Increased Misconduct in the Military
A recent article published by the Associated Press (AP) noted that there has been a sharp increase in the number of discharges in the military because of misconduct. There are several claims as to why there has been such a jump in recent years. From the lack of attention on ethics to focus on wartime maneuvers, to the competitive selection of current members due to force decrease.
The decade long war of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom has led military leaders to focus on war efforts. Service members are taught to focus on their ability to contribute to the best of their ability according to their military occupational specialty (MOS), and professional conduct is pushed down the line in terms of priority. But now that all branches are beginning to downsize, leaders are focusing on service member’s professionalism as well as their military competency. This leads to the question of the increase in reports of misconduct stemming from lack of attention on proper ethics in the military or selective retention process bringing more episodes of misconduct to light.
In speaking with the AP, General Ray Odierno noted that the Army in particular has had repeated, high-tempo deployments for the last 10 years which caused leaders to overlook what would normally be seen as episodes of misconduct because of the soldier’s high rate of competence and commitment. Army General Martin Dempsey mirrored these sentiments by saying, “It is the pace, and our failure to understand that at that pace, we were neglecting the tools that manage us as a profession over time.”
In response to such alarming acts of misbehavior including; cheating allegations of Air Force missile officers, over-spending by high-ranking officers, acts of sexual assault by members of all ranks and improper conduct during funerals, all services have begun to refocus on discussing ethics and proper behavior. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that all military branches have formulated procedures to identify and deal with problem service members.
An article posted by the AP last May suggests that the reports of misconduct are only seemingly increasing because of leaders using minor acts of misconduct as a reason to discharge service members to help with the overall decrease in forces due to budget cuts. They report that according to an investigation by the Colorado Springs Gazette, some of the soldiers being discharged in the Army are decorated in combat and/or have been injured. Their acts of misconduct, some minor, can be related to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or post-traumatic stress (PTS) which the Army acknowledges.
Kash Alvaro is one of the soldiers discharged because of his repeated misconduct, despite being a combat veteran with a TBI. He lost all his veteran’s benefits because of his other-than-honorable discharge so he now has no on-going care for his condition. Despite situations like Alvaro’s, General Dempsey and Major General Joseph Anderson of Ft. Bragg state that each branch of service struggles to distinguish between true acts of misconduct and those related to combat injuries. They emphasize that the military goes to “great lengths to try to rehabilitate those who don’t meet or maintain required standards prior to initiating separation.”
There is no doubt that the military’s policies and procedures on teaching ethics and professionalism will be questioned in the coming months, given the recent acts of leud behavior by several members of different branches of service in which have been displayed over news sites and social media. Perhaps focusing away from wartime efforts will be something that will help find, prepare, and retain quality service members that this country expects.