If our trackers tracked morale and training they would face an existential crisis.
Life in the military can be tedious but, a relatively new tracker system to limit command’s exposure to controversial mishaps is the hurting the force.
When I left the military, I did so under some duress. That stress stemmed from trackers and online training that I didn’t need. The army didn’t need me to do them either. The tracker system told me and my command, with two weeks left in the Army that if I didn’t complete my self-development I could face a board to be early retired (QMP).
It was not possible that this would take place or was it likely the Army would remove a soldier for not completing a silly online training tool that no one acknowledged as being useful for a soldier’s development, despite its name. Not to mention a soldier that has never received a poorly rated evaluation report or faced disciplinary action. I had two weeks left in the Army. My Sergeant Major was on my the case because a tracker told him so I was red on this training, and it had to get done, or I would face repercussions of QMP and be asked to leave the army.
It was a strange threat. The situation reveals the trackers and an automation of things have removed some human responsibility. You would think I’d be told I’m getting a boot to my face or put on notice. Instead, it’s done via email, and it started with an excel spreadsheet. If somehow I wasn’t on the spreadsheet, no one would have known. Likewise, if I were still in I could’ve been kicked out of the Army because I would have assumed a tracker would have reminded to get the work done.
Command is doing what they think is in the best interest of the soldier, as they do. It’s often at such an inconvenience that it gets in the way of our lives and our training. My case is a minor one and insignificant. The real problems in my life are my doing.
I was leaving the force, for better or worse and my self-development was no longer relevant. I was far more concerned with my GMAT score, which MBA program to choose (assuming I was granted options) and how I was going to live, eat, and survive after separation. Everyone knows the transition is scary and that fact is used as rocket fuel to compel people to get these training modules and ultimately unnecessary things done.
If you are often ‘red’ the outcome is brutal. In an environment where everything comes down to the camaraderie, you end up embarrassing yourself and causing unnecessary attention to your team. All of this over a silly online training and an excel spreadsheet? This isn’t an efficient use of our time and resources. Yeah, these things need to be knocked out – but not at the cost of training and morale and, it does hurt morale.
Noah Smith, a former Green Beret, lives in Washington, D.C. This represents his own views, which are not necessarily those of his former employers in the U.S. government. He holds the Special Operations chair in the Best Defense Council of the Former Enlisted at Foreign Policy Magazine. He is the Veteran Fellowship Program Chair of ServiceCorps. He can be reached via email at [email protected]