Things have been a bit hectic, and will get more so that way in the near future, so I will give a quick rundown on happenings past, present, and future.
A few weeks ago, I was talked into attending the Army's WLC (Warrior's Leadership Course) for the sake of future promotion. Sound high-speed? Yeah well, it's not. At all. In any way, shape, or form. It is, as a matter of fact, probably the most ridiculous thing I have been a part of so far in my Army career. And that, my friends, is really saying something.
Allow me to preface what I am about to write with short note. One day I hope to write a more encompassing and detailed view of how the Army could revamp its training to better train its soldiers and save the taxpayers vast sums of money while doing so. It is a subject that I am passionate and serious about, and believe my argument to be a well thought out and valid one. This post, however, will be more along the lines of a bitch session. Just to be clear.
WLC, for starters, is the first in a series of courses the Army uses to "develop" its NCOs (and, incidentally, a course I have been avoiding taking since 2003). One needs WLC to make Staff Sergeant, and subsequent courses to advance further in rank, etc. In theory, taking an E-4 or E-5 and putting them through a two-week course about leadership is a superb idea. And were it done right, this could be a valuable tool. Courses on principles of leadership, team management, the psychology of training/fighting, and personnel development would all be examples of classes that are NOWHERE TO BE FOUND at WLC. In place of those is instead a trip back to Basic Training with room inspections, uniform inspections, conducting physical fitness formations, classes on equal opportunity, and (my personal favorite) marching in formation and classes on how to do so properly. In a word, mind-numbing.
Here's the real kicker, no one in the Army takes this course seriously. Everyone knows it is a joke, and does it because it has to be done to get promoted. I watched the men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion dropping off their fellow Rangers to attend the course, their expressions said it all: have fun with the nonsense, it's a complete joke. In fact, the only people who do take the course seriously are the instructors who are, in my opinion, part of a dying breed; those last remaining members of the "old-school" Army who still believe that buffing a floor and marching in formation is the best way to instill discipline in a soldier.
Here is an example: as with nearly every course in the Army, the first thing to be done is the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). Push-ups for 2 minutes, sit-ups for 2 minutes, and a 2 mile run for time. Well, this is the new Army, see. The standards have changed to accommodate...everyone, apparently. So the passing of the APFT is no longer mandatory for the completion or graduation of the course. However, and this is a big however, at WLC soldiers are also tested on how to conduct a PT formation -- lining people up, stretching, extending the formation, the verbiage used to do so, and how to finish it, etc. This is actually a fairly detailed process, and remembering how to do it all is somewhat difficult, especially for those of us who have never done it, and were never a part of a unit who did it since basic training. I honestly didn't know that it was actually used outside of basic training, to be honest. Well, it is. And it is tested at WLC. And it is mandatory for completion of the course. Yes, you heard that right. You don't actually have to be in shape, or know how to get others in to shape, but by golly you better know how to march them out to the PT field and you damn sure better use the right words once you get there.
Is this how we develop leaders? By ignoring the standards and skills required to survive on the battlefield? It gets better. Next came "weapons immersion." This is just a cute way of saying "you are being issued an M-16 and you have to carry it everywhere with blanks in it." Super. Their reasoning? To make soldiers more familiar with carrying a weapon so that when they go overseas they won't do something stupid. Ok, fair enough. But during the briefing we discovered that, should a soldier have a negligent discharge, that would be a warning. And if he had a second, that would be a stronger warning. And if he had a third...well, they might think about doing something. But if there was a fourth, dammit big Sarge, we are going to seriously consider dropping you from the course. Ummm....what?? A few days later, while people were cleaning in the barracks, one of the females nearly started hyperventilating over the fact that I wasn't buffing my floor, saying "this is serious." I looked at her and calmly said "I can fail the APFT and notionally shoot four people in the face without them kicking me out. I don't think they will if my floor isn't buffed." For me, this falls under the category of the Army itself not taking the course seriously, so why should I. Arrogant, perhaps. But valid, none the less.
Keep in mind, this isn't about me complaining because it was tough or hard or the suck factor; I have been through R.I.P. (Ranger Indoctrination Program), SFAS (Special Forces Assessment and Selection) and lived and trained at a Ranger Battalion for almost three years. I know what hard is, and I know what being "in the suck" is about in a training environment. And because of that I also know that training of that nature is hard and it sucks because it has to. That is the nature of it. WLC is not hard at all, and the "suck factor" is in no way the same. It doesn't fulfill a purpose. There is no selection or weeding out process (a good 10% of the class would have been dropped from the APFT alone). It's just a lot of nonsense for the sake of, well... because they've done it that way for years, don't ya know.
I could go on (and probably will in more detail at a later date), but the fact is that my time at WLC was cut short due to a dental issue. Apparently a massive infection in the root of a molar going all the way to the jaw bone is a big deal. So, after having that taken care of I was sent home for missing "too much time" of the all-important WLC. Yeah, no way I could have ever caught up with that high-speed class. They gave me the option of finishing the class and having the surgery done at home, but being a Reserve soldier, that meant possibly paying for it out of my own pocket. No thanks. On the off-chance I should decide to further my time in the Army, I will just attend the course at a later time.
On that note, most people who read this probably already know, but in case there are still a few out there who don't, I will be mobilizing with my unit to go to "The Big Show" overseas in about a month. Basically what I'm saying is, Twisted Sense of Funny is going International! I can see all kinds of opportunity for crazy blog-posts with this endeavor. I'm pretty sure that The Middle East is completely wireless now, so I should be able to blog from just about anywhere. Good times, I'm tellin' ya.
But until then I am sitting at home, training, studying, and... watching some really bad television right now. Maybe I'll do a post about that in a few minutes. I seem to have a lot of aggression built up after the last few weeks, so maybe unleashing it on what I am watching will provide some good entertainment.