It reads like the makings of a soap opera. Air Force wing commander relieved. Navy relieves ship commander. Coast guard reassigns commander. Army suspends one-star general. The moves are swift, and often unexpected to the general public that does not understand the changes in culture throughout the military. For service members today, it demonstrates the swing of the pendulum back to a time when military leaders handled their own issues and took action where action needed to be taken.
For many years as the war raged on, the priorities were different. First, it was about how many enemy combatants one killed. Then, it was about how much money was spent towards rebuilding the country. Finally, it was about the number of missions that soldiers from the host nation joined. In the end, it came down to one thing and one thing only: what the senior leader on the ground said mattered. If one could accomplish that by some metric, then they were successful. If, on the other hand, one was unable to adapt, adjust, or ensure mission success was nested with their senior leaders, then one quickly found themselves at odds with the group and an outcast.
Dating back to the Civil war, Lincoln demonstrated a capability and propensity to remove ineffective leaders from the military. This may seem confrontational, but the majority of these leaders were in effect civilians who were appointed at the rank, and were later deemed incapable of accomplishing the tasks. During World War II, George Marshall relieved the dead weight of the military and provided the opportunity and upward mobility of successful leaders. His actions directly contributed to the strong leadership which followed and the personalities which would come to be known best through the war, Patton and Eisenhower.
Then, something went terribly wrong. The US began to take part in conflicts which did not meet the American public’s standard of acceptable and practical. Korea and Vietnam mark unpopular wars where the inability of leaders to lead took a back seat to the lack of desire for military leaders to publicly fire incompetence in order to avoid the waning public support. By the end of Vietnam, even failed campaigns were not enough to warrant the removal of poor leaders. The services suffered. Quality subordinates separated and went back to the civilian side, often jaded by the wasted time under poor leaders.
This continued until just a few years ago. The military, now receiving the highest level of confidence from US citizens based on polls, reentered a phase where expectations of it were high and it would demand the same of its leaders. Leaders rose and fell based on their actions, not on their positions. A failed campaign began to mean something once again and military leaders took a close look at the manner of people they were promoting and retaining.
The term “toxic leadership” became colloquial. Leaders were forced to initiate feedback reviews of their seniors, peers, and subordinates which could be looked at by senior raters. It became possible to differentiate whether someone was effective because they inspired their subordinates, or effective because they punished and were feared by their subordinates. Then it began to happen. One after another, the services began to relieve their leaders.
Many have referred to this as a purge. In a way, they are correct. They simply misunderstand the source of this purge. The military has condoned the presence of poor leaders for so long that they permeate the organization. They stifle growth and are a detriment to improvement. These are the very individuals who encouraged others to follow in their footsteps and thus cloned their behaviors in their subordinates. Conspiracy theorists would say that the purge is the result of the president removing those individuals who will not “get on board.” In reality, the purge is a result of the military reclaiming its ability to police its own. It has taken since the early 50’s for the pendulum to swing back this way.
While some may choose to disagree, the reality is that the military is finally taking a close look at the way it conducts business, the people it retains, and the quality of leadership it chooses to promote. Time will tell whether the final outcome is positive or negative, but to see the military service branches take ownership of problems they identify is refreshing and truly a relief to see.
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.