Primary Arms

Two Armies

I’d like to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General’s bowel movements or their Colonel’s piles, an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country. The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the army in which I should like to fight.

Jean Lartéguy
Author of “The Centurions”

I served in both of the armies described by French Author and former Soldier Jean Lartéguy. I can assure you that even the army of enthusiastic young professionals is sometimes infiltrated by the show army. It usually happens during the peace, when the good idea fairy comes up with something to occupy the troops’ time. But sometimes, it’s just a guy who shouldn’t be in charge.

I know some of you are seeing challenges out there right now. Power through it; hard men outlast poor leadership.

10 Responses to “Two Armies”

  1. Jon, OPT says:

    The movie “The Lost Command” is based on Larteguy’s book “The Centurions”, it’s still one of my favorite old time war movies.

    “There’s only one rule, don’t die!” -Colonel Respeguy

  2. rob371 says:

    Leadership comes and goes. The best thing you can do is become a leader that you would want. No matter what rank you have remember at the core “ground truth trumps all”. The hard part is articulating that message to higher echelons who sometimes can be more concerned by shiny things and the latest buzzwords.

    • Will Rodriguez says:

      And on occasion, the bigger battle the unit/leader/soldier is unaware of.

  3. Mike says:

    That’s not been my experience.

    I was a Navy Weapons School instructor. It was our job to fly with all the squadrons to ensure standardization across the flight line. In my experience, there were very few “Black Sheep Squadrons.” Those organizations that would proudly flaunt how they were rough around the edges, but would rise to the occasion when it mattered. That just never actually worked out in practice.

    The squadrons that excelled were the ones that did the little things right. Repeatedly. And they emphasized a culture of excellence. The pilots briefed professionally, the maintenance books were meticulous, the jets showed ownership.

    • GMK says:

      100%. The ‘rough around the edges’ is usually an excuse for being unprofessional. A culture of teamwork & accountability will trump a ‘rockstar’ culture any day of the week.

      • SSD says:

        And then, there’s the garritrooper. He looks great in uniform, is a PT stud, but can’t shoot, move, or communicate.

  4. Israel Hoffman says:

    This is the problem in the Army currently. To the letter.

    • Anibal Perez says:

      Same issue we had in the 90’s too many idiot officers and NCOs looking to pad their carer resumes to actually care about the people they were managing

  5. Iggy says:

    I’d say the last 20 years has deeply blurred any distinction between the two.