Home > Culture, Current Events, Ethics, Leadership, Organization, Personnel System, Toxic Leadership > “Cool Guy Syndrome” : New Illness Infecting Army Leaders

“Cool Guy Syndrome” : New Illness Infecting Army Leaders

The list of Army leaders getting fired is getting longer and longer as time goes on.  To recap the action, here is who has been canned recently:

GEN Stanley McChrystal, ISAF

COL Frank Zachar, 172nd Inf. BDE

COL James Johnson, 173rd Airborne Inf. BDE

LTC Frank Jenio, 2nd BN, 508th Parachute Infantry Regt.

COL Harry Tunnell, 5/2 Striker BDE*

*COL Tunnell had left command when the investigation was completed, however, the investigating officer said he would have fired Tunnell had Tunnell still been in command.

I’ve been doing a little research to see if I could find what all these guys have in common, and the results might surprise you.

All of them served in the 82nd Airborne, the 75th Rangers, or in many cases both during the course of their careers.

For the uninitiated, these two organizations are widely considered to be the cream of the Army crop when it comes to infantry units.  Furthermore, many officers serve in these units over and over again.  Many commanders in these units are able to personally select subordinate commanders and staff officers using an unofficial method called “BNR,” which stands for By Name Request.  Commanders give a call to their contacts at Human Resources Command (HRC), and magically the officers they want receive orders to the 82nd or 75th.

In contrast, commanders in the rest of the Army are largely stuck with what they are given by HRC, although some can finagle a BNR every now and again.

So, what does this mean?  My working theory is that the Army has formed a “Cool Guy” community in the 82nd and 75th.  This community has become insulated and even isolated, or, dare I say, incestuous?  In any event, some of the Cool Guys in the Cool Guy community have come to believe that they are above the law, or at least that they have different rules than the rest of the Army.  I’ve coined this affliction “Cool Guy Syndrome.”

Here are some of the symptoms of Cool Guy Syndrome:

– You feel like you can do and say whatever you want without repercussions.

– You openly display contempt for your superiors.

– You treat your subordinates poorly.

– You overlook or even condone patently offensive speech and behavior.

Cool Guy Syndrome appears to develop after over-exposure to the 82nd or 75th.  Like radiation, some exposure is ok, but too much will make you sick.  There is no cure for Cool Guy Syndrome, however, it can be prevented.  Simply limit your exposure to Cool Guy units, and ensure you have a wide variety of assignments that help keep you connected with reality.

The alternative is to wrap your head and private parts in aluminum foil, but I don’t think you would be too popular…

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  1. Paul
    July 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Hi- Just a note on LTC Jenio. I was an O in his battalion. Loved having him there. The soldiers (at least from what they told me and from what I observed) loved having him there too. Excellent leader overseas from what I gathered. The BDE CDR’s wife didn’t like him because he pushed back on her over-stepping her bounds as the BDE CDR’s wife and FRG leader. Shortly after, his career was over based on a less-than-clear-cut offense with implications of BDE-CDR marital bliss issues being the problems. I don’t know about the rest of your list, but it’s reasonable to infer that he was essentially canned for not kissing as much ass as he “ought” to have been.

    This doesn’t negate your point that he might have pushed limits at some point or that there’s a cool-guy mafia. However, let’s also consider that dynamic units tend to attract dynamic individuals, who by nature might be a bit more–dare we?–“sua sponte” in their actions and character, leading to more firings by those threatened with their behavior. Additionally, we might also conclude that those individuals are indeed being held accountable, while leaders in other units doing the same things (see your Cool Guy Symptoms) are being ignored. Occam’s razor and all that, but we can’t ignore the black hole of accountability Army-wide…

    • August 21, 2011 at 8:41 am


      Thanks for the insight and insider information. I agree; we need dynamic leaders who push the limits, question the rules, and think outside the box. Certainly the problem extends beyond the 82nd and 75th as well.

  2. January 13, 2013 at 1:59 am

    great article 😀 I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more 🙂

  3. Rick
    August 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I’m gonna tell you this about LTC (CPT when i knew him) Frank E Jenio, this MAN is a hard charger, the hardest there ever was and is. Whoever dismissed (not fired) him from his leadership post, had either a personal vendetta against him, or had his/her head so far up their ass they were delirious from the toxic gases. LTC (CPT when I knew him) Frank E Jenio was/is 100% fair and honest and has/had the integrity better than no man could ever dream of. I was never one of the “cool” guys as you civilians make this category, not a soldier and if you were a soldier more than likely a soup sandwich (you will understand if you were military) i was just a soldier, as was LTC Jenio, securing the the freedoms that you civis take for granted. I’d go into battle with LTC Jenio any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I would follow him into the darkest and thickest jungles, and walk the longest and hottest deserts with this man. His only mission was the freedom you people take advantage of today, he was ready to lay down his life to protect you sorry asses. Whoever pushed this man out of his post, fucked the United States royally. This is who LTC Frank E Jenio was and is and I’m sure you didn’t break him at all, this was one man and one spirit you could not break no matter what. Oh and by the way. LTC (CPT) Jenio happen to issue a well deserved Article 15 to me when I was his subordinate. He did so fairly, and competently as his orders stated him to do. So I’d say a suck ass I’m am not, I am a civilian and untouchable by military justice. So whoever has a problem with this man, now has opened a problem with me.


  4. 1SG (R)
    August 22, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    The cool guy syndrome is alive in well in the 101st ASSLT as well. One of the symptoms you seemed to have left out is that many tabbed soldiers seem to think less of the non- tabbed. I had many 19Ds w/o tabs but could run circles around some of my grunts, yet were ostracized just because they didn’t wear a tab. I recently retired because of this kind of clique BS from above.

  1. July 5, 2011 at 10:19 am

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