This last week has seen a rise in publicized misconduct cases. From fistfights, senior leaders kissing subordinate wives, to pillow fights, something seems to be amiss. Perhaps it is the immediate sensationalism that online news offers, or perhaps it is the failure of leaders to appropriately address subordinate issues. Either way, the winds of change are blowing quickly and the effects may soon be felt by all.
In the case of the now famous West Point pillow fight of 2015, a video was shared of hundreds of students from the class of 2019 participating in a long-standing tradition of having a pillow fight. Since at least 1897, this tradition has continued until 2013 when a one year hiatus occurred after a student put a lockbox in a pillow case injuring fellow students.
The moral of this story seems to be pretty simple, any fun tradition can be marred by the actions of a few. With the final count with at least one broken leg, one broken arm, more than 20 concussions, and numerous dislocated shoulders, this episode quickly spiraled out of control. For upper classman and leaders, it is indicative of the very reason we put people in charge in the first place, we expect them to step in and do the hard right, over the easy wrong.
Instead, the spokesman for West Point has stated that “West Point applauds the cadets’ desire to build esprit and regrets the injuries.” While the continuation of this tradition is highly likely, the response is indicative of a problem. Regardless of whether these students were in fact improving esprit de corps and unit cohesiveness, a select few took it upon themselves and weaponized their pillows by reportedly putting helmets and body armor inside, they inflicted injuries upon their peers. These actions should be responded to. These students are in fact the next generation of military officers. Responsibility for one’s actions is something they need to learn now.
The second instance is one of an Army Colonel who was deemed the best available for the job, but had a tendency to surprise his subordinates by open mouth kissing their spouses. As crazy as this may seem, it took an anonymous letter to be sent to the Fort Bragg officer’s superior to alert him to the issues with Colonel McRee. Not surprisingly, once substantiated, the Colonel was removed from his position. In a controversial move though, even after being found guilty in an investigation of violating five of the eight core expectations of Army officers, inappropriate remarks, and treatment towards subordinates and the FRG, he was retained on active duty for another two years before retiring.
The moral of this story is much of the same, derogatory actions towards an officer will likely just lead to removal of responsibility, and still result in a hefty retirement.
The third case, of a Navy Commander being hospitalized for a fist fight initially originated with an all too common thread, infidelity. A senior officer had issued a military protective order to separate the Navy Commander from a married spouse that he was involved in an ‘unduly familiar relationship’ with. When the officer ignored the no contact order and was found with the wife by the husband, the ensuing fight left the officer in the hospital.
In this case, the Navy reacted swiftly and removed the Navy Commander from his position as XO of the ship. The news was reported within seven days and made public.
The end state behind all of these instances is that there is only one way which is both appropriate and effective to deal with these issues. Instead of hiding these situations or playing them off as good natured humor, leaders must use appropriate judgment or be held responsible. When problems are identified, leaders should immediately step in and fix it. To do anything else, to protect those who are violating our policies and procedures, or to hide the facts, is an injustice to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that serve under these individuals today and tomorrow.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.