The Best Defense

Looks vs. results: Get your Army hands off my snazzy Five Finger running shoes!

On the face of it, this issue of what to wear whilst running isn't a big deal. But our Army captain is correct in asserting that one of the warning signs of deterioration in the military during peacetime is an emphasis on appearance over effectiveness.

By A Rifle Company Commander
Best Defense culture of the Army correspondent

The Army has officially banned the wearing of Five Finger running shoes. Many garrison commanders have already done so, but the following order has made it official Army-wide: 

ALARACT 241/2011 REQUEST FOR EXCEPTION TO POLICY TO PUBLISH ALARACT MODIFYING WEAR OF IMPROVED PHYSICAL FITNESS UNIFORM (IPFU), DTG 231424Z JUN 11. This message modifies the existing wear policy for the (IPFU). There are a variety of minimalist running shoes available for purchase and wear. Effective immediately, only those shoes that accommodate all five toes in one compartment are authorized for wear. Those shoes that feature five separate, individual compartments for the toes, detract from a professional military image and are prohibited for wear with the IPFU or when conducting physical training in military formation. (See the message at this link.)

What particularly gets me is the line, "detract from a professional military image."  I don't understand how the image of someone that takes their running serious is detracting from a professional military image. Professionals sometimes wear items/clothing that may look "weird" but serves a professional purpose. Anyway, I have had some Five Fingers for over a year, and I love them. They reduce shin splints, work your calves better, toughen your feet, and reduced my five mile run average by five minutes in three months. 

Is this a matter of national security? In isolation, probably not. But, I would say that an Army that is more concerned with looks versus results IS a matter a national security.

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The Best Defense

A Marine officer inquires: Hey, what's the story with accountability in the Army?

Here's a new study of Army leadership. I haven't read it yet because in my book project (a history of American generalship since 1939) I currently am working on the late 1980s, so I put this report on the pile of stuff to read when I finally get to the 21st century, probably sometime this fall.

That's by way of saying we have a commentary right here that questions Army leadership. Read on, Garth:

By "A Recent Marine Rifle Company Commander"
Best Defense department of helpful Marine commentary on the Army

After reading Black Hearts: One Platoon's Descent into Madness in Iraq's Triangle of Death by Jim Frederick I was upset by the lack of accountability for the senior enlisted and officers in the chain of command of that platoon and company, believing they were responsible for the environment that led to the crimes committed.

Today I read the article below about the alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan by members of the 5th Brigade, 2 ID in late 2009 and early 2010. The allegations were already public knowledge by the summer of 2010 when the below article states Capt. Roman Ligsay was promoted. Other press accounts state he was removed as platoon leader during the deployment for his poor leadership of the platoon. He admitted to violating orders by posing for a photo with a dead Afghan.

I understand granting immunity from prosecution to gain testimony against others, but what does it say to every enlisted member of the U.S. military that an officer can still be promoted after apparently failing as a leader, knowingly violating regulations, sacrificing his integrity for immunity, and creating or failing to prevent an environment that led to murder?

Given the leadership discussions on your FP blog over the past few months, I thought you might wish to add this item to the debate.

I am a Marine infantry officer who served in Iraq as a Lieutenant and in Afghanistan as a company commander. I am not trying to single out the Army. All services and organizations have their share of problems, but I am having a great deal of difficulty understanding the actions taken in this case.

The Haditha case offers a contrasting example of accountability. The battalion commander was forced to fight to retire with his rank. Four additional officers from the battalion were passed over for promotion which ended their active duty careers. The RCT CO, Division Chief of Staff, and Division CG were also censured.

By Adam Ashton
McClatchy Newspapers
Published: June 24, 2011

Some of the first images in a set of notorious photographs showing soldiers posing with dead Afghans were taken with a sense pride that the Army was fighting and killing its enemy, a Stryker officer testified Thursday.

Capt. Roman Ligsay told an Army investigator at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that he posed for one of the pictures in November 2009 even though he knew soldiers were ordered not to take photos of casualties for personal use. He said he felt a "sense of accomplishment" when he saw an Afghan who was killed by an American helicopter.

To him, the image showed "we were fighting the enemy. We weren't just out there on patrols every day and not seeing the success of those patrols.


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