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In Our Army, The Generals are Fat, The Sergeants are Thin

In the Spring of 1977, a group of Soviet General officers made an inspection tour of our base in Wiesbaden, West Germany.  In October 1976, the 4th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division relocated from Fort Carson, Colorado, to what was formerly an air base in Wiesbaden.

Our 4,000 mechanized troops were meant to be a show of force to the Soviet Union by America.  We were reinforcing NATO.  Within 48 hours after we landed, we were on the border in our fully loaded tanks at Fulda, where World War Three was supposed to begin.

The following spring, a group of Soviet Generals toured our base.  My unit, 1st Battalion, 70th Armor, stood in formation in front of our tanks for the inspection.  One Soviet General spoke to us after the inspection.  He said, in English, that "In our Army, the generals are fat and the sergeants are thin.  In your Army, the generals are thin and the sergeants are fat.  I wonder why that is?"

I don't remember much else about that day, except that the sun was out--not the norm in Wiesbaden.  But that one line said so much about our respective armies.

The Soviet General command draftees from his own country and other Warsaw Pact countries.  They were underpaid, badly treated, hungry and hoping just to survive their enlistment.  The American Army was in the fourth year of being a Volunteer Army, which means professional army.  The men who made a career of the Army were divided between those who loved the military and those who just wanted the early retirement--LIFERS, we used to call them.

Even in the 70s, that General saw enough overweight soldiers to make his comment.  I was reminded of this because I have seen several of the Generals in the Pennsylvania National Guard at events recently and they are thin, tough and walk fast.  I also saw a Master Sergeant who hasn't passed a physical fitness test in this century.  He looks like the General in command of the New Jersey National Guard.

Another reason I thought of that Soviet General was a news report on Sputnik (Russian State News) announcing that the 1st Guards Tank Army has been reformed to defend Mother Russia.

We still have thin generals and too many fat sergeants.  And the Russian Army is recruiting more of those skinny draftees for a huge new Mechanized Army.


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