I’ve spent about 15 years in the Army. I have to tell you that discipline in the Army isn’t what it once was. Even during my short military career, I’ve seen discipline decline steadily. Please know that I’m not saying there isn’t any discipline in the Army. There is. In fact, there are many great units and great Soldiers (probably 90% or more of all Soldiers and units).
But there is also a bunch of riff-raff in the Army ranks. Whenever the Army lowers its standards, we see lots of Soldiers enter the ranks who wouldn’t normally qualify for military service. In addition, many Basic Training Units are pressed to graduate a “high percentage” of their trainees. As a result, many “low quality” Soldiers slip through the cracks rather than getting weeded out right away.
Furthermore, many States (especially in the ARNG) have to retain as many Soldiers as they can, to meet the force structure requirements and keep their federal funding. Sometimes this prevents Small Unit Leaders from being able to separate or discharge unfit Soldiers. As a former Company Commander, I can attest to that.
During my 15 years in the Army, I’ve seen everything from:
- Soldiers not saluting their officers
- Soldiers talking to General Officers with their hands in their pants
- Soldiers intimidating their leaders
- Soldiers constantly late for formations
- Soldiers talking back to their leaders
- Soldiers constantly failing to meet standards, but never held accountable
- Soldiers wearing the uniform like they are back on the block
In some of these instances, the Soldiers were punished immediately. And in other cases, the leaders acted as if nothing was wrong.
Once again, these issues aren’t present in every unit. But if you were to visit different units in the Army, you would see what I am talking about.
I still believe that most soldiers strive to do the right thing and wear their uniform with pride. Most Soldiers respect Army Traditions, Rules, Customs and Courtesies. And they want to be part of a time honored tradition (I know I did).
Once again, discipline in the Army really varies by unit. Some units are highly disciplined and others aren’t. It really boils down to the unit’s leadership team. If the leaders make discipline a top priority, the unit will be disciplined. And, if they don’t enforce the standards, set a good example, and hold their followers accountable, there will be MAJOR discipline issues in the unit. It’s as simple as that.
The best units I’ve ever served in were HIGHLY disciplined. The leaders understood that discipline is the bedrock of success in the military. They trained hard, enforced the standards, prepared for their wartime mission, and took great PRIDE in everything that they did! Slackers were held accountable and high performers were rewarded.
If I was in charge of the Army for even one day, this is what I would do to improve discipline in the Army:
1) Set high standards for new recruits – keep out the criminals
2) Set high standards in Basic Training – get rid of the misfits who can’t meet the standards or comply
3) Give the Small Unit Leader the leeway to evaluate Soldiers and separate the poor performers
4) Create Army Policy that focuses on retaining QUALITY Soldiers, not just quantity
Of course, I’m not the boss or the Commanding General. But I think these are the best ways to improve the discipline in the Army.
What are your thoughts? Is your unit highly disciplined, or is it lacking? What do you think leaders could, and should do about getting their discipline issues to an acceptable level?
Please post your questions and comments below. Thanks.
Former Army Major (resigned)
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