12 March 2008

A Question For My Military Readers:

I want to talk about promotions... specifically military promotions.
Let me explain.
One of my High School classmates is now a Major General in the United States Army. He was in many of my classes... smart, but gave no sign at that time of being brilliant. His brilliance was in athletics- Football, Basketball, Baseball, Track. He was good at everything he did athletically, and an All-Stater in Football... he played Linebacker behind me at the left Defensive Guard position.
He was also one of the "good guys". He always seemed to have a smile on his face and a group of classmates around him. I can't think of anyone that disliked him.

My opinion is that it's true in any vocation-
He's the sort that will rise to the top. In NO WAY do I mean this negatively... if you can make those around you comfortable, they're more likely to listen to what you are saying. If you are also good at what you do, you'll be successful. I guess my point is that good salespeople succeed where others fall short, and successful folks are good salespeople.

My experience in the Army was that education and punching the right tickets would get you promotions, up to a certain point. I knew exactly what education, both civilian and military, was expected of me to be promoted to certain ranks. There came a point in my Army Reserve life where I had to make a decision about what was most important... my civilian livelihood, or my military promotion. There simply weren't enough hours in the day to finish the military schooling I needed, by correspondence, to be promoted to the next rank. Thankfully, at that point I was qualified to retire.

So please, those of you with time in the military, your comments-

At what rank do you become more politician than military leader, (if at all) ? Again, this is also true in civilian life, but anyone who has read and enjoyed
"Once An Eagle", (a GREAT book that I recommend to all my friends), knows what I'm talking about... the difference between the "Tommy Franks" and "Wesley Clarks" in our military.
I knew early on that I wasn't enough politician to reach high rank in the ARMY. In my experience, those promoted to Bird Colonel were as much politician as they were military officer.
Promotion to Star Rank meant that officer was a great politician. I am in awe and proud of my classmate and not at all surprised by his success. I guess I'm most surprised I didn't recognize his "all around greatness" earlier!


Anonymous said...

Greybeard asked: At what rank do you become more politician than military leader, (if at all) ?

Loaded question. The test of a first rate intelligence lies in the ability to hold both opposing views at the same time and still be able to succeed and function.

cary said...

Good point, rodolfo - but there is a point where the "you" that is perceived by those around you becomes more one than the other.

That, I believe, is the question Greybeard has posed.

Being a mere enlisted man myself (while I was active) I don't have the answer.

Greybeard said...

"...a mere enlisted man..."
C'mon Cary... tell me your Sergeant Major stories...
Relate to me how an E-8 gets promoted to E-9!

cary said...

I honestly don't know, GB - I only met two E-9s in my time in the service, and I was so scared of breathing in the wrong order in their presence (after all, they were Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps - not just your run of the mill Sgt. Maj.) that I had no inkling how they got to where they were.

When they walked around, even the grass and flowers came to attention. Weeds would curl up and blow away. I saw captains and Lt. Col.s salute them, for crying out loud. Mere Lieutenants would pass out from the proximity to awesomeness. Flag officers would defer to the SMoUSMC when it came to who would open the door for whom - and usually, there was some Master Gunnery Sgt in the area who would defuse the situation and open the door for both of them, while saluting everything in sight.

I think E-8s become E-9 upon word from On High, if you know what I mean. If God can't be a Marine, then He selects the biggest, baddest, most squared-away specimen to be the ultimate Enlisted. BY what I was able to dig up on these two gentlemen, neither one ever kowtowed to a politician in their lives. It was their way or your funeral.

Hope this bit of insight helps...

OlePrairiedog said...

I can agree with Cary, only about the selection of the highest enlisted ranks, regardless of branch of service. These selectees are always the cream of the crop.

Officer promotions they tell us, must be based on education, experience, evaluations, ability and certain criteria known only to a select few Admin weenies in the bowels of the puzzle palace. Do politics play a part.... YES. I don't like it now and didn't then, but it's out there and you have to be aware of it. When in Rome, shoot roman candles. OR just do your job, enjoy your work and the people you work with and rise to what ever level of competance you may.

Tumo said...

Yeah, GB I'd say politics plays a big roll in O-6 and up. By the time you reach that level everybody is qualified as far as education, experience and having good fitness reports goes. Now people are looking to fill specfic billets with people onboard with their agenda. The Air Force is looking more at officers with experience in human behavioral pattern, cultures, politics and languages in their back ground or so they claim. January 2005, the Air Force removed all information regarding academic education, including bachelor’s degrees, from promotion-board records of line officers through the rank of colonel. Claiming that job preformace should be the ruler used. Sounds good anyways.

Since the "hostile" take over the AF Intel community by the Air Combat Command the 3 top Intel post are now run by "rated" officers(pilots) not officers from within the Intel community. A LtCol. friend of mine who works in the Intel community told me he was told that "General So and So (a former fighter pilot) can direct an intel function because he's been a consumer of intelligence for over 20 years." By that logic, I guess he was qualified to be an F-16 pilot because he's been watching them fly for at least that long.

The few who have established themselves as the leadership are of course going to surround themselves with those who will get things done in a certain way. Their way! There are fewer jobs the higher up you get so being qualified is only as good as your ability to convince the boards that you are qualified.....I'm 18+ years in and an O-5. I am sure I'll never see O-6

Just John said...

I think that the specific billet probably has more to do with it than an individual's rank. Cary had a fine example; the SgtMaj of the Marine Corps is probably going to be more of a politician than the SgtMaj of an infantry battalion.

I would say that, for enlisted personnel, putting a political spin on things probably begins at the MSgt/1stSgt (E-8) level, with a few Gunnies as exceptions.

NurseWilliam said...

My guess is somewhere around O-4 and O-5, the transition point from line officer to field officer. I think that at that point, the officers are making the decision whether or not to commit themselves to the process of grooming for a star.

That's just my guess, anyway.