As many of you know, late last week our nation lost an opportunity; one it probably would have passed on - but an opportunity nonetheless.
I’m a colonel in the U.S. Army, and next summer I will retire to teach high school social studies. My friends think I’m crazy, and they may have a point.That is Col. Paul Yinling, USA. He is going home.
It is funny, when you retire some people ask either why you stayed in so long, or why you are leaving so soon. Everyone knows their own reasons - and Paul I think has a good one on the top of his list.
Colonel is the last rank before general’s stars, and it comes with significant perks. My pay is triple the national average teacher’s salary. Military budgets have doubled over the past decade, while school districts have slashed funding, increased class sizes, cut programs and laid off teachers. The social status accorded to the military is wonderful, while teachers are routinely pilloried by politicians and pundits for student outcomes that are often driven by events and conditions far beyond the schoolhouse door.I've blogg'd about Paul before, generally due to his very brave and well focused critique coming after his 2007 article, "A Failure in Generalship."
Especially in a democracy, we ought to respect most those who foster the character traits that make self-government attainable — parents and teachers, coaches and ministers, poets and protesters. When I hear the Army motto, “This We’ll Defend,” it’s them I have in mind.
I’ve served five combat tours in Desert Storm, the Balkans and Iraq, and I’ve had cause to reflect on what it means to live well. It has little to do with money or social status or proximity to power. Instead, amid the clamor of a youth baseball practice, I’m part of a conversation on character that echoes in eternity. The opportunity to engage in that conversation more often is why I want to teach.
His diagnosis of the Army's General Officers paralleled the same problem we have in the Navy with our Flag Officers;
“As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war” - arguing that Congress needs to be more bold when holding three- and four-star generals accountable.Since 2007, I have looked for the Navy's Yingling to come to the front - but it has yet to happen. I know we have a few, I exchange emails with them on a regular basis - but for reasons of their own, they remain in the background working other issues - and for good reason they best know and I don't question.
"It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator in his late forties." - arguing that the US generalship suffers from conformity, lack of vision, and lack of creativity.
In a parallel universe, it would have been good to see people like Yingling and McMaster rise to the top in our Army - but that isn't to be. Perhaps McMaster has a better chance as his critique was made towards a previous generation and not this one; but it took an act of Petraeus to get him to BG .... We'll see.
As for Paul - we should all set aside our own selfish projections on the man and just thank him for his years of service. We should wish him the best going forward, as he will continue to serve his nation - just in a different way.
Everyone knows their time - and their reasons. Thanks Paul, we'll be hearing from you again soon I hope.