Updated on June 27, 2017
What’s Going On With Senior Army Leadership?
Throughout history, general officers have had a lot of responsibilities. They were from the elite class and were considered to be the gentlemen of the military. Until the latter part of the American Revolution generals were considered sacrosanct and were not targeted by enemy troops. Not much has changed over the past few centuries except a transition from European-style linear warfare to American-style total warfare. Generals have special court martial authority. They have virtual dictatorial control over the troops and land they command. They are treated like kings with their own chefs, drivers, and privileges. They make the laws that govern their units and the bases they command. They are the legislative, judicial, and executive branch of the military. A general officer letter of reprimand is a career killer and often used when non-judicial or criminal punishment isn’t possible since it cannot be challenged.
In the past few years, a growing number of generals are finding themselves in hot water. The same people that are responsible for discipline and good order are forgetting what that means in their own spheres. There aren’t a lot of generals in the Army – about 231. So, when a general gets in trouble, it’s a big deal. Generals demand accountability. When subordinate officers make a mistake, they are expected to own up to it and take responsibility for their actions. Even innocent mistakes that anyone would have made could ruin an officer’s career. While their careers are ruined in public, generals have the details of their discipline and accusations largely hidden from public scrutiny for fear of it reducing confidence in the corps.
So, I was a little surprised when I read Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby’s excuse for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate captain.
“I do not want to make any excuses, but you can see from my record that I have been deployed [eight] times for a total of [six and a half] years — practically every other year since 9/11,” Grigsby wrote in his response to the April memorandum of reprimand that sealed his fate. “Due in large part to this frenetic schedule, I have been struggling with my family situation for a while, attempting to balance a military career and be the husband, father and grandfather I desired to be and what my family reasonably expected from me.”
Can you imagine what the General’s response would have been if an enlisted soldier, NCO, or junior officer was standing before his desk and used the excuse, “my deployments made me do it!?” He’d have the book thrown at him.
When I was in Afghanistan, there was a similar incident with a general on Kandahar Airfield where I was based. I had briefed BG Jeffrey Sinclair on several occasions and even had to stand before him when that disgraced former blogger who shall not be named filed baseless accusations against me and attempted to disrupt our mission. Here’s a man that was judging me while he himself was doing far worse than I was even accused of doing. But, he was allowed to keep his rank, his pay, and didn’t serve any jail time.
A news release by the Fort Bragg Public Affairs Office listed the charges presented against Sinclair as including “forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, attempted violation of an order, violations of regulations by wrongfully engaging in inappropriate relationships and misusing a government travel charge card, violating general orders by possessing alcohol and pornography while deployed, maltreatment of subordinates, filing fraudulent claims, engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman and engaging in conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
In 2015, a Major General was reprimanded for steering defense contracts to his friends. Brigadier General Bobeck was removed from command last year and remains under investigation for a similar reason in addition to an extramarital affair.
Military discipline begins at the top. The top needs to pick itself up by its bootstraps and do some self-evaluation. The last thing it needs to do is start excusing bad behavior due to “optempo.” Generals have it easy in combat theaters. They have amazing billets, delicious food, priority travel (including their own helicopters), and don’t have to generally worry about being shot at. I would take a general officer’s optempo with the perks that come along with it any day over the optempo and lifestyle of the average grunt.