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Old 06-29-2010, 20:20   #1
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Why Senior Military Leaders Fail...

Why senior military leaders fail
And what we can learn from their mistakes

By Lt. Col. Donald Drechsler & Col. Charles D. Allen (Ret.)
Armed Forces Journal
July 2009

In the first decade of the 21st century, the U.S. military observed the firings or resignations of the chief of staff of the Air Force, the secretaries of the Army and the Air Force, plus several general officers, including the commander of U.S. Central Command and most recently the senior American commander in Afghanistan.

Why did these smart and otherwise extremely successful senior leaders lose their jobs? Is there something we can learn from their experiences to improve ourselves as leaders and better serve the nation? Assuming that we can learn more from our mistakes than our successes, we may be able to learn by studying senior leaders who have failed in this new era...

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Old 06-30-2010, 16:04   #2
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The part about Walter Reed is inaccurate. Problems were known to exist for well over a year before the political pressure became too great for the White House/Pentagon to ignore. I do not know if the CO took a fall for someone else who would not give him the funds to make the improvements necessary or whether he never requested the money to fix the problems. I wondered about it at the time whether he was scapegoated or simply too stupid to recognize the magnitude of the powder keg he was sitting on.
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Old 06-30-2010, 17:28   #3
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My understanding was that with Walter Reed on the BRAC list, they had cut the funding for maintenance to the bone.

IMHO, the hospital CO took one for the team.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." - President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

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Old 09-28-2010, 06:50   #4
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Walter Reed...

... from my understanding, had an institutional issue, borne of a mentality I can only call "wrong."
My friend, a double amputee still on a team (just so you can base the type of person I am talking about), was there. Recovering from his surgeries, bed-ridden, he was ordered to formation the next day, lest he be called AWOL. This was the norm for daily business, not the exception.
The idea that this was an institutional issue is further borne out by the fact that after the MD (a general officer of course) in charge of WR was fired, he was replaced by the first Non-MD GO to command WR in its history. They wanted to change the paradigm.

Speaking to Afghanistan:
The replacement of McKiernan reminds us that senior leaders have prerogative to build the team they feel is best suited to execute the selected strategy.
How troubling is it then that the replacement for McKiernan was fired as well? What must have gone through Petraus's head when he got that phone call? In my mind this speaks to more than just the book answers for why these GOs were relieved of duty.
“Creating effective intelligence is an inherent and essential responsibility of command. Intelligence failures are failures of command – [just] as operations failures are command failures.” Marine Corps Doctrine Publication 2 - Intelligence
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Old 06-17-2012, 09:21   #5
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Post My thoughts

This was a good read, thank you for posting it.
It also is a great reminder to all Leaders that you can and must delegate authority to subordinates but you can never delegate the Responsibility that your position and profession holds. Additionally I like to beat a dead horse into the ground and say, I truly think all Secretary of Services/Defense along with the Commander and Chief should have some kind of military background. It has happened in History too many times to count that the Civilian Boss doesn't like the Military Leaders decisions and doesn't listen to the voice of experience. Given Senior Military Leaders can be wrong just as much as Civilians but 20-40 years of experience tends to give a pretty decent understanding of your job. Compared to simply having a degree in Poly Sci. To steal it from a book/movie in Starship Troopers you had to serve to be a Full Citizen, and you could not hold or run for the aforementioned positions without your Citizen ship.
Just my 2 ¢, actually being I am stationed in Europe maybe it my ,02 € (which is worth far great than just 2 ¢)
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The Reason the American Army does so well in wartime, is that war is chaos, and the American Army practices it on a daily basis
~Unnamed German General in a Post War Debrief

Any Idiot can pick up a gun and shoot it. But I challenge you to pick it up and aim it.
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