Monday, December 05, 2011

Everyone knows their time ...

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.
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.
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."

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.
"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.
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.

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.


AW1 Tim said...

I've reached that point where I have decided that the best solution to our flag officer problem is to have only one permanent Admiral: The CNO. Everyone else serves in a flag billet as a temporary promotion.

In my world, the highest permanent rank for an officer would be O-6.  When our Navy needs a flag billet filled, a suitable candidate will be "frocked" to the rank, in a similar manner to the old "Commodore" system.  He gets all the perqs of the office, he gets to wear the rank and be addressed as "Admiral", but he only gets paid at his permanent rank.  When his job is done, or the billet eliminated, he returns to his old rank.

Officers would thus retire, no matter what flag rank they held, as an O-6, but still be able to add the title "Admiral, USN, ret." to their name if they wished.

This system would give us the flexibility to promote the folks we really need in those positions, and to remove quickly those who don't perform at that higher level.

Brevet commissions worked very well in the past. I see no reason why we shouldn't utilize that system today.


CDR Norsk said...

Yinling's writings are very good stuff. Like in our Navy, however, a lot of great Army concepts seem to be discussed at the War College and in the retiree forums, but the actual organization shrugs off systemic change (or responsibility).
That said, I admire his desire to teach. He is very right that society seems to demonize teaching and over-laud the military, while disserving both professions.
I tried to teach for a while after retiring...awfully hard work, and most parents are....don't get me started.

AW1 Tim said...

  It was also quite difficult going back to college after the military. Not doing the work or any of that, mind you. The self-discipline and other learning tools I developed due to the Navy served me well.

   No, the problem was with the OTHER students, the ones straight out of high school. I was amazed at both the ignorance of the real world, and their love of self and material goods. 

   The classes, especially history and philosophy, were often incredibly frustrating, and often times, I was perplexed as to how the instructors came up with their ideas about the subjects they were supposed to be teaching. There was, for me at least, an incredible disconnect between the college environment, students and faculty, and the real world.

   We need veterans in our schools, at every level, to prepare our children for the real world, and not some theoretical world engineered in the ivory towers of academia.

cdrsalamander said...

In the first para.

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span>Brevet commissions worked very well in the past. I see no reason why we shouldn't utilize that system today. </span>

The Diversity Diktats would never let them happen.  No way to track the numbers to report "progress", among many other reasons...

ewok40k said...

got to be fun having such teach... some kids get lucky!

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span><span>"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." </span>  
Agree with the first half of that statement, but I think the second needs a bit more elaboration.  There are still plenty of innovators in their forties; the military tends to force them out at the O-4/5 level as their personalities are congenitally resistant to the "conformance with institutional expectations" (aka ticket-punching) needed to get to flag rank.  Yes, I'll stipulate in advance that there are a few -- very few -- exceptions out there.

Surfcaster said...

Having worked in a Public K-12, poor parenting is perhaps the biggest problem we have with kids in school. Kids can be taught, inspired, and groomed. And parents are quite capable of wrecking that.

We wish the Colonel well and thanks for his service.

I also wish him well as he crosses into more danger strewn field of PTA, department/grade level Teacher Union knee breakers, helicopter parents, and the self licking ice cream cone of school district administration. Where bureaucratic inertia and cronyism are the only constant laws of physics.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

<span>Having someone at the front of the classroom who is not an America-hating communist who is  disparaging our Armed Forces and our nation's glorious history at every other breath will begin to make inroads into the far-left indoctrination of our nation's youth.  
What the good Colonel and those of his ilk may run into when pursuing education degrees will be the very same "conform or leave" mindset that is so very prevalent in our higher education and which dominates our elementary and secondary schools.   Let's hope they have the force of personality to challenge that, and succeed.</span>

Old Farter said...

Speaking of parents, this article appeared in Norfolk paper yesterday.

Having the desire and talent to teach is a precious gift. It is difficult to overcome the frustration of students who do not want to learn and their parents don't care.

DeltaBravo said...

They are some of the best teachers.  Where I went to high school some of the most effective and beloved teachers were retired military.

DeltaBravo said...

But the nuns were scarier and demanded more order.

barret bonden said...

bet he will be a passionate teacher.

andrewdb said...

My sister is a long-time high school math teacher.  I'll share two of her observations -

1.  Second-career teachers - Sr. NCO's are great; they've just spend a career dealing with 20 year olds - the 17 year olds in high school aren't a stretch. I don't know how this works for O-6's.

2.  By the second week she can tell who will be the A students; it's all about the home and supportive parents.

Retired JAG said...

Thank you for your service Paul Yingling.  He exercised his conscience and made a difference.  While not much may have changed, he caused a great many people to think twice about some things that have bothered many for a long time.  The window for this kind of commentary is very small.  If you start too early/young you will get shut down as a trouble maker, if you wait too long no one cares, you are the spiteful retired or soon to retire guy.  Paul made a decision that he cared more about his country and his Army then he did about making rank or punching tickets.  We need more like him, lots more.  We need platoons of those in their terminal paygrades to exercise the authority that comes with that rank and to use their voices to do the right thing and to stand up to bulls*it concepts like diversity and idiotic uniform policies and tell the Emperors they have no clothes and we care not to see their bodies.

Surfcaster said...

True - had HS as teachers both a retired CW4 Goldman and retired Sgt Mjr Can't-Spell-Kat-The-Same-Way-Twice Braffith. Struck the best balance between education and EDUCATION.

I know I am better off for having known them.

butch said...


Chap said...

It's a lovely choice and I wish the colonel all possible success in his new venture.

That said, the reaction to his big ol' announcement?  Seems odd to me.

I remember the furore over his article enough to remember that I wrote about his article back in the day and how the article got played for reasons unrelated to "failures of generalship".

ewok40k said...

now if we could make a military order made of nuns... nuns with guns!

Acquisition Specialist said...

I would like to hear from him in a year, enough time to get the teaching credential started (depending on the state) and then some "time in the field".  I tried this.  I didn't get along well with the folks in the teacher's lounge.  It is a big jump, no action officers to reach across to, no NCOs to reach down to, no visionary leaders to look up to.  Yes, he is going from a place where everyone respects his service, experience, knowledge, and uniform to a place where you start at the bottom and they really don'r care what you did before you walked into your first classroom all by yourself.  I wish him the best.