• November 24, 2014

If you mess up in today’s Army, prepare to pack up your stuff

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Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 4:30 am

There was a story in last Sunday’s Killeen Daily Herald about how more and more soldiers are getting booted out of the Army for bad conduct.

In a nutshell, the number of officers who left the Army due to misconduct more than tripled in the past three years, according to the Associated Press report. The number of enlisted soldiers forced out for drugs, alcohol, crimes and other misconduct shot up from about 5,600 in 2007, as the Iraq war peaked, to more than 11,000 last year.

Those numbers really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Iraq war is over, and the war in Afghanistan is approaching its final chapter (although U.S. involvement will likely remain there for another 10 years or more).

With less troops fighting, the Army can focus more on discipline in garrison.

Gen. Ray Odierno pretty much said so in that AP report.

“I wouldn’t say lack of character was tolerated in (war) theater, but the fact of the last 10 or 12 years of repeated deployments, of the high op-tempo — we might have lost focus on this issue,” Odierno said. “Sometimes in the past we’ve overlooked character issues because of competence and commitment.”

Downsizing and discipline is an issue this newsroom has touched on in the past year.

Last March, the Killeen Daily Herald ran a front-page story about Spc. Ryan Cover, a 1st Cavalry Division soldier who had been booted out following an arrest for drunken driving.

He pleaded guilty to the charge, but the Army had already kicked him out two days before. The Iraq war veteran had been slated to end his enlistment with an honorable discharge weeks later; his plan to pay for college with the G.I. Bill dissolved.

Perhaps other factors with his conduct were at play, but right or wrong, Cover is one of thousands of soldiers who were kicked out last year.

Soldiers in today’s Army should take note: The Army doesn’t mess around. If you make a bad mistake, prepare to get kicked out.

That’s really nothing new, though. It’s always been that way, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first day in the Army or your last.

My old first sergeant used to say: “If you get a DWI, I will do everything in my power to make sure you get kicked out of the Army.”

And guess what?

Everyone believed him.

Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at jbrooks@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7468.

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