Important, if true...

That phrase has resonated with me since I first read it (on Cass' blog, if I recall correctly), because it prepares the field for an important point about the internet.  We are bombarded with facts and factoids daily, some of which are accurate others... well, let's just say that they may be true, from a certain point of view (ala Obi Wan Kenobi).  I.e. it's a lie.  But if something we read ends up being true, then it can be very important.  If it is untrue, then at best it's an object lesson about believing everything you read.

In this particular case, if it's true, then it represents a corruption of military culture and the chain-of-command on a level I have never seen since the day I raised my right hand and swore my first oath.

Some of the "revalations" in this article are not new, and the fact that the BG in charge of the PAO denied them flatly without comment speaks of either his not knowing he was told an untruth to pass along, or his knowing complicity in spreading a lie.  We know (from previous articles) that the female soldiers were given multiple attempts to pass certain phases that male soldiers were not allowed more than one try at.  We know that some of them were recycled at least once (and yet, they're denying now that it occured).  But those are honestly not that big a deal to me.  If they failed a section once, it is true that a male would be washed out with no allowance for a recycle.  But the fact that they eventually passed would indicate that they had the potential to pass, and so would not be a hindrance to operations or their fellow Rangers.  It's still a little problematic, because part of the challenge of Ranger School is "you get one shot at it" and a test for which you've never attempted before is more difficult than one you get to take over and over again.  It's a leg up, for sure.

The two revelations that are startling to me, and important, if true, are that they were allowed to see the land nav course ahead of time, and the fact that it appears (whether it was the Major General's intention or not) that undue command influence is the only reason the two female graduates ever passed the patrol phase.  Let me explain.

Land Navigation is one of the key tasks a soldier in the field must master.  It is a requirement to pass in order to become an NCO (or at least it was when I attended the Primary Leadership Development Course, aka "Sergeant's School").  The fact that any officer apparently needs to be "retrained" on land nav is shameful (and probably also the source of the old saw about the most dangerous thing in the Army being a Lieutenant with a map).  And one of the key tests to evaluate if the soldier can master this difficult skill is going into the test cold.  All you have to guide you is a set of coordinates for multiple objective points (which you must correctly identify on a topographical map), your own starting position (which you must likewise correctly find on the map) and a compass to determine bearings to the target.  You then must navigate on foot from point to point, and record a word or phrase on a sign at that particular point.  There are false points on the course as well, so "lucking into it" is not really much of an option.  It sounds simple, just follow course X for distance Y and you're there.  The problem is, keeping a straight bearing on uneven and difficult terrain is hardly simple, and measuring distance with nothing more than a good estimate of how many paces it takes you personally to cover 100m to guide you is problematic as well.  However.  If you've seen the course beforehand, even if you don't remember the words on the signs (it's NOT changed between tests, from what I can see given the apparent age of the signs and lettering on them when I took it), recognizing the area around a sign gives you a significant advantage over those who haven't seen the terrain and area before.  An unfair advantage.

The fact that these female soldiers were given an opportunity to practice land nav more than their male counterparts is only slightly concerning to me.  Yes, it's an advantage many of the male Ranger students weren't provided, but by the same token, most of them were coming from Infantry units where land nav is taught routinely as a soldier skill for their MOS.  So that's kind of a wash.  The real problem is that they were given access to the testing site.  That's cheating.

And as for the Major General in charge of the Ranger School showing up "coincidentally" on the day these female soldiers were taking their third or fourth attempt at patrols (ostensibly to "commemorate the 30 year anniversary of attending"... seriously?) and suddenly they pass.  Here's the thing.  Even IF we accept the MG's story that he only was there for such an "anniversary" (and that is a difficult story to swallow), the fact is it gives every appearance of pressuring the NCOs in charge of the school to pass these three female students who had failed patrols three or more times previously.  If indeed the MG just happened to show up during these tests by a quirk of fate, it does not absolve him from the fact that it gave the impression that these soldiers were just to be pushed through.

I am sure that there are women capable of passing Ranger School to the same standards as men.  I am also sure I am personally incapable of passing those same standards, and I was incapable even at my physical prime.  I do not pass any judgment on 1LT Griest and Haver.  Whether they were given a leg up or not, I could not (and never could) do what they did accomplish.  I'm sure they are fine soldiers who worked very hard to achieve what they did.  But I do absolutely condemn the actions of MG Miller, who at the very least should have better sense than to even give the appearance of undue command influence, but more likely should not put his political agenda ahead of soldier's lives.  For you see, I absolutely believe he was there for no reason other than to bully his cadre into passing soldiers they felt were not qualified to lead Rangers into battle.  At the most charitable read of his actions, he was stupid and probably caused his NCOs to pass soldiers who were unqualified (thus putting future lives at risk).  At the most sinister read, he's guilty of conspiracy to pass soldiers he knew to be unqualified, and then utilized the PAO to lie and cover up his duplicity.  If this is all true.


Grim said...

Nice -- I don't think a post of mine has ever overlapped with a co-blogger's on the same topic before. Obviously, this story is one that remains of great interest to us here.

MikeD said...

You are too kind. Co-blogger is not a title I'd have claimed. You let me post to the Hall, and that is more than honor enough. The story grips me, because it seems plausible, and I hold Susan Katz Keating in particular regard. I've no reason to question her integrity. Admittedly, I've got no knowledge of the Major General himself, nor prior to this article did I have cause to question his integrity. But his response is too curt and too aggressively personal than I'd expect out of a two star. "She lied" is a fine opening, General, but where's the rest of the refutation?

Her challenge is one of an honest reporter, "if you have nothing to hide, open the books." His challenge is one of silencing opposition, "you are a liar, and a poor journalist." Of the two, I know which sounds more like the one on the side of truth.

Grim said...

I'm not too kind. I greatly respect all of you whom I invite to write here. If I am primus inter pares in the literal sense -- I got here first, and established the space -- I take the "pares" part seriously.

MikeD said...

Last I checked, you've not hit us up for our share of the rent around here either. ;)

Grim said...

There is none to share. Google hosts Blogspot "for free," meaning that I assume we are subject to their study in some way. Hosting costs are covered, however.