Earlier this evening, Lieutenant General Maria Gervais fired off this (now deleted) tweet. It's precisely what one may expect a general officer to post. A compelling photo, some troops, the word "hero's" [sic], an American flag. It's all there.
Except there's a problem.
Maybe you've spotted it.
Yep, these aren't American troops. They're British. I'll grant you these are all white guys in disheveled camouflage uniforms, they all have short hair, and the average person might not know the difference by sight alone.
But this mistake wasn't posted by a patriotic soccer mom on Facebook. This one came from the Deputy Commanding General of the US Army's training branch, TRADOC. That's a big deal.
US Army TRADOC is short for "US Army Training and Doctrine Command," and it's the part of the Army that deals with recruiting and training new soldiers, as well as their follow-on schools after basic training.
According to the Army TRADOC website:
TRADOC recruits, trains, educates, develops and builds the Army; establishes standards, drives improvement, and leads change to ensure the Army can deter, fight, and win on any battlefield now and into the future.
About 500,000 soldiers a year pass through TRADOC. Overseen directly by TRADOC are US Army Initial Military Training, US Army Cadet Command, US Army Recruiting Command, and several other related commands.
Shouldn't a 3-star general in this line of work be able to tell a US soldier from a British soldier by sight?
There are a lot of differences in appearance. The US and Brits carry very different infantry rifles. (The virgin SA80 vs. the Chad M4 carbine.) And there are also differences in camouflage, footwear, armor, and helmet systems between the two armies. I'm not trying to sound too autistic about this, but the #2 in charge of training American soldiers should probably be able to recognize them by sight.
This tweet put it best:
A Weaponized HR Department
At this point, the US military is simply a weaponized HR department. It has been for a while, too. The good general's tweet drives this point home because she actually has a master's degree in Human Resources.
And like any true HR lady, she loves to post pictures of her small dog and the candy dispensers around the office.
Out With a Whimper
The last few weeks have been a bruiser for the US military. Over a dozen troops were killed. Hundreds of civilians died. The world laughed at our chaotic retreat from Afghanistan. Appalling videos of Afghan civilians falling to their deaths from fleeing US cargo planes circulated globally. It's been a huge loss — of life, respect, credibility, prestige, and not to mention money and equipment.
There's a military quote that floats around Army training centers and instructive texts:
“Let no man’s soul cry out…Had I been properly trained”
It's viewed as a cardinal sin to lead your troops to death or failure because you did not prepare them fully or correctly for the awful tasks at hand. And while LTG Gervais certainly isn't the reason the US lost the war in Afghanistan, her errant tweet and enthusiasm for office kitsch may be a good euphemism for it.
The military is due for an overhaul. A big one. Why would any officer in their right mind feel comfortable tweeting about M&M's and office decor while American soldiers are in harm's way? Where does that get us?
By my estimation, it gets us to a world where after the last plane lands, after the last soldier's casket marches past a watch-glancing POTUS, after the last widow cries into a freshly folded flag, the middle-aged office lady in charge of training soldiers logs on to Twitter and confuses her own troops for the soldiers of an entirely different military.
God help us.