Read Part One HERE

Everyone understands the importance of quality assurance and crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. Still, folks are bewildered and annoyed by these trackers that have begun to drive the workflow in the team room. The overall opinion and impression I’m hearing is this: these trackers mean well but due to disinterest and administrative incompetence they’re more trouble than their worth. These administrative tasks distract operators from the task at hand.

At the operational level, morale is low and what trackers have come to symbolize is a metaphor for how many feel. That those who are compliant move forward, and those who speak their minds will fail, constructive or not. I never thought I would hear the phrase “yes, men” used so liberally to describe the prevailing sentiment towards leadership in a Special Operations unit. A place where unconventional, outside-the-box thinking is encouraged. We’re problem solvers, not creators.

On my team, we have had to show up late to the range and return early to finish online training. But, everyone just clicks through the online training to finish as fast as possible. It’s an exercise in “GoogleFu”, not whatever the subject matter may be. In some ways, we felt like we were being treated like children and we acted accordingly.

In fact, I hated it so much I found myself guessing the answers randomly and eventually navigating through the training instead of paying attention and learning. For the many of the required training that culminate in a test, like cyber security and others, we all copy and paste the question into google and find the answer online. What’s the point? The structured self-development that all non-commissioned officers must complete is not necessary to perform your duties. I’ve never heard of anyone singing praise for the Army’s online professional development.

To create and manage these trackers SharePoint is used. The trackers archive everything. However, these excel spreadsheets often do not utilize the core functions of Excel, such as equations and other intuitive functions. They are almost exclusively manually updated and managed. Meaning it takes time away from work that is likely more meaningful and more pressing. Often, when commanders create their trackers – a duplicate and side tracker. What’s more, some of the trackers are submitted as ‘sas’ documents. But many aren’t filed correctly and returned to the originator. The system is meant to manage the force’s professional lives. In the end, many of the trackers get lost because the search engine they use to store the old trackers is very slow. As a result, trackers are created to track the trackers that aren’t acceptable.

From a command perspective, the force is hectic, at the time unruly, and unpredictable. There is often a high rate of legal mishaps that create liability for the commander. We had two different guys under serious investigations. One was awaiting trial for serious crimes. At one point, there was a murder in the unit, where a team guy killed another team guy. These trackers are a form of due diligence and, of course, it is needed.

Outliers who cause real trouble are not the fault of the commander. Unfortunately, the trackers aren’t solving problems and do not absolve command from the responsibility for their warfighters. As the force is changing and meaningful deployments are decreasing, trackers are set up to monitor the inefficient use of trackers, and many are in forced retirement – morale might not be at an all time high.