Allen B. West

Military morale plummets since 2009. I’ve got some ideas why…

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As a commander in the military it was often vital to conduct a unit climate survey assessment in order to gauge the undercurrents and morale of one’s unit. It was referred to as the “Command Climate Survey” and if properly done was a key tool in confirming what you as the commander felt about your unit. Some leaders were distant in their style and depended upon such a tool while others were “hands-on” and very engaged and could use the tool as a supplemental measure of effectiveness — that was my preference. Soon after a change of command, another important metric was to sit with key leaders of the organization to determine the “sustains and improves” for the unit moving forward — this was ideal because it required key leader buy-in — not just an incoming commander imposing his will.

So based on having had these experiences, I found this bit of news quite disturbing when it comes to the morale of the U.S. armed forces. As reported by Newsmax based on the Military Times survey report, “Morale among military troops has declined in nearly every aspect of military life over the last five years, a new survey has found. According to the Military Times survey of 2,500 of active-duty troops, findings indicated significantly lower overall job satisfaction, diminished respect for superiors, and declining interest in re-enlistment.”

“Overall, today’s service members told the Military Times that they feel underpaid, under-equipped and under-appreciated. One expert said that the survey showed that “the mission matters more to the military than to the civilian.”

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“For the civilian world, it might have been easier to psychologically move on and say, ‘Well, we are cutting our losses.’ But the military feels very differently. “Those losses have names and faces attached to [them],” Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who studies the military, told the Military Times.”

Therein lies the issue — the apparent schism that exists between the warrior class and the civilian class, and that is a glaring problem when it comes to the current Obama administration. When we don’t have civilian leadership capable of bridging the gap, then this is the result. After all, we’re on the fourth Secretary of Defense in six years. What does that tell you?

“The survey found that there has been a dramatic decrease in how troops report their overall quality of life. Just 56 percent call it good or excellent, compared to 91 percent in 2009. Since 2009, the percentage of troops who would recommend a military career has dropped from 85 percent to 73 percent, and there has also been a significant decline in a desire to re-enlist, down from 72 percent to 63 percent over that period.”

I have personally spoken with parents who are just not overly enthused about their sons and daughters joining the military at this time — yet they still want to serve. I recently met a family — while speaking at an event in Lake Wales — whose son was seeking admission into the U.S. Air Force Academy (of course I asked what was wrong with the Army?). We have a definitive warrior class who will always answer as Isaiah did, “Here I am, send me.” The problem is not with them and their burning desire to support and defend the Constitution. The concern is with the civilians who take an oath to serve in office, but to them it seems nothing more than just words — a lack of honor. America doesn’t lose tactically, on the battlefield, we lose at the strategic level — and I think that’s what this survey reflects.

Maybe here are some reasons why morale is down:

Why does the Obama administration still maintain that the jihadist terror attack of Nidal Hasan is workplace violence?

What is the Obama administration hiding when it comes to the Army SGT Bowe Bergdahl case — and where is he – never mind the personal assaults by a State Department spokeswoman against his squad mates.

Why did the Obama administration not take any firm stance to recover US Marine SGT Andrew Tahmooressi?

Why is the Obama administration pushing for a $15 minimum wage for someone frying French fries at McDonald’s while our young men and women in uniform struggle and have their benefits cut?

I could go on and trust me, I hear this from my buddies still serving. Because they can’t speak up, those such as myself who are now retired must.

With this survey, there is no doubt our military has spoken loudly, but the question is, will the Commander-in-Chief hear them? Or will it be just like the midterm elections — he hears only those who didn’t vote or took the survey?

At a time when ISIS, China, Russia, Iran, and countless other enemies of America feel emboldened, the last thing we need is low morale for our warriors and their families.

“The Military Times survey also presented other measures which show a deepening dissatisfaction and plummeting morale. In 2009, 87 percent felt that their pay and allowances were good or excellent, compared to 44 percent today. Satisfaction with military healthcare has also dropped from 78 percent to 45 percent. And the belief that senior military leadership has troops’ best interests at heart went from 53 percent to 27 percent in the five-year period.”

Now folks, that is extremely disturbing because it means there’s a lack of trust and confidence in the senior military leadership advancing the best interests of the troops — that should never be the case. We need generals and admirals who are willing to put it on the line when there is something with which they disagree — and perhaps that’s why we’ve seen so many leaders sacked. They’re the ones who should be still there and leading.

Clearly, “Houston, we have a problem.” We have a problem that could have generational lasting effects if not remedied quickly. Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw President Obama visiting the troops? What happened to the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden’s advocacy for military families?

Yes, there is a direct correlation and that’s one thing troops recognize easily — a sincere leader versus someone going through the motions. Many in our military feel they’ve been just used as photo op props, nothing more.

I recall the last time President Obama appeared before troops was over at MacDill AFB home of CENTCOM (Central Command) and SOCOM (Special Operations Command). Obama’s message was that as the Commander-in-Chief he was not willing to send them back into combat to face an enemy who was beheading Americans and slaughtering Christians and other religious minorities. It was sadly the embodiment of Alexander the Great’s quote, “I would not fear an army of lions if led by a lamb, but I would fear an army of sheep led by a lion.”

Obama of course made the policy decision to deploy the military to fight Ebola.

I would hope these survey results aren’t just filed away. This is very serious, and represents a “clear and present danger” for the preservation of our Constitutional Republic. The yellow ribbons and words of thank you are fine. But there is a deep seated feeling that our U.S. military is disregarded by the current Obama administration.

Today, since 9-11, less than 2 percent of the American population has served, and the chasm is widening. We need more military members serving on Capitol Hill, in the Veterans Administration, the Pentagon, and possibly, in the White House.

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