WARNING! Incoming F Bombs

Do you “curse like a sailor?” While doing so may be a long time attribute of military service, it is apparently not acceptable if you are a Three-Star General. At least, that is the finding of a recent Department of Defense Inspector General’s report.

The recently released report details the events surrounding a 2014 briefing at the U.S. Special Operations Command and remarks by Lt. General John F. Mulholland Jr., then serving as second of command of SOCOM. According to the report, the three-star “failed to treat his subordinates with dignity and respect” when he voiced his displeasure with the briefing by repeatedly dropping f-bombs and suggesting they should kill themselves. Professional? No; that’s probably not something taught at the U.S. Army War College. But, is this really worthy of an IG investigation?

According to the Army Times, review of the report on the 2014 briefing was the result of then SOCOM CO Admiral William McRaven making Mulholland aware of his displeasure with an earlier briefing, and directing him to obtain more information. The briefing in question was the result and it was not too long before Mulholland voiced his own lack of satisfaction, reportedly using the f-bomb “about 5 times…to punctuate his comments.” Some witnesses stated that the General suggested the briefers should be taken out and shot or even shoot themselves, also claiming that is what he would need to do if he were to take the report to the Admiral.

Lt. General John F. Mulholland Jr.
Lt. General John F. Mulholland Jr.

It was not long before multiple complaints were lodged via a DoD hotline and the IG was off and running. While some witnesses described the General as “uncontrollable,” others reported the events unworthy of being reported- never mind investigated. In the end, the DoD IG recommended the Army institute unspecified corrective action.

While profanity filled shouting matches are certainly not what is expected from three-star generals, the report is very clear in pointing out that this type of behavior is “not indicative of LTG Mulholland’s normal comportment.”  In my opinion, this also points to what the real problem is – butt hurt after a well-deserved butt chewing by a superior. The briefing was the result of a previous briefing being deemed inadequate and LTG Mulholland held certain expectations for the follow up. When those expectations were not met, and some reportedly argued with him concerning the results, the General laid down the law in a manner which clearly showed his level of frustration.

Maybe it is a benefit of having been enlisted, but I clearly understood that a butt chewing was always on the radar if you screwed up; the only reason the CO rarely did the chewing is because he had others to do it for him. But, when you remove that buffer, occasionally you will feel the fury front and center. Maybe you do not feel it is deserved, maybe you do not feel it is professional, but the answer is not complaining that your feelings were hurt. The solution is to learn from it; if you are offended, use it to make yourself a different type of leader but most importantly – suck it up buttercup!

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.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

3 thoughts on “WARNING! Incoming F Bombs

  1. My goodness, the mean ol’ General used naughty words and hurt the feelings of some of his obviously incompetent subordinates. Just because they can not perform their duties in an acceptable manner and repeatably screw up so that their superiors can’t rely on their reports is no reason for the General to lose his temper. He should be more understanding and accepting of their poor level of accomplishment — they are only mimicking the example set by the commander-in-chief.

  2. Good piece Tom. But expect to see more such investigations as the services implement wider access to females. The demographic is changing and expectations will also change.

    The irony is that young people today seem to swear like troopers, and in mixed company. They certainly swear much more than my generation.

    In my time in th army, we expected to hear ‘language’ from our NCOs if we stuffed up, though less so from officers. Indeed, when I think about it, few officers in my time swore at the troops, though they did swear at subordinate officers if the stuff up was sufficiently severe.

    I can’t claim to have spent much time around too many one, two or three star officers, so I can’t comment, but it seems to me that you hit the nail on the head with your final observation.

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