Not only is this a rant, but it's a ramble, too. I just got back
from 9 days aboard a ship, and every time I go to one of these things,
I see stuff that for me, at least, is a clear indicator of why the
gears are starting to grind more often. Morale on most of the ships I've been on is very low, but guess what? It isn't because of the job itself. It's something else - something deep. So, in order to deal with it, I just started
writing in a word document about some little things that bug me. It
isn't well written, but I publish it because...well, because that's all
I ever intended this blog to be for. For me to spew whatever I wanted to now and again.
Enjoy. Or don't.
Once upon a time, men were conscripted into armed services. They were
conscripted by various means - law and societal pressure being the most
prevalent. Yes, there have been times
when lots of people joined for a cause sparked by some international event, but
for the most part, people don't grow up aspiring to kill others or be killed by others in a war.
These days, the military is different. People join it voluntarily, but
their choice to do so is varied. Most do not actually want to go to some
war and put their lives on the line for what they believe. Hell...many
would be hard pressed to tell you, and defend with anything that remotely
resembles reason, what exactly it was that they DID believe. The truth of
the matter is, the military is a place to turn for many people that have no
other marketable skills. It's also a good place to go do a quick 4 years and walk out with a lot of college money. The military offered me, as a musician, far more
than the guy that ran the bar down the street. That guy would have me play four hours a night for a pittance and no
future. So it isn't a stretch that I joined. It was a good business
decision for my family. For our survival.
Over the 17 years I have been in, I have heard a lot of rhetoric.
Things like "Mission first, people always," and a whole bunch of lip
flapping about "honor, courage, and commitment." And then I
walk by the closest 15 parking spaces to the commissary which are reserved for
O-6 (high ranking officer) and above and it makes me wince. Not because I
want to park closer, but because it is so clear to me that the words "people
always" are Orwellian in nature. It’s
“people always, but me first.” In the
military, all are created equal, but some are more equal than others.
It is necessary in the military (and I would argue in ANY business) for some
person to be definitively in charge - to lead the way ahead. But why is
it necessary to magnify the value of those in charge to the point that they get
better parking privileges? (And hopefully you realize that parking is just an
example of a whole trend of other perks that the "more equal" set
gets) It has been said that "rank has its privileges" but that
is an outdated counterproductive way of thinking in today's age. We are
one team, set to accomplish one mission, and no person on that team should
receive one iota less treatment in something that has nothing to do with that
mission. This includes who gets to sit where on a plane, who gets to
board the plane first, who gets the first meal, what time liberty expires, best
parking places, best housing, and etc...
The people that join the military, though they do so for varied reasons, are
preached to from the outset, that the military is one big team. That
every person doing his or her job is of equal importance, and they're
right. With downsizing of the military and limited funds an increasing
political camping ground, every person doing his or her job IS of the utmost
importance. It is for this reason that I suggest lines between ranks need
to be erased. It isn't so that Private First Class Schmuckatelly gets to
burn less calories on his long walk to the commissary door. It's because if we're all the same team, then
why are clean lines of differing values of individuals on the "one
team" being drawn? The answer is simple. So that some team
members can be more equal than others. In other words, it's a lie.
Admirals live in large houses with servants, people to cook their meals, and
a wealth of people, military and civilian alike, to do their bidding.
They have people to screen their e-mail. And I grant - they have some rough
decisions to make, and sometimes the things they do can be the deciding factor
between failure and victory. That’s why they get paid more money.
Why do they need more compensation beyond what they're paid if they value a
"one team" concept so highly?
Here's the real truth. While they’re spouting off about the one team,
they secretly harbor the belief that they deserve more than just their paycheck
over the guy whose job it is to clean the toilets. It's "Mission first, people always, as
long as I get mine off the top." And why do I say this?
Because I believe in honor, perhaps foolishly, and I have the courage to say
it, and I'm committed to the idea that all people are created equally.
I remember one time me and three guys in my band were flying back from
somewhere on an Admiral's plane. And there were cooks on the plane!
And they were serving breakfast like it was a restaurant!! And they
started to serve us and went to me first because I outranked the guys I was
with. I said "screw that...serve them first. I can
wait." It wasn't that I was trying to be noble. It's just that
the idea that because I had some extra stitching on my sleeve made me more
valuable than they were made me sick to my stomach.
The fear I have is that rank-based respect will be our undoing. It may
seem trivial to the average reader that I resent having to call a man
"sir," with the clear implication that I am "not a sir," to
a guy who was in diapers when I graduated high school. But I have seen
the effects of this rank based thinking, and it isn't good. People
deserve respect based on their merits that they prove over a period of time,
and it doesn't matter whether they are enlisted, officer, or how many years
they have in. If their character, and especially their competency, is
such to warrant the respect of the people around them, they need to be
compensated as such. And I don't care if it's an 18 year old Seaman
Recruit just out of boot camp who happens to be a ninja at his job or if it's a
venerable Admiral who's seen a world that's hurting and has had to make some
tough decisions along the way. If the "one team" paradigm is going
to work, it means that each team member has an equal value. Extra perks
that accumulate with every 10 cent stripe you add to your costume – er, I mean
uniform - are an indicator that “one team” is just more rhetoric. And though the financial compensation may
differ due to the gravity of the situations dealt with and the responsibilities
that must be born along with those decisions, the individual team members will
not be at their best on the "one team" if they are taught to perceive
themselves as "less than." Cloths don’t make the man, I hear. Well rank doesn’t either.
Rank is archaic. It's unnecessary. And it makes people on the
"one team" feel like they aren't a major part of that one team when,
in fact, they most definitely are. Once
upon a time, it worked and it made sense. Today, not so much in my opinion.