Toward a Leaner, Meaner Army, Where Junior Officers Will Think For Themselves

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More than 1,000 West Point cadets protest after being subjected to an underhanded drug inspection:

"Hundreds of cadets were hollering obscenities out of their windows and some were throwing objects," according to an incident summary obtained by the Times Herald-Record of Orange County, N.Y., which ran an article about the incident yesterday.

The report, written by a duty officer, also stated, "It was a shameful, pitiful day" for the United States Military Academy, the official name of the institution, which trains students to be Army officers…

[USMA spokesman Lt. Col. Kent] Cassella said he believes that the incident grew out of a "misperception" among cadets that they had been tricked into complying with a surprise drug search. They had been awakened around dawn on April 19 for a fire drill, but while they were still outside, police squads entered the buildings with drug-sniffing dogs. Frustration built during the day, and the outburst began at about 10:30 that night and lasted an hour, he said.

No narcotics were found in the search, and no disciplinary charges have been brought since the incident.

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  1. Do they even pay lip service to the Honor Code or is that a forgotten thing of the past?

    Yer in the Army now
    Yer not behind a plow
    While yer out on parade
    We’ll conduct our drug raid
    Yer in the Army now.

  2. Regardless of the motive behind it, it’s a bad signal to blackmail our future officers into complying with a drug search. If they get the message that they cannot be trusted now, then whats going to happen when they are leading troops or take their place in the chain of command.

  3. “Hundreds of cadets were hollering obscenities out of their windows and some were throwing objects,”

    And upon graduation these guys will be declared “officers and gentlemen”, by act of Congress no less! What a joke!

  4. …because a real gentleman would never ever holler any fucking obscenities and rather hell would freeze before he might throwing objects out of his window, no shit!

  5. Um, don’t think this would have gone over well in any of the military’s boot camps, which trains enlisted members. I think these guys should at least have to scrub pots & clean toilets with a toothbrush for a couple months or so.

    it’s a bad signal to blackmail our future officers into complying with a drug search

    I doubt there’s any blackmail involved, it’s probably in their contracts, which they all signed with consecrated sheep’s blood…

  6. So what exactly was the “misconception”?

  7. Perhaps I’m only sympathetic because I’m a service academy graduate, (have since serve my time and released from the forces), but here’s my take:

    As a cadet, from the moment you enter through the gates, every moment of your life is governed by rules. Rules about when you sleep and when you wake up. Rules about what you wear, and how you wear it. Rules decide how many pairs of shoes, socks and underwear you plan your week around. Rules tell you where to eat breakfast and how you march to class.

    Not only do you voluntarily accept a life governed by these rules, the rules become the foundation and framework of your existence, not much different from Newton’s laws of motion.

    This misrepresentation of sneaking in a drug raid while pretending it’s a fire drill, is a breach of the trust between the cadets and their superiors. It says to them… “we expect you to follow the rules in good faith, but don’t expect the same from us.”

    The thing with cadets is this… they will still obediantly follow the rules, but will voice their displeasure about the transgression through the only means they have available. More importantly, they will only express their dissent internally (note that a duty officer issued the report to the media long after the “protest”).

    Proof of the cadets’ obedience is found the last paragraph. Where else in the world could drug-sniffing dogs have gone through the rooms of 4,000 college students and “no narcotics were found in the search”?

  8. Perhaps my military academy experience is what ultimately turned me into a libertarian… I now know what it’s like to live under a totalitarian regime.

  9. Nice example for the enlisted force, cadets. Searches like this don’t only happen in AF Basic and Tech School, but happened to me 3 times in as many years while in junior enlisted baracks at my first duty station (they did find something in one guy’s room once.) We grumbled about it amongst ourselves for about a week, but ultimately understood that it was well within our commander’s perview do authorize such action. No shouting obscenities at our superiors, no throwing stuff from our windows.

  10. That is a slap in the face to those cadets, and an implicit insult to their honor. The Academy is telling them that it does not trust them to obey an order to exit to the dorms so they can be inspected, and that it thinks they have to be tricked into complying.

    Damn straight it was a dark day for West Point, but it wasn’t the actions of the cadets that made it so.

  11. Good for the cadets! Maybe, if we’re extremely lucky, other public-school students will catch their attitude as well.

  12. Good for the Long Gray Line!

  13. It is the very model of the modern totalitarian.

    Unaccountable power with no assumption of responsibilty, duty or honor in recompense is the sum of our modern government. We may as well change the flag to the one celebrated in “The Wall,” as “Get a bigger hammer” is the only problom solving tool in their belt. (and a GI .45 makes for a poor hammer – especially under Condition Three.)

  14. I wonder if Reagan still would have declared his War on Drugs if he’d known what would happen twenty years later?

  15. I’m not buying it. This can’t be right the way it’s written. Having you’re personal belongings searched is a regular part of life in the military. In the academy it’s an everyday part of life. I don’t see being “tricked” with a fire alarm as much of a tipping point. Every moment of every day these guys are under the microscope and can be called upon to ‘bend over and spread em’ for inspection. I just don’t see cadets deciding “If only you would have told us to fall out for inspection, everything would have been jake. But since you ‘tricked’ us into thinking it was a fire drill, we’re willing to challenge your authority and put our futures at risk.”.

  16. I just don’t see cadets deciding “If only you would have told us to fall out for inspection, everything would have been jake. But since you ‘tricked’ us into thinking it was a fire drill, we’re willing to challenge your authority and put our futures at risk.”.

    Couldn’t it be a simple matter of honor? Christ, we’re training these guys to be officers of a wartime Army–what kind of message is being sent, where we’ll trust these guys with the lives of their subordinates in a warzone, but won’t trust them to comply with a drug search so we have to trick them first?

    And there’s a difference between what the brass can do versus what the brass should do. You mentioned that “every day these guys can be called upon to bend over and spread ’em for inspection.” Yes, they can. Nonetheless, if these guys had to undergo daily proctological exams you’d see their morale plummet, and simply saying “Hell, they knew it was a possibility when they signed on” isn’t going to change a thing.

  17. Nonetheless, if these guys had to undergo daily proctological exams you’d see their morale plummet, and simply saying “Hell, they knew it was a possibility when they signed on” isn’t going to change a thing.

    Au contraire, rigorous order and discipline are precisely what these guys signed up for. It doesn’t erode moral, indeed it is what their moral is built upon. There is no ‘honor’ issue here. I find the suggestion that cadets expect to be trusted as gentlemen by the command to be quaint and na?ve. The military just doesn’t work that way. Trust between individual men in time of battle is unrelated to the distrust between the bureaucracy the men.

  18. Au contraire, rigorous order and discipline are precisely what these guys signed up for. It doesn’t erode moral, indeed it is what their moral is built upon. I find the suggestion that cadets expect to be trusted as gentlemen by the command to be quaint and na?ve.

    “Rigorous” does not mean “unnecessary.” And, as has been pointed out, the fact that no narcotics were found suggests that lying to these guys wasn’t needed.

    And I don’t think that daily proctological exams would increase morale by making the men think “Hoo-ah for this rigorous discipline we all signed up for!”

  19. “No narcotics were found in the search,”

    Ah, so they did have advanced warning of the search. [Insert rimshot here]

  20. Perhaps it is naive, but I do think that the honor-related explanation makes a lot of sense. My college did not have an honor code, but my law school did. I don’t know that either place differed in the amount of cheating, but I do know that I resented all the bs that went along with exams in law school more. I felt that because I had signed the pledge not to cheat, I should be trusted to follow the exam rules (within reason) and that all the oversight was hypocritical.

  21. No narcotics were found in the search. How about cocaine or marijuana? Those aren’t narcotics.

  22. Proof of the cadets’ obedience is found the last paragraph. Where else in the world could drug-sniffing dogs have gone through the rooms of 4,000 college students and “no narcotics were found in the search”?

    Why, every college in America now that sudafed is behind the counter!

  23. I wonder if Reagan still would have declared his War on Drugs if he’d known what would happen twenty years later?

    Nixon declared the war on drugs, Reagan made it a campaign platform

  24. No narcotics were found in the search. How about cocaine or marijuana? Those aren’t narcotics.

    Yes they are. These days any illegal drug is considered a narcotic, not just opium. Been that way for quite a while.

  25. The military may not work that way, but I understand that the Academy is supposed to.

    I once read an account by a cadet in which he was being yelled at by one of the senior cadets for some minor infraction—looking out his dorm window, I think. He said it wasn’t him looking out the window, and was about to explain that it had been a guest in his room, but the senior cadet simply said “Okay” and walked away, taking the young cadet’s word for it without needing any further explanation.

    Part of teaching people to be honorable is showing them the value of their honor. Tricking the cadets into cooperating with a drug inspection is almost the exact opposite of that.

  26. “Having you’re personal belongings searched is a regular part of life in the military.”

    That’s the whole point. If you went into any of these cadet’s rooms and said “we’re searching for drugs” they would have no problem with it. None of them had drugs, and random searches are part of the life for anyone in an academy ROTC program. However, sending the signal that they aren’t trusted and had to be “tricked” into complying, whether or not that was the intent, is a huge mistake by the administration of the academy, and an insult to the cadets.

  27. As a USMA grad and former Army officer, I am pleased to report that yes the cadets are fully aware of all the rights they do not have. Some on this post got it right as far as expectations. The one thing that civilians will not understand is that this inspection may not have been at the root of the “riot.” The spartan lifestyle (although it has greatly improved with the available technology of cell phones, internet and other goodies) causes a lot of pent up aggression. Almost every year at the academy there is a backlash similar to this. I can recall the frequency of our outbursts to be at least 2 per semester. They don’t need a good reason to rage in the cage.

    However, do not fool yourselves that there are no “drugs” at the academies. I know several folks that did not make it to graduation day b/c they couldn’t stay off the stuff. And I also witnessed first hand that “where there’s a will there’s a way!”

    With regards to the execution of this inspection, the leadership clearly failed the Corps. When I was required to perform drug shakedowns at Fort Bragg, we simply stood the knuckleheads outside the barracks at 5AM and brought in the MPs with dogs. A random “piss test” was run concurrently, for max effect on enforcement.

  28. Having spent three years as an enlisted sailor in the US Navy, this concept of there being something like ‘honor’ in the officer corps is a really fucking hilarious punch line. I wish I could think of a joke for it.

    The fact is that if a shipload of sailors acted this way because the CO or some other officer had bullshitted them (and boy, that NEVER happens), you’d have a shipload of sailors in the brig as quick as they could find enough Marines to round everyone up.

    The concept of trust between officers is hilarious too — nobody in the military trusts anybody to do anything right — that’s why they have 800 hundred million rules on everything from how to brush your teeth to how to blow up the world.

    I say toss the lot of them out.

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