Thursday, June 20, 2019

Cooling’s Last Stand

What will you do when they come for you? How will you prove a negative? 

When the accusation is made fact by proclamation – will you defend yourself?

As I have said before, no one can survive an IG. For the vast majority of leaders, all it takes is that one person or cabal to shout, “J'Accuse!” – and you will find yourself in a Kafkaesque sideshow.

You will have everything thrown at you, some are real, some only partially true, and some seem to be made from whole cloth.

Where do people find themselves in trouble? Each story is slightly different, but there are known danger areas, and unknown danger areas. Sometimes people forget or don’t believe known danger areas – soft, coddled civilian culture vs. a deployed service culture is one – but the unknown ones can be the most dangerous. 

You don’t know the personality mix brewing at your new location – often for years – that the person you relieved was just lucky enough to not inflame. You don’t know who you may have made an enemy of. You don’t know who might want to raise their position by taking you down. You don’t know who out there just might like to watch the world burn. 

If you have low emotional intelligence, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble.

One thing you need to know is that for any leader, from LPO to General Officer – one day the IG Bell may ring for thee. If you have done anything in life, you will know because you have people who do not like you. If you are lucky, they will either face you like an adult or ineffectively just try to passive-aggressively use process and influence to undermine you like a child. If you are unlucky, they will go all Leroy Jenkins on you to the IG Hotline, and then the IG Star Chamber begins.

How do you respond? Will any response be good enough when as the IG was being done, you’ve already had two FITREP cycles and a selection board pass you by?

Having seen this movie one to many times, I think the following advice remains solid.
1) Lawyer up.
2) Once (1) is done, do not go gentle into that good night.

I give you the case of Brig. Gen. Norm Cooling, USMC as the latest example.

Read the full thing from Gina Harkins, but here are the meaty bits in the case in destroying a man;
The Senate Armed Services Committee complaint detailed six instances of alleged disparaging or inappropriate treatment from Cooling, a career infantry officer and Naval Academy graduate.

During the course of the IG's investigation, witnesses described four more examples.

One of the first complaints took place about five months after Neller testified before Congress following the March 2017 Marines United scandal, in which more than 50,000 social media users shared nude photos of female troops without permission. More than 100 troops faced courts-martial or administrative punishment for participating, and Neller called the problem "a perversion in our culture."

Witnesses told investigators that Cooling disputed Neller's claim while hosting a breakfast for congressional fellows.

"I keep telling CMC to stop saying this," one witness recalled Cooling saying. "Our culture is fine."

Another witness said Cooling called Neller "totally wrong." Troops serving as congressional fellows, who work with members of Congress for about a year on Capitol Hill, said they were concerned about getting mixed messages from Marine leaders. They weren't sure what position to take back to their assigned members of Congress, the report states.

Cooling told the investigators that, since he didn't violate a specific standard when he made the comments, the analysis should be removed from the final report. They disagreed.

About six weeks later, Cooling was found to have told Senate staff members that opening combat roles to women impacted the men because "women were physically inferior" forcing male troops to "pick up the slack."

Men were also having "a difficult time adjusting to open combat roles because they can no longer refer to certain rifle parts as female body parts," witnesses recounted him as saying.

While a Senate staffer who was at the meeting declined to cooperate with the investigation, two witnesses corroborated the story, the report states.

"When BGen Cooling told the Senate staff member in the presence of two [Office of Legislative Affairs] subordinates that opening combat roles to women impacted men negatively because women were physically inferior to men, and made the comment about rifle parts and female body parts, BGen Cooling created a negative work environment by disparaging and devaluing women," investigators wrote.

In another breakfast with congressional fellows that December, Cooling said he believed women "make naturally better schedulers or secretaries," the report states. The general told investigators he meant the remark as a compliment.

"I did not say or infer that women could not do something well or that they could not do other things equally well," Cooling said, adding that he holds the positions of congressional schedulers and Marine Corps executive assistants and staff secretaries in high regard.

"I now clearly recognize that this may be a generational communication issue and/or one that is perceived by some in a political context," he added.

Investigators substantiated that claim as another example of Cooling devaluing women.

That same month, Cooling's deputy was speaking with a noncommissioned officer who wanted to become a Marine pilot. Cooling, who overheard the conversation, told the woman he'd rather "his daughter work in a brothel than be a female Marine pilot," according to the investigation.

Cooling's deputy told the NCO the next day that the general's comment was inappropriate and that it had been addressed.

"Here's a young impressionable kid," the deputy told investigators. "She and I are having a great conversation about the opportunities that exist for her in the Marine Corps ... and it ends with a turd in the punch bowl."

Cooling told investigators he wouldn't have told the joke again, according to the report.

"I'm an infantryman ... ground combat guy just poking fun at our pilots," he said. "I love pilots, and they know it."

He then went on to tell investigators the woman could not have found his remark demeaning because she was not offended, bullied or humiliated by it, the report states.

"We disagree," the investigators wrote.
The month before he was suspended, witnesses said they heard the general yell down the hall that he was going to castrate a Marine if he found out he'd been withholding budget information from him.

While the general officer told investigators he didn't recall making the comment, they stood by their findings.

"When BGen Cooling threatened to castrate a subordinate, he created a negative work environment by failing to show dignity and respect for his subordinate to whom he directed the comment as well as those who heard it," they wrote.

He was also found to have called another staff member a "bad officer" when she failed to secure a visit between the assistant commandant and a congresswoman. Cooling, witnesses told investigators, threatened he'd "jump out of the f---ing window" if other personnel performed that poorly.

The officer's failure to set up the meeting was a mistake, Cooling told investigators, though he denied raising his voice or saying he'd jump out the window.

"It doesn't take much for people to interpret what you're doing as being yelled at or screamed at when you're at this grade," Cooling said in the report. "And I understand that; I'm an emphatic person but, to me, yelling or screaming means raising your voice, and I don't -- I don't remember raising my voice."

Investigators found that Cooling's staff considered him "an equal opportunity offender who demeaned, bullied and humiliated male and female subordinates," they wrote.

One witness said Cooling's leadership was ineffective. He wasn't a motivator, rather "just killing the weakest in the herd," they said.

"I never saw any unfairness or unequal treatment," the witness added. "I thought he treated everybody [all genders] in different ways but just as bad."

But Cooling had a responsibility of treating subordinates with dignity and being a positive influence, investigators wrote. Instead, he humiliated them or spread rumors that could damage reputations.

"We determined that BGen Cooling conducted himself in a less than exemplary manner in his treatment of subordinates or in comments that devalued women on seven occasions during his [seven] month and 17 day tenure at OLA," the investigators wrote.

Cooling is one of at least eight officers investigated over allegations of improper behavior toward women.
The investigators are not objectively investigating – they are being subjective manner police. 

The only thing it looks like Cooling is guilty of is assuming civilians work at the same level as infantrymen who have spent most of the last two decades at war. May have been a bit of a jerk - but if that is the standard, line up the buses as a lot of people need to leave DC today. 

That was yesterday. It appears that Cooling had an, “enough of this BS” moment.

From today’s reporting from Gina;
"At no time during my seven months in the Office of Legislative Affairs, nor at any other time during my 33-year career, have I ever negatively singled out anyone for anything other than their job performance," Cooling told

"I inadvertently offended some through random remarks that were taken in a different context other than I intended," Cooling said. "... Had I been less demanding or willing to compromise standards, these allegations -- which surfaced only during the promotion confirmation process -- would have never emerged."

"But I did not account for the politically charged environment in which it (the office) operates," he added.
What politics is he talking about? This is all you really need to know. There seems to be two standards - and it isn't Cooling who has the split;
"We determined that BGen Cooling conducted himself in a less than exemplary manner in his treatment of subordinates or in comments that devalued women on seven occasions during his [seven]-month and 17-day tenure at OLA," the investigators wrote.
This tells me a lot about him as a man.
As Cooling awaits his fate, he said he remains grateful for the opportunity to serve with Marines.

"It has been my life, and I could not have asked or hoped for a better one," he said.
OK USMC, over to you.

Do the right thing.
Leaders are currently reviewing the report and will take appropriate action in light of the substantiated misconduct, Maj. Brian Block, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said this week.

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