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November 29, 2005

On killing morale - and damaging trust and respect... and undermining authority

How do you seemingly work hard at destroying a generally fine Army? Like this... Reforms are one thing, hacking away at the basic glue that holds it together under pressure is another thing.

First, there's this: Strip officers of the power to charge their soldiers for serious offenses.

Officers will lose historic power to charge their men By Michael Evans, Defence Editor COMMANDING officers are to lose their historic powers to decide whether to charge their soldiers with serious offences, including murder, rape and human rights abuses. The most senior officers at the top of the chain of command will also be excluded from the decision-making process under new legislation to be laid before Parliament next month.

The decision comes after an unprecedented case this year when a commanding officer of a tank regiment was overruled after he had judged that one of his soldiers had not committed a criminal offence when he shot dead a civilian Iraqi.

The commanding officer of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment ruled that Trooper Kevin Williams, 22, should not be charged.

On the evidence available he decided that the soldier had acted within his rules of engagement.

However, the case was referred to the Army Prosecuting Authority, and Trooper Williams was duly charged with murder. But when his case came to the Old Bailey in April, the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the charge and he was formally acquitted.

The case highlighted the complexities of prosecuting soldiers in warzones, when they have to make split-second, life-and-death decisions. The role of the commanding officer who knows his men and understands the dangers they face in a war environment was always considered to be a crucial element of the military prosecution system.

Not any more. From this point on "Men in England now abed" will no longer hold their manhoods cheap for not being there on St. Crispin's Day, but will in fact be able to apply their 'safe in Bristol' sensibilities to combat decisions.

Read the whole article here.

It's one thing to have oversight, it's another altogether to equate combat zones with "routine procedures" in civil life. The term is mine.

Under the Armed Forces Bill, which is to be laid before Parliament on December 1, military investigators in serious cases will have to pass their findings direct to prosecutors.

Part of the aim of the new Bill, which will cover all three Services, is to forge a closer and earlier relationship between those who are investigating alleged offences — in the Army’s case it is the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch — and the prosecution service.

This will be more in line with the civilian police and prosecution system.

So, we will overthrow the cart, rather than take a look at driver's training, so to speak. And while we will take authority from the commanders, the responsibility will remain in place.

This is not how you raise good leaders.

Then there's this, after you've been out gelding the officer corps, let's go and finish our trashing of the core of your army, the Infantry, and hit at a key piece of morale, unit affiliation. The US Army has gone through this trauma before, as well, albeit we have few units in the Regular establishment that have lineages as long as Brit regiments.

One of the Army's most senior officers expressed "great dismay" yesterday after learning that restrictions are to be imposed on wearing historic caps and badges after the merger of Scotland's regiments.

Lt Gen Sir Alistair Irwin, Colonel of the Black Watch, who is regarded by many critics as the architect of the Scottish "super-regiment" merger, said the decision would undermine the "painful process of amalgamation".

The new cap badge of the Royal Regiment of Scotland
He also said it would make the task of building a new single regiment, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, from Scotland's six regiments much harder.

This will pass, in time, but it still reeks. But, on the flip side, the US Army's combat efficiency wasn't terribly affected by the taking the black beret from the Rangers and giving it to everyone. The Rangers adapted. The average troop adapted.

Mostly.

Many US troops simply don't know how to wear the damn things properly, though. The Armorer does look rather dashing in one. If you can ignore the bowling pin physique underneath.

You can read the whole thing here.

H/t to CAPT H.

Lastly, to close out this mil-themed post, a little reminder that in this war, unlike most wars the Air Force has fought - it is the enlisted Airman who is more often at risk, whereas they usually waved 'bye-bye' to the officers as they took off to find glory in the sky.

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NORTHERN IRAQ -- A suicide bomber struck this truck on Nov. 30, 2004 killing seven and injuring 20 more. Miraculously, the three Airmen inside the vehicle emerged with only minor injuries. (U.S. Air Force photo)