This past week SOFREP’s Steve Balestrieri wrote about the newly redesigned Artic Tab and how it spurred controversy. The controversy ultimately comes from egos, a feeling that everyone needs a trophy. Let us be honest; how many tabs does the Army need?
The Arctic tab is earned by completing either the Cold Weather Leaders Course or the Cold Weather Orientation Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center located in Black Rapids, Alaska.
“I think what makes U.S. Army Alaska and our units unique is that we are the Army’s proponent for cold-weather training,” said the Alaska-based commander, Maj. Gen. Peter B. Andrysiak Jr., in a press release this week. “We not only live here; we thrive here, and I want to make sure the tab properly recognizes our unique expertise.”
Every new tab, medal, or high five causes much heartache amongst the ranks. Do you all remember the fit when the Combat Action Badge (CAB) was designed? Infantry lost their mind. How about when the Army adopted the coveted black beret after the Rangers? Why the regular Army didn’t just take on the tan beret and leave the black ones to the Rangers is still baffling to me. Old Rangers are still pissed about it.
For many people, the participation trophy may be a symbol of what’s wrong with America. Some parents are seeing in that the disappearance of toughness, discipline, and accountability. The shortage of will, determination, and hard work. The creation of coddled children who are taught that they’re special, who never learn that you need to earn something.
Then–Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison became the honorary spokesman for the anti-trophy crowd in 2015 when he wrote on Instagram that he returned a few participation trophies received by his kids.
This should get the attention of some parents out there. Parenting styles completely aside, Harrison’s football background might provide some insight into why he feels this way. He was a Kent State walk-on and then went undrafted in 2002. Harrison then played a season in NFL Europe and was cut by the Baltimore Ravens before latching on with the Steelers and becoming a force. That all drove him to “do better.”
These children are the spoiled products of a self-esteem culture during which they (or a minimum of their parents) are scared of failure. To stop these delicate egos from facing mediocrity or failure, their parents put them on basketball teams and baseball teams and other activities during which everybody gets a trophy no matter the lack of talent, achievement, or actual victory over the opposite team.
Because of this, the youngsters get older thinking they’re much more talented than they are, and that they expect unqualified approval in every area, from academics to sports to the planet of employment. Coddled and arrogant, they fail to find out just how tough life is. When their weakness is revealed it is undoubtedly a rude awakening.
What utter nonsense
The thing is, kids are smart about this stuff. I haven’t seen my kids or any of their fellow athletes interpret these medals or trophies as signs that they’re all winners or that the loss of a game or championship is somehow not a failure. They understand failure. They know who the great players are and who the bad players are. If they’re not nearly as good as the other athletes they know. Their teammates will always make it clear to them, then will the coaches, then will the spectators. It’s ridiculous to think that a trophy or lack of a trophy changes that.
What, then, is the purpose of giving a medal or trophy to everyone? My very own kids have their medals hanging in their rooms, and the awards are displayed on shelves around the house. These aren’t signs of egotistical triumph; they’re relics of being on the team with their friends. They’re how they remember the experience.
There are eight individual tabs in the Army if you count the Ranger Challenge tab. The intent behind them is twofold: recognition of an individual’s accomplishment and promotion of the unit’s achievements. You won’t see any infantry squad leaders in Ranger Battalion without a Ranger Tab. It should be, and is, something that all within the unit strive to achieve.