Friday, December 31, 2010

Perpetuating Mediocrity

One of the reasons the motor platoon has such a high pass rate on the PT test is, oddly enough, that the training NCO for our unit is such a stickler for everyone meeting or exceeding the published standard on the test. He fails people who miss the run by ten seconds and who miss the minimum by one pushup or situp. We are a National Guard unit and many active units will allow more slack than we do. But by forcing everyone to meet the standard, eventually everyone really does--except one sergeant. But 98% is very high for any unit and beyond the moon for the National Guard.

But he is not in charge of all training and performance in other areas it is clear how our socialist group both forces us to conform and helps us when we don't. In February, many of us went to the rifle range for two days--one day to zero, one day for qualification. The qualification consists of firing 40 rounds at pop-up targets from 50 to 300 meters distance. To qualify as a marksman, you must hit 23 of 40 targets. To be a sharpshooter or expert requires 33 and 37 hits respectively the first time you fire. If you get less than 23 the first time, no matter how many hits you get the second time you score only as a marksman. But when we were on the range, one soldier scored less than 23 five times. At the end of the day when the people who run the range wanted to go home, this soldier went to position 11 with 40 rounds. At positions 10 and 12 were two range instructors. Miraculously, the soldier who failed to qualify five times hit 40 out of 40. That soldier should have been scored as a Marksman, and hopefully that soldier will have other people who can shoot nearby in a firefight. But the scoring system broke down when a sergeant major showed up. Hearing that a soldier shot 40 of 40, he presented the soldier with a commemorative coin (a standard token for a very good job). So our records indicate this soldier is our top expert marksman. Once the fudging starts, it is hard to stop. Those instructors could not admit they were nailing targets.

Remember Sgt. Oblivious? After he was relieved from his job as a squad leader, he was not formally removed, so he was still squad leader on his soldier's records. So he signed the awards that others rewrote. By putting an electronic signature on these documents, he has proof that he is competent at writing awards when he next comes up for promotion. If the awards were not rewritten his squad members would have suffered. Because they were rewritten, the Army suffers because a thoroughly incompetent soldier has proof he can write awards.

One thing I thought I would get a one-year break from in a war zone is all the gray areas of modern life. But the Army is part of modern life and it is as gray in here as it is on the outside--with an olive drab tinge.