Justin P.D. Wilcox resigned last week over the plague that’s
destroying our Army. He was a future George Marshall or Dwight
Eisenhower. This nation’s armed forces cannot continue to lose such
Here, in his own words, is why he quit in disgust:
“Listening to the secretary of defense and top brass dispute the
Bush/Cheney readiness claims has reaffirmed my decision to leave the
Army as a captain this month. I served for the past five years in a
declining institution which needs urgent help from its top leadership.
My decision to leave the Army stems from my refusal to live the
‘readiness lie’ portrayed by the nation’s top leaders.
“In the age of ‘do more with less,’ the most frequent topic of
discussion for today’s Army junior officer is the decision to leave the
military. Accordingly, the top brass express their concern with the
large numbers of captains departing the Army between four and six years
of service. Their concern is so great that they surveyed majors with at
least 10 years of service to discover why captains were leaving. It is
hard to find out what is wrong when you really do not want to know.
“I was excited to begin my Army career after graduating from West
Point in June of 1995, but over the next five years my zeal diminished.
I realized that the brass and political leaders expected 110 percent
capability but resourced for 50 percent. I received soldiers from Basic
Training who could not pass fitness tests, qualify with their weapons,
or uphold basic discipline standards.
“At Fort Bragg, N.C., as a combat engineer in the XVIII Airborne
Corps, my unit shot its weapons with live rounds only once a year for
qualification and once a year for a live-fire exercise, due to
ammunition constraints. Vehicles and equipment were rarely used during
the months of August and September due to budgetary constraints at the
end of the fiscal year. Newly fielded equipment did not meet the
specifications of the equipment it replaced and only became reliable
after at least two years of retrofits and recalls. (It is probably not
known that from December 1998 until this summer, every new 2.5- and
5-ton vehicle on Fort Bragg, as well as the Army, could not be driven
over 35 mph until retrofitted to prevent the drive shaft from dropping
during movement and causing the vehicle to flip.) On a weekly basis, I
saw more attention placed on landscaping and details in the unit area
than on training soldiers in the field.
“For those who claim these statements are merely subjective, I can
offer further proof of the poor unit readiness I witnessed. For two
years I participated in the unit readiness report for my battalion, as
the project officer for the report and the head of battalion
maintenance. Throughout the past year, maintenance or personnel issues
have prevented achievement of top readiness ratings.
“Excellence is no longer the standard. The pursuit of mediocrity has
become the norm. When will a general officer finally lay his stars on
the table and stand up to the current administration for his soldiers?
“Junior officers stand where the ‘rubber meets the road.’ They have
the responsibilities of preparing their soldiers for battle and
ultimately to prepare them in such manner as to prevent casualties due
to inexperience or lack of training. When the brass decide their
objectives, the lieutenants and captains bear the responsibility of
taking these objectives.
“Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf stated in his autobiography that a
commander can delegate authority, but never responsibility. I realized
that in the future I could be responsible for the deaths of too many men
who could have been saved by proper training.
“I was not prepared to sacrifice good men, knowing that their deaths
could have been avoided. I could not in good conscience continue to live
the lie of our current readiness.
“When the next round of bloodshed by U.S. servicemen happens due to
lack of preparation, the current brass and civilian/political leaders
should be responsible for signing the following casualty notification
“Dear Mrs. Smith, I regret to inform you of the death of your son.
His death is my fault, for I did not properly train him.”
Thank you for your rare courage, Captain Wilcox.