Opinion: The Special Forces community continues to be in the news and for the Green Berets, it isn’t very welcome. The SF community, long known as the “Quiet Professionals” are finding themselves increasingly in the spotlight and for the wrong reasons.
But if the news on that broke on Tuesday is anywhere close to the truth, then two senior NCOs who are instructors at the Special Forces Qualification Course [SFQC] are being singled out for no good reason as the command lashes out at what was a scathing email that decried the lowering of standards in the SFQC.
The two Green Beret instructors, Sergeant First Class Micah J. Robertson, 33, and Sergeant First Class Michael Squires, 31, are being discharged, they say, for no reason other than the association with and beliefs that the writer of the email was correct.
The story that was first reported by “a news service” reported that when an email that was written by a concerned SF NCO late in 2017, it sent shock waves thru the community. These type of complaints are nothing new, instructors were complaining about lack of standards before I went to the SFQC, while I was at the SFQC, and my fellow instructors and cadre members, including myself, complained about the standards when I worked in the schoolhouse at SFAS.
But those things were kept in-house because there were no social media sites around back in the day to blow things up and make them viral. This one instructor (or perhaps many) excoriated the chain of command citing “moral cowardice” among other things.
“[The SFQC] has devolved into a cesspool of toxic, exploitive, biased and self-serving senior officers who are bolstered by submissive, sycophantic, and just-as-culpable enlisted leaders,” the NCO said. “They have doggedly succeeded in two things; furthering their careers, and ensuring that Special Forces [are] more prolific but dangerously less capable than ever before.”
One of the biggest charges against the command was that once a prospective candidate passed Selection [SFAS], the command removed all physical barriers that could hold a candidate back from passing the SFQC.
As it was reported on Tuesday,” It was then published by a news site started by former special operations forces”, which was SOFREP/NEWSREP, as if Breitbart [oops] didn’t know who it was, when one SF instructor sent it over. MG Sontag felt strongly enough about the email and what was said that he actually answered the charges levied in the email.
“If SFAS is correct, and we believe it is, the SFQC is not a place where high attrition rates should occur. Instead, the mission of the SFQC cadre is to train to standards,” he said at the time. Sonntag also said no “fundamental SF standard” has been “removed.”
One CSM that answered the charges admitted in an astounding statement, that the school fostered substandard Green Berets onto the Regiment and it was up to them to fix it, which itself gave credence to the email in the first place.
“‘We push some of these issues forward [to the Regiment] because we believe that the Groups can succeed in fixing those problem graduates when they arrive. That is an amount of risk we willingly accept because after all, it’s much easier to get a tab removed at Group if he doesn’t pan out than to risk relieving what’s basically a fully qualified student who might have been able to fix himself and become a solid Green Beret.’”
But those issues notwithstanding, what does this have to do with SFCs Robertson and Squires? Nothing. Except that the command believed that they were involved with this email chain in the first place. And they were looking for blood.
The company commander of the soldiers thought to be the guilty parties was given the lowest grade possible on his annual Officer Evaluation Report [OER] basically ending any chance he has of a military career.
Both NCOs were given Article 15s as was the alleged author of the email. Article 15 is non-judicial punishment under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice [UCMJ], getting one of those as a low ranking member of the military is generally not a big deal. For a senior NCO that is the kiss of the death for one’s career.
Both SFers declined to accept it, which is their right and chose to proceed with a General Court Martial. The two were charged with the email as well as creating an App which the command stated violated the instructor ethical code by using their position for financial gain.
The instructors claimed BS and claim they were singled out with no evidence for the email because both had spoken during open “town halls” with the command over concerns of the standards dropping.
MG Sontag dropped the Article 15s and declined to press forward with a Court Martial he could not win. However, he issued both a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand [GOMOR].
A General Officer Memorandum (or letter) of Reprimand (GOMOR) is a memorandum written to a soldier by a General Officer reprimanding the soldier for bad behavior. It’s essentially an ass-chewing by a General.
However, The significance of a GOMOR is that it can become part of one of your military files. It can be filed “locally”, which means in your Military Personnel Record Jacket [MPRJ], or in your “permanent” file, which means in your Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). A GOMOR filed locally will be removed eventually
[usually when a soldier PCS]. A GOMOR filed in your permanent file will very likely stay there forever.
This too can be a kiss of death for any senior NCO. It is unknown if the NCOs sent in a letter of rebuttal for this letter which is their right to do so. It does seem that the soldiers are facing an uphill battle in this.
Now they are being told that both are being discharged from the Army. Both want to know…for what? And that is a very legitimate question. Why are these two NCOs being singled out for discharge? Do they have a series of unfavorable NCOERs in the files, stating they were doing a substandard job? Something tells me that isn’t the case or they wouldn’t be SFQC instructors.
Robertson has 13 and a half years of service, Squires with more than 12.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Director of Public Affairs Lt. Col. Loren Bymer said in a statement:
Army Special Operations Command is predicated on high standards and character attributes that define a Soldier’s service. There was not an all-inclusive investigation launched, but all allegations of misconduct were handled by commanders at the appropriate levels and adjudicated accordingly. The Special Warfare Center and School has a responsibility to ensure each soldier attending training is prepared to meet the needs of the nation now and in the future. This includes ensuring professional instruction, consistently strenuous mental and physical standards, inclusive training, and upholding the expectation that cadre and candidates demonstrate the Army Special Operations attributes at all times.
When this story broke, many of us here who have been in the Regiment were talking about this very subject. And we all feared, and now it has been proved rightly so, that the command would be more interested in finding and punishing the parties who sent the message rather than fix the issues that the email addressed.
This is sadly exactly what is happening. There is no proof that these two did anything wrong whatsoever, besides trying to protect the force that they serve in by doing the best job that they can as instructors? Isn’t that what we expect, or actually DEMAND from our cadre?
This is a witch hunt plain and simple. Those of us saw this coming and unfortunately, especially for Robertson and Squires, it has become a reality.
Back in the day before social media blew up the way we converse, there were a couple of “underground” Special Forces newspapers that were immensely popular with the troops and very unpopular with the brass.
One at the JFK SWC was “The Resister” it was marvelously written and called out all of the BS that one would encounter at the schoolhouse. The Resister was an equal opportunity paper, they called out General Officers down to the lowest NCOs if need be. It was so well written that the wonderful ladies who ran the library at the SWC kept copies of the Resister on file.
The command eventually seized all of the copies from the library like some sort of housecleaning like ridding the community of blight or subversiveness when the works of Mao, Lenin, Stalin, and Marx were all there for all to read.
In Panama, the 3/7 SFG had their own paper, “The Bend-Over Daily”. The BOD was a much more irreverent, hysterically funny, but equally well-written piece. Again it would poke fun at the chickenshit antics of some NCOs or Officers and everyone looked forward to the next issue.
Like when SGM Ivanov insisted on planting banana trees on the island in front of 3/7 buildings, every night someone would go out and cut them down. It got so ridiculous, Ivanov put the staff duty runner and NCO outside on the porch. Eventually, the poor private had to piss, and watching from the barracks was the perp. Ivanov was livid.
Of course, the next BOD wanted to know “Who is the Night Whacker???” We all knew who it was, or at least we think we do….
Later the Bn Cdr would make the rounds with the SGM and inspect the buildings once in a blue moon. The BOD warned the troops, “Beware of the dirtbag and the douchebag.” That battalion commander didn’t freak, speaking to an assembled group on NCOs, he said, “I sure hope that I’m the dirtbag!”
Stop the nonsense, reinstate Robertson and Squires and fix the damn courses. DOL