Same Long Fight, New Generation

Warriors despise having to pay for the same real estate twice. Yet, that is exactly what is happening as proven by the recent surge of investigations and subsequent demotions of senior officers in the United States Army.

The growing list already includes Major General Joseph Harrington for flirting with the wife of an enlisted soldier, Major General Wayne Grisby for an inappropriate relationship with a captain on his staff, Major General David Haight for his swinging life-style, and Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair for a three-year affair with a subordinate.

Then we have Lieutenant General Ron Lewis, a top aide to the Secretary of Defense, using a government credit card at strip clubs, while Brigadier General Bryan Roberts was busted after getting into a physical altercation at a social event with his mistress from an external affair. These last two examples would be comical if not so pathetic.

The aforementioned are only the general grade officers who have been exposed and held accountable for misconduct. It would be foolish to believe they are the only ones who have broken the trust expected of their positions. We have not seen the last of the scandals. There are more waiting to be exposed, and those exposed will always be a small fraction of what is happening inside a broken system.

The only good news in these situations is the once-unwritten doctrine of cover-up, specifically misbehavior of senior officers and senior enlisted, did not always prevail. Twenty-five years ago, vicious cover-ups of corrupt behavior was the standard, usually conducted at the expense of the victims and those who fought for the moral right.

While serving on the front line against sexual harassment and abuse of authority in the 1990's, I took an aggressive stand against subordinates, peers and seniors who used their positions for personal gain and pleasure. Rather than accepting the "rank has its privileges" or R.H.I.P. philosophy, my belief was "with rank comes responsibilities and expectations." One of these expectations is that loyalty between seniors and subordinates goes both ways.

What started as a local fight eventually had an impact on the entire Army. On a daily basis, as a major and the deputy commander of a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) detachment of a northeastern university, I was dealing with a dysfunctional operation. I was an activated Army Reserve officer with over a decade of active component time behind me. Previous assignments included reconnaissance duty inside the Korean DMZ, Military Police Officer in the Berlin Brigade, security inspector for Defense Nuclear Agency, and then thirty months of command time. From my enlisted and commissioned service, having worked closely with all four branches of the U.S. military and numerous foreign militaries, the words duty, honor, and country had developed a very special meaning to me. At this ROTC detachment, I was working with people to whom those words meant nothing.

Typically in the 1990s, the heads of U.S. Army Cadet Command's ROTC detachments were lieutenant colonels the Army had determined to be substandard performers. Being offered the means to retire from undistinguished careers, they were sent to these detachments for their twilight tours with the expectation to achieve the four gets: get transition education, get a permanent home, get a civilian job, and get out. In terms a hardened combat warrior would appreciate, "Cadet Command was serving as the Army's septic system".

The lieutenant colonel at this detachment was by far the most unprofessional officer I have ever witnessed, including Iraqi officers. This officer severely lacked every professional character trait expected of a leader. Never-ending lying, continuous temper tantrums, and frequent throwing of objects at subordinates were part of his typical behavior. As the deputy commander, I spent a lot of time protecting everyone from him as well as protecting him from everyone else, including himself. The adage "no good deed goes unpunished" was very much a reality.

To deal with this lieutenant colonel the command's secretary, Vivian Reithmiller, once noted I needed a degree in abnormal psychology. One day, two hours after pounding his own head into a door frame, this lieutenant colonel was prancing down the corridor singing "Zippidy Do Dah." The only relief we got from his childish behavior was when he was developing yet another conniving scheme. One of the most blatant, of which he was finally successful even after I warned the finance officer what was really happening, was that this lieutenant colonel was able to have the Army pay for his civilian conducted elective surgery fertility operation by claiming it was a cancer preventing procedure.

Another of his never-ending antics involved severely upgrading the interview results of a very attractive female high school senior applying for a full Army college scholarship. That female was no more impressive than a young male who came in the same day, who was rated significantly lower. As Vivian had attended both interviews I asked her what happened. Vivian replied that although the young man had a better interview, the young women won the day because the lieutenant colonel was blatantly infatuated. In short, a seventeen year old was able get what she wanted by manipulating a forty-two year old lieutenant colonel.

There is a good reason the Army periodically conducts Reduction in Force (RIF) purges. Unfortunately, for twenty years this had not happened and a lot of problem individuals slid through the system and into senior positions. During the Reagan and Bush years, the military was expanded and unless someone had been convicted of a serious crime the likelihood of an officer being promoted to at least lieutenant colonel was very much assured.

This lieutenant colonel was not the only resident issue. The next-most serious problem was an activated National Guard major who was making a sport of having as many sexual relationships as possible, including with cadets. Not to be outdone was a captain who was blatantly having an affair with two cadets at the same time. This captain made sure everyone knew that he graduated from West Point, but despite his best efforts was not able to hide the fact it took him five years to come out at the bottom of his class - the goat.

The colonels and generals assigned over these problem officers were just as substandard; however, it took the Army longer to realize it. When the light finally dawned, they too were sent to Cadet Command. The colonel assigned to serve as brigade commander had tried to commit suicide twice when he was a major because of his inability to handle stress. One attempt followed his being verbally reprimanded by his battalion commander for the unit's dysfunctional vehicle maintenance program.

The brigadier general had been returned from Germany, removed from his position as Deputy 1st Armored Division Commander. Already on marriage number three, his continual indiscretions in the local German village resulted in his being moved stateside before the command deployed for Desert Storm. Neither the weak colonel nor problematic general were held properly accountable, to include on their evaluation reports. Both were allowed to continue contributing to a growing problem throughout the Army.

That was the command climate in which I found myself, having to protect staff and cadets from abuse and exploitation. Some of the females accepted the exploitation in exchange for preferential treatment, to which other members of the staff, cadets, parents of the cadets, and university administrators were not blind. Yet nothing was done, especially by the colonel and general who wished to protect their careers by denying such serious problems existed on their watch.

For having stood up against the sexual misconduct, the abuse of authority, and the countless other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in this command environment, I might as well come to work every day with a target on my chest. I was a threat to their incompetent and corrupt way of life. Unlike the motion picture "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," the bad element does not suddenly roll over and admit their shortfalls. They will come after their threat with every means possible, to include using the very system they are abusing against the whistle blower. For me, retaliation was a continual saga.

Knowing I was not going to see justice while assigned to this detachment, I returned to my civilian job and accepted a command position in the Army Reserve. I vowed that I would do everything possible to ensure no one else would have to endure what I did for protecting subordinates from abuse and standing up for the truth. In this effort, I was putting a military application to the statement New York City Police Officer Frank Serpico gave before the Knapp Commission, "We must create an environment where the dishonest officer fears the honest one, not the other way around".

My first order of business was to clean up my records from the retaliatory reports submitted by these self-protecting seniors. Eighty pages of witness statements within a two-hundred page document resulted in my vindication.

In the next order of business, I started reaching out to senior Army leaders for engagement in an Army-wide problem. To prevent the matter from once again being covered up with the claim that it was just my personal problem, Olean businessman Carl Stiles agreed to send a letter with accompanying packet to Inspector General of the Army, Lieutenant General Ronald Griffiths. This general was no solution; never even acknowledged Carl's request for involvement.

Congressional inquiries ranged from responses claiming more time was needed to investigate, another document was needed, or no response at all. A friend of mine who had worked in the Congressional Liaison Office told me that these are standard stalling tactics. As my friend predicted, there never were any replies of follow-up action having been completed.

I then locked in on one person making a difference - retired Colonel David Hackworth, or "Hack". From his days in Korea and Vietnam, Hack had earned over a hundred awards, to include ten silver stars and eight purple hearts. Because he spoke out about the failed strategy of the then on-going war in Vietnam, Hack was vilified by Army leadership.

Warriors do not go down easily, and Hack was total warrior. After forced retirement from the Army, Hack wrote the best seller "About Face". By the time Desert Storm occurred, Hack was an ace military reporter and military icon. Seeing Hack's articles and television interviews addressing problems inside the Army ranks, I realized we were both saying the same things about a broken system. The difference was Hack was being heard. I reached out to Hack and provided him documentation of what I had endured and what I had been unsuccessfully attempting to fix a broken system.

Just as in years earlier, when he had been mentored by the Army's top historian, Brigadier General Sam (S.L.A.) Marshall, I became Hack's protégé. By having already read many of Sam's books and articles, I had been greatly influenced by his style. Now I was studying Hack's methodology as he was developing thoughts into published products. Hack built to his argument and tested its ability to stand before going final.

The results of many discussions between Hackworth and I could be seen in his articles. This was not a one-way street. Those discussions also surfaced in my writings, including a progressive trilogy consisting of "In Search of Accountability," "Plan On Blowing A Whistle, Here's What You Have To Look Forward To," and "Don't Give Up the Ship". Following Sam's legacy, I continued to document the lessons of history which included a direct link titled, "A Soldier's Load - Revisited". However, it was Hack's legacy of fighting corruption and abuse of authority that dominated my focus.

Hack was also in contact with then-Army Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer. When Reimer was a young lieutenant, he had been in the same battalion as then-Major Hackworth. The two got along very well and remained friends through the years. Hack provided Reimer my documentation concerning Cadet Command and recommended the Chief have someone meet with me to discuss the seriousness of the Army's abuse of authority problem. Like Army Inspector General Griffith, Reimer did nothing. Had either of them tried to reach out and fix the problems, I likely would not have been involved in exposing serious problems that soon landed in each of their offices.

The depth of abuse of authority and sexual misconduct problems came to a head from what should have been a most unlikely source. Basic training drill sergeants are expected to be role-models. At Aberdeen Army Base many of them were caught making a sport out of how many attractive female recruits they could entice into sexual relationships. This was not unlike the previously-mentioned National Guard major at the ROTC detachment.

To the credit of the Aberdeen situation, once Major General Robert Shadley learned of the problem within his command, he took all the right actions. Shadley immediately engaged the Army Criminal Investigation Command, set up telephone hotlines, took proper action to protect victims, and removed the threat of retaliation from all soldiers who came forward. If every general in the Army possessed Shadley's ethics and determination to get involved when a problem was exposed, there never would have been the Army-wide meltdown that was about to occur. Unfortunately, General Shadley's commitment to properly fulfill his responsibilities did not generate the same response up the chain of command. A great warrior was out front, without proper support from his seniors.

With people now coming forward throughout the Army, it was soon learned the problems of abuse of authority and sexual misconduct were widespread. Even General Reimer started using the term "cancers" when describing the people creating the problems. I had been using that term for years, to include in documents Hackworth provided to Reimer. It is not important whether or not Reimer had picked up this term from my documents or selected this word on his own; bottom line is that was the term he used to accurately describe the people who were creating the problems. From his office, Reimer was stating the right things, but he failed to wade into the battle. Reimer was no Omar Bradley, the World War II "Soldiers' General" who led from the front in Europe and later served as Army Chief of Staff.

To address the depth of the problems now being exposed and to look for a solution, a special review board was established. Ironically, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, the Army's and Reimer's top sergeant, was assigned to this board. Women soon came forward stating McKinney had sexually harassed them. The first to come forward was Sergeant Major Brenda Hoster, McKinney's former Chief of Public Relations. From personal experience, I knew what Brenda was about to endure. Sending her an appreciation letter, which included Hack's message to General Reimer concerning my fight, I offered Brenda support. She accepted.

Meanwhile, inside the Pentagon was a well-placed general officer who was passing on critical information about McKinney's demeaning strategy to Hackworth. The strategy was meant to be used on an unsuspecting Hoster to knock her off balance at the impending Article 32 hearing. The judge probably would have tossed the information out, while the negative effect on Hoster would have been achieved. The Article 32 hearing, which best translates in civilian terms to a grand jury, was not intended to recommend a court-martial. Hack provided the information to me, with instructions to pass it on to Brenda.

Armed with the information I had provided, Brenda had an outstanding interview with Forrest Sawyer on "Nightline". Next morning her interview on "Good Morning America" was equally superlative. These interviews resulted in an immediate one-day suspension of the Article 32 hearing. The following day the hearing recommenced and the final recommendation was to proceed with a court-martial for Sergeant Major of the Army McKinney.

Throughout the entire process, I stayed in contact with Brenda, provided moral support, wrote articles on her behalf, and presented her with a Revolutionary War "Don't Tread on Me" flag. Brenda was in fact serving point in a revolution, one against sexual harassment being an accepted and protected way of life in the Army. Unfortunately, the first battle of most revolutions results in defeat and this fight was to be no exception.

To McKinney's credit, he had hired the very skilled military defense attorney Charles Gittins. A former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and legal officer, U.S. Naval Academy graduate Gittins knew more about military law than any of the other attorneys ever to be involved in this case, to seemingly include the judge.

For five weeks the trial progressed, or regressed, depending on one's viewpoint. A telling sign of what was going on behind the scenes came with one juror wanting to be discharged from responsibilities because of the stress. The verdict was read on March 13, 1998: McKinney was found guilty of obstructing justice and cleared of eighteen other charges. The presiding military judge then took it upon himself to call the accusers to the stand and reprimand them. Usually it is the role of the defense attorney to degrade the victims and produce doubt of credibility to the jury, which was achieved. This time the judge also wanted to get his personal attacks in. The culture of protecting seniors was very much in play.

The verdict was read on a Friday, the day I had arrived in Dallas for an Army Reserve conference. I already had a Sunday morning breakfast scheduled with retired Army Colonel John Pitchford, who lived in the greater Dallas area. John was a friend of Hack's, a fellow survivor of exposing corruption in the Army, and someone who had read my whistle-blower article. Over breakfast, I vented hard to John about the McKinney verdict. After breakfast, I went back to the conference. John went home and wrote an article about the Army's breakdown of accountability and discipline, which was immediately published in USA Today. John was then contacted by Donnamarie Carpino. A whole new fight against a corrupt system was on.

Donnamarie Carpino was married to a colonel who was serving in Turkey with Major General David Hale. To Donnamarie, Hale had claimed to have evidence that her husband was having an affair. If Donnamarie would succumb to Hale, her husband would be protected. Donnamarie later learned her husband never had an affair. While Donnamarie and her husband divorced, Hale went on to become Deputy Inspector General of the Army.

Criminal Investigation Command had fulfilled its responsibility to do a professional investigation. However, its effort was cut short by General Reimer who, against regulations, had allowed Hale to retire while being a subject of an investigation.

Days after our breakfast meeting, Pitchford called me and asked the name of Brenda's attorney. He explained that he was now helping Donnamarie. I told him the attorney was Susan Barnes of Denver and assured John she was one of the very best lawyers to be found. Donnamarie had been using the same Charles Gittins who was McKinney's attorney. This filled in a blank. While representing McKinney, Gittins had threatened to expose a general officer for sexual misconduct.

My original intent was to work in support of Pitchford's effort. Hackworth instructed me to pull back, explaining Hale possessed derogatory information about Hack's main source inside the Pentagon. If it came out I was involved in going after Hale, that would lead right back to Hack, and access to his source would be jeopardized. Assuring me Pitchford would get the job done without my involvement, Hack stated, "Pitch has the grip of a bulldog; once he locks on he does not let go. He will take Hale". Agreeing that we had lots of other fights ahead of us, I accepted Hack's instructions.

With Pitchford on the attack, the Army was forced to call Hale back onto active duty and the investigation recommenced. Twice, the Army assigned friends of Hale to head the process. Pitchford made the world aware of both connections and started probes on both generals. The first general retired in a matter of days. Pitchford then exposed the other general's questionable expense vouchers, publicly nicknaming him "Happy Meals".

Army leadership then assigned a dedicated general officer who can be best characterized as "Mister Clean". The result was Hale court-martialed, convicted, and reduced one rank. Hackworth was right about Pitchford. With the Hale conviction, Army leadership was no longer able to deny and cover-up the existence of serious problems.

Meanwhile, as John was pushing forward with the Hale situation, through Hackworth's 27,000 recipients e-mail newsletter, I released the article "In Search of Accountability". The article laid the blame for its on-going scandals right in the lap of senior Army leadership. Reimer, one of Hack's 27,000 newsletter recipients, immediately contacted Hack. When Hack brought this to my attention, I responded that Reimer should have listened to me the first time around.

As a result of the Aberdeen, McKinney, and Hale situations, soldiers were coming forward from all directions. Years later someone who was working with Reimer at the time informed me that every day the general came to work a scandal was waiting to be addressed. We were not letting up on the pressure. As mentioned, we previously had tried to work with the Army command structure and were ignored. Inspector General of the Army Lieutenant General Griffiths failed to get involved. Congressional inquiries were blown off. Now we were using the media and having an impact.

Then came allied bombing of Bosnia and unity of effort was necessary. Our intent was to pick up the fight when hostilities were over. Meanwhile, the Army took advantage of the reprieve to introduce corrective actions. "Consideration of Others" and "Army Values" were developed, and all soldiers were required to participate in the training. Soldiers were also issued and required to have on their possession at all times cards that explained loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

While the introduction of "Consideration of Others" and "Army Values" was nice and a step in the right direction, there was nothing in either program that was not already covered in basic leadership principles. In short, the Army went through corrective action training because of a broken command structure that went all the way from private to the Army Chief of Staff.

Meanwhile, my actions for justice and accountability were noticed in a very negative way. Seniors in my chain of command, and members of military-affiliated organizations of which I was a member, informed me I was "bringing discredit to the Army". Their feeling was that I should have been helping the Army mitigate the bad publicity, not exposing problems. In short, I should have been supporting Army seniors, not their accusers.

This attitude validated the seriousness of a broken system. My stand was that the people conducting sexual harassment and abuse of authority were the ones discrediting the system, not the people who stood against corruption. Furthermore, I have never figured out why we should expect subordinates to risk their lives in a field of fire if their seniors will not fight for their well-being. Loyalty works both ways. The West Point prayer calls for "the harder right over the easier wrong". Fighting for justice and integrity in a broken system is about as right as it gets.

Verbally stating displeasure was as far as my chain of command went. There were three reasons further retaliation did not occur. The first was they knew I was right and they had no resolve to get themselves into an Army-wide fight. The second was fear of Hackworth and fulfilling Japanese Admiral Yamamoto's concern for "waking the sleeping giant and leave him with a terrible resolve". The third reason was the continuing success of units I was being called in to command. By the time I retired, I had accumulated 123 months of command time, to include combat. Of my six commands, only one did not involve my going in to clean up a dysfunctional operation.

Dedication to justice was not just a fight I was involved in directed at the senior level. It was at the forefront in every one of my units. Hackworth told me the only lives you can be guaranteed to affect positively on a continual and permanent basis are those of the people assigned to your commands. Other efforts are random shots.

In a proactive response to Hack's guidance, I developed a list of "kill zones" during those years of command, by which all subordinates were advised by me that entering into any of them would make me have to take them out. The term "kill zones" was used to ensure no doubt existed regarding my seriousness in enforcing them. The irony of publicly announcing my "kill zones" was that I was doing it while the Clinton Administration was trying to move the United States military to a kinder, gentler force composed of people in touch with their emotions.

When I announced the zones before my troops, I assured them that someone would be offended and feel threatened. I even had an Inspector General complaint filed against me that the term "kill zones" was intimidating. It was, but not to the dedicated soldiers living up to "Army Values". The Inspector General's determination was in my favor with the acknowledgement his life would be easier if more commanders would take such an aggressive stand.

The six forbidden zones were: racism, sexual misconduct, alcohol on duty/illegal drugs anytime, loss of a firearm, blatant safety violation which could result in loss of life or limb, and using authority for personal interest or pleasure. All soldiers were advised up front, that violators of these kill zones would be placed on the side line and the fight would be between the perpetrator and myself. In all my commands, the goal was to build an environment based upon mutual respect and trust. It was made clear that I would take undermining of that goal as my problem. Everyone heard the warning, and dedicated soldiers appreciated the message.

Using the "Be, Know, Do" concept, subordinates were further informed that if they tried to do the right thing, but it went wrong because of lack of knowledge, or the "Do" just did not turn out right despite the best of intentions, we could deal with it. However, if the problem resulted from problematic inner character of the person, the "Be" element of that triad, then they would be held accountable.

There was usually one senior person in each command who did not take the warning seriously. The most blatant was in the first battalion I commanded. My number two sergeant proved himself to be a racist, alcoholic, pervert. From his peers and previous superiors, I found out he had been doing these antics for two decades. When I asked the previous seniors why they did nothing about it, the response was always the same: "I did not personally see it". That was not a valid excuse.

Unless the perpetrator is totally stupid, or the command environment allows it, wrongful antics are not going to be done in front of seniors. When problems are reported to seniors, they are then the owners. Avoiding confrontations, while providing problem individuals glowing performance evaluations, is not a solution. As for this sergeant, he did not survive me. He left the Army with one less rank, and his blazing close-out performance evaluation documented his antics.

As a result of this sergeant finally being held accountable and removed from the ranks, the morale of the command skyrocketed, especially among the minorities and females. However, one sad long-term reality was exposed in the process: only white male sergeants came forward to provide statements as I proceeded against this individual. The reason was that the minorities had filed reports in the past. The only thing these previous complaints had accomplished was to bring wrath down on the people who told the truth.

Assignment of my second battalion command came quickly. As Deputy Commander of the 647th Area Support Group (Army Reserve), I was called into the commander's office. Colonel Mark Widmer's message was pretty basic. "I have an additional duty for you. Go take command of the 372nd and do something with that officer corps." The lieutenant colonel being relieved had taken the troops to the desert for eight days, but he and his three senior officers left the field and went back to their homes for the middle four days, while still on the Army payroll. In my taking command of this battalion, with Hackworth in attendance, the command environment was so bad the previous commander had been told not to show up for the ceremony. I received the colors from the captain who had stayed with the troops in the field. My first order of business was to remove the lounge from the commander's office. My second order of business was to forbid future officer meetings at Hooter's Restaurants and strip bars.

One day, while working in my office, Chief Warrant Officer Jim Terrazas of a subordinate unit walked into my office and stated, "We have to talk!" Jim, an outstanding soldier I had known for years, told me about an incident that happened prior to my arrival. While on two weeks annual training, a senior sergeant had manipulated a young female soldier into driving him to a lakeside. While both were outside the vehicle looking at this "scenic location" the sergeant came up behind the soldier, put his arms around her and commenced kissing her neck. The soldier pushed the sergeant away and both returned to camp. When confronted, the sergeant admitted to the captain what he had done. The captain's only action was to respond, "I wish you had not done that". Now, a year later, the captain had submitted a promotion packet on the sergeant.

I immediately interviewed the soldier, with Chief Terrazas and Lieutenant (and registered nurse) Rebecca Eisler as witnesses. The victim's story was firm. With an immediate telephone call I had the sergeant's packet removed from the promotion board, which was meeting that same weekend. I then contacted my group commander, Colonel Mark Widmer's replacement, and requested an external investigation. Instead, I was instructed to "Just transfer the sergeant to another unit". Refusing to let this sergeant escape accountability, I contacted 90th Regional Support Command Human Relations Office and requested an investigation. In turn, I was informed that it would be too much work. Trying to maintain loyalty to my commander, I recognized the end result would be putting him on report if I brought this matter to the Inspector General. The first question would be, "Did you talk to your commander?"

Evaluating the pros and cons of further options, I informed the violating sergeant either he would immediately retire or I would press for a court-martial. Unaware I was receiving no top cover, the sergeant accepted immediate retirement. As for my colonel who wished to do nothing, six months later I received a telephone call from the commanding general, instructing me to take command of the group headquarters as he had fired that same colonel, for inefficiency.

One excuse I frequently heard from people who did not take my warnings seriously was "All commanders claim zero tolerance, but no one ever enforces it". This comment was a double dose of pathetic. First, no one should expect to be able to commit a wrong, especially a violation by another, because they believe they will not be held accountable. Second reason for this being such a pathetic comment is this was a very true statement. I never had a moral problem creating an environment where the dishonest fear the honest, just a problem with the majority of my peers and seniors not having the same commitment. It would have made my job easier and improved the lives of all affected subordinates.

On the active component front, two things that really made the difference were downsizing and the reintroduction of a long lost concept - accountability. A massive number of substandard officers and NCOs left the Army in the mid-90s, both voluntarily and involuntarily. As a result, Army average of ethical standards among its leadership was perhaps the highest ever experienced.

For years I was not sure of the extent of our work. The answer came during a series of active duty tours between 2003 and 2010. In August of 2005, while serving on the Pentagon's Army Operations Center (OAC) Crisis Action Team (CAT), we were halted in briefing numerous three-star generals and their civilian counterparts when Major Jim Bevens called out, "Stand By!" That meant a four-star general, either the Chief or Vice Chief of Staff, had stepped onto the floor. It was the Vice, General Richard Cody.

Walking to the front of his subordinates General Cody stated, "Yesterday, the Chief and I fired General Brynes. If you do not know why we fired him, you do not have a need to know. But I will tell you this…". General Cody made it clear that ethics and standards were being enforced at all levels. If anyone else was discovered crossing the line, they too would be held accountable. General Brynes had been the four-star Commander of Training and Doctrine Command. Listening with long-awaited satisfaction, I said to myself, "We won, we won".

The corrective actions and change of culture that were taking place in the active component did not resonate in the reserve forces. Reservists did all the required training, but the good-old-boy culture and long-term relationships that permeated throughout the system were not going to change easily. The best example was the abuse at Abu Ghraib Detention Facility in Iraq. This facility was almost completely operated by Army Reserve Forces.

In October of 2003, I warned Brigadier General Jan Karpinski, a former Officer Basic Course classmate, that she had a total lack of adult supervision at Abu Ghraib. I had just completed a force protection assessment of the facility where military professionalism was non-existent. There was no real command operation at Abu Ghraib, just a poorly supervised gaggle. Three months later Jan telephoned me and asked for a meeting. The now infamous photographs revealed the command environment at Abu Ghraib was far more serious than either of us could have imagined. Every one of the photographs verified how much the perpetrators were enjoying themselves. Furthermore, junior soldiers were leading seniors in a massive violation of human dignity. The widespread problems at Abu Ghraib would not have happened with active duty soldiers in 2003.

In 2004 I was the CAT chief to first receive the report of the senior Army Reserve sergeants hosting mud-wrestling competition among their female soldiers at the Bucca Detention Facility in Iraq. The report and photographs came not from the Army, but from the media who was in the process of going public. I had to inform senior Army leadership of this situation. First to be briefed was Brigadier General Doug Robinson who said it best. "Every time something like this happens, it is with Helmly's troops." Lieutenant General James Helmly was then-Chief of the Army Reserve.

Unfortunately, even the clean-up of the active component did not last. The continuous deployments hit military families hard, resulting in a massive number of outstanding junior officers and enlisted soldiers leaving the ranks. The truth of the matter is Bush 43 had no legal justification to send us into Iraq and, in doing so, his trust in Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was seriously misplaced. Had the 380,000 soldiers called for in the then-classified invasion plan been deployed, instead of the 140,000 identified by Rumsfeld, Iraq could have been stabilized.

Because too many good soldiers left the ranks, vacancies were available for people who never should have been retained. This was no surprise. In 2006, Major General Jack Gardner and I discussed what was coming. Assessing the long-term situation, Gardner stated that unless someone gets caught committing a felony the chances of making lieutenant colonel or senior sergeant are pretty certain. He was right. Almost everything fought and gained in the 90s is gone. The ethical standards being practiced in the field have gone down. As a result, the overall culture has deteriorated.

This is fed by another core problem of the 1990s which has resurfaced. It can be argued the problem never went away, it just was not as much of an impact when the overall quality of the senior ranks were higher. In the mid-90s Hackworth published an article titled "Evaluations Encourage Corruption at All Levels". The main point of that article was Army performance evaluations of officers and sergeants were cluttered with flowery terms while failing to address incompetence and character problems. Hack was right, as borne out by the ROTC chain of command I endured and the scandals that overwhelmed the Army.

Rather than hold someone accountable, especially on performance evaluations, somehow raters seem to believe it is easier to provide a glowing evaluation and pass the problem individual on to the next supervisor. That is exactly what happened with the racist, alcoholic, pervert sergeant I took down. Problem soldiers are not going to clean themselves up. They have no reason to do so because for years their antics have been tolerated. Meanwhile they drive other good people from the ranks, allowing yet more vacancies for substandard performers and problematic people.

Another area still needing to be fixed is to hold seniors accountable for slander-ridden cover-ups against subordinates who stand for the truth. Too frequently, the mechanisms for reporting misbehavior of seniors are used as information detection systems. The goal of pre-emptive slandering is to discredit the subordinate, or at least to "age the problem". Usually, it takes months or years for the whistle-blower to disprove the slanderous attacks, especially if seniors two or three levels above join in the cover-up to protect themselves from accountability for allowing the dysfunctional environment to exist in the first place. When accountability for pre-emptive attacking of the whistle-blower is not conducted, there is no incentive for violators avoid a never-ending method of self-preservation.

Extremely rare, are commanders willing to stand in front of their troops, inform them of "kill zones," and then enforce them. General Dick Cody was one of those. Former Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno was another. General Odierno made it very clear that ethics will be enforced and toxic commanders will not be tolerated. Many made the mistake of not believing the seriousness of Odierno's warning. I witnessed that first-hand. When Odierno was commanding all U.S. Forces in Iraq, I was called back into that country to testify at the court martial of a battalion commander who was subsequently convicted of sexual misconduct, abusing subordinates, and severe mishandling of classified documents. Odierno never hesitated to stand by his words.

Unfortunately, we do not have enough Codys and Odiernos throughout the ranks. What we do have are a vast majority of supervisors who will lie to avoid confrontation. Hackworth captured this problem with his "evaluations" article. The following three paragraphs from "In Search of Accountability" remains as true today as when I wrote them two decades ago:

A lot of publicity is currently being directed towards the Army for letting down its female soldiers. The leadership of the Army has let down its female soldiers. The leadership has also let down all soldiers who want to ensure that the Army is a fair and honest place to serve. That same leadership has long since been warned that serious problems exist that go far beyond sexual harassment. We treat cancer when it eats away at a body's ability to function. Lack of accountability is a cancer that has been eating away at the Army's effectiveness. Because of the involvement of Congress and the American press, Army leadership is running around like fire fighters frantically trying to extinguish sexual harassment. Instead of trying to correct symptoms, they should go after the root cause. They should work to develop an environment that protects integrity and enforces justice.

We can talk theory about how the system is supposed to work. However, the attention the Army is now receiving proves that the system is broken. It will never be repaired until violators of the UCMJ, no matter what rank, are held totally accountable. If that includes taking actions to end the careers of self-serving officers and NCOs, then so be it. We must stop undermining the effectiveness of the Army by protecting those who are out for themselves.

The two most important missions we have between wars are to maintain readiness and prepare for the next conflict. We can't achieve maximum results when our good soldiers are either being destroyed or compromised by bad officers and NCOs. Furthermore, we can't expect soldiers to willingly risk death in wartime when senior leadership will not stand up for them in peacetime. Unfortunately, too many good soldiers have been leaving the ranks because of bad soldiers. These departing good soldiers will never become tomorrow's outstanding leaders. This loss will be felt most on the future battlefield. The price will be paid with the blood and lives of young Americans.

As stated at the beginning of this article, warriors despise paying for the same real-estate twice. That is exactly what is happening, and will continue to happen, until leaders at all levels have the dedication and commitment to do what is expected of them in the first place. As mentioned earlier, "Consideration of Others" and "Army Values" are nice, but there is nothing in either that is not already covered in basic leadership. Unfortunately, the West Point Prayer, calling for the harder right over the easier wrong, is too frequently ignored in the field for the sake of self-interest and lack of ambition.

A balance of justice must be achieved, both for the victims and the falsely accused. When the system is as broken as it currently is, lives of innocent people can easily be permanently destroyed. That, in turn, has a domino effect. In my own situation, had I not corrected the career damage directed toward me for having defended cadets and staff members from abuse while assigned to Cadet Command, I would not have been available to later serve as the senior Antiterrorism/Force Protection Officer for all Coalition Forces in Iraq. I would not have been on the streets of Najaf with Police Chief Aziz, to identify and close the vulnerabilities for the pending Ashara celebrations. The Al Qaeda plot to kill the moderate Grand Ayatollah Sistani, discovered by U.S. military intelligence, would have been accomplished. Iraq would have erupted into immediate civil war and tens of thousands of people would have been killed.

Two units of Cobalt 60 radioactive devices were stolen (later recovered) at Habbaniyah Testing Site in Iraq. In order to appoint an officer to conduct the investigation, Lieutenant General Sanchez personally reviewed all the files of his colonels to determine who had a radiological security background. I was the only one. After identifying the causes of the security problem at Habbaniyah Testing Site and without waiting for authorization from General Sanchez, I went to Al Tuwaitha Storage Site and exposed an identical situation there. I informed the Defense Threat Reduction Agency representative that either he or I would now tell the battalion commander responsible for al-Tuwaitha exactly what was being stored in the giant bunker.

Armed with information previously denied to him, the on-site battalion commander implemented necessary corrective actions. Had I not taken immediate action, rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr's militia would have had easy access to the thousand units of Cobalt 60 stored at al-Tuwaitha. That would have made a lot of dirty bombs and stay-behind devices. The War on Terrorism would have taken a very dark turn.

The security vulnerabilities I exposed at the Baghdad Trade Fair provided Ambassador Bremer the justification he needed to close the event. Hundreds of people would have been slaughtered there. A pre-positioned bomb planted at the Baghdad's doctors' convention killed no one, because days earlier I had successfully fought to have the meeting location moved to a building inside the Green Zone, secured by a company of the 82nd Airborne.

General Sanchez was always appreciative for my not taking the typical staff officer approach and waiting to be scheduled for a meeting to ask his permission to implement what obviously needed to be immediately done.

Like George Bailey, in "It's A Wonderful Life," one life touches many in unexpected ways. Mine was just one life. As covered in the accountability article, destruction of dedicated soldiers will result in critical human assets being unavailable when later needed. If those Cadet Command officers had their way, I would not have been available to serve in a critical position in later years. Furthermore, they did not care. They had already lied and cheated their way to a comfortable retirement.

I fought against sexual harassment and abuse of authority on three fronts: inside a dysfunctional Cadet Command environment, against senior Army leadership while my more immediate commanders were nipping at my heels, and on behalf of the soldiers of my six commands. I know success can be achieved. The fighting against denial and cover-ups by senior Army leadership has been won. The E Ring of the Pentagon got the message a generation ago. Generals like Cody and Odierno rose to the top and became the champions of that fight. The Pentagon's continuing willingness to take down general grade officers validates that the success of that fight remains solid.

What is now having to be fought again is the rebuilding of Frank Serpico's environment where the dishonest fear the honest, and not the other way around. Hackworth was right when he stated the only lives you can be guaranteed to positively effect on a continual and permanent basis are those of the people assigned to your commands. Troops at all levels need to understand what is unacceptable. Innocent troops need to know they have a champion at local command levels willing to fight for them and for their dignity.

Announcing "kill zones" was definitely politically incorrect, especially considering I was doing it in the 1990s. That stated, good troops never had a problem with those zones. To them I was announcing zones in which they knew they would be protected. It wasn't the announcing of the "kill zones" that brought an end to sexual harassment and other problems in my commands - it was enforcement. Changing the mindsets of problematic people produces rare achievements. Behavior modification is much more achievable. When a command's behavior changes for long enough, the entire command climate will then change - all the way up the ranks.

©2021 Wes Martin