Imagine a world where a store clerk steals a car and gets arrested. The cops place the clerk in hand cuffs, bring them off to jail and process them. Once complete, they call the store shift supervisor to come pick up the clerk, and asks when the supervisor last told them that stealing a car was illegal and then makes the supervisor come in on a weekend in a full business suit to explain it to the store clerk. Crazy right?
This is precisely what happens in the military. We expect people to act like adults, so isn’t it time to start treating them like one too? The military places a huge onus of responsibility on leaders to be proactive about ensuring problems do not arise. Leaders are required to counsel their subordinates quarterly, to document their counseling, and to present it on order to show how recently they addressed specific issues.
When service members get in trouble, while the non-judicial punishment and UCMJ directly addresses the service member, the first questions refer to the leadership and whether or not they properly did their job to prevent the actions.
Soldier gets a DUI? Where was the team leader to ensure that the soldier had a plan? Navy personnel buys a $40,000 car and defaults on the loan? Why didn’t the leadership counsel them on financial responsibility? Depending on the severity of the offense, the entire leadership might find themselves standing in front of a general level officer of their sergeant major to explain themselves.
The real question that is worth asking, is why. Why are we passing blame onto the leadership, for actions of the individual? Why are we pulling the entire platoon into work on a Saturday to readdress the negative consequences of drunk driving when they obviously understand it, they were in fact sober.
With all of the responsibilities that we place on team leaders and noncommissioned officers for ensuring that service members bring the right things to training and battle, we may have crossed lines of common sense when it comes to actions off duty. Now people will say that a service member is on duty 24/7. But let’s be realistic, a service member is expected to follow the rules and regulations and do the right thing 24/7, but so is everyone else. It shouldn’t require a noncommissioned officer to counsel the service member not to break a federal law, like driving without insurance.
When it comes to off duty conduct, unless it is a direct carry over from work, such as a unit function, it is time to let the service member take responsibility for their actions and not focus blame on the chain of command. It serves no benefit to the organization, instills unnecessary “cover your ass” requirements that take away from the true purpose of the position in the first place, personal responsibility and accountability.
We expect that our leaders, seniors, peers, and subordinates will recognize these requirements and adopt these traits within themselves. In order to encourage this, we have to treat these service members like adults. Hold service members accountable for their conduct on and off duty. Utilize noncommissioned officers to train the troops and not as a scape goat for the poor decisions of their subordinates.
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.