I recently read with disgust the Anchorage Press article on the Alaska National Guard Sexual Assault scandal (The Three Headed Monster, Oct 15, 2014). While the allegations against the three recruiters are truly disturbing, I find the lack of leadership, moral courage, and accountability on the part of senior civilian and uniformed leadership every bit as problematic.
Leaders have a solemn obligation to both their soldiers, and to the parents of those soldiers, to take care of them. A parent who gives their most prized possession to the military should rest assured that absent enemy action, their son or daughter will be well cared for. Leaders set the tone for their organization by deed, action, and directive, and by all appearances the command climate fostered by AKNG leadership resembles an old boys club.
Actions prejudicial to good order and discipline are selectively ignored based on the personal relationship between the senior leader and subordinate. The corrosive characteristics of that leadership style, at some point, dissolve the bonds of respect and cohesion that are vital to a military unit. Soldiers see and hear everything their leaders say or do. A commander that turns a blind eye to sexual assault allegations sends a signal to the sexual predators in his unit and creates a dangerous environment for female soldiers. Zero tolerance policy, immediate, thorough and fair investigation, and appropriate punishment of the guilty (based on the severity of the offense) set the right tone in the unit.
In today’s world, the Guard fills a critical role in the defense of our nation. Over the last decade, National Guard units have served shoulder to shoulder with active duty Marine and Army units in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a variety of other overseas locations. If we are going to send Alaska’s young men and women into harm’s way, we should demand that they are properly trained and led. The allegations levied against the current leadership do not inspire that confidence.
Senior leaders, both civilian and uniformed, get paid to make hard decisions.
Anyone can hand out medals, make brave speeches, or run a promotion ceremony.
Having the moral courage to make the tough calls is where the true leaders are separated from the pretenders.