FORT BRAGG, North Carolina, March 29, 2014—The Army promoted Sergeant Justin Richmond to Sgt. 1st Class on Wednesday after military doctors diagnosed him with a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Eric Swenson, Richmond’s battalion sergeant major, said that Sgt. 1st Class Richmond’s attention to detail was a key part of the decision.
“As we draw down from two major wars, we need NCOs who can begin to focus more on uniform appearance,” Swenson said. “Combat is all well and good, but a properly garrisoned Army must be neat and tidy.”
“We have confidence that Sgt. 1st Class Richmond’s condition will give him the ability to spot uniform wear violations quickly. It’s really the most OCD soldier I’ve seen in a long time. He’ll be an outstanding senior NCO.”
“I’m stunned. I never thought of myself as a senior leader,” remarked the newly minted E7 as he adjusted his chest rank for the 11th time. “But then again, I don't consider myself mentally ill. I just can’t ignore egregious deviations from standards.”
Richmond corrected his commander’s uniform no less than four times during the promotion ceremony. Swenson said that with that kind of moxy, he thinks Richmond could be on the fast track to sergeant major.
“He’s got 19 patrol caps, for God’s sake,” the sergeant major said.
Richmond says he just hasn't found one that has a front seam exactly in the middle.
Promotions based entirely on medical conditions are extremely rare, and Richmond’s promotion was the first since World War II that an enlisted soldier moved up two grades.
The doctor who examined and diagnosed Richmond would not comment on his case precisely, but indicated that a theoretical case of OCD that was excessive would probably give a patient extreme sensitivity to regulation violations.
“We just need to marry up his compulsivity to the exact regulations in AR 670-1,” said Master Sgt. Gail Brice. “That’s really all there is to excelling as an E8 in this Army nowadays.”
"There is a fine line between mental instability and the kind of vigilance over a soldier's presentation we need in the Army," added Brice.
Others aren’t convinced. First Lt. Joseph Samudio thinks there is more to leadership than merely pointing out variations from appearance standards.
“What about combat tasks? Decisions making? Judgment? There are 100 things more important than uniform wear,” said Samudio.
Staff Sgt. David Swittingham, Richmond’s former squad leader, echoed those sentiments, saying that he wanted a leader who understood the individual needs of his soldiers, and could customize training to meet the needs of the soldier and the needs of the Army.
Richmond promptly ordered Swittingham to do push ups.
(Photo altered, original by SSG Michael Zuk)