Special to The Sun
Recent headlines cause me to remember an incident that occurred on an army base some years ago. Warning here: I’m taking some liberties with names and details, but the basic outline of events is accurate.
A certain company commander, let’s call him Captain Duntz, had command of a motor pool on a large army base in the continental U.S.
One night, a Battalion First Sgt. made a surprise inspection of Captain Duntz’s company and found the enlisted man assigned to fire watch, asleep at his post. Sometime later, a utility truck in the motor pool threw a rod because someone neglected to make routine checks on the vehicle’s oil levels. A scheduled inspection of the motor pool mess hall found gross breaches of Army regulations and the mess hall was alarmingly unsanitary. Battalion review disclosed that Captain Duntz’s company consistently ranked near the top in numbers of soldiers going AWOL.
In evaluation of overall Battalion proficiency, Captain Duntz’s motor pool ranked consistently near or at the bottom.
One afternoon, Captain Duntz was summoned to Battalion headquarters. After an exchange of salutes, the battalion commander asked, “Captain Duntz, what’s the problem with Company X?”
Captain Duntz launched into a litany of denials, complaints, justifications and excuses. Army regulations were unduly burdensome. He didn’t know regulations were being ignored. The enlisted men assigned to this company were duds. His NCO’s had it in for him. Battalion inspectors were unfair, eetc.
The Battalion Commander heard him out and then said, “Captain Duntz, let me clarify. When I asked ‘what’s the problem with Company X,’ I was really asking, who is in command of Company X?” Blushing, Captain Duntz muttered, “I am Sir.”
The Commanding Officer continued. “In case you didn’t know, let me tell you something about command. One of your main jobs as commander is to keep these problems off my desk. Army regulations may be burdensome, but it’s your duty to see they’re carried out. The men in your company may be duds, but command requires that you make do with the personnel assigned to you. If you’re NCO’s are incompetent or disloyal, it’s your job to find out why and fix the problem. As for the unfairness of Army inspectors, every military man from the top down has to take that into account and compensate for it. Captain Duntz, I might be inclined to overlook one or two of these problems — even three. But when my attention is called to a single commander this many times for this many reasons, I can only draw one conclusion. Captain Duntz, you are simply not cut out for command. You are dismissed.”
Let me tell you why Captain Duntz is on my mind. This country has been wracked by demoralizing, embarrassing and tragic scandals for several years now. We have seen the nation held up to ridicule when members of our Secret Service become embroiled in sleazy disputes with prostitutes. We’ve been outraged to find that representatives of our government actually have been proactive in placing firearms in the hands of ruthless murderers.
We have been heartbroken when an upstanding young officer is killed in the service of his country and the murder weapon may have been placed in the hands of the killer by our own government. We have grieved when four of our brave countrymen die at the hands of terrorists and we agonize over the possibility that they might have been saved with the exercise of decisive command. We are bewildered by the fact that their deaths are surrounded by a thick fog of misrepresentation and CYA doublespeak.
We are appalled by the fact that the Internal Revenue Service is exploiting its enormous power to decide which taxpayers will receive the benefits of the law and which taxpayers will be denied those benefits based solely on expressions of political opinion disapproved by “the Bureau.”
We are stunned to learn that federal enforcement officers have launched a fishing expedition against a respected news organization and its reporters justifying this behavior by asserting “It’s all in the interest of national security.”
We have, of course, heard the litany of denials, excuses and justifications. We, as citizens, have delegated command to the President. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, old, young, white, black, Latino, Native American, Asian — whatever — you have a right to expect the person in command to keep these types of problems out of our headlines. And by out of our headlines, I don’t mean buried. I’m remembering the words of our Battalion Commander. Some people are just not cut out for command. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.