Peter Nealen’s three part series in this forum is a fairly apt analysis of the state of the profession at arms. A lot of things important were said that many of us have been grumbling about for years.
Since September 11, 2001, the force has struggled to maintain manning while minimizing diminishing returns on the quality of soldier entering the army. Good order, discipline, physical fitness, and a solid foundation of basic soldiering skills seem increasingly elusive. Seemingly concomitant has been the reluctance to allow the backbone of the military, small units led by junior leaders, the ability to make timely and effective battlefield decisions without being lorded over by higher commanders situated far from the fight.
In my time in Army Special Forces, there was much lamentations and gnashing of teeth about the 18X recruitment program that brought soldiers right off the street for initial entry training (IET) and straight into the “Q,” presuming they passed through the requisite gates. They weren’t soldiers, they said. They didn’t spend time in a conventional unit to learn the discipline of a soldier and to have the skills to make them ready for SF. I was one of those soldiers, and stayed around long enough to pick up E-7.
However, I also watched my leaders and peers frustrated by in-service recruits to the regiment who were unable to perform skill level 1 and 2 soldiering tasks. Some of these men were already NCOs before selection. Given the period and policies in place, which I can talk about in another piece, they were selected for innate traits that were perceived to make them successful in completing Special Forces training, not because they were a well-rounded warrior that was ready to employ mastered skills. Most of them were great dudes, and with experience and mentoring made great SOF warriors. Again, I am not saying this was the best approach, but this seemed to be how the show was being run.