August 2020 closed out with Tik Tok sensation, 2nd Lieutenant Nathan Freihofer of the 3rd Infantry Division, posting a despicable Holocaust joke for his three million followers. Freihofer had built a large following through his crass and immature videos, many recorded while wearing his Army uniform.

Commanders and their staffs throughout the Army are expected to always pay attention to indications and warnings of potential problems. It is unrealistic to believe three million followers could have been accumulated without Freihofer's chain-of-command being aware of the lieutenant's antics.

When Task and Purpose broke this story, public affairs officers at every command level condemned the joke. Even Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Michael Grinston weighed in, stating Freihofer's behavior was "completely unacceptable." Since the media story surfaced, the lieutenant's been suspended from positions of authority, and an investigation into his behavior was initiated.

Amazing is the speed at which senior Army management can move on a second lieutenant, but drag heels when serious problems involve senior officers and sergeants. Each day we learn of sexual misconduct, rape, physical assaults, abuse of authority, cover-ups, suicides, and murders throughout the entire United States military.

It should not have taken the murder and butchering of Private First Class Vanessa Guillen to awaken Fort Hood management to problems that have been brewing for a decade. Instead of exercising professional leadership, Fort Hood management treated every event as an isolated incident. This denial of reality has allowed a brutal and dysfunctional environment to fester and destroy soldiers' lives. More alarming, is the fact that Fort Hood is a reflection of a severe deficit of leadership and accountably throughout the Army.

This is not the first time during the careers of today's Army generals that a breakdown has occurred. They were mid-level officers in the 1990s when the scandals involving Aberdeen drill sergeants, SMA Gene McKinney, and Deputy Inspector General of the Army Major General Dave Hale occurred on the watch of Army Chief of Staff General Reimer. An Army-wide survey revealed serious problems within all ranks and on all bases.

The scandals in the 1990s are traceable to the Reagan and Bush presidencies when the U.S. military expanded and everyone was allowed to remain in the ranks. Too many, despite their lack of integrity, were promoted well beyond their levels of incompetence. Media persistence, victims refusing to be silenced, and a handful of officers who put their careers on the line forced much-needed reforms.

To address the 1990s breakdowns, training-focused "Army Values" and "Consideration of Others" programs were implemented. Force reductions resulted in higher selection criteria for promotions. By the turn of the decade, cleansing of the ranks had been completed.

But the clean-up lasted only a few years. Continual redeployments to Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in too many outstanding junior officers and sergeants leaving the ranks to raise families and build careers in the civilian sector. The ratio of quality to problematic troops shifted dramatically. We are now experiencing those results. Today's problems are worse than in the 1990s. Sexual assault victims are now committing suicide or being murdered.

It has been a decade since the Army implemented its regulation-based Sexual Harassment Assault and Response Prevention (SHARP) program. As evidenced by all the media reports and escalating congressional oversight engagement, SHARP has been unsuccessful.

Army Values, Consideration of Others, and SHARP would not be necessary if, instead of managers, the Army possessed professional leaders willing to dedicate themselves in fulfilling their sworn commitments. Broken programs always lead back to failure of command implementation and enforcement.

Today's senior officers have not learned from the mistakes of their 1990s predecessors. Current buzz-words for corrective action are "training" and "awareness." Even Congressman Jason Crow, after visiting Fort Hood, parroted the installation commander's call for more resources.

Until the Army recommences producing leaders instead of managers, no amount of money or resources is going to resolve current problems. Accountability for incompetence and corruption must become the standard.

It should not be any harder to apply accountability on everyone from private to general than it was on a second lieutenant. That assumption comes with the expectation that the Army will figure out how to fix its leadership deficit.

©2021 Wes Martin

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