Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Kinder and Gentler

I love four-day weekends.

I hate them, too. It makes going back to work all that much more difficult.

Surprisingly, I got a buttload of hits this weekend--presumably because someone linked my site to a Citadel Alumni server, which I didn't even know existed. One of said alumni sent me an email describing the new Citadel president, one Lt Gen Rosa. I was a little wary about his appointment, due to the fact that he was just finishing up as the head of the Air Force Academy. Terry validated my concerns...

I read your posts on hazing with much interest. I am an Air Force Academy grad class of 1988. From the founding class of 1959 through the class of 1986, Air Force cadets' fourthclass year began with Basic Cadet Training, (divided into two phases, the first in the cadet area, the second in field conditions at Jack's Valley), then moved into the academic year. In mid to late May, the fourthclass year culminated with Hell Week, originally a week of intense training, using up every second of the day a fourthclassman was not actually in class. By the time the class of '86 had their Hell Week, it had shrunk to 2 days, but it was after exams so every second of the day was dedicated to Hell Week activities. Morning runs, sweat sessions, room inspections, rifle manual, the works. Unfortunately, when '86 went through almost 200 cadets ended up in the hospital with varying degrees of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and other medical issues.

The local press took the story and ran with it, painting a picture of the military once again out of control. Of course a committee was appointed to investigate, and they took a year to decide that poor logistical planning, and inadequate water access was to blame. Instead of actually fixing the problem, the powers that be made sweeping changes to what was considered "legitimate training". Physical training (dropping a smack for pushups, making them hold a rifle at arms length, etc) as punishment was forbidden. Hell Week was abolished, replaced with "recognition training", a kinder, gentler version of what had happened in the past.

The class of 1987 had a fourthclass year mostly under the old system, with my class the first one to go through a fourthclass year with all the new regulations in place. It was a very mixed bag. Some upperclassmen did very little to enforce the fourthclass system, preferring to remind my class how much tougher it was in the recent past. (of course if it was somebody in '86 that made the comment I always wondered to myself if they were one of the candyasses in the hospital) Some of the training went underground, which was even more dangerous because it was completely unsupervised, and it started some cadets down the road of regularly breaking training regulations. I believe this was one of the early reasons for the rape scandal that enveloped the Air Force Academy recently.

The rape scandal force more investigations and Lt Gen Rosa was dispatched to put out the fire. Under his command, virtually all training as any military academy grad would recognize it is now wiped out. Basic training is a watered down imitation of what was once an actual challenge. The fourthclass year consists of corporate style team building exercises, with no raised voices allowed. Freshmen are put at ease by Thanksgiving, their "fourthclass year" essentially over by Thanksgiving. This is the "Officer Development System" (ODS) and it is headed straight for the Citadel in the person of Lt Gen Rosa, the new Supe at the Citadel. Unless he is a total hypocrite you can expect the same treatment. Good luck, you guys are gonna need it! He's already destroyed one former military academy, I hope he doesn't go 2-2.
I am not trying to belittle any of the cases that are ever brought up against the military or its institutions. I have just been a first-hand witness to the knee-jerk reactions these institutions put in place to handle the situation. Like quelling a riot with a nuclear bomb, so much more is lost in the effort to handle a specific problem, and the end result is a weaker unit.

I was Shannon Faulkner's armed escort (armed with a sword that I was strictly forbidden to even touch let alone draw) the first day she showed up as a day-student at The Citadel. I was unfortunate enough to watch as my beloved school was brought to its knees in the name of equal rights. My views on what happened, and military co-education, will come in a later post. Suffice it to say that while I strongly support women in the military, the school is most certainly not better off as a result of the Supreme Court's decision.

Many leaders in today's military are overwhelmingly concerned about losing their jobs. As a result, it is not uncommon to see them institute sweeping changes for a problem that are not proportional to the issue. In the end, they look good because the problem goes away. But a lot of good is destroyed in their wake. If these changes are put in place at my alma mater, will it be a better institution for the cadets as a whole? Or just for a few?

That remains to be seen.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking from the perspective of an AFROTC cadet, the dumbing down of training is frustrating. We can't really do anything at all. No yelling, no physical punishment, nothing. Granted, it's not like I expected all that all the time (I would've gone to an academy for that), but some sort of martial training would be nice.

    It's gotten so bad that even Arnold Air Society has been affected by it. Our CTOs still were able to yell at us, but they weren't able to give out direct physical punishment. I can't imagine how I would've gotten anything out of it if they hadn't ben able to yell at us.