Whatever happened to Private Ryan's Army?

By Col. David Hackworth (Ret.)
web posted October 4, 1999

Army Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy tells audiences around the nation, "Today's Army is not your father's Army." Then she goes into why "Consideration Of Others" (COO) sensitivity training is the real deal in today's Army and why Private Ryan's kill-or-be-killed World War II techniques are as obsolete as Sherman tanks.

A sergeant major who sat in on one of her lectures says, "The general, wearing spit-shined paratrooper boots that came up to her knees, spent 15 minutes discussing our mission. And then, for the next 40, she stressed the need for equality and sensitivity and understanding of others. I couldn't help wondering if this was some event sponsored by a YWCA instead of the U.S. Army."

In my Army, the sergeants were gravel-road rough, and the mission was about knocking off the enemy and winning. Back then, the brass didn't care about COO stuff. They were into training soldiers to kill our enemies and win battles. Put simply, the philosophy was: The more sweat in training, the less blood in battle.

Back then, generals didn't hug returned POWs after they threw down their weapons, waved the white flag and then wrote "thank-you" notes to their jailers. They court-martialed the slackers.

No way I can imagine Gen. George Patton saying to three such cowards upon their release from a Belgrade slammer, "Welcome home, boys. Don't sweat that .50-caliber machine gun, those three M-16 rifles and all that ammo you handed over to those nasty Serbs without firing a shot. Bad things happen in wars. Oh, and on behalf of our president, here are six medals for all that discomfort those mean old Serbs put you through."

At Fort Benning, Ga., units must conduct "battle-focused" physical training three days a week. And these days at the home of the U.S. Infantry, guess what falls into that category? Aerobic dancing. A major says, "Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure aerobic dance can be a good workout. However, I can't help wondering what kind of message this sends to our soldiers. To me, this is just another sign of the continued feminization of the armed forces and further evidence that our senior leadership has lost sight of what's important. This trend has converted me into one more member of the growing number of soldiers who've become frustrated with the current state of the Army."

At Fort Gordon, also in Georgia, four students were recently caught red-handed with marijuana. They were still allowed to continue a training course that includes classified signal instruction. A captain says, "The info they'll be exposed to closely resembles the data U.S. Navy spy (John) Walker sold to the Soviets. None of the top people here want to kick these birds out because it would violate what's got all the brass' attention -- `Consideration Of Others' issues above all else."

During the Cold War, Walker did more damage to U.S. security than a thousand Soviet spooks. But since dope violations are ignored in the White House, I guess it's easy to look the other way with Army communication folks exposed to top-secret traffic. Besides, no one's willing to stand tall and be so flat-out insensitive as to boot them out just for being security risks.

Except for a couple of elite units -- Rangers and Special Ops -- the modern Army has just about lost it. It will certainly take a big change by the top leadership to correct the damage that's been done to the Army and the American profession of arms since the end of Desert Storm.

With the Gen. Kennedys and her ilk at the helm, it's no bloody wonder that grandfathers, fathers and older brothers are telling young folks not to join the Army. It breaks my heart, but not a day passes where I don't give the same advice.

If the old standards aren't brought back in a hurry, then the politically correct Army with its hundreds of maternity and child-care centers and a wrongheaded basic load of COO fixation should be given only support -- bringing up the rear -- missions. The fighting and killing jobs should go either to the U.S. Marines or, as in East Timor, soldiers like the Aussies should handle the Private Ryan stuff.

One of most decorated soldiers in American history, Col. David Hackworth (Ret.) is the author of the syndicated column Defending America.

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