Letters to the Editor

Your views in 200 words or less

MILITARY: Hold all commanders accountable

Letter by George M. Stevens Jr., Los Angeles, Calif. on March 28, 2011 at 11:53 am with 15 Comments »
March 28, 2011 11:53 am

Re: “Exemplary Army justice for Afghan war crimes” (editorial, 3-27).

The editorial on the 5th Stryker prosecutions is prescient, especially regarding the brigade commander, Col. Harry Tunnell.

In a Military Times article (4-20-2009), Tunnell spoke of the advantage in using the Land Warrior, a wearable command and control kit. “The main advantage is we’re fully networked, from team leader to vehicle systems and command posts all the way back to the (tactical operations centers( and fixed facilities.” He called it a “great system” that “has a digital eyepiece that’s compatible and is integrated with the rest of the Army’s battle command systems.”

Moreover, in a Tunnell treatise published by the Combat Studies Institute Press, he stated, “A commander must be “present and under fire” with his young soldiers (quotes in original, p. 47).” Further, he stated that this should be so “regardless of rank.”

There is no excuse for not knowing what a former member of his security detail was doing in the field, using Tunnell’s own rubric. All commanders in the chain of command, from Tunnell down to Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, should be prosecuted for criminal negligence.

Finally, Gibbs is alleged to have illegally amassed a personal stash of off-the-books weaponry for personal use. Who taught him how to do that in his previous deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan? The American public and the Army deserve better than to let accountability stop at the staff sergeant level. Otherwise, history will be doomed to repeat itself.

Tags:
Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. The first rule of leadership is a leader is responsible for everything the people the leader is in charge of do or don’t do.

  2. I fully agree with the letter writer.

    There has to be a correlation between leadership and the conduct of subordinate soldiers in the field. I doubt criminal charges would be appropriate, but no officer in the chain of command up through at least brigade should ever get promoted for higher responsibilities
    (i.e. the plattoon Lt, company CO, battalion CO, and brigade CO).

    If soldiers under these leaders can expect long prison sentences, it asks very little to expect no promotion for their officers who were responsible for their conduct under their command authority.

    I know the Air Force tracks performance and safety issues for promotion of its officers – too many crashes (which certainly could be considered mere accidents) and no commanding colonel is going to get his star. I would think murder should be treated at least as important in how the Army evaluates their commanders for promotions.

  3. Rollo_Tomassi says:

    xring –

    Whose rule is that? Is it written anywhere by anyone other than you? Have you ever actually led an organization where you were completely responsible for all of the actions of your subordinates?

    I can’t see how you can hold a leader responsible for the actions (or non-actions) of subordinates unless the leader directed those actions or knowingly allowed their continued practice after notification.

    However, as the letter writer said, leaders should be accountable for the actions of their subordinates. That means leaders should be called on to account for how such a thing could have happened under their command. Accountability might also determine if the leader bears any responsibility for the actions through the leaders own action or inaction. But responsibility is not automatically assumed, and I have no idea what school of management or leadership records responsibility for subordinate actions as the “first rule” of leadership.

  4. In patriarchial institutions the “poop” rolls downhill and those at the top always escape unscathed.. In America… the people at the top never get prosecuted.

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    It’s telling that the most hateful of the military are the ones that claim to know the most about it. If soldiers WERE locked down to the place that their actions could never excape attention, then the same military haters would scream about soldier treatment. What you military haters are asking for is no less than holding parents for execution if their son commits murder.

  6. commoncents says:

    No, what they are asking is that a manager of employees to lose the possibility of future promotion if they are unable to effectively manage their employees or even create or maintain a culture where adherence to the laws/rules governing them are of paramount import. Mind you this not not unlike what we ask of our college coaches, our business leaders, and even our slimey politicians.

  7. There are some very good national reporters’ stories about this, especially an in-depth investigation by Rolling Stone.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42304341/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/?GT1=43001

    It is obvious that upper echelon knew that things were going on, but turned a blind eye, and those in middle command positions knew about atrocities from many reports. With responsibility comes accountability, or the system deteriorates, like it did in this platoon’s actions.

  8. Nothsc – leadership goes below the platoon level to include Non-commissioned Officers.

    R_T – try the U.S. Marine Corps where that rule is taught from boot camp to Command and Staff College. And yes, I have lead fire team, squad, platoon, and company size units.

    Sue1234 – in the new American Military guilt also flows downhill.

    Tuddo – the unfortunate truth is that promotion all too often requires a clean record, no mistakes, no scandal, no bad publicity etc.

  9. Nothsc – leadership goes below the platoon level to include Non-commissioned Officers.

  10. R_T – try the U.S. Marine Corps where that rule is taught from boot camp to Command and Staff College. And yes, I have lead fire team, squad, platoon, and company size units.

  11. Sue1234 – in the new American Military guilt also flows downhill.

  12. Tuddo – the unfortunate truth is that promotion all too often requires a clean record, no mistakes, no scandal, no bad publicity etc.

  13. R_T – U.S. Marine Corps where that rule is taught from boot camp to Command and Staff College. And yes, I have lead fire team, squad, platoon, and company size units.

  14. R_T – USMC where that rule is taught from boot camp to Command and Staff College. And yes, I have lead fire team, squad, platoon, and company size units.

  15. xring, yes, in this case a lieutenant was so concerned that there might have been an unauthorized killing and his record would be blemished that he helped stage it so it looked like it fell under the rules of engagement instead of reporting it or taking responsible action. Seems like things are generally different in the Navy (with that tradition following into the Marines) where a ship’s captain is responsible for everything under his command. Being unaware is seldom an acceptable excuse there.

*
We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0