The (Colour Sergeant) Bourne Legacy: Soldierly Discipline

“Do your collar up lad, where do you think you are?”

It is perhaps natural that most civilians gain what understanding they have of contemporary war, its conduct, and the role that soldiers play in it, from media images–whether as news or entertainment.  What is alarming, at least according to one senior officer, is that these same images have a powerful–and detrimental–effect on soldiers, too.  What is wrong?  Soldiers are spoiled individuals, following bad examples picked up from Hollywood.  What are the problems?  Craven leadership, a misunderstanding of mission command, and loss of perspective on the role of the Army.  What is needed?  A return to good–yes, old-fashioned–disciplined leadership even–nay, especially–when the chips are down.  In short, if we are going to choose our role-models from films, what the world needs now is a little more Colour Sergeant Bourne.

An excerpt from one Australian officer’s end of tour report as the CO of a Mentoring Task Force in Afghanistan laments what he sees as a pitiful level of ill-discipline amongst soldiers, their NCOs, and junior officers.  The document, of course, is based on one person’s observations and opinions, but it is revealing nevertheless.  And while it focuses on the current state of Australian soldiery, it would not be too far off the mark in describing the behaviour and mindset from other ABCA nations.   Allow me to share some of its observations with you:

Contemporary soldiers have a distorted and fanciful perception of wartime soldiering….Almost all soldiers, including many sergeants, came to the operation with a distorted image of how a soldier ought to behave, how he should appear, and how his superiors ought to treat him when at war.  Contemporary soldiers expect that deployment on an operation entitles them to grow out their hair, go unshaven, question orders and wear their uniform as they please (or not at all). Soldiers seemed to think that standards…are normally relaxed during war.

Soldier’s perceptions about appearance, fieldcraft and field discipline seemed to be a function of stereotypical images of Special Forces soldiers, and characters from films and computer games.

To what, exactly, is the colonel referring?

soldiers sunbathing in tactical positions, manning single-man piquets as a matter of routine, sitting in chairs and facing inwards in enemy areas, listening to music in tactical positions, hitting golf balls from overwatch positions into the green zone, kicking footballs in tactical positions, doing physical training in enemy areas, standing around bonfires in proximity to the green zone by night, and greeting helicopters at landing zones in thongs and t‐shirts. [Ed: one supposes–and dearly hopes–that the thongs to which the colonel is referring are worn on one’s feet.]

This may seem a bit, at first blush, like the rantings of some curmudgeonly colonel who just ‘doesn’t get it’.  But, I would wager, it suggests a more worrying development.  Soldiers on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have come to believe that are entitled, by dint of their experiences, to break–indeed, make–their own rules.  The CO, breaking with the current politically correct trend to ‘support the troops’, states it very well indeed:

The hyperbole surrounding the contribution of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan makes the soldiers feel entitled to be treated almost as Roman gladiators. They give the impression that they expect everyone, including their superiors, to lavish them with attention and unregulated time when between tasks.

The colonel, anticipating his audience’s objections to his pre-occupation with dress and deportment, justifies his focus thus:

Uniformity and the suppression of individuality on duty serve a very important function. They reinforce humility indeed. Suppression of overt individuality reinforces the idea that the self is subordinate to the greater good and subject to the authority of the Army. They reinforce the notion that personal wants and desires are subordinate to the mission and the group.

That this justification even needs be repeated within a military document is telling in and of itself.  It seems that Hegel’s ideal, where, “In duty the individual finds his liberation” is not quite upon us still.

The colonel is not content just to list the faults he has observed.  He bravely offers what he sees as the root causes. He offers 3 main reasons for the current slovenly state of affairs.

Reason Number 1: Craven Leadership

I conjecture that a trend of over‐familiarity is the primary cause of the current loose and surly attitudes of soldiers. Contemporary officers, warrant officers and senior noncommissioned officers tend to encourage relatively high levels of familiarity…It seems that junior leaders feel a strong pressure to please their men. Performance seems to count for less than how the individual is perceived.

Here the colonel hits at a reality of leadership that is present in much of the writing of previous wars.  While there may be comaradie amongst peers, the truth is, it is often lonely at the top.  Making decisions, often about life or death, is not a popularity contest.  (As one of Colour Sergeant Bourne’s officers, Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, tells us: “Well, when you take command, old boy, you’re on your own. One of the first things that the general – my grandfather – ever taught me.”)  The burden of responsibility is not often a mantle that is lightly borne.

The necessary separateness of being a commander seems to terrify the current generation of junior leaders. Therefore, they over‐identify with their men’s wants and reinforce their men’s often self‐indulgent emotions.

This deference to popularity, it seems, exists at many levels:

The current attitude of soldiers is also a function of the Australian Defence Force’s nasty tendency to attend to the comforts and protection of its troops almost at the expense of achieving the mission for which the soldiers were committed to war. The message from such a tendency is that the soldier is right to expect comforts and luxuries in war, even if such expectations compromise the purpose for which he is fighting. In Australia’s recent operations enormous resources and money, coupled with prohibitive regulations, are applied for the purpose of preventing soldiers being killed or wounded. The sentiment is right in isolation. However, when such measures constrain action to the point that the mission becomes very difficult to achieve, reason has lost out to short‐sighted expedience.

A landmark, and controversial, Canadian study conducted in 2001 of over 800 officers returning from operational duties (largely peacekeeping and peace support operations) discovered that the traditional military value priority of ‘mission, men, self’ was changing to one of ‘men, mission, self’.  This substitution of top priorities has been seen and commented on elsewhere since then. (A most vivid, extended treatment of how force protection came at the expense of mission accomplishment can be found here).

No one is suggesting that soldiers’ lives be spent needlessly.  However, there appears less a feeling of concern underpinning these attempts than a feeling of fear–a fear of upsetting or ‘crossing’ the troops.  As the colonel adroitly points out, that fear cannot justified:

Underwriting the trend is unnecessary oversensitivity to soldiers’ complaints to the media and the Minister for Defence about poor conditions, as though the digger is always right. He is not and it is important that he understands this fact.

Pandering is not supporting.  Furthermore, constant pandering leads to nothing less than further demands for pandering.

Reason Number Two: Misunderstanding Mission Command

Mission command has become a dogma…There is a fairly dogmatic view that mission command is as simple as telling the subordinate what effect to achieve, resourcing him and then letting him do it however he chooses. Of course, this simplistic view is not entirely wrong. Somewhere along the line though, many junior leaders never picked up the broader and important subtleties of the idea. The point of “however they choose” is taken almost as the authority to do anything they choose, even things unrelated to the particulars of the given mission… There is almost a sense among many junior leaders that the decisions, actions and advice provided by the “man on the ground” are sacrosanct and beyond question by superiors.

Here the colonel makes a connection between this second reason and his first:

Alarmingly, “the man on the ground” excuse tended to be used to either avoid enforcing an unpopular order by superiors or to acquiesce to the petty demands of soldiers in order to continue to please them.

So, again, the buck stops at the trench of the poor leader.

Reason Number 3: Loss of Perspective on the Role of the Army

The colonel’s final reason for the slovenly state of affairs is that people seem to have forgotten what armies are for.  Here he offers a lucid and succinct explanation, worthy of a brass plaque at every staff college in the land:

The purpose of an Army is to defeat those enemies that stand in the way of [the country’s] policy aims. In essence, the Army uses violence against those that would use violence to resist these policy aims. This process is war.

Instead of this understanding, the colonel believes, there exists a different idea:

Too many contemporary pundits suggest that armies exist to protect and secure populations (or deliver humanitarian aid) rather than to defeat enemies; confusing particular policy ends with military means.

One may quibble that there is a sizable logical leap between ‘people are no longer clear about war’ and ‘that is why soldiers no longer shave’.  And that quibbling would be entirely accurate, in my view.  Nonetheless, the colonel’s main point remains valid, regardless of the purpose to which an Army is put:

I assert that more ought to be done to imbue soldiers with the character (emotional intelligence in other words) to be able to delay personal gratification through self‐denial, to develop a sense of humility, to deal with deprivations of certain luxuries, to remain vigilant through long periods of inactivity, to put others before self and to accept personal responsibility for ones [sic] own actions.

My two-bits: Soldiers over Warriors

Dress and deportment are not, obviously, ends in and of themselves.  But they are both indicators of, and contributing factors to, more serious disciplinary problems.  This is faith (based, without doubt, on earlier socialisation); I cannot back it up with ’cause and effect’ evidence.  However, I would wager a good cup of coffee that the kind of ill-discipline and lack of supervision observed by the colonel was also present in units where atrocities and other screw-ups occur.  (Before you howl for my blood, carefully examine the formulation of that last sentence, please.)

As I have posted on KOW before, approaching contemporary war as something that Warriors do is a dangerous business.  The contemporary wars of the liberal democracies of the Western world are fought by soldiers (disciplined elements of cohesive teams, fighting as instruments of the state) not by Warriors (self-centred individuals fighting on their own terms for their own satisfaction).

War is not a first-person shooter game.  It is a collective enterprise.  It is the job of NCOs and officers to ensure that civilians are honed into professional soldiers, and not ‘raised by their peers’ (real and virtual) to emulate amateur Rambo-wannabees.


51 thoughts on “The (Colour Sergeant) Bourne Legacy: Soldierly Discipline

  1. Sam B says:

    Hyperbole surrounding their contribution?

    Their sense of entitlement?

    Perhaps if the CO in this article had actually served on war like operations at a junior level, in the field, he may understand why there is a feeling of entitlement as a warrior. Particularly when the soldiers in question have killed and watched their mates killed during close quarter battle. Only to return from remote FOBs after 9 months to find the leadership enjoying the luxuries and security of a modern day military base.

    • Someone who was there says:

      Sam B, your contribution to the article would be valued if not percevied differently by someone who has served with this particular officer for almost 10 years. I can assure you that he has served in warlike circumstances as a junior soldier, and junior officer. However there was an absence from the harsh factors of war in his most recent deployment (where he wrote his article) which is most likely where it was inspired from. Its lonely at the top, and often you adjust to your higher responsibility and forget about ‘the times’ when you were a young soldier. I would say with great risk to causing further arguments, it is quiet obvious you have not served in combined warlike situations as a junior soldier and senior non commissioned officer. thank you for your time

  2. Does it not seem strange that when armies have been at their scruffiest by “base wallah” standards they have usually been at their most efficient at winning battles. For instance Wellington’s Penninsular Campaign, The Eighth Army whilst in the Western Desert, the list goes on. This was usually because the troops on the line were good enough to get the job done without undue bullsh*t.

    • SM says:

      That one is interesting, since its been a commonplace for around two thousand years. “Emperor Maurice” (or an anonymous courtier) mentions that most people think the scruffier-looking army will win in his Strategikon of the 6th century, although he hastens to insist that this must be wrong because clearly the army that God favours will win. See p. 75 of G.T. Dennise’s translation. This civilian doesn’t have a a strong opinion …

  3. Vince Kennedy says:

    The FB has hit at least one nail on the head – the unopposed assumption of the idea of ‘Warriors’ by armies is detrimental to the actual orgainizations of those armies, because an army is not just a bunch of individual SF guys, it is not “An Army of One” or that first-person shooter group with an arm badge. Armies undertake large tasks, and need the common attributes of well assimilated and pertinent ethos, common skills and attitudes. Armies also need a strong discipline base, which in the best of cases is represented in self-discipline in soldiers and officers who go about their duties without needing to be oft reminded of what that duty is, in all its detail and forms. This report highlights a continuing penetration by media into all corners of life – including army life, and armies have to be good at recognizing that they must exert countervailing pressures.

  4. Callum Lane says:

    Sam B and Ray H,
    Senior officers and not so senior officers in WW1 and WW2 both commented extensively that the smartest units off the field were inevitably the most effective units in the field. Wellington’s Army may have been scruffy, but it was disciplined. It is not about undue bullsh@@ it is about discipline and operational effectiveness.
    Reading the Australian CO’s comments they would certainly apply to the UK armed forces in the period 2005-10 when morale and effectiveness reached their nadir. Depending when the CO wrote the comments he is likely to have commanded in the field, on operations at company command level and possibly at platoon command level in Afghanistan and Iraq. Certainly within the UK army all the CO’s (now) cut their teeth in Iraq and Afghanistan at company level.

  5. Sam B says:

    As Australia started non-SOF operations in 2006 (and this was intially focused on reconstruction) I would be highly surprised if a captain was able to make it to Lt Col in 5 years and therefore it is likely that he has never conducted sustained periods of combat operations at a junior level. I feel that if you have, it gives you a different (possibly more rounded) perspective on some of the issues that where raised.

    I personally agree with most of the report but I feel indivual comments highlight the lack of understanding between command and modern day soldiering in the field.

    I also note that the UK military is certainly different from the ADF in this particular argument. My experience with the UK military left an impression of a extremely professional, experienced and motivated organization and I personally enjoyed working with them.

  6. Callum Lane says:

    @Sam B

    I am more familiar with the UK then the Australian military! The 2006-2012 timeline is probably precocious, but in the UK I am aware of current Commanding Officers who cut their teeth as SF troop commanders in the period up to 2006.

    The UK army went through this angst about 2 years ago and to a certain extent is still going through it. A large amount of education has taken place at junior officer and JNCO level about why we do discipline, why saluting, smartness and a myriad of other things are important; it is an ongoing process. This process is translating now across to fieldcraft and tactics, teaching our soldiers why we did things the way we did in Afghanistan because if you do not understand the ‘why’ then you cannot understand whether the TTPs are necessary in a different theatre of operations. There is a feeling now that we are now a largely Afghanistan specific army.

    Looking back at the Colonels main (3) points I would say he is correct.

    1) The command ethos has changed; not I fear for the better. But, command ethos will change as societies change.

    2) Mission Command is fundamentally misunderstood at every level, in particular the fact that mission command is a matter of setting task, allocating resources and allowing a subordinate the freedom to deliver only when you are confident in that subordinate’s ability to deliver in a manner and at a cost that you find acceptable. With modern communications and media I think we possibly need less focus on mission command in the manoeuvre sense and more in the influence sense. Commanders still lack the authority to respond quickly and effectively in the information domains; whereas it is very unlikely that modern C3I systems will place a junior commander in a position that he will have to make a significant tactical decision in the absence of direction from above.

    3) Men, Mission and Self is the mantra heard now. I have heard of any number of commanders at differing levels make impossible promises on pre-deployment to whit: “I see my job as bringing you all back safely” or “A successful tour is a tour where I lose no-one”. The idea of mission at minimal cost appears to have been usurped by mission only at no cost; we no longer regard soldiers as expendable.

    • Fred P says:

      With regards to the distortion of ‘Mission, Men, Self’ to ‘Men, Mission, Self’; you are quite right that that’s become the mantra and as you say, one certainly does hear people making promises that reveal that to be the case. However, I don’t think it necessarily shows that we no longer regard soldiers as expendable. If we were engaged in an existential conflict, a la WW2, (or even a conflict that is thought to be at least a little bit meaningful, like the Kenyan Insurgency) then I think we would rapidly become much more mission-focused than we are, but, with a withdrawal date announced, it feels like we’re only time-serving in Afghanistan; keeping it ticking over, rather than pursuing a definite goal and that is unlikely to inspire anyone of any rank to put the mission before the lives of his boys.
      I’ve noticed soldiers and officers become -privately only, there’s a real resentment of outsiders voicing this- deeply sceptical about Afghanistan and although I’ve not seen that scepticism affecting our professionalism at all, I think the way in which it does reveal itself is that subtle change in priorities.
      In short, I don’t think this necessarily reveals a permanent change in mindset, but rather that it’s just a function of the conflict in which we’re currently involved. On a side note, are the Americans more mission focused at, if necessary, the expense of lives? Their discourse would certainly suggest that they are as they describe themselves as being ‘at war’, whereas we’re only ‘on operations’.
      It may or may not be relevant to the general discussion to mention here that the USMC blokes I’ve worked with (very recently) have been, inside the wire and on the ground, absolutely rigid in terms of personal appearance.

  7. Ael says:

    Force protection over mission responses by subordinates are often perfectly rational but silent rebukes to the higher commanders. It is hard to order a man to die to take an objective that will simply be evacuated a couple days later. The death is permanent but the value of the mission transient.

    If you see this abandonment of the mission on a theatre wide basis, then senior commanders must ask themselves why they are mismanaging the war. Chiding the subordinate commanders is looking precisely in the wrong direction.

  8. Mark H says:

    We can talk all day about hair length, saluting, scruffiness….and where all of those things originated-uniformity to intimidate enemies and build cohesion, rank to maintain discipline on the battlefield etc.
    This is a generational issue.
    Senior officers do not understand the men and women they are sending to fight, they understand them less when they get home.
    Nor have they or do they understand the generation they have been fighting against, this is why ‘understand’ has become a doctrine piece instead of just common sense.
    Western militaries are being forced to change by our adversaries and our Governments- and don’t want to change.

    Stop blaming the soldiers, the buck stops with the climate set by the leadership and that climate has created barriers within the organisation, do not command what you cannot enforce.

    There is a generation of military officers who have failed at the strategic level, but are neither admitting failure, or moving out of the way. They blame the mid and junior officers because that is how a hierarchy works.

    • Len T says:

      Both Iraq and Afganistan have highlighted a new phenomenon in international conflict. This is the practice of nations “attending” wars rather than “fighting” them. Both Australia and the UK are supporting the US in Afganistan and are there as allies, rather than for national survival. The political objectives of the governments have more to do with relations with the US than defeating an enemy. Therefore, the “mission” is not directly related to the battlefield. In Australia’s case, the goal is to be a good ally, not defeat the Taliban. In this situation it becomes important for governments to fly the flag without suffering significant casualties if at all possible. Therefore the change in priority from “mission – men – me” to ‘men – mission – me”. This change is derived from government policy, not military strategy.

    • Ed (the real one) says:

      “Attending” the wars – very well said.


      Are you suggesting that the US is in Afghanistan as a matter of national survival?

    • SM says:

      This sort of thing is fairly common in imperial political systems (although I won’t touch the “is US hegemony imperial?” question with a pike). Whenever the Achaemenids or Argeads or Julio-Claudians or Ottomans went to war they brought along a bevy of allies and volunteers of varied enthusiasm and competence; in WW II many countries joined in for political reasons and tried to limit their commitment. What seems new is the widespread belief that war is only justified when repelling an attack, and extreme concern for casualties among people one doesn’t know.

    • Ed (the real one) says:

      I won’t touch the “is US hegemony imperial?” question with a pike

      I fear you already did.

      What seems new is the widespread belief that war is only justified when repelling an attack, and extreme concern for casualties among people one doesn’t know.

      You seem to disapprove of this?

    • SM says:

      I’m uncomfortable discussing politics online, but “war is only justified to repel an attack” is pretty close to my views. With casualties, I’m more concerned with whether we are sending troops to kill and die for a just and useful purpose, and don’t think that “pleasing our allies” qualifies. The trouble is that the last few Canadian governments have fought the war in Afghanistan as if their goals were pleasing the US and NATO while paying the minimum domestic political cost.

  9. Callum Lane says:

    Hmm, I would not have described myself as a senior officer (neither would my peers) and yet the points raised by the Australian CO are the very same points that I had to confront when I commanded on operations at company level some 3 years ago.

    The point made by Mark H is entirely right: “We can talk all day about hair length, saluting, scruffiness….and where all of those things originated-uniformity to intimidate enemies and build cohesion, rank to maintain discipline on the battlefield etc.
    This is a generational issue.”

    It is a generational issue, the current generation of junior soldiers and leaders by and large failed to understand why these points were important and suffered in terms of operational effectiveness. A comparison of Desease and non-Battle Injury rates between units and nationalities for instance, is highly revealing. There was also a failure in the senior leadership to educate, train and discipline effectively; the word hubris springs to mind.

    But no-one to my knowledge is blaming shortfalls at the tactical level for failings at the strategic level.

    Militaries are always forced to change by their adversaries (and sometimes by their political masters) and never enjoy the process; something about inherent in being conservative, disciplined and hierarchical organisations.

    In my opinion there were significant failings at the strategic level in recent campaigns. There are also issues with command climate but the ‘Lions Lead by Donkeys’ picture is a little simplisitic, not least in recognising that the realm of strategic decision making sits only partially in the military domain, and in the era of coalition operations, only partly in the national domain.

  10. Mark H says:

    Lions led by donkeys is not what I mean by any stretch.

    A freedom of information request on non battle injury and disease rates across UK units would be equally telling, as would discipline statistics.

    Good leadership based on integrity, cohesion built on within units down to the lowest level and hard, realistic training from Recruit right through to operations are the bedrock on which everything else is laid.

    Over the years, that bedrock has been eroded.

    It is no surprise that for some organisations and units, and nations, the weight of military intervention cannot be supported.

    • Ed (the real one) says:

      A freedom of information request on non battle injury and disease rates across UK units would be equally telling, as would discipline statistics.

      Great! What answer did you get?

  11. Daniel says:

    I would agree with Mark and Callum by noting that the ongoing operations which the modern militaries in Iraq and Afghanistan have been subjected to is longer than WW1 or WW2 and it is hard to imagine that in a conflict where there is no obvious means to victory and the operations do not seem to have an ongoing effect on the larger situation (regardless of the intent of the plans or the policy which set it all in motion) that the units and formations involved are just worn out and run down.

    Like in previous conflicts which were bogged down (and with no obvious way to win) units and men see little sense in getting killed for no particular reason or purpose and the disjunct between those on the ground and higher up grows with units and men more interested in survival and protecting their own than any greater sense of “mission” which is why the priorities have changed.

    I do agree with the three points made in the OP but feel that built into point three is the also the idea of what happens when you cannot complete your purpose and what an army does when its obvious that the “war” is lost.

    Better discipline or not will not change the heavy inevitability of the situation.

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  13. How about the Israelis, FB? Scrappiest looking army there is, but pugnacious for all that…

    There is probably something Clausewitzian here about armies manifesting the societies from which they are drawn. If our societies extol the individual, that might just rub off on the soldiers. And if everyone is living out their own war film, complete with ipod soundtrack, well that’s just the uber-mediatized times. Jason Bourne, not Colour Sergeant Bourne.

    But I’m not sure we can readily trace the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan down to the desire of young privates to rock the Mad Max look while on operations. Gargantuan aspiration and limited resources seem more to blame, to me.

  14. Patrick says:

    The ‘scruffiness = military ineffectiveness’ arguement does not hold up on many levels.
    In reality, its about finding a balance between distant and disciplined leadership and enough familiarity and trust to create a cohesive and effective unit. Clearly, at the sub-unit level, some people have been, and will continue to, take the piss, when left out in the boonies on their own. The Oz CO is right there, but he does also sound like he’s stepped out of Rourke’s drift – I’d love to see the rest of his report because if he does not consider other elements as to why Afghan has/is failing so badly, he needs his head checked.
    Nationality is an interesting thing here: the famed Aussie familiarity and relaxed way of doing things could undermine discipline more than in US/UK units?

  15. SEAl 6 says:

    Dear collaboratives, on-line only(!!!!!!!!!!!!!)how do you do! As i am not a soldier or colonel and not even working in the military, but i am only a young adult and official cultural diplomat, who was never paied or fully contracted for the communication services to the country (i only took the name from a documentary in Discovery, i enjoyed a few mths.ago): please let me bring you my very experienced opinion -with you-on this.
    In conclusion, the only prbm. that soldiers, like any other ordinary people(!!)may have, in not-obeying the rules, is curiosity. Plus (high) education, too.(the omission of it) In other terms, it deals with a badly interpreted jurisdiction, a bad and not-unitary jurisdiction in some cases, the idiocy or bad habitude to have no idea upon when and how much to deal with the hormones and which is the difference btwn. the hormones, the perception, the sensation, the conclusion, the interpreting(all these, medical terms).
    All in all, i am, personally, a person to hold the opinion, according with the genes or the hereditary brain, cannot be changed by education, completelly. And that is why strict differences btwn. people, will always occur. Contrary to that, i still have no any idea, why i should share my private life with people i have nothing in common with, in status-financial-politic-juridic-personal terms.
    All in all, my life is mine and, if i’ll ever be enrolled, in beaurocratic terms, within the military , like you are: i’ll share that part of info. about me, which protects my privacy and independent status, as a diplomat or intellectual and no more. In conclusion, search on the laws and different professions and jurisdictions, and you’ll find out the status of a military is completelly different from that of a person in the Government, with diplomatic immunity, like i am since years ago, And contrary i have never been fully granted with the fully and beaurocrat diplomatic immunity, because the frequent change or occurance, of the different politic regimes with their corrupted and idiot people, i am sick of . In conclusion, it is firstly about the policy which gives you the possibility to interfere with my personal and private life, and then it is about the BIOLOGIC stupidity of you and those who teach you, too, starting with your PARENTS AT HOME!! Thank you.

    • SEAl 6 says:

      @The Faceless Bureaucrat
      Dear Sir, if you are a professor, indeed, or you are also working within the Government, you do know who i am and which is my latest grade.
      In juridic terms, of course i know that strategy of ‘it had not appeared written in the legal documents, so i do not trust you for what you assume to be…bla..bla). Contrary to that, you know that printing the beaurocratic doc. requires ink, that requires money and that also requires a proper management or internal and external logistic. But you already have the Right information about who i am, don’t you?! So, how dare you pretend you need my personal papers to be fully printed and registred, about me? HOW DARE YOU NOT TO BELIEVE ME AND WHAT I AM TELLING YOU NOW, IF YOU ARE EXACTELY THAT PERSON WHO PRETENDS TO BE, HUH?

    • Ed (the real one) says:

      People. Stop feeding the paranoid schizophrenic with valuable attention. It only encourages him.

  16. The Faceless Bureaucrat says:

    Right back @’cha, SEAl6…As was heard many a time on Dr Who, “Yes, we know who you are.” Now, step away from the keyboard. There’s a good fella.

    • SEAl 6 says:

      Why should i do that, if i am neither a Socialist or Left Communist, nor a corrupted Ministry for Education or a plagiator who has to resign, firstly in terms of ‘common sense’?
      I’m only asking you these, because ‘equilibrum’ was once defined as ‘not-plagiarism’. And you need to have integrity in your job, to never commit plagiarism.
      But..which is your grade, soldier, if you wouldn’t have any idea, on what is professional war times, like these were, and they still are?
      I’m asking you these, because servants have killed their superiors who worked a lot to find out what to do best…
      In other words, if your job is to rise the children, just stay where you are and do never commit the penalty to interract with our superior brains you could never ever comprehend or understand!! you have a grade, a status and experience with status, or what?

    • SEAl 6 says:

      Why should i step away, if i am neither a plagiator)who has to resign from the job, in terms of common sense after the law), nor a nanny, a cooker, a servant, an ordinary or student or anyone elese who may be part from the Communist-Socialist-Left policy, and does not know how to react to conversations over his-her’s comprehension, in the end? Huh?
      In Western-Right-Academic and Juridic terms: who are you, to only use your fake culture of TV, in the superior conversations you’re in? Are you sure you are aware of the real politic plus HIGH MILITARY meaning of ‘sincerity, not-plagiarism, integrity, INTELLIGENCE, so on? Have you ever heard of a real high I.Q. and its use?

  17. Joseph Carter says:

    Faceless Bureaucrat:

    Not to draw attention from your original point, but I don’t quite follow you on the third point. While delivering humanitarian aid may not fit under the umbrella of “the purpose of an Army”, protecting a civilian population during a counterinsurgency operation certainly does. Moreover, I don’t understand how protecting a civilian population confuses ends and means. Defeat of the enemy in missions involving counterinsurgency operations must include securing the population, in essence achieving population security is a means towards defeat of the enemy and thus larger policy ends. Or am I the confused one?

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  19. A few thoughts…

    1.) At times, the unnecessary nonsense detracts from more pressing duties. Pulling weeds on an outpost in the middle of Iraq, when there’s better work to do? Please…

    2.) The emphasis on uniform appearance also seems to highlight the dichotomy between rear-echelon troops and front-line troops. This has been highlighted a number of times (Willie and Joe being the most famous examples), but we see it even today.

    An anecdote–each week, we had to submit a “soldier of the week” to our higher headquarters. Each company would submit their nomination to their battalion HQ. Our battalion commander was aghast that the Chinook company highlighted a crew chief–who was loading cargo in the middle of the night–had a dirty uniform. (This is, usually, the byproduct of hard work, mind you)

  20. Stephen B says:

    From my experience (in the British Army), sound leadership is an essential part of soldiering. More so, self-discipline and motivation are the key factors in achieving the mission. These virtues come to most through solid training. It may appear counter-intuitive for those who have not experienced it but here there is a fundamental difference between the civilian and military way. In the military, during training the chain of command is strictly adhered to and formal and yet during operations this becomes more informal and the training and self-motivation is an assumed given. In a civilian environment, training is often given in an informal environment but when pressure increases the chain of command becomes more formal which only adds to the pressure on the employee. As I see it, this is a poor example of leadership. Very few civilian organisations will invest in leadership, the focus is always on management and the bottom line.

    For a soldier, mission command can only be achieved by self-discipline and motivation. The fact that a soldier has not shaved for a week is irrelevant. There is still some hangover from the days of conscription in the mentality of many older commentators and this may have only come from some poor films. Thankfully, the days of painting the stones white and the grass green to occupy a soldiers day have long gone. A professional soldier has far more important calls on his or her time.

  21. SEAl 6 says:

    @Rob Dover, @ The Faceless Bureaucrat
    Reply: Of course nobody’s equal in this world, as it isn’t, also, on the battlefield . In military and within the army, there are grades, in the real life: there is a difference btwn. the professional status in any not-communist system of laws.
    Sorry if you’ll be disturbed, but please let me know sms. about you: are you Chinese, are you Asians, are you Perverses, are you Nannys(from Filipines, maybe), are you school teachers but famous professors or are you just stupid-envyous and that’s it, that’s all?!
    I don’t care about, anyway, you’ll always be you and i’ll always be me. Just hope to die in peace..Good bye!!

  22. Sam B says:

    SEA1 6,

    You are a tool and taking away from the important discussion and interesting opinions from the rest of those involved in the conversation.

  23. Callum Lane says:

    @ All. In an internal UK Army debate last year titled “Discipline breeds performance (or, Ironing in Bastion)”, one of the more surprising comments was a desire by some JNCOs and soldiers for more drill during basic training in order to better instill discipline and improve performance in the field; cause for thought.

    @ Joseph Carter. I am a long in the tooth, time expired soldier now. But without swinging the lantern too much I can remember that when I was first trained the role of the soldier (and the combat arms in particular) was taught as the focused application of (lethal) violence. The army now appears to believe that it’s role is influence, and that sometimes that influence can be through the application of violence with terminal consequences. It confuses me, seems counter-intuitive and I daresay is introducing a degree of existentialist angst amongst the soldiering fraternity as they try and understand just what it is they are expected to be and do.

  24. As one who had the good fortune as a junior officer to be well advised and “mentored” by excellent NCO’s, I have always found it particularly fitting that in the final scene–when the chorus of “Men of Harlech” begins to build and the unmistakable voice of Richard Burton is heard– the list of the eleven men awarded the VC at Rorke’s Drift does not include Colour Sgt Bourne. I’ve looked this up and, if my sources are accurate, he was given the Military Cross, not the Victoria. Officers and rankers went “above and beyond.” As an NCO, his equally brave and unwavering performance was considered to be that of a professional non-commissioned officer doing all the demanding duties expected of him exceptionally well. At least one history reports that he turned down a commission recommended for his performance of those duties. I obviously never met the man, but I can’t help but think he would have cringed at being called a “warrior” rather than a “soldier.”

  25. Chris C says:

    I have the full document. Ragardless of nationality or service we can all relate to the COs frank and direct comments

  26. Digger says:

    LtCol Smith has just exemplified his failings as a leader. It was under HIS command that these apparent infractions occurred. , His supplied examples are without context, and are a broad stoke to a problem HE perceives. Another commander, who sees no action, taking the credit from men who do the job, and then has the audacity to publicly berate them. A gutless manoeuvre considering not making his comments to the men first. The current and previous tours Australia has been involved with, the men have served with distinction, and have done nothing to bring the country or its allies into disrepute. Fighting men will always push the boundaries in barracks life, infact we celebrate such men and attitudes on days like ANZAC day, give me a JNCO with ripped pants and beard anyday over a commission fool, clean shaven. And one last note, you tend to be ‘familiar’ with soldiers in your command when you’ve tasted pain, fear, bullshit and bullets together. An experience you may not find back in the command tent.

  27. Patrick says:

    For anyone still interested in this post, I got some interesting contextual information from an academic at Australia’s defecne college recently.

    1/ The colonel in question is a well respected infantry officer with considerable experience of current ops.
    2/ In the Australian army case (to which the colonel was referring) it was generally felt that he made brave and valid points. The loosening of discipline, perhaps linked to the Australian army’s ‘Mateship’ standard and value, is seen as a problem for these forces at present, by some at least.
    3/ I’m not sure how this equates to the BA – I know the earlier Helmand campaign scruffiness was tackled but at the same time common sense prevails when out in the boonies…

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