14 March 2009

Rank is Everything

Rank is everything in the Army.

No matter how bad an idea is, rank determines its value.

No matter how rude somebody gets, their rank decides if it is proper.

There is no such thing as collaboration in the Army, because there is always a boss who has grown up in the Army system learning that stripes equal power. Authority too infrequently comes from time in service instead of wisdom or leadership. Thus, when it comes time to think through a problem systematically, the Soldier with the most rank can stop the process in its tracks the moment it gets too uncomfortable for him.

Discomfort is often a byproduct of a wonderfully constructive progression of idea development. Solutions are born from a sometimes painful introspection that requires criticism.

In the Army, criticism in anathema.

I walked past a Staff Sergeant, whom I knew, this morning. She was utterly rude. Though clearly having a bad morning, her comportment was disrespectful. People are entitled to bad days, but if the tables were turned and someone of lower rank committed the same social disgrace, he would suffer consequences. It is a “no go” to forego a polite greeting to someone of higher rank.

Army instructors fall into the rank trap. When delivering instruction, high-ranking people expect complete attention and respect during a class. When they have to present to officers who outrank them, or even peers, they can’t gain students’ attention with charisma or effective teaching tactics, because the social structure has never forced that skills upon them.

Blind obedience to rank is critical in battle, no doubt, but the modern Army does so much that is not combat related, that a change in culture may be due.
It will never happen until a general says so.

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