White Supremacy Doesn’t Permeate the U.S. Armed Forces, Poor Leadership Does

by | Jun 29, 2021 |

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For all of his personal faults and shortcomings – and there were many – General George S. Patton was a leader. He won battles. In fact, as a battlefield commander, his contributions probably more than any other American general led to the Allied victory in World War II. Patton knew how to lead. He knew how to get the most out of his men to achieve victory.

Did General Patton ever make any mistakes? Sure he did, as we all make mistakes. But General Patton learned from his mistakes and then he put them behind him and moved on to his next victory. He didn’t dwell on the mistake, or worry about how it might affect his career. His job wasn’t to secure another promotion or another medal for his chest, he knew exactly what his job was. His job was to lead his troops in battle to victory. 

Something that modern American military ‘leadership’ seems to have forgotten. The generals and admirals running our military nowadays seem much more concerned about political correctness and protecting their careers than in leading men and women in battle.

The ‘BLUF’ – Bottom Line Up Front, to use a military phrase – is that the War Fighters are being ill-served by the U.S. officer and senior NCO corps. And that goes all the way up to the top to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Vietnam legend and military critic Colonel David Hackworth had a name for them. He called them the “Perfumed Princes”, his own name for “the Brass”, which had been in common use by members of the military forever to describe the higher ranks that remained in safety behind the front lines, and not upfront where the casualties occurred.

Hackworth described a military bureaucrat who was far more interested in his own wellbeing and the advancement of his career, than that of those individuals who he commanded, and who had the misfortune of serving under his command. The real ‘War Fighters’. The War Fighters had their own more colorful name for the “Perfumed Princes”, they called them the REMFs. “Rear Echelon MF’ers”.

Hackworth’s career spanned from World War II, through Korea, and included Vietnam where he saw firsthand the “Perfumed Princes” at work. During his career, Hackworth also was awarded nearly every military decoration for valor that the nation gives multiple times, including a whole handful of Purple Hearts.

A military hero, and more importantly a War Fighter in the truest sense of the word. He didn’t spend his career back at Headquarters giving briefings, drinking coffee, and puffing on cigars with the “Perfumed Princes”. He spent his time in the blood and the mud with soldiers fighting and dying for our country.

How many serving in our Armed Forces wearing lots of stars on their collars can come close to saying the same thing? I would venture to say very few. You see, War Fighters and true leaders don’t usually rise to the levels of high command in today’s Armed Forces. They’re far too valuable commanding units that are actually engaged with the enemy. You need leaders in combat.

I recall one day in 2006 when I was serving in Iraq as a civilian, watching an Army Command Sergeant Major (CSM) berating a couple of junior enlisted soldiers because they weren’t wearing the correct socks in their boots. For the uninformed, a Command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army is a big deal and is usually assigned to a headquarters command, not a front-line combat unit. So not just officers can qualify as “Perfumed Princes”.

This particular CSM was walking around Camp Victory, the large U.S. base out by the Baghdad International Airport, and was doing ‘sock inspections’. The highest-ranking Non-Commissioned Officer of the enlisted ranks in the Army walking around asking junior enlisted men to hike up their pant legs so he could see their socks.

The soldiers I saw being berated had white cotton socks on, which considering the oppressive heat in Iraq seemed to be a reasonable thing to wear. White socks would help keep one’s feet drier and more comfortable while wearing combat boots in the heat I would think. The socks were concealed by the boots and uniform pants, so they weren’t at all visible. Yet here was this CSM berating soldiers over their socks. Apparently wearing white socks wasn’t acceptable.

I remember being struck by the thought that these two younger soldiers probably had more combat time, and more opportunities to display true leadership on the battlefield than this CSM ever did.

How so? You see, we had only been at war for about three or four years at the time. In order to reach the rank of Command Sergeant Major in the Army one usually spends at least twenty years before coming close to being promoted to CSM. And one has to rise through the ranks up to the more senior enlisted ranks, which would also include headquarters command positions in order to reach CSM. So the CSM berating these two soldiers about their socks could only have possibly had at most three years serving in combat – if any – out of a twenty or thirty-year career. While these two junior enlisted soldiers had probably spent almost their entire time in the Army conducting patrols in the heat of Baghdad or Afghanistan, and serving in combat. Fighting and displaying battlefield leadership and making decisions to help keep those under their immediate command alive.

I relate this story not to be critical of all senior ranks, enlisted or NCO, since there are indeed and have been some damn fine Colonels and Command Sergeants Major in the Army. But they are the exception anymore. Far too many have become the “Perfumed Princes” that we’ve been told about. More worried about being politically correct, or even worse “woke”, than in protecting America and winning wars.

And nowadays in this dangerous world, we could use a lot more Colonel Hackworths to lead our troops, and a lot fewer “Perfumed Princes”.

Del Wilber

Del is a former under cover employee of the Central Intelligence Agency serving overseas in Eastern and Western Europe, and the Middle East. He currently does consulting work in counterterrorism and writes columns, as well as appears as a guest on a number of programs.

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UnWoke Publishing
UnWoke Publishing
6 months ago

Colonel Hackworth’s epic ‘book’ about his army career is one of my best reads ever, especially for a work of such size. I can not remember the title though, as it was a good 25 years ago that I read it (and burrowed from a reluctant friend) but he was one tuff guerrilla killing machine and always lead by example. Time to get UnWoke or get broke indeed.

A bang on appraisal of where we find ourselves at. Thank you!

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