Home > Culture, Organization > 2010 Iconoclast of the Year

2010 Iconoclast of the Year

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I consider myself something of a cultural insurgent, and so have decided to begin a new tradition.  I will present an annual award to the person or persons I believe have done the most to change the ugly parts of military culture.  This dubious honor will be given out at the end of each calendar year for the previous year.

Before I get to the 2010 award winner, I’d like to recognize three honorary award winners from years past who most certainly would have received this honor had it been in existence.

Previous Winners

Honorary Awards
COL John Boyd, USAFJohnBoydinsuit.jpg COL Boyd’s Energy-Maneuverability theory revolutionized the way combat aircraft were conceived, built, and employed.  Defying bureaucratic resistance, he successfully fought to create a light, fast, maneuverable, and inexpensive jet fighter which became the most produced of all time – the F-16.  Later, his theories on using time as a weapon and his concept of the OODA loop significantly influenced the development of US military ground doctrine.
COL Paul Yingling, USAYinglingWeb COL Yingling, disgusted with the strategic incompetence displayed by US senior leaders in the early years of the Iraq War, risked career suicide by penning a stinging critique of said senior leaders in Armed Forces Journal entitled “A Failure in Generalship.”  His article, despite drawing angry retaliation from some senior leaders, touched off a critical discussion about strategic leadership in the US Army.
COL Billy Mitchell, USAASFile:Billy Mitchell.jpg COL Mitchell was court-martial for his advocacy of air power in the years between World War I and II.  He successfully fought to gain limited budget resources for the development of air power.  His opposition was less concerned about national security than is was securing funding for its own parochial interests.  COL Mitchell’s effort resulted in a US Army Air Force that was able to fight and win over the battlefields of WWII.

Without further delay, I present the 2010 Iconoclast of the Year award to COL Lawrence Sellin.  COL Sellin wrote a scathing article regarding the bloated staff structure and obsession with PowerPoint in the US Afghanistan war headquarters.  You can read the entire article here. Among the more quotable quotes from COL Sellin:

“For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information”

“Around here, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a colonel.”

“The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn’t matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

Random motion, ad hoc processes and an in-depth knowledge of Army minutia and acronyms are also key characteristics of a successful staff officer.”

”Briefers explain each slide by reading from a written statement in a tone not unlike that of a congressman caught in a tryst with an escort.”

“Each day is guided by the “battle rhythm,” which is a series of PowerPoint briefings and meetings with PowerPoint presentations. It doesn’t matter how inane or useless the briefing or meeting might be. Once it is part of the battle rhythm, it has the persistence of carbon 14.”

For his efforts, COL Sellin was fired from his staff job and retired.

Bravo, COL Sellin, for saying what we all knew was true, but were too timid to say so.

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Categories: Culture, Organization
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  1. September 1, 2012 at 4:32 am

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