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JBLM: Command change ceremony lacked spit and polish

Letter by Robert H. Lamb, Manchester on July 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm with 32 Comments »
July 10, 2012 3:35 pm

I read about the change of command at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (TNT, 7-4). I was disappointed to see a picture of two lieutenant generals in a vehicle with a headlight out, and they were dressed in the “working uniform,” as were the troops.

I miss seeing generals looking like generals and dressing accordingly. They are not one of the boys. On the back page was a picture of them hugging. How sweet.

On July 6, I attended the change of command at the Coast Guard base in Port Angeles. Everywhere it was spit and polish – the enlisted in Class A with spit-shine shoes, officers is dress white, all the formalities in place including the music during inspection of the troops. It reflected the pride of the men and women of the base and the 13th Coast Guard District in general.

At the conclusion, the two commanding officers shook hands and saluted. No hugging.

While I have not discussed it with the Coast Guard, I would be willing to bet that if the new lieutenant general at JBLM requested it, the commandant of the 13th Coast Guard District would be happy to arrange for classes on the formality and procedures for a change of command.

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Leave a comment Comments → 32
  1. That’s the Army! Air Force ceremonies are still by the book!

  2. aislander says:

    I believe what Mr. Lamb saw is the result of decades of civilian leadership viewing the armed forces, and the Army in particular, as a laboratory for social experimentation, as well as an overly-politicized officer corps…

  3. LeePHill says:

    Someone actually is worried about this????

    Speaking of social experiments, I wonder why the TNT continues to publish comments from bigots, but it does. Probably just trying to see what the readers will tolerate.

  4. Ceremonies in dress uniforms are impressive and generally
    you can vaguely remember that some event took place.

  5. Meh, it’s the Army, they do everything in that ugly, $5 billion dollar, pixilated camo design.

    I always hated that “dog and pony” crap.

  6. Yes, we should have a King and Queen and put them in a palace, too. We Americans love the British monarchy and all of that expensive pomp and ceremony as much as or more than the Brits.

    Changes of command during war time are usually routine and low key, at least on Army bases. I attended many such during my career. Only on bases where the public is routinely invited, where security is not an overriding consideration, and where troops have nothing much to do except polish their boots and wash vehicles do the big formal ceremonies take place in dress uniform.

    JBLM is a working base, and I can understand why they want to keep it that way instead of putting on an expensive public show. (I would have ordered someone to fix the headlight, if indeed it was out, as the author stated, however.)

  7. bigstrapper80 says:

    I agree that there is probably nothing more important to the defense of our great nation than soldiers looking pretty in their dress uniforms.

    I miss seeing generals looking like Spanish admirals and dressing accordingly. The shinier the better!

  8. stopcomplainin says:

    Well, the Army still has a war to fight, while the Air Force, CG and Navy all get time to play dress up.

  9. No one has mentioned those that have to rehearse numerous times in a hot, uncomfortable uniform. All for a show for a single man.

  10. Common folks! Let’s have a giant “group hug”! Since hugging a complete stranger seems to be the newest form of meeting people. I’ve wondered about this new form of greeting for some time. I guess an old-fashioned handshake is no longer appropriate. Just more proof of the wusification of the American male. As for the uniform, remember, we’re talking about the army, the service that can never make up it’s mind about what kind of hat to wear. The other services don’t seem to be as confused about uniform standards as our perfumed princes in the army’s leadership.

  11. CT7, rehearsals are not done in dress uniform. Try it wearing woolen O.D’s or starched fatiques.

  12. frosty, I think hugs will diminish in popularity, especailly anyone hugging an armed law enforcement officer after the accidental death.

    As long as the military refrains from “air kissing”, man hugs are fine with me. Of course, in every agument you are on the “slippery slope” side, so I guess a quick hug will necessarily lead to future French kissing on the parade field.

  13. LeePHill says:

    “Just more proof of the wusification of the American male.”

    Yeah….males never hugged in the good old days. Jesus just shook hands.

  14. We don’t require pomp and circumstance in other government work, why are some so needy to feather-up military proceedings? That is weird to me. We live in a time of receding formalities – my office is jeans and button-up, tucked or not. I know for a fact Howard Schultz wears khakis and a long-sleeve at the office. Nobody cares about ‘spit shine’ anymore.

  15. tuddo, you may be spot-on with the ” French kissing” comment. Obama has opened the military to the possibility of seeing same sex couples holding hands on the parade field.

  16. norsey, what are your military credentials?

  17. LeePHill, I guess I’ll have to take your word for it. I wasn’t around in “Jesus’s” time, but apparently you were. What other books of fiction have you read?

  18. Stopcomplanin – how long do you think the troops in Afghanistan would last without the direct support of the Air Force and the Navy?

    My guess is slightly longer than you would last in CG boot camp.

    Frosty,
    – just a reminder that the people who won in Viet Nam held hands with other men and wore sandals.

    – Man to man hugging and kissing is in the Bible – which I am beginning to think you have never read.

    Norsey,
    – As Patton said if the troops do not look, dress, and act like soldiers how do you except them to fight like solders.

  19. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to why the military has change of command ceremonies?

    Frosty – I for one never say the reason fatigues needed to be starched.

  20. Frosty – like 99% of all Americans, I’ve never served in the Military – why does that disqualify me from having an opinion on a service I pay for? I’m not a teacher, but I have opinions on how schools should run. I’m not a chef, but I have opinions on what makes good food.

  21. Frosty, the day before an leader rehearsals would be in ACUs, day of there is always a rehearsal before hand, full dress.

    Either way I see the need for ceremonies, but they do not have to be painful for all involved.

  22. norsey, it was you who said that pomp and circumstance for military proceedings seem weird. Just because you can go to work with your shirt tail hanging out doesn’t mean that a “uniformed” service should do the same. Should cops also walk around like they work for Facebook? That’s why I asked about your credentials, don’t knock it if you haven’t earned it.

  23. CT7, from my experience, it’s the local commander’s call on how to run his unit.

  24. xring, I glad that you believe everything that you read in the bible. I don’t. As to whether or not I’ve read the bible is none of your business. Let’s just say that I’m a “reformed” baptist. Regarding the comment about the “people who won in Vietnam”. I dispute the fact that they “won” because they held hands and wore sandals.. They won because the American’s had a population that held hands, smoked pot and wore flowers in their hair and would not support our military. The Vietnamese never “won” a battle. Don’t try to revise history.

  25. frosty, the mythology that the US never lost a battle in Viet Nam is just that. America’s most decorated officer of that war, Col. David Hackworth, in his book “About Face,” recounts that the U.S. military had every advantage, yet lost at least 50 battles during the Vietnam war.

    One of my saddest days was when I had to present a report to NATO’s Central Army Command in Heidelberg on a battle at a Special Forces base in Kham Duc that was later called a “redeployment” by the brass to save face and cover it up to the press.

    The truth of that battle has now come out, so you can look it up for yourself. Two C-130’s were lost, numerous other aircraft, several platoons and countless civilians who had serviced the base were abandoned and lost. The base was totally abandoned.

    Right after presenting that report, I was quickly ordered to Viet Nam, as were numerous other enlisted and mid-range officers who had seen the report. Coincidence? I think not.

    I think Patraeus’ arrogance in Iraq and Afghanistan that showed his inability to understand an insurgent enemy is based on his continued insistence that body count is what mattered in Viet Nam and that the US always won every battle because the other side’s body count was higher than ours.

    Not every lesson that should have been learned in Viet Nam was learned by people who made later decisions.

  26. .
    Frosty.

    I see the concept of sarcasm is still beyond your grasp.

    One reason They won and WE lost was because they had the superior strategy and tactics, and a far superior knowledge of when, where, and how we would fight.

    The people who lacked the will to win were our POLITICAL leaders.

    Good knows the troops tried, but far too many of our senior military and political leaders were more focused on a theoretical war that never came, and never learned how to fight either a guerrilla war or an insurrection, let alone a guerrilla based insurrection.

  27. PS: IMO Viet Nam was the wrong war, in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons, and fought by the wrong people.

    Which makes our loses all the more tragic.

  28. Sroldguy says:

    “Nobody cares about ‘spit shine’ anymore.”

    Maybe Microsoft should. Might cut down on the number of bugs in all their software.

    “Anyone care to hazard a guess as to why the military has change of command ceremonies?”

    Tradition.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_of_command_(military)
    It also shows the younger troops that they are not just an Army of one but are part of something much larger.

    “I for one never say the reason fatigues needed to be starched.”

    PRIDE! Professional Results In Daily Efforts.
    Look sharp. Be sharp. Zero Defects. w instead of y…

    Vietnam War – How to fight a war with both arms tied behind your back.
    And even then the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing!

  29. Sroldguy, Amen, (to borrow a phrase from xring), you nailed it. xring I agree with you that the war was fought by the wrong people. We should have rounded up all of the dope smoking hippies and sent them over there.

  30. The best thing for SE Asia that happened because of our war with Viet Cong and N VietNam is that we got out of there and Viet Nam became a unified, independent country. All of the right-wing fears about dominoes and slippery slope were wrong, and those hippies that pointed out that the war was a wrong war and was being carried out in an evil manner have been proved correct.

    If we had continued to support the corrupt S Vietnam government, China would have moved to annex the country and/or N Viet Nam would have stayed dependent on China.

    As it was, China and Viet Nam had a short war in 1979 and Viet Nam stayed independent of China’s influence. Now Viet Nam is a good trading partner with the US.

  31. aislander says:

    tuddo writes: “Now Viet Nam is a good trading partner with the US.”

    Yeah, after millions of deaths in Viet Nam and the non-dominoes of Laos and Cambodia, inflicted by the “winners” after our exit…

    …and after we were forced to break our treaty (I thought treaties were sacrosanct) by a treasonous Senate vote to cut not only military but humanitarian aid to a government that actually thought our word was good.

  32. aislander, how much fun do you get from rewriting history?

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