An army of one

By George S. Kulas
web posted February 12, 2001

The competition among the various branches of the armed forces in recruiting young men and women is fierce. The stress level of some recruiters striving to meet their recruiting objectives can run very high. Perhaps it was tension and frustration that had built up in an army recruiter that recently caused him to take on the Marines.

All was calm on the afternoon of November 14, 2000 at a Merced California recruiting station. But when a potential Marine recruit brushed up against army recruiter, Sergeant First Class Gregory Earl Anderson, words were exchanged. Soon an agitated Anderson was arguing with two Marine recruiters and speaking badly of the corps. Anderson left but returned a short time later with a 9-mm pistol and a baseball bat. The two Marine recruiters ran for their lives down the hallway while Anderson, wildly swinging the bat, was in close pursuit. The unarmed Marines probably gained some local "points" with the area's potential recruits when they eventually disarmed Anderson and chased him out of the building. Anderson was promptly arrested on assault and weapons charges.

The Marines may have won that battle but the recruiting war rages on. Different techniques and different marketing tools are constantly being used to gain an advantage. The army and the Marine corps are fiercely competitive with each other to snag the recruits who are interested in serving in ground combat arms or combat support areas.

Thus far the Marine corps has been the image of a branch of service in which all its members are trained a step above the others. Their boot camp and physical training and testing standards are tougher and more stringent than the other services. The army desperately wants to portray itself to potential recruits as being on equal footing with the Marines. Unfortunately, the army while maintaining its lower standards, is using false impressions and false advertising as means to achieving that goal.

The army has stooped to stealing an honor previously reserved for some of its most elite soldiers and giving it to every soldier to make all soldiers appear "elite". The Chief-of-Staff of the Army, General Eric Shinseki, has ordered that beginning in June of 2001 all soldiers not assigned to elite units will be authorized and required to wear a black beret. The black beret has long been worn with pride by army rangers. It has symbolized their elite status as some of the most highly trained and professional soldiers in the world. The General feels that by having all soldiers wearing berets there will be a higher degree of unity and pride in the army. Soldiers assigned to the elite units of airborne and special forces will continue to wear their maroon and green berets.

Of course many rangers who have trained rigorously and sacrificed dearly to earn their black beret are extremely upset that the average cook, bookkeeper, clerk etc. will be wearing their beret. Too keep the voices of the rangers unheard the army has issued a gag order forbidding them from discussing and/or expressing their discontent with the new policy.

Additionally, the army has recently changed its motto. The "Be all you can be" motto has been replaced with, "An Army of One". The emphasis on "One" certainly is misleading to some recruits as the army's missions are team oriented.

An army of one
Not actually an "army of one"

The army can't afford to have any individual soldiers envisioning themselves as being more important and/or valuable than the collective group of soldiers within a unit. Hopefully those recruits with a misunderstanding of the "One" will be enlightened to its true meaning by their drill sergeants during basic training.

The individual soldiers within the U.S. Army know that their standards must be tough and legitimate. They realize that what they wear on their head doesn't improve what's in their head and in their heart. The army could serve its soldiers far better by improving their ability to meet higher stringent standards required of the elite than by simply dressing them up to appear elite. The slogan "An Army of One" is misleading no matter how many baseball bats and weapons "one" carries.
False impressions and false advertising may recruit more soldiers but falsehoods will never help win a war.

George S. Kulas is a retired Sergeant Major who now lives in Wisconsin.

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