Home > Culture, Leadership, Organization, Socio-Cultural Systems > The Garrison Monster Cometh

The Garrison Monster Cometh

I’m old enough to remember life in the Army before the GWOT.  Now that the Army is slowing down the OPTEMPO, there are more and more units spending time in garrison. After a decade at war, the big question is whether the Army will return to pettiness that characterized garrison life a decade ago.  There are now indicators that the answer to this questions is a regrettable, yeah…probably.

One of the more annoying aspects of the pre-GWOT garrisoned Army was the obsession with starched uniforms and polished boots.  In this respect, the ACU was a Godsend.  No polishing boots, and ACUs would look decent if you just hung them up right out of the dryer…maybe a little pressing on the collar and name tapes, but no starch needed.  I remember thinking that the Army finally came up with uniform designed for fighting. Apparently, some feel this is not such a great deal.

According to a recent article in the Army Times, some Soldiers would like to get back to the“good ole’ days.”  Soldiers are lobbying Army CSM Raymond Chandler to return to the “starch and polish” Army.  It would seem these Soldiers feel that wasting money on uniform starches and time on boot polishing makes better Soldiers.  There have even been unconfirmed sightings of starched ACUs making an appearance at (predictably) Fort Bragg.

Another staple of the pre-GWOT Army was micromanagement, or the art of generals and colonels acting like squad leaders.  This phenomenon has also reared its ugly head….at Fort Bragg.  Airborne Soldier Def From Above authored a piece over at Tom Ricks’ blog which chronicled the efforts of the 82nd Airborne Commanding General to run every company in the 82nd.  Apparently, junior leaders in the 82nd cannot be trusted to run physical training.

My take:

There is a place in the military for starch and polish:  It’s called the Class A uniform.  If you have an undeniable hankering to obsess over petty details, have a Class A day or a Class A inspection.  Of course, no one does this much any more because its hard to get things done (like, uh, TRAINING) in a Class A uniform, which is why we have a combat uniform.  That’s right, kids; combat uniforms are made for combat, or training for combat.  There is no need to have a starch and polish combat uniform because your enemies are unlikely to be impressed by your polished boots and impeccable starch lines.

As for micromanagement…this was probably inevitable.  The general officers of today were field grade officers in the 90s.  That means they survived the drawdown by micromanaging everything.  It is really the only way they know to lead.  In a decade of war, they have allowed junior leaders to take initiative only because there was no alternative; geography and command/control issues virtually ensured that junior leaders had wide discretion to operate.

So, it looks like the garrison Army of Sept. 10, 2001 is making a roaring comeback.


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  1. May 30, 2011 at 8:48 am

    The Army Times (and the Military Times in general) knows which buttons it has to push in order to sell papers.

    One of those buttons: Grumpy curnudgeons complaining about how they used to do things in the old days, and how soft the Army is now. The US Army has been doing this since the winter AFTER Valley Forge.

  1. August 28, 2011 at 9:25 am

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