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PC Soldiers

Drawing on his military experience, the Sage of Mt. Airy points out the dangers of the political correct (on environment, religion, sexuality) military to mission effectiveness.  Peer pressure

works by forcing those soldiers whose principal concern is military effectiveness (and thank God there's still plenty of them) to simply accept the PC codes as part of the "given" in any problem they face. Political correctness is, with a "can do" shake of the head and shrug of the shoulders, simply accepted as one more obstacle to be overcome. The effective officer figures out a way to work around it.

But the way around it is always inefficient, sometimes dangerous and far too often dispiriting. My son is a U.S. Army First Lieutenant currently serving in Iraq. When I asked him about his training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi immediately prior to his deployment he answered with this: "Dad, I'm not sure how we'll perform in combat, if and when we engage the enemy, but one thing I do know, we'll sure as hell not sexually harass them."

Now I suspect some of you may think I'm overstating the case. If so, ask yourself this question, or better yet, ask it of anyone you know (male or female, straight or gay, white or not) who holds a position of command in the military, at any level of responsibility: Is their duty of disciplining a poor performing soldier complicated or simplified if the individual in question is a straight white male? We all know the answer to this.

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Discussions - 1 Comment

The obvious answer is simplified, and it is probably the true answer, but in all honesty it might work the other way, especially if you take into account the fact that a lot of minorities make a career out of the army (and in my opinion are disproportionally represented in the NCO enlisted ranks). It is possible for the question to swing the other way, it depends on perception. Technically what usually happens is that the NCO decides to be super strict by the book(less trouble enforcing, but somewhat lacking in the use of discretion)...but the more discretion employed the more it becomes a question of picking. Honestly the army does a very good job ballancing this, NCO's typically will back up other NCO's regardless of race or any other factors. Technically it is hardest to discipline the barracks lawyer(who is usually white?). In terms of race I would almost say that the question is negligible, but in terms of sex, women it seems do get away with more. Then again Mechanics get away with dirtier uniforms...standards fluctuate by MOS, conditions and unit.

Instead of asking the blanket straight white male question, I would suggest that the duty of disciplining a poor performing soilder is somewhat complicated whenever that individual is of a different race and quite complicated whenever that individual is of a different sex than the NCO. It gets more complicated if you try to step into someone elses section/authority.

In a sense I don't think it really is sexism or racism per se, but that black NCO's do better with blacks, hispanics with hispanics, whites with whites in part because the presumption of an unfair treatment is off the table. While it doesn't get mentioned because it isn't an ism, friendship(ism) colors a lot of discipline decisions regardless of race.

Discipline is less of a problem regardless of any complicating factors because all the disciplines refer to violations of standards and FM's and always have an objective standard. You either passed or failed the standard(end of discussion). Depending on the severity of a breach of standard a council statement or article 15 is appropriate and is written up...technically you can also give non-paperwork punishment. There are good and bad NCO's, but most are good and all of the good to maintain this respect must be able to punish in a fair or objective way. I think the official answer to your question by any NCO is that it doesn't matter, the honest answer being that women might present some problems(assuming you are a man, women might face the opposite obstacle), potentially also an NCO might admit that friendship and long term acquaintance with others might also color enforcement.

The duty of disciplining a poor performing soilder is most complicated if old friendship and aquaintances remain(why in addition to MOS overweight conditions many NCO's are transfered to new units after promotions.)

Also the chain of command at irregular and random intervals breathes down the neck of NCO's and this more than anything is probably responsible for discrepancies in punishment/discretion. Army discipline seems comparable to a market cycle...boom and bust, lax and strict...or a circuit court decision that uses a ballancing test where the weight of individuals factors is subject to change, and new indicia are discovered or discounted.

The problem is that being "PC" is built into the standard, anything that isn't PC is a deviation or less than the standard, something that can be punished as quickly as a stained uniform a poor pt score. All punishments refer back to standards. The PC soilder often times the barracks lawyer, is the board baby (because he knows all the FM's and AR's) but as bad as this could sound and it isn't always excellence compared to the warrior soilder(not always PC or by the book, but respected)...the thing is that the PC soilder or "board baby" is the model soilder according to compliance with the legal standards...so defacto the PC soldier is never the bad apple...(in fact he makes record time in promotions) if every soldier was the PC soilder the unit would look outstanding on paper, and in all fairness probably be an outstanding unit (because paper lies, but not by that much).

So the PC soldier or superior boad NCO aka "board baby"(a term of mild derision) isn't the problem. He has little or no negative paper.

The rarest form of poor performing soldier is the PC soldier, and in fact he can't be poor performing because he is in compliance with the regulations. Some regulations can get silly, and this is why a rare group of solid soilders are sometimes poor performing. But in general neither the outlaw/field/combat soldier nor the board baby/barracks/technical soldier are anywhere near the middle or bottom, both represent the two main types of those who will become NCO's. The PC codes while sometimes rediculous just represent another layer of discipline that the board babies embrace and conquer by becomming experts in.

The bottom line: no one who follows all the army reg's with that kind of discipline can be disciplined, because grounds are lacking.

Technically those being punished aren't the PC soilders and NCO's(when PC means compliance with all standards and the ability to refference them). The PC NCO's because they use little or no discretion in enforcing the rules have less to worry about in terms of accusations of preference, and thus are the most likely to claim that the question of disciplining makes no difference by gender or race.

Is this sort of paper happy AR/FM/PC NCO philosophy most effective ideally?-Probably not. Is it the most effective in the aggregate, dispensing as it does with accusations of partiality?-Quite possibly. The greater the fear of partiality, cruelty, racism, sexism and malice the more effective the paper happy PC soilder is. No one thinks them the best, they are promoted as the best, but no one can honestly claim them as the worst.

I don't know what a 1L can do, as a captain he can have greater influence, but I think he could have great/tricky impact at the platoon level in decideing what types of SPC he should promote to NCO, and also a vote on nominations for awards(he can influence these with more authority than a write up from an NCO). PC or not he should continue to listen to the NCO's as he did when a butter bar. Ultimately units vary widely according to personel and philosophy. But a 1L has more say an experience than a 2L and can use his influence and any respect he has earned to influence awards and punishments. In fact 1L's and 0-3's probably have more direct influence and personal discretion than higher ranking officers more removed from the actual soldiering, a 1L probably has the best look at his NCO's that he ever will have as an officer. While a 1L mainly focuses on the E-7 and some E-6's, it might not hurt to look lower at the E-5, E-4 range.

I think you are overstating and that your son is jesting, but there is no question that a certain PC-soilder/NCO is actually a dominant command philosophy closely allied with promotions because ultimately tied up in what is praised and blamed, a 1L is near the career peak of captain for influencing this on a small but significant level.

Good Luck and best of wishes to your Son!

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