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Old 04-15-2009   #41
Uboat509
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Anecdotally, I was a 2-year ROTC scholarship guy, and almost all of my 4 year scholarship peers got out (or moved to reserves). My private theory is that I had less pre-formed expectations of the Army, and thus wasn't as disappointed when the Army in practice failed to live up to my ideal of it. The most gung-ho/motivated guy in my ROTC, who never wanted to do anything but the Army for life, was the first to get out. He was basically frustrated that the Army wasn't the institution he thought it was.
They are having a similar problem with the 18X program. They pull these guys off the street and put them through the course. The ones that make it tend to be pretty good operators but they often find that SF is not what they thought it was when they joined. As a result, a lot of the ones I have known became frustrated and got out.

SFC W
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Old 04-15-2009   #42
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...There was also a good MMAS on retention done last year with surprising data on retention by branch. Generally, combat arms officer retention was 2-3x that of combat support/logistics specialties.
Enlisted retention.

I think there's a rather powerful message in that...
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Old 04-15-2009   #43
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Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
Anecdotally, I was a 2-year ROTC scholarship guy, and almost all of my 4 year scholarship peers got out (or moved to reserves). My private theory is that I had less pre-formed expectations of the Army, and thus wasn't as disappointed when the Army in practice failed to live up to my ideal of it. The most gung-ho/motivated guy in my ROTC, who never wanted to do anything but the Army for life, was the first to get out. He was basically frustrated that the Army wasn't the institution he thought it was.
I'm not knocking that theory at all - especially since mine is also anecdotal - but my experience was the opposite. I and many of my peers were 2-year scholarship folks. But, kind of piggy-backing upon my earlier comment, I suspect that cadets who get 2-year scholarships or no scholarships at all are more likely to stay in. They're clearly joining for some reason other than the money. Most of us, in spite of our lesser scholarships, were determined to serve. The amount of the scholarship didn't factor in at all. Many of us didn't even care about college. We just wanted the commissions. I stuck with ROTC specifically because of my "pre-formed expectations" and "my ideal of it." I was convinced that once I finished ROTC and got into the "real Army" that I would be serving in the company of Schwarzeneggers and Stallones. I wanted to be pushed beyond any reasonable physical threshold and took personal offense at the Army commissioning anyone who was not a physical specimen on par with a cyborg and not a "field Soldier" who always wished, even in the rainiest, coldest, muddiest situation, for things to "suck even more."

But, while my impression of what type of motivation correllated with what type of scholarship is different, I agree with the observation of "gung-ho" types feeling incredibly let down. We had ourselves convinced that we were joining an Army that is as elite as it sounds. Upon discovering that the Army was imperfect, many of us felt betrayed and angry and took personal offense. Unrealistic expectations. I and many of my peers started out fairly cynical as 2LTs because of the baffling array of seemingly limitless, very dumb rules. Most rules of the dumb variety are borne by necessity: someone does something incredibly stupid and instead of just punishing that clown, we thrust some new idiotic rule upon everyone. I eventually grew up and stopped being bothered by such foolishness. Unfortunately, several of my peers did not. When you're young and surrounded by so much stuff that makes so little sense and you know that it all exists in order to mitigate the incompetence of so many around you, it is sometimes difficult to see anything positive in the organization. It sounds dumb, but I think a lot of guys were driven out primarily by frustration with the Army's apparent tolerance for mediocrity. This was compounded because the tolerance for mediocrity pertained to important things, like tactical competence, but there co-existed a zero-defect mentality for unimportant things, like environmental regulations and draconian safety rules. Maybe separating as a result of such frustration was a sign of immaturity and it was good to lose those Officers? Maybe. Or maybe they would have grown up and made great Officers. We'll never know.

I know guys who dropped out of college in the last semester of their senior year because they found out that they were going to be branched something other than Infantry. Some of them were scholarship winners. They paid back their scholarships rather than serve as CSS Officers. Now there is a lose-lose.

I know guys who were branch detailed to Infantry or Armor and did everything that they could to stretch out their time prior to the career course and then ETS, so as to avoid serving any amount of time in the branch that they were slotted for after their initial Infantry or Armor tenure. That's a little better than the lose-lose above, but still a loss. Those guys were more than happy to remain in the Infantry or Armor. The Army said, "no, you're going to be an MI Officer." Now they're gone and contributing nothing to the Army.

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Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
Just some non-data supported observations. There was also a good MMAS on retention done last year with surprising data on retention by branch. Generally, combat arms officer retention was 2-3x that of combat support/logistics specialties.
That computes in my brain. My rationale is - how many people join the Army with the intent of becoming a logistician? Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that and we need logisticians, but I doubt that a significant number are drawn to the Army for that reason. It seems as though one could be a logistician in the civilian world with significantly less BS to put up with and less service commitment. My former Supply Sergeant is now a Logistics Officer - a branch that he enthusiastically chose - but I'm not aware of many folks who got out of high school and went into ROTC to be logisticians.

Lots of guys who wanted to branch combat arms, but ended up in combat support or CSS, went into their careers with a crappy attitude and then left at the first opportunity. On the other hand, the majority of officers whom I knew in the Infantry and Armor wanted to serve in those branches. Thus, they were off to a good start and still had a good attitude when it came time to choose between career course or career change.

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... One reason often given by those exiting are the opportunities outside. USMA has a large network of alums who hire other alums. Rarely is a USMA grad unemployed.

ROTC 4-year types I would imagine also have lucrative post-army options.
I know the data may contradict me, but I just don't buy it. The majority of individuals whom I served with in the Army knew that they could get out and make a lot more money, have more time with their families, and live far less stressful lives. Most of them chose to remain in. I'm nearing completion of an MBA and JD which, with my service as an Infantry Officer with numerous deployments and glowing OERs, make me highly employable. In all likelihood, I'm taking my fancy degrees back to the Army. The only explanation for the decision that I am making, and similar decisions that other have made (either to remain or return), imo, is that job satisfaction is part of the compensation package. If guys claim that they're getting out because they can get paid more, then it's because they weren't getting enough job satisfaction to compensate for the salary difference. Assume, arguendo, that I dislike my current job and it pays $70K, but I can get another job that I equally dislike and it pays $100K. I'm switching for the money. But the root cause of me leaving is the dissatisfaction. Take that away and, in most cases, I suspect that you will retain the Officer.

Last edited by Schmedlap; 04-15-2009 at 10:18 PM. Reason: This reply simply wasn't wordy enough.
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Old 05-14-2010   #44
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Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
I'm not knocking that theory at all - especially since mine is also anecdotal - but my experience was the opposite. I and many of my peers were 2-year scholarship folks. But, kind of piggy-backing upon my earlier comment, I suspect that cadets who get 2-year scholarships or no scholarships at all are more likely to stay in. They're clearly joining for some reason other than the money. Most of us, in spite of our lesser scholarships, were determined to serve. The amount of the scholarship didn't factor in at all. Many of us didn't even care about college. We just wanted the commissions. I stuck with ROTC specifically because of my "pre-formed expectations" and "my ideal of it." I was convinced that once I finished ROTC and got into the "real Army" that I would be serving in the company of Schwarzeneggers and Stallones. I wanted to be pushed beyond any reasonable physical threshold and took personal offense at the Army commissioning anyone who was not a physical specimen on par with a cyborg and not a "field Soldier" who always wished, even in the rainiest, coldest, muddiest situation, for things to "suck even more."

But, while my impression of what type of motivation correllated with what type of scholarship is different, I agree with the observation of "gung-ho" types feeling incredibly let down. We had ourselves convinced that we were joining an Army that is as elite as it sounds. Upon discovering that the Army was imperfect, many of us felt betrayed and angry and took personal offense. Unrealistic expectations. I and many of my peers started out fairly cynical as 2LTs because of the baffling array of seemingly limitless, very dumb rules. Most rules of the dumb variety are borne by necessity: someone does something incredibly stupid and instead of just punishing that clown, we thrust some new idiotic rule upon everyone. I eventually grew up and stopped being bothered by such foolishness. Unfortunately, several of my peers did not. When you're young and surrounded by so much stuff that makes so little sense and you know that it all exists in order to mitigate the incompetence of so many around you, it is sometimes difficult to see anything positive in the organization. It sounds dumb, but I think a lot of guys were driven out primarily by frustration with the Army's apparent tolerance for mediocrity. This was compounded because the tolerance for mediocrity pertained to important things, like tactical competence, but there co-existed a zero-defect mentality for unimportant things, like environmental regulations and draconian safety rules. Maybe separating as a result of such frustration was a sign of immaturity and it was good to lose those Officers? Maybe. Or maybe they would have grown up and made great Officers. We'll never know.

I know guys who dropped out of college in the last semester of their senior year because they found out that they were going to be branched something other than Infantry. Some of them were scholarship winners. They paid back their scholarships rather than serve as CSS Officers. Now there is a lose-lose.

I know guys who were branch detailed to Infantry or Armor and did everything that they could to stretch out their time prior to the career course and then ETS, so as to avoid serving any amount of time in the branch that they were slotted for after their initial Infantry or Armor tenure. That's a little better than the lose-lose above, but still a loss. Those guys were more than happy to remain in the Infantry or Armor. The Army said, "no, you're going to be an MI Officer." Now they're gone and contributing nothing to the Army.


That computes in my brain. My rationale is - how many people join the Army with the intent of becoming a logistician? Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that and we need logisticians, but I doubt that a significant number are drawn to the Army for that reason. It seems as though one could be a logistician in the civilian world with significantly less BS to put up with and less service commitment. My former Supply Sergeant is now a Logistics Officer - a branch that he enthusiastically chose - but I'm not aware of many folks who got out of high school and went into ROTC to be logisticians.

Lots of guys who wanted to branch combat arms, but ended up in combat support or CSS, went into their careers with a crappy attitude and then left at the first opportunity. On the other hand, the majority of officers whom I knew in the Infantry and Armor wanted to serve in those branches. Thus, they were off to a good start and still had a good attitude when it came time to choose between career course or career change.


I know the data may contradict me, but I just don't buy it. The majority of individuals whom I served with in the Army knew that they could get out and make a lot more money, have more time with their families, and live far less stressful lives. Most of them chose to remain in. I'm nearing completion of an MBA and JD which, with my service as an Infantry Officer with numerous deployments and glowing OERs, make me highly employable. In all likelihood, I'm taking my fancy degrees back to the Army. The only explanation for the decision that I am making, and similar decisions that other have made (either to remain or return), imo, is that job satisfaction is part of the compensation package. If guys claim that they're getting out because they can get paid more, then it's because they weren't getting enough job satisfaction to compensate for the salary difference. Assume, arguendo, that I dislike my current job and it pays $70K, but I can get another job that I equally dislike and it pays $100K. I'm switching for the money. But the root cause of me leaving is the dissatisfaction. Take that away and, in most cases, I suspect that you will retain the Officer.

It's eery that I agree with every sentence here. I bolded the part that applies to me. Although, I AM bumping a year-old thread, I think the Officer Career Satisfaction Program might make a dent in retaining people who got stuck in a branch they didn't want. The problem with the OCSP is that the best years for being an officer are gone when you can utilize the OCSP (the LT years, where I'm at now).

Does anyone have a link to data that Schmedlap and Cavguy talked about with regards to retention data broken down to duty station, unit, and branch?
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Old 05-14-2010   #45
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I pretty much agree with Schmedlap's assessment above. I'm a 4 year scholarship guy who got out (graduated in '96). I was branched Engineers (my branch of choice), got a good duty station (Ft Lewis, not my top choice but I loved it), and went to a combat engineer battalion (which is pretty much what I was hoping for).

The tolerance of mediocrity on things that I felt should "matter" bothered me. I saw folks who did things that I thought were pretty crappy (PL personally stealing parts off of another company's tracks to get yours FMC, etc), were caught, and also happened to be in my (humble) opinion incompetent get the same promotion I got and it ticked me off. I watched an incompetent commander get saved by a very good XO and 1SG who wouldn't allow him to fail and allowed that to bother me too.

In all honesty, I was young and idealistic. My older, more pessimistic self would probably shrug if off and live with it- Life ain't fair. In my youth and idealism, I said "The Army's screwed up" and decided I couldn't change the way things were and it would be best for me to go somewhere else. My life experience has now taught me that emphasizing the positive of where you are is more productive than moving every time you're dissatisfied. I'm sure my attitude would be different now than it was then and I do think my decision to leave was more of an emotional one rather than a rational one. I don't regret it when it's 35 degrees and raining out though

There's my two-bit story. Hopefully it added something to the discussion.
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Old 05-14-2010   #46
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Since the JO's are sounding off on an old post and still occurring problem, I will too.

I did the active duty green to gold after 6 years of service. Just finished the Infantry commissioning program and have to say that it was terrible conceptually. The men involved tried their best, but the dissolution of the BOLC II atrocity and the complete re-work of IBOLC's POI should say something.

Long way round, I believe that officer retention is a direct reflection of their IET. Consider that ROTC and USMA tracks both spend 5 yrs to get a new cadet trained to the point that he feels comfortable being a squad leader at most. (Anecdotal I know but suffer the point with me)

These LTs are sorely aware that they are under-prepared. They are told that the PSG will square them away when they get to their unit. Where else in the wide world of sports does the leader of 32-50 men get told that you'll get qualified for the job when you get it? The rest of an officer's company grade time is spent trying to catch up.

I believe the answer is to invest a great deal more in the commission source training. Not when they commission, but when the first volunteer as a cadet. They must be challenged and we must get away from the idea that if we hurt them or challenge them they will quit and we'll lose a potential officer. Contact sports take more risks with their athletes in college that the Army will with their "warrior leaders." A shaky foundation at best and one that is bearing its fruit.

As a mysoginistic aside. We used to look for gentlemen as officers and used the four year degree somewhat to screen for that. Ever since "gentlemen" have fallen out of favor (with no suitable replacement) and four year degrees devolved to certifications, we have suffered as an officer corp. Hmmm.
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Old 05-14-2010   #47
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...Long way round, I believe that officer retention is a direct reflection of their IET. Consider that ROTC and USMA tracks both spend 5 yrs to get a new cadet trained to the point that he feels comfortable being a squad leader at most...They are told that the PSG will square them away when they get to their unit...I believe the answer is to invest a great deal more in the commission source training.
Well said, only thing I'll add is that over 45 plus years, I discovered early and annually reaffirmed that most 'bad' officers (yes, Virginia, they exist...) suffered from having no or a bad PSG.

Early service as a Marine showed me that the then Basic School graduates with 11 months of training and education on top of their pre-commission training were the best prepared LTs I ever met. Culminating service as a DAC rating four LTCs on an oversized and underworked Staff showed me that poor LTs did not make good LTCs...
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Old 05-15-2010   #48
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But the point of having a PMI is to get that expertise early on (Like Plebe/MS I year in my estimation) in the commissioning process, I thought.

Really, most of the mechanics for producing better officers is already in place. I feel that we just need to do the hard training that most feel is too dangerous or "beyond" the comprehension of young cadets. Honestly, if we can send PFC's to Ranger school and they succeed, why can't we expect a sophomore in college to lead a platoon in a tactical environment?

We have very low expectations of our pre-commissioned officers and unfortunately, they are met. Much of this bleeds over to the post-commissioned schools feeling they must start at square one to bring everyone up to speed, basically stating that the previous four years was a total waste.

Strangely, I just got an AKO invitation to a virtual conference on how to fix up the officer basic training program. I wonder if anything left of the blast is being seriously considered?
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Leadership is motivating hostile subordinates to execute a superior's wish you don't agree with given inadequate resources and insufficient time while your peers interfere.
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Old 05-16-2010   #49
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Well said, only thing I'll add is that over 45 plus years, I discovered early and annually reaffirmed that most 'bad' officers (yes, Virginia, they exist...) suffered from having no or a bad PSG.
Ken,

As a PL, I fired my PSG for being incompetent and pissing himself when we actually got into combat. My BN CSM worried over the same thing that you observed.

"LT Few, I'm worried about you. In my experience, every LT with a bad PSG became a bad officer."

I replied, "Sergeant Major, don't worry. He's just a man. I talked to the other PSG's and my own SL's to get to know the NCO corps."

As a commander, I had 4 1SGTs for various reasons mostly due to promotion to SGM. Three were stellar, and I had to fire one for worse abuses.

It is what it is. I judged each man on his own merit.

Unless you're thinking that I'm a bad officer .
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Old 05-16-2010   #50
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Unless you're thinking that I'm a bad officer .
However, they will continue to watch...
Quote:
As a PL, I fired my PSG for being incompetent and pissing himself when we actually got into combat. My BN CSM worried over the same thing that you observed.
Actually, only a Commander can relieve (one reason the Marines call them Platoon Commanders...) but most follow the PLs recommendations. Regardless, if he was that incompetent -- and they exist; even worse examples exist -- he shoulda been gone and good riddance. The pissing is forgivable, anybody can have that happen at inopportune times with the right provocation.
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It is what it is. I judged each man on his own merit.
As you should. As we all should...
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Old 05-16-2010   #51
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However, they will continue to watch...
Great, now I'm paronoid.

Your spies would be better off judging the success of my subordinates O's and NCO's. The boys are doing well as CO's, 1SGTs, and PSGs. I'm proud of them. Far better than I've done. Of everything that I've done, I feel that their success is my greatest accomplishment.

I realize my experience is not the norm. I only mentioned it b/c I thought it should be said.

Last edited by MikeF; 05-16-2010 at 07:31 AM.
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