I just returned from yet another deployment, albeit a shorter one than usual. I was in South Korea for a month, and the Philippines for the same.
Well, I’m done. Those two months were two of the longest of my life, and I simply can’t do it anymore. Since mid-2010, I’ve been away from home for almost 900 days; I did the math. And this says nothing of the insane windup that comes before a unit even deploys. The operational tempo in our modern army is out of control, and no one’s tamping it back, because senior leaders are still fighting for those positive evaluation reports. They do not understand that the tempo at which the military moved for over a decade has never been matched. And it can’t be sustained.
Many people on my recent deployment told me they were getting out. The military had changed so much in such a short period of time, they’ve had enough. One airman said that in almost 20 years of service, he’d never seen worse living conditions than what we had. And we have absolutely no freedom anymore. We are locked inside small compounds, unable to explore, see a movie, or simply see sights. Today’s Army has much less freedom than it did just 20 years ago, a fact that goes unnoticed.
Our numbers have been drastically cut, and we are asked to do more and more.
My symptoms of burnout appeared shortly after arriving at my new unit in Hawaii. I’d recently returned from an 8 month tour in Afghanistan in which I did more work than i’d ever done in that span of time. Little did I know that my new unit was the busiest aviation regiment in the Army, according to the Pentagon. I felt my work slowly grinding away at my reserves, until I reached a point where I hated the idea of getting up to go to work. But the unit pushed people hard, and I saw how people get a prison mentality, each person for themselves, and a lack of any empathy at all. I lost interest in almost everything. I stopped reading, stopped writing, avoided volunteering for any extra work, and indeed tried to game the system to relieve pressure on myself. The prison mentality had infected me, too.
My cynicism about the Army is something to behold. I simply do not trust it as an organization that will look out for me, but only an organization that checks the box, and says all the right things. So much of what we do, including my recent deployment, is for publicity. One of the most important jobs my section had was ensuring the unit’s Facebook page was updated with photo and that half-truths were used to paint a glowing picture of what we were really accomplishing with millions upon millions of taxpayer’s dollars. All the while America has accumulated more debt than any nation in history. I find that disgusting. Once on this last deployment, I listened to another Staff Sergeant brag about how he kicked in the door to the room of a subordinate soldier whom he suspected was sleeping. When the soldier complained that the Sergeant’s boot struck him in the chest, the Staff Sergeant told him: “You’re lucky I didn’t cave your fucking skull in.” He made these statements to another Staff and a Sergeant First Class. So much a part of the culture is abuse of subordinates, that bragging to superiors does not pose a risk of punitive action.. That’s the fine organization I work for.
With my previous deployments, I experienced a rebound of energy upon my return. That has not happened after this last one. A central board will look at my promotion packet for E7 next month. I’ve barely had enough time to get ready, and I’m considering blowing off the whole thing, because I really don’t want to be promoted. I want to leave the Army, and have some stability in my life. I’ve given them 7 years, in wartime. They’ve gotten every last ounce of energy from me.
If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep, And all we know most distant and most dear,Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep, Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer? ~Gentleman Ranker, Rudyard Kipling
For the first time in my Army career, and really for the first time in my professional career, I wish I were making more money. The time I’ve been away from home for the last 4 years has taken a toll. Things that I’ve needed to do at home have fallen by the wayside during deployments, Permanent Change of Station moves, and long schools. I just returned from 8 weeks of Army education, only to be reminded that one of my cars is in massive need of maintenance. This car sat for 3 years while I was in Germany, then endured the ridiculous winters of Fort Drum, assaulted by ice and copious amounts of road salt. Then there was the pernicious effects of amoral auto-parts dealers who take advantage of the wives of deployed Army husbands by intentionally damaging parts of the car during routine oil changes in order to garner more business. Yes, that last part happened.
My weeks at work are too long, and too inflexible. I cannot simply take a day off as most can at jobs in which they’ve earned days off. I have to go through the military leave process, a process in which a supervisor of commander has ultimate authority. There is no right to a day off in the Army. because of the extreme operational tempo and lack of manpower, things like doctor appointments, car maintenance, and simply enjoying life often go by the wayside. Sometimes I find myself so busy multitasking, that I wake up at 0300 a.m. thinking about these things, unable to fall back asleep. There are a million things to be done at work and at home.
This morning I jumped in my wife’s car and found the battery dead. Either that or the starter’s gone. I tried charging the battery from my other car, but this failed. It did however drain my other car’s battery. Yesterday I tried to bring my car in for a brake job and an oil change and was told I’d have to bring it to the dealership on Friday. On the way back the engine began overheating. Pretty sure the coolant evaporated from the car sitting in the Hawaii sun for 8 weeks while I was gone. Guess I should have checked. A black comedy of failure.
And for the first time, I wanted more money than what a full-time job was providing me. I wake up at 0430 every workday. I’m doing physical training at 0600. I get home at 1730. I get home earlier than many others do. I do this 5 days a week, and if I go to the field, I may work 30 or more consecutive 12 hour shifts, all without the luxury of returning to my own bed after shift or even sipping a simple beer. I’ve spent months and years away from home and things deteriorated while I was gone. Frankly, I’m tired of it. One young Lieutenant in my office is worked to the bone. I actually feel the scope of my responsibilities and performance outstrip what I am paid. But that’s not really why I want more money. I want to make more money so I don’t have to worry everyday. I want to make more money so I can concentrate on my job. Plus I’d like to have some energy to enjoy my off-time. Right now my time off is spent just as a starving man spends his time when he finds a pile of food: He gorges himself on what he’s lacked for so long. For me, I’ve lacked significant decompression time. So I do none of the things I used to do. When I first arrived at my unit, I experienced severe burnout, the likes of which I have never felt in my life. I lost all interest in reading the news, in politics, in anything to do with the Army. I’d just returned from Afghanistan a few months prior, and moving to Hawaii added a huge amount of stress. A person is expected to perform flawlessly when they show up to a new unit. I’ve never seen it work that way, though. And I work at one of the busiest units I have ever seen. So many of the people around me are burned out. Many officers want to leave the Army, an unusual phenomena as from my experience officers are usually happy-go-lucky, All Army types. Lifers, so to speak.
I get my first look at E7 in June of next year. But the centralized board promotion system for senior NCOs often seems like a crap shoot. E7 would be a significant pay increase. I hope I make it, though maybe that rank is too much for me based on my time in the Army. In any case, some say that the minute money is the reason for being a Soldier, it’s time to leave. Not sure I agree, but I understand the point.
At this point, the military is taking more from me than I feel I’m getting. I need for freedom and flexibility, not only more money. At the 8 week school from where I just returned, I need to do “risk assessment” paperwork and send it up through the chain of command, just so I could go hiking on the mountain trails a few miles away from my barracks. Supervisors everywhere in the Army need to inspect Soldiers’ cars before every long weekend, filling out paperwork to document the inspection. I need to do online training and fill out paperwork just to drive beyond a certain distance from my post. That’s not freedom to me.
Military discipline is enforced first and foremost by the employment of fear. This, too, takes a toll. One grows weary of worrying about walking on the grass, having his hair touching his ears, or being one minute late to a formation. And in the Army, these things take precedence over many important skills that a Soldier may have.
For the readers of my blog who don’t know, less than a week ago I changed my duty to station to Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii, from Fort Drum. And thank goodness for that. My morale has already doubled based on the weather improvements alone. More on Hawaii later.
Yesterday I took part in my unit’s inprocessing with a large group of new people. One female Staff Sergeant told me she was just coming off recruiting duty in the San Francisco area. I asked her if that was a particularly tough area to recruit in, given the high salaries common there, the average education levels and the lack of historic military culture. She assured me that it was indeed difficult to recruit, particularly given the Army’s cutbacks in which the standards for recruitment are higher than they were the two wars were raging.
Shocking to me, she said that sometimes people with Master’s degrees and teachers would fail the ASVAB test. The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. The test was designed to help the Army fit people to the right jobs, as well as predict who will perform well.
I used to be skeptical of the ASVAB and intelligence tests in general. While I do think it’s impossible to design a test that can judge every facet of a person’s abilities, what with the mysterious chemistry of social skills, psychology and raw computational power, as well as the new aspects being studied concerning intelligence, such as fast thinking and slow thinking, my experience has shown that the ASVAB is indeed an adequate predictor of a person’s potential. I first noticed this at the NCO academy where some with low GT score really struggled with even basic concepts. There are of course exceptions, and I’ve seen those, too. GT is General Technical; a subcategory in the ASVAB and generally considered the most important aspect of the test. A GT score of 110 or higher will enable a person to work in almost any job in the Army, minus the ones that require extensive technical training such as surgeons and some higher sciences in R+D; those jobs require higher degrees. The GT highly correlates with IQ, but much of the ASVAB measures “crystalized intelligence”; raw knowledge that does not necessarily require logic to recall. The ASVAB was sited in Charles Murray’s controversial book, “The Bell Curve”, in which he contends that the ASVAB does an adequate job of measuring intelligence and thus performance.
The Army put a lot of research into the ASVAB. Studies show that just as with IQ, people with higher ASVAB scores are more successful in their job. Again, my experience in my own office at Fort Drum showed this to be the case.
The ASVAB score is based on a percentile of the population that took the test. If a person scores an 80 on the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test ; the raw score on the ASVAB), this means that he performed better than 80 percent of the people who took the rest. The Army’s minimum standard for passing is a 31, which is pretty abysmal. When I was at the Army’s Intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, there were some people with very high ASVAB scores in my class. We had about 60 people and two people scored a 99 on the test. I scored a 94 with a 133 GT, which placed me third in my class. I think I would have done slightly better if I had just come out of college like those two other guys did as it had been well over a decade since I took regular standardized tests of much importance. I struggled to remember how to solve some of the higher math problems, problems I hadn’t worked on since high school. But there’s no question those guys were bright.
For someone with a Master’s degree or a teacher to fail the ASVAB is to me, frightening. It may not be easy to do extremely well on the test, but it seems almost impossible to fail if one can read. My question is, how is this possible? Have any readers met people with education that are this incompetent?
[T]he regime of diversions, surrogates, and tranquilizers that pass for today’s ‘distractions’ and ‘amusements’ does not yet allow the modern woman to foresee the crisis that awaits her when she recognizes how meaningless are those male occupations for which she has fought, when the illusions and the euphoria of her conquests vanish, and when she realizes that, given the climate of dissolution, family and children can no longer give her a sense of satisfaction in life. ~Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger
I miss men. I miss my grandfather. He was a man. And he wasn’t sorry for being a man. He was never told to be sorry for being a man, or acting like one. He never pondered the “social constructs” of gender. He liked Lawrence Welk, Archie Bunker, knives, guns, boxing. He welded for a living. He wore flannel. He killed animals and ate them, fed them to his family. He didn’t pop his collar. He used Lava soap to rip the grease off his hands after doing the work men did. For him and his generation, life was not a sterile, over-analyzed bore.
Safety killed us. Such are the heights of the giants’ shoulders we stand on, such were their labors, such were their sacrifices, we were made too safe, too comfortable. We came to hate our betters, just as the Helots hated their Spartan masters. And so we dived into every fantasy, every unrealism, believing the opposite of reality as a sort of revolt. We became lazy, ungrateful. We enjoyed the nectar of being critical, and so criticized to disintegration those who made our free nation: Men.
Women didn’t freeze to death at Valley Forge, storm Normandy, they didn’t rot in Hanoi. And they never will, because the current “integration” of our military is theater and a power grab. It’s playing doctor, cowboys and Indians at the expense of us all. The people who want women in military combat arms know woman can’t actually do what men can do, but they enjoy seeing men cringe and squirm over such excesses. Of course, women won’t pour into such billets, because they are difficult, though even when they end up there, they still won’t find it as difficult as do men, because men will treat them better than they do other men. And the feminized bureaucracy will ensure they have it easier, national defense be damned.
The United States Marines require that men do 20 pullups in order score the maximum points on their physical fitness test. Women are required to do exactly zero. How’s that for egalitarianism? The Marine Corps tested 318 female Marines, and found that on average, they could do 1.6 pullups. Yet, when I last tested myself at 39 years old, I could do 20 pullups. Many classically male jobs, such as firefighting and police work have distinctly different physical qualifications for women than men. Women do not have to register for the draft, but of course their inferiors–men–do.
The way we fight war itself has become feminized. We treat our enemies like the single mom treats her kids: We try to buy them stuff until they quit throwing temper tantrums. We don’t win wars any more. The trade schools are considered a sub-par option for those not worthy or capable of the “higher” intellectual pursuits of gender studies. No thought is given by these elite snobs as to who builds their cars, roads, laptops and latte machines.
In a strikingly Nietzschean world, Slave Morality reigns, the Spartans now serve the Helots. As Nietzsche states, Slave Morality originates in the weak and is deployed by the weak as a weapon against the strong. It is not necessarily drawn as a weapon of righteousness; it’s usually the sword of resentment. Slave Morality–Feminism–does not seek the impossible, that is, to make men and women equal in all things. Instead, it seeks to neuter men and weigh them down with a lodestone that will ensure men cannot surpass women in any meaningful way. The Helots now rule the Spartans. The feminists used the tactic commonly employed by children on mothers in order to get what they do not deserve: Whining.
The false notion that sexual assault is rampant in our military was predictably seized by the Left, who lose sleep nightly over racial and gender issues. The number of sexual assault reports in the military this year is up 50% this year, after it became fashionable to be raped. Ignored are studies that show over 40% of rape allegations are false [Kanin, 1994].
Everywhere we look, from our earliest days to our last, we see the philosophy of woman. Television shows, movies, politics, almost all of it aimed at women’s tastes. This is not to say that the feminine, the womanly, or motherhood are bad things, indeed they are good things, but so are classically manly traits. Yet our entire cultural system is bent on making boys more like girls. They must be sensitive, they must sit still, they must not joust. The NFL now celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness by allowing players to wear pink football gear during allotted games. Men must be made aware of female supremacy, that we are being watched, monitored controlled, at all times. Even during our classically male moments, such as playing football. What is the male color by the way? Do we have a color? I’m not sure. I’m trying to imagine Dick Butkus or Mike Ditka in pink. It’s not working for me. But of course, there are no women in the National Football League, but Americans actually care about their team winning football games, unlike winning wars. We’ve become an unserious country, rolling toward the glue factory.
Oprah decides the fate of nations. One study found that Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Obama resulted in an additional one million votes. She tells women to go their own way, that they can do anything men can do. Can they? Should they? At the core of the modern feminist movement and others Leftist movements like it, is the the use of pity as a weapon. Pity is used to relieve people of the duties of a Natural Law they despise. Pity is used to escape the carrying out of some people’s duties, to gain power over those susceptible to pity’s draw. It is a perverse utilization of a subtle Christian ethic, taking advantage of those who lack street wisdom. Pity has its place, but it can also be misused. We need not agree with everything Nietzsche had to say, just as Nietzsche did not agree with everything that his mentors, Arthur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner said. This does not mean we cannot glean truth from some of Nietzsche’s writings. The cult of pity, and the misuse of pity as a sordid sentiment has resulted in an American military that is barely functional. First, an army draws its soldiers from a population organic to its nation, thus, it can suffer from many of flaws endemic to that nation. I have a ground-level view of those flaws as an NCO in the Army. The call for pity is the default setting for many soldiers wishing to avoid Duty. I’m not averse to having pity on those that deserve it, but I regard those who attempt to avoid Duty by feigning weakness (or the belief that feeling any discomfort at all means that something is “wrong”) as thieves. They are trying to steal something to which they have no right. They long for victim-hood and all its benefits. This perverse inverse of traditional values for women began with perhaps its most troubling aspect: Its loathing of motherhood, of parenting, of homemaking, as if being a housewife were tantamount to slavery. from this root grew the withered tree of cultural demise. As the German philosopher Oswald Spengler wrote,
“When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard ‘having children’ as a question of pro’s and con’s, the great turning point has come.”
A proto-feminist, upon reading my concerns of birthrates and modern attitudes toward motherhood, quipped that she did not feel it necessary to reproduce merely to prop up her society. But she misunderstood. The mere fact that she and the rest of the West has asked the question: “Are children worth it?”, means that the fatal seed is already planted and even blooming. Such a question is like asking, “is eating worth it?”, “is the sun rising worth it?”. So, if Spengler was correct, we are already dying. When motherhood becomes tantamount to dishonor, count your nation as dead and rotting. The perverse inverse continues in its paradoxical reinvention of what is feminine. Oddly, it is now feminine to be masculine, yet masculinity when practiced by men is demonized. This can only equate to men being deemed as bad. Again paradoxically, the feminist disapproval of motherhood has led to even more doting over children, who are not allowed to take risks common to children of even 15 years ago. We now give “timeouts”, as opposed to concrete discipline. Can youn imagine a child being sent to bed without Doritos, err, dinner nowadays? The typical male response of men from my grandfather’s age was “toughen up”, and parents were not seen as human entertainment machines. It was well established that doting over children ruined them, that even picking them up too often could damage them. Whining and pouting earned a trip to their room, excommunicated for conduct unbecoming. Now such behavior earns more soda and candy. The hours spent outdoors by young people in past years is now replaced by hours on a couch. So spoiled are many of today’s children, that nothing can sate their appetites, nothing can satisfy, nothing can make them content for more than 30 minutes. Such are the wages of overindulgence and the absence of the classic male response to unjust complaints: Toughen up. We have made children into anti-stoics, the opposite of the Buddhist ideal of the Middle Path.
But perhaps the feminists have overplayed their hand. There is a surge of male unrest, a revolt against the metro-sexual ideal of the sedate, passive man willing to serve his time as house Helot. Some men have realized they don’t want participation trophies, as they have no transcendental meaning, no value. A man’s inner longings are often about value, giving life meaning, about the fact that the things that are earned through pain and blood are the things most valued in life. Some men like emerging from an athletic game, tired, bloodied. In the feminine society, there is something wrong with this. In the man’s world of old, pain was viewed as the refiner’s fire, moving men beyond the materialism so prevalent today. To those men, life is not about smart phone apps, the latest fashion, a perfectly comfortable life, Doritos, Starbucks, Oprah, GLAAD, strippers, drugs, Obamacare, or Miley Cyrus. For some, life is about the transcendental state that can only be achieved by doing what is difficult. The feminized society tried to make war safe, against Sherman’s warnings.
I think Camille Paglia is right. What we’re seeing is the decline of our civilization, but no one wants to move to do anything, because as with the Methamphetamine addict whose body withers and erupts with boils as death approaches, the pleasure felt during our death is too great. Even those who secretly see the problems at hand are embarrassed to contradict the herd. They are not sufficiently convinced by their own convictions, the modern culture has shamed them into submission. But as for me, count me as Riding the Tiger, the good Roman soldier who stood at his post fulfilling his Duty even as Vesuvius erupted and slew him.
“We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.” `~Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics
It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. ~William of Occam
In an age of drastic military cuts set against a background of international instability and conflict, a sane person could be excused for thinking the US Army would have to cut out as much nonsense as possible in order to assure it fulfill its central role: winning wars.
Instead the Army has upped its impressive resume for pettiness. Big Brother is watching, not just the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but our own Soldiers. “Courtesy Patrols” skulk the halls of PXs and commissaries, ready to pounce on the heretics who’d dare talk on a cell phone while walking. Soldiers at some posts are assigned the duty of policing for small violation of regulations on Army posts. The title “Courtesy Patrol” is an interesting manipulation of language, a key aspect of all authoritarian regimes, and reminiscent of Orwell’s observation that “pacification” is a term used when the military bombs a village. Courtesy. The Army is doing Soldiers a favor. Honest. These courtesy patrols even keep their eyes peeled for the exposed underwear of Army spouses. Who could make this stuff up?
There’s a problem, though. No one cares except the Commissars.
As a cop, I learned that enforcing laws with no moral force earns not only scorn for the law, but scorn for the enforcers of those laws. Rules concerning walking whilst talking on cell phones hold no moral force. None. Nada. Zilch. Want Soldiers to hate the Army (many do), just institute and enforce regulations that hold no moral force. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stated, morality is above the law, always. If murder were legal, murder would still be wrong, just as lying is now legal but wrong under most circumstances. The US Army’s Commissars believe they are maintaining discipline with small rules, controlling every aspect of a Soldier’s life. In truth the Commissars are merely bored. The Long War is now short. The Commissars have to hurry to ensure their careers have meaning. After two COIN debacles, the idea that senior Army officials will now have to sit virtually inert signing leave forms is driving these Type A personalities bonkers. So it’s now to making petty rules, to make sure every Soldier knows the importance of the Commissars. Reflective belts, cell phone rules, mustache regs, the, the power!! Lost to the authoritarians in the Army is that we suck at fighting. For the billions of dollars spent on the Long War, barely an American benefited. A witch’s brew of multicultural nonsense and bad strategy, Americans got robbed. Making petty rules is easy, winning wars is tough. Any high school student can make up inane rules and assign them arbitrary relation to “discipline.” It takes real genius to win wars. Real discipline is bravery. Fake discipline is rote memorization. Now, I know some will excuse this as all part of military rigor. Nope. There’s a historic term for this BS. It’s called Mickey Mouse, an old military pejorative.
The Free Online Dictionary defines as the slang use of Mickey Mouse as:
Soldiers are crushed under a mountain of petty regulation that have nothing to do with the reasons armies exist and nothing to do with the reason people join the Army. Entire days and weeks are spent completing “online training”, surveys, and certifications. Staff Soldiers often have no time to train skills fundamental to fighting modern wars, such as using radios. We are well on our way to a Hollow Force, a military in which blocks are checked but can’t win wars. The Hollow Force will be great at wasting Americans money, allowing its citizens to be killed, and conducting meetings in which Mickey Mouse and the Commissars can share ideas on how to enforce discipline. Count me out.
Instead, the Commissars and Authoritarians would be better off taking advantage of the odd psychological aspects of victims of Stockholm Syndrome. People under the influence of Stockholm Syndrome come to worship their captors should they be allowed the most basic of human necessity. Merely being allowed to use a toilet is interpreted as god-like righteousness on the part of terrorists. Cutting out the petty regulations in the Army would probably result in an increase in morale more than commensurate with the actual impact on daily life. Moreover, many good Soldiers would gain respect for an an organization that realizes rules and laws should have something to do with morality, and in the Army, winning wars is moral. The military’s rules are bound by Natural Law, just as are all good rules. No matter how some try, they cannot find true outrage at those walking and talking on cell phones. Yet they will still fight and die for the American way of life. Like a fat Soldier, the Army is carrying too much flesh, so much so that it’s hindering the mission. Cut the fat, and by fat this isn’t just concerning budgets.
The Wikipedia entry on the Authoritarian Personality notes:
Alfred Adler provided another perspective, linking the “will to power over others” as a central neurotic trait, usually emerging as aggressive over-compensation for felt and dreaded feelings of inferiority and insignificance. According to this view, the authoritarian’s need to maintain control and prove superiority over others is rooted in a worldview populated by enemies and empty of equality, empathy, and mutual benefit.
Note to the Commissars: Our Founding Fathers were anti-authoritarian. Read some Thomas Jefferson and put down AR 670-1 for a few hours. The Army defends the foundation upon which our country stands, not 670-1.
We are becoming an Army of Martinets, not the Spartans of Thermopylae that so many military people adore. So, think, are we upholding our Western values in our own Army? The epigram, placed upon the grave of the Spartans that saved Western Civilization, read:
Stranger, bear this message to the Spartans,
that we lie here obedient to their laws.
What laws did they speak of? The eternal laws, Natural Law, that great men fight and die for foundational values, not minutiae that only small minds find important. I’d first have that every Soldiers carry a copy of Sun Zsu’s Art of War and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense before AR 670-1. Freedom is the reason the Army exists.
Today I feel better than usual. Today I realized something about myself, saw what I am more clearly than I have ever before seen myself; I am an introvert.
I’m fairly skilled at hiding the fact that I’m an introvert, and all but my closest friends, and my wife, would likely be surprised by this revelation. In fact, I’m so adept at hiding my own introversion, that the discovery even shocks me.
By introvert, I do not necessarily mean that I cannot be around people, only that being forced to engage with people whom I do not completely trust is a painful, exhausting ordeal. This sort of engagement condemns me to interact when I would prefer to disengage.
I discovered this fact about myself while examining the cause for my discomfort in the Army. I do well at everything the Army asks me to do, but I never feel comfortable. Hardly ever a day of peace. Then it came to me, as if on the Damascus Road. The Army celebrates extroversion almost as much as a Gay Pride parade. Not only are the top NCOs extreme extroverts, but introverts are actually quite severely punished. I’ve seen NCOs relieved of duty for not yelling at soldiers. NCOs are expected to scream and rant and rave. They are supposed to have strong personalities. That’s ‘leadership.” Believe me, it takes an extreme extrovert to eyeball a complete stranger from across the street and yell at him for not wearing his patrol cap correctly.
From the very first day in the Army, I have felt a deep sense of discomfort, bordering on manic unhappiness. It began in Basic training when I was forced to lodge with dozens of other people, in very close quarters. Again, in everything I excelled. I was voted the best soldier in my platoon in Basic, Soldier of the Year at my previous unit. In AIT, a school that teaches soldiers their specific jobs right after Basic, I spent my weekends almost completely alone. I felt euphoria finally being able to experience solitude. Almost all the other soldiers would hang out together, but not me. I literally just wanted to go somewhere and read a book. I would go to restaurants, and read while eating my meal. If I saw someone I knew, I would turn and avoid them, afraid they would ask me to do something with them, which would take away from my time alone.
I hate Army “formations” in which soldiers are told to gather daily. Hate them with a passion.
One of the most euphoric feelings I recall in my entire life is my first day in Germany, after graduating Army AIT. The Army provided me with a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany. Finally, I was a lone.
Looking back, I realize that almost all of my problems as a child in school were the result of being an introvert. The other kids seemed so open and desired to be with the group. I didn’t enjoy feeling like an outsider, but I didn’t particularly enjoy extroverts either. I did not feel comfortable in school until college, when I was finally given the power to run my own life. I could choose when and where to interact with people. The Army took away much of my power to be alone.
When I was a young man, one of my good friends said to me, “You’re the biggest loner I know.”
I’m sure he was being truthful; I’m the biggest loner I know, too. Characteristic of an introvert, boredom is never a problem for me. I am almost never bored. German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, an arch-introvert, said that introverts are rarely bored because they gain pleasure from an intellectual world, whereas extroverts gain pleasure more from the external, and more temporal, world. I am constantly amazed by some of the people I work with. They will complain about their work, and the moment they get a chance to relax, they say they are bored.
“That I could clamber to the frozen moon. And draw the ladder after me.”~Arthur Schopenhauer
I am never bored. And I am almost never lonely. The things that make me feel lonely are being away from the people whom I love dearly. But I do not need to be around people with whom I have only passing relationships. I work with many people who cannot do anything unless they are doing it with someone else.
Schopenhauer pointed out another characteristic that he had and shares with me, and is apparently an almost universal aspect of the introvert: Hatred of noise. He said that all his life noise bothered him significantly, and on one occasion, his weakness got him into trouble when he physically assaulted a woman in his apartment building whom he claimed was a chronic noise-maker. He was forced to pay her money from a lawsuit for the rest of her life. So while the introvert has significant advantages in certain areas, such as an ability to think deeply, lack of boredom, maintaining long-term friendships, and very creative, they are easily distracted by the outside world, do not maintain a “network” of people that can help them, and may come off as cranky. So easily distracted am I by other people, that I must do all of my writing and thinking in complete solitude, or I must have a drink of beer, which seems to dull the effects of external stimulation and allows me to remain in my own mind and continue writing amid possible distractions. . At work, I must sometimes shut myself in a room, telling my Captain that I need him to use his rank to keep people from bothering me, while I read intelligence reports and make sense of things.
At times I will return home from work feeling utterly exhausted, as if I had just run a marathon. I often ask myself what I have done that could have made me so tired that I do not do on my days off from work. The answer is that I interact with large amounts of people. I do not want to come across as someone that is a crank all day, though I find myself being more so than when I was younger. Only that my exhaustion is from trying to act like the extrovert I am not. Oddly, I feel dumber when I am with people I know only at a surface level. My instinct is to speak like them, to think like them, so as not to offend. Yet in my inner-most being, I almost never think like them and feel ashamed to tell most people the things I think about: Philosophies, metaphysics, religion, demographics, grand-strategies. All near useless trivia, really. This facade is draining and debilitating.
I have just today, come to grips with what I am and what has caused me so much pain throughout my life. I am fine with it. I know now that I don’t have to appear gregarious if the mood doesn’t strike me. That being quiet is ok. I know that some may doubt my claim to introversion, being that I say some things on this blog and in other writings that may shock some. But I read that introverts are more likely to be intimate online, and I think it fair to say that many historic writers were notorious introverts, recluses, and hermits. All of these things bring to mind wisdom, and even in the age of the extrovert, they are something to hold dear.
There are people in this world that I look forward to speaking to often and I am lonely without. Nothing can replace the smiles of my children. But other than that, I rather look forward to being the old hermit on the top of the mountain, surviving on his own, beholden to none, just thinking, thinking….
A recent incident of friendly fire in which German troops killed Afghan troops riding in unmarked trucks highlights the problems in fighting this war.
How many insurgents did US Marines kill in the Marja invasion? No one knows, it’s classified. But every friendly fire incident or errant Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone will be reported with excruciating precision.
The primary thing we stand to lose is national prestige, and every friendly fire incident and civilian death chips away at American hegemony. If we win, well shouldn’t a superpower beat a group of illiterate, rag-tag geurillas? If we lose–perish the thought–every backwater despot will want a chance to strut his stuff on the world’s stage.
We should make public enemy body counts. Since Vietnam, the United States has made it policy that it not release body count numbers. As General Tommy Franks stated: “We don’t do body counts.”
I believe it’s time we did release body counts. Americans need to see why our Soldiers are dying, even if it’s only to show that we’re at least making others pay for killing us. Moreover, America needs to show who is actually killing the most civilians. In Iraq for instance, al-Qaeda killed civilians by the thousands, every year of the war. And yet we allowed some in the media and many activists to run with the numbers when it came to civilian deaths. They spun the story to read that America actually killed those innocents. America’s fault was that of failing to exert enough power, not of exerting too much power. And for that catastrophic mistake, we reaped the whirlwind. We tried a quarterback kneel with more than two minutes left in the game, then fumbled and watched our opponent run the ball back for a TD to tie the game. Slapped awake, we sent thousands more troops in clamped down on lawlessness, something we would have done as second nature fifty years prior.
There is of course, no option but victory. The resentful leftists who hoped America would fail in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been discredited. The best way to silence any criticism is to win. Please see how the citizens of Paris reacted when the Nazi goose-stepped through the Arc de Triomphe.
There’s a disturbing and short sighted trend in modern thinking: That human behavior is spawned and exists in a vacuum. That an activity has no effect on other activities. That there is neither an Alpha nor an Omega.
Earlier this year, retired Marine Corps general John Sheehan testified before Congress that he believed the liberalization of the armed forces would result in the decline of its ability to fight.
Democrat Representative Carl Levin of Michigan hits Sheehan with predictable and very modern arguments. They are all prefixed with: What if? What if it can be shown that there is no decline in our military’s ability to fight, should gays be allowed to openly serve? Of course we must also ask: What if it can be shown that our ability to fight is mitigated by allowing open gays in?
Levin of course believes that serving in the military is a right. I should like to see some of the things that are done in the military–all for the cause of maintaining good order and discipline–enacted on say, workers at a local supermarket. Maybe the shift supervisor can come and inspect their apartment at any time (1st Sergeants can inspect barracks and housing). Maybe they have to do pushups as punishment for breaking some eggs while stocking the shelves (It’s called CAPE–Corrective Action Physical Exercise and it can be used for small lapses in attention to detail). Perhaps we can force them to work five additional hours per night because they were arrested for DUI two months ago and after a short hearing, the boss decided this was proper punishment. After an article 15 is issued to a Soldier, he can be required to perform “extra duty” for several weeks, this includes weekends, and usually amounts to picking cigarette butts out of the cracks in parking lots, sweeping and mopping floors, mowing lawns and other menial though tiring work.
In Sheehan’s testimony he speaks of some of the things European armies did in order to make the military “fair.” The Dutch brought in unions and allowed gays to serve. Other European Armies did similar things. Germans of college age must choose between community service or 9 months of military service. All of this has served to water down the martial atmosphere that warriors throughout all ages cultivated. Rights of passage, ceremonies, formations, marching, uniforms, all serve to remind each Soldier of his sacred heritage. Aside from the British, most European armies amount to police units, barely trained for peace keeping missions and lacking the public spine any army needs to fight without quitting. The Dutch recently decided it was time to quit in Afghanistan and voted to remove its 2000 representative NATO troops. Even the Israelis seem to be faltering. I recently read an article about the lax dress code for female Israeli soldiers. One Israeli female openly admitted that American troops are much more professional than their Israeli counterparts. Recent engagements with Hamas and Hezbollah may be the harbinger of future problems that Israel faces. Gays serving openly, civilian like attire and mandatory service, in Israel’s case, are as much because of a severe lack in manpower, as because of a movement to liberalize the military. The imminent danger that Israel faces daily may well prevent a complete softening. But Europe and America no longer have the Soviets to keep them honest. Fantasies about what the military ought to be are allowed to grow because harsh reality no longer keep the dream in check.
Back to the idea that individual behavior and habits exist in a vacuum. I saw how wrong this type of thinking was when I was a police officer. For instance, I could be driving down a particularly crime-ridden street while on duty. I may see someone wearing a particular type of clothing, talking with a known criminal, listening to hard-core Rap, while he smoked a cigarette. Perhaps he stares too long as I drive by. Perhaps he glances away too quickly. He’s got a tatoo on his neck, too.
After almost a decade of police work, I’d have been suspicious of the above-described person. Were any of his activities illegal? No. Taken separately and philosophically sifted, there isn’t a problem. But my brain, after having dealt with hundreds, if not thousands of criminal types, tells me that this is someone I at least ought to look out for in the future. As much as I may have rebuked myself for “profiling”, my brain just wouldn’t ignore the patterns that reality offered.
But studies show that individual traits do reveal a greater whole. Tattoos and body-piercing are highly correlated with risky and illegal behavior in teenagers. So is smoking, which made my Spidey-Sense tingle on any car stop. Smoking a cigarette while driving at night indicates a higher chance of a drunk driver. Did I arrest the guy for puffing his Marlborough? Nope. But I looked for indicators of drunk driving. My instincts would begin to place the puzzle together before my higher brain could react. Oh yeah. The military has rules concerning tattoos, too.
So does homosexuality mean someone can’t function in the military? No. But it does correlate with many other types of risky behavior, and behaviors that are detrimental to a martial spirit. It’s difficult to separate the homosexual from the complete paradigm that is that lifestyle. Liberals will call them stereotypes. I’ll call them stereotypes that I think are true. With homosexuality comes a whole truck load of problems, not just a regular guy who prefers to have sex with other men. This is not an essay about the causes of homosexuality. But I will say that we are incredibly complex creatures. To imply that upbringing, genetics, luck, or choice are individually and solely responsible for who we are is intellectually dishonest.
There are always the exceptions to the rule. Every rule. But we should not ignore the rule for the exception. The military is not a place for social experimentation, activism or just a place to find work. But neither is it close minded. The military was the first American institution to desegregate, for instance. I have nothing against working at a regular, civilian job with gay people. While I find their lifestyle abhorrent, I fully recognize their constitutional right to engage in it and I am sworn to defend their right to do so. But I need not endorse it. And the Army has no obligation to accept all things as being equal, especially when they’re demonstrably not equal. Should this administration remove DADT, it will be as much a symptom of the problems our military faces as it will be a cause. Our mind-set will have changed. We will have become as the Europeans: Striving to make all things equal while forgetting that each organ serves a particular function. Kidneys don’t make good hearts.
Concerned about spiking numbers of suicides, depressed soldiers and soldiers with PTSD, the Army is instituting a new mental toughness program based on the Positive Psychology methods used by many sports and performance psychologists.
Positive psychology seeks to focus on the things that people do right in their thinking, as opposed to just focusing on psychological disease. In other words, how do successful people and people who resist depression think?
The program will be taught to 1700 sergeants who will be responsible for training more the 1 million soldiers.
I truly believe this could work, but I’m not sure it will. Why? The Army’s culture seems set in stone. Touchy-feely programs such as this will probably cause many to reject it. I know from experience that meditation works. But I can’t imagine most people I work with using it. It’s one of the major disappointments I’ve had in the Army; a lack of mental flexibility by many.
Today I took my “record” APFT. (Army Physical Fitness Test.) This test was particularly important to me, because if I scored in the 90th percentile in all three events (push-ups, sit-ups and two-mile run) I would be able to do physical training on my own as opposed to doing it every morning with the company.
It was a rainy morning, somewhat cool. The first event is always pushups, at which I excel. I had questions about the run, because I really hadn’t timed myself in a two mile event for a couple of months.
The pushups went great. In two minutes I did 98. My goal was 100, and I’d tested myself on Saturday and was able to get 100, but the body has different capabilities on different days and at different times. 98 was way above 100th percentile for my age, though.
Next was the situps. When you do 98 push-ups, you really have to engage your midsection at the end. Your hip flexors and abs get a workout, so they were already fatigued. Plus, the ground was muddy and the person holding my feet had a tough time holding them down. I did 74, which was the least I’d done in my last 5 PT tests. It was in the 98th percentile, but I felt a little let down because my string of perfect scores was broken.
So next was the run. For most people, it’s the most dreaded portion of the APFT, mostly because it lasts the longest. No matter how good a runner you are, running your hardest for two miles hurts.
I finished the run in 12:24. Well over 100 percentile.
But I hate second place. Not as much as last place (unless there’s only two competitors), but it bugs me. Yesterday, I finished second on Soldier of the Month Board. I lost to someone who’s been in the Army for almost six years. Still. Two days in a row of second place doesn’t suit me.