Editors note: the following open letter was penned by a current member of 5th Special Forces Group who wanted to speak out against the current toxic command climate that exists in his unit.
Toxic leadership is something that many soldiers and civilians accuse their command of, but rarely is it ever as bad as it seems. Many times in the SOF community this is due to us being hyper critical of our commanders and peers due to our mission set, training, and the sheer fact that we are perfectionists in our own right. In the case of 5th SFG (A) this may finally be a true statement.
5th SFG (A) has long been known to be a very political climate in regards to the command, and many times referenced as 5th Infantry Division to those who call it home. This could be due to a number of reasons. 5th Group area of operations is the middle east and is constantly deployed to the hottest spots in the world. Not to say other SF Groups aren’t, but the Legion calls the middle east home and that’s where the action is. Because of this the officers in the Legion are trying to earn their next promotion whether it is in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or even the lesser known countries that we operate in like Yemen, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. 5th Group has been at the lead, and the first teams in, for wars and conflicts such as Vietnam, Desert Storm, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, the 2003 Iraq re-invasion, and now Syria. This creates a climate where commanders are set up to get the necessary deployments for promotion and can be quite cut throat at times.
Another reason is our location. 5th Group is nestled smack dab in the middle of the 101st on Fort Campbell, KY. When 5th Group was preparing to design our new buildings we had the option to have our own compound like every other group within USSFC and even the 160th who is also at Fort Campbell, KY. Due to desire to cultivate “SOF/CF interoperability” we chose to be co-located with them on the base proper. This has led to those CF (conventional forces) qualities bleeding over into 5th Group to the effect of haircut and uniform inspections, parking requirements, and not being to stage equipment like trucks outside the team rooms. Oh, and nobody is allowed to park behind the load out bays for any amount of time. The uniform requirements might sound like good ol’ bitching by crusty NCOs but when you take into account the fact that we have non-standard Patagonia combat uniforms where ballcaps (as long as they are multicam) and civilian boots are authorized, having to wear a PC and army boots with them because of the garrison mentality is ridiculous.