombs fall. Victory’s declared. The public doesn’t pay much
attention to the fact that we’re still fighting the Saddam Husseins long
after the victory celebrations. Why should they? Whenever the war news
starts to boil again, not to worry, it’s soon spun off the tube by
another school shooting or celebrity happening.

Today, the PPs are everywhere. Even at the bottom of the ladder,
some West Point cadets no longer yearn to join a rifle platoon and learn
their fighting trade. Instead, they want an advance degree, to be a
general’s aide, then move to a high level position. Even captains and
majors and all but a few renegade lieutenant colonels have been bitten
by the bug — and many senior noncoms are infected as well.

Recently, a captain deployed on a maneuver with 40 soldiers from Fort
Sill to Fort Bliss. They were billeted in an old gym that had been
declared a fire hazard, and the soldiers were told there were no funds
for per diem — the extra living costs were their problem. Meanwhile,
the colonels lived in hotels, drew per diem, had rental cars and flew
back and forth from Sill to Bliss by commercial air. One of the royal
colonels even found the bucks from the budget to buy 120 chairs at $135
a pop from Lazy Boy just for the exercise.

When the captain, after hearing a colonel grouse about how bad the
service was at the “Embassy Suite,” complained about how his people were
being treated, he was told, “I don’t want to hear any more damn
bitching.”

It cost each soldier about 300 bucks just to eat during this
maneuver. Remember, most of our soldiers are married and many are on
food stamps because of the lousy pay.

The captain, who later resigned, says, “Too many officers are too
concerned with making the next rank, keeping those above them happy and
getting the right punch on their tickets rather than fighting for their
troops.”

At Fort Bragg a PP major saw a great lieutenant working with some of
his platoon members. In front of the troops, the major sneered, “Down
there with the weeds again, huh, Lt. Wheeler?” Bet your boots the
troops weren’t impressed. They know better than anyone else that the
PPs are in charge and that they approach soldiering with arrogance and
disdain.

The troops know that most of their leaders suck. Maybe that’s why so
many fine warriors are voting with their boots.

Is there a Gen. Salk out there to immunize everyone against this
killer disease?

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