So goes the nation when the will of the military has been broken. This is the culmination of decimating purges and cuts from the Obama administration. The hammer of the world (see also HERE) and most powerful nation, that the world has ever seen, is being systematically destroyed from within and a new chapter in world history is about to be formed — one without America.
Chapter 1 – A Worsening Crisis
After 13 years of war, troops feel burned out and without a sense of mission. More doubt their leaders and their job security.
For many of the war-weary troops who deployed to combat zones over and over again for 13 years, the end of an era of war in Iraq and Afghanistan is good news.
But for Marine Sgt. Zack Cantu and other service members, it’s a total morale killer. For many of them, particularly the young grunts and others in combat arms specialties, it’s the realization that they may never go into battle for their country and their comrades.
“Most people in [the Marine Corps] are in because of the wars,” said the 25-year-old Cantu, a former infantryman at Camp Pendleton, California. Cantu has retrained as a telephone system and computer repairer, a specialty more likely to survive as the service downsizes.
“Now, everyone’s coming to the realization, ‘It’s probably not going to happen for me,'” he said.
The wars against America’s enemies gave troops like Cantu a noble purpose. Their training had focus, their sacrifices were appreciated by a largely grateful nation. That gratitude was reflected from the White House to the citizen in the street, all of whom heaped praise upon military members for their service.
Congress lavished generous pay increases and expanded benefits on them while spending deeply to provide the gear and weapons they needed. Recruiters raced to grow the size of the services, and society vowed to never again undervalue the 1 percent of the country who stepped forward to keep them safe.
Today, however, that gratitude seems to be dwindling. The services have weathered several years of deep cuts in funding and tens of thousands of troops have been unceremoniously given the boot. Many still in uniform and seeking to retire from the military fear the same fate, as those cuts are not yet complete.
A Military Times survey of 2,300 active-duty troops found morale indicators on the decline in nearly every aspect of military life. Troops report significantly lower overall job satisfaction, diminished respect for their superiors, and a declining interest in re-enlistment now compared to just five years ago.
Today’s service members say they feel underpaid, under-equipped and under-appreciated, the survey data show. After 13 years of war, the all-volunteer military is entering an era fraught with uncertainty and a growing sense that the force has been left adrift.
One trend to emerge from the annual Military Times survey is “that the mission mattered more to the military than to the civilian,” said Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who studies the military. “For the civilian world, it might have been easier to psychologically move on and say, ‘Well, we are cutting our losses.’ But the military feels very differently. Those losses have names and faces attached to [them].”
According to the Military Times survey, active-duty troops reported a stunning drop in how they rated their overall quality of life: Just 56 percent call it good or excellent, down from 91 percent in 2009. The survey, conducted in July and August, found that 73 percent of troops would recommend a military career to others, down from 85 percent in 2009. And troops reported a significant decline in their desire to re-enlist, with 63 percent citing an intention to do so, compared with 72 percent a few years ago.
Army Spc. David Potocnik is one of the troops who has seen morale in his unit take a hit, though he can’t really put a finger on why. A Black Hawk mechanic with 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Fort Carson, Colorado, Potocnik said stress levels in his unit seem to be on the rise, despite a softening deployment tempo. Fellow soldiers, he said, struggle to connect what feel like excessive training and additional duties in garrison with operational readiness and the overall mission.
“There are people who are really motivated, really high-speed … but they don’t seem to be a majority,” he said. “You’d think garrison would be more relaxed, but it’s frantic — for no reason.”
Troops said more stress is created by long-term budget cuts imposed on the force through sequestration — the much-despised but apparently inexorable automatic spending reductions over a decade approved by Congress — and drawdown measures designed to shrink the force. An Air Force captain working in security forces said the fiscal insecurity is taking its toll, causing more workplace exhaustion and frustration. And personal career uncertainty, he said, is driving many of his colleagues out of the service, perhaps earlier than they otherwise would have departed.
“It makes it really hard for folks to build strong résumés for themselves if we can’t provide the opportunities for them, both in and out of the service,” he said. “If they see us pinching pennies, and we can’t afford to send them to school, there’s no long-term stability for them. So at that point, they start to look for a job outside, where you don’t have the additional strain on their family.”
“We are on the bare necessities and sometimes not even that. For example, I need new boots but they’ll ask me, ‘How long can you stretch that?'” he said.
Survey data show that service members are also feeling pain in their own wallets. Congress this year capped the military pay raise at 1 percent, rather than the 1.8 percent that would have kept pace with average annual growth in private-sector wages. It was the first military pay raise since 1999 that did not at least keep pace with private-sector wages, and it was also the lowest annual military pay raise in 40 years.
Several services also have cut pay for special duty assignments — such as recruiters, divers, drill sergeants and others — while promotions in some fields slow as competition for jobs during a drawdown heats up. And of course, those troops who have frequently collected hazardous duty and deployment pay over the last decade may now have fewer opportunities to do so.
In 2009, 87 percent of active-duty troops who participated in Military Times’ survey rated their pay and allowances “good” or “excellent.” This year, the figure was just 44 percent. When asked how quality of life might change over the next several years, 70 percent of respondents predicted it would decline further.
A Navy fire controlman chief with 10 deployments said budget fears are contributing to a feeling of distrust and abandonment. “If sailors are worried about not getting paid, how am I supposed to do my job?” he said. “I’m not an effective warfighter if I don’t have the backing of my government at home.”
A pervasive sense of pessimism about the post-9/11 wars may also contribute to the overall feeling of dissatisfaction among troops and a feeling of detachment from the decision-makers who sent them to those fights. Of those surveyed, 52 percent said they had become more pessimistic about the war in Afghanistan in recent years. Nearly 60 percent felt the war in Iraq was somewhat unsuccessful or not at all successful.
Keeping a wary watch
Last year, retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno joined a small chorus of military experts who decry a perceived “brain drain.” Barno wrote for the website Foreign Policy that the services are losing their most talented junior officers and enlisted leaders to opportunities in the civilian sector because military leadership wasn’t providing them with the right opportunities or fighting hard enough to keep them.
Departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said all military leaders are watching morale very closely, and for the most part he believes it is holding up.
When Hagel made those comments, he was on a visit to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota — where he was trying to buck up the morale of airmen in the intercontinental ballistic missile community. Over the past year, repeated scandals in ICBM units — drug use, cheating on tests, failing a safety inspection — have forced the Pentagon’s top leadership to focus attention on the community. That included firing several nuclear commanders, finding more money and manpower for ICBM units and taking dozens of measures to improve quality of life for those airmen.
This morale crisis is prompting Air Force officers to give new thought to how procedures and policies can improve or erode morale. For example, Lt. Col David Rickards, the 91st Operations Group deputy commander at Minot, believes commanders should resist the urge to aggressively micromanage from the top down.
Just 10 days after his visit to Minot, Hagel resigned under pressure from the White House. The given reasons were vague, leaving many to believe the move only reinforced the impression that the Obama administration had no clear vision for the post-war role for the military.
That’s anything but reassuring to a force that, according to survey results, widely believe the Defense Department, Congress and the president do not have the troops’ best interests at heart.
When it comes to long-term retention, good leadership actually matters more than pay and benefits, said retired Brig. Gen. Thomas Kolditz, a professor and director of the Leadership Development Program at Yale School of Management.
“The traditional wisdom holds [that] what brings people into the service are the tangibles” such as benefits and bonuses, Kolditz said. “But what keeps them in the service are the intangibles: the feeling that service matters, good leadership. Retention is more about meaning, leadership and pride.”
In the Army, some soldiers say sinking morale stems from the Army’s reduced recruiting standards at the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially six and seven years ago, when the service granted waivers for people with criminal records and filled the ranks with not-so-highly-motivated soldiers.
“What you have right now is just a retroactive action of what the Army did by letting in the influx of soldiers when it was quantity, not quality,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Fernandez, a 17-year soldier at Fort Drum, New York.
“And now we have a whole bunch of people and they can’t wait to get out. They hate the Army. There’s a lot of negativity,” he said.
Embracing the challenge
Amid the doubt and frustration, there are leaders embracing the challenge of inspiring a postwar force during these lean times.
Civilian support subsides
The days of fat bonuses, big pay raises and extra combat cash are over — and troops fear the worst is yet to come.
Full article: A worsening morale crisis (Military Times)