November 17, 2004

SSG FITTS

Some people thought I was too hard on SSG Fitts. Here's what SSG Fitts said, right after CPT Sims was killed:

"The CO is dead," he rasped, "and I'll tell you why. They were just a gaggle walking into some house. They weren't clearing the building properly before going in. We were doing that, and that's why we're living. Do not let your guard down here, or you'll be the next one dead."

I can only speak as a military wife, since I've never been a soldier. My comments may not reflect the military take on things. But I don't think what SSG Fitts said was a reflection of respect or loyalty.

I know that statements like these are made about the out-group: one company might pump themselves up by saying they're better/smarter/more hooah than another company, or platoon to platoon or battalion to battalion. However, I think it comes across as extremely crass when it's done within the in-group, especially right after a death and in front of a reporter! I don't know what tone of voice SSG Fitts used, but it doesn't sound to me like he's trying to scare the men into be safe; it sounds like he's boasting that he was smarter than the CO and that's why he's still alive. It sounds awful, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I hear awful statements quite frequently. In my job, I work with only enlisted soldiers, and after a year, the comments about officers have started to wear me down. According to many NCOs, officers are unnecessary and worthless. Once when some of my students found out that my husband is an officer, they said, "At least please tell us that he's prior enlisted!" The look of disgust on these NCO faces when they learned he was ROTC was obvious. "I hate lieutenants," one of them said. Gee, thanks. Right before 1ID deployed, the 1SG stood up in front of our FRG and said, "The CO cares about the mission; I care about the men." Nice statement, thanks. Officers are apparently promotion-hungry morons who should just sit in the rear and let the real men take care of the company. Statements like this get made all the time, so when SSG Fitts paints the CO as a lollygagger who got his dumb ass shot, it makes me mad.

But I read this article as a wife. Maybe soldiers don't pay as much attention to these remarks -- though I don't see how constant griping about how dumb the LTs are wouldn't have an effect on unit cohesion -- and maybe I'm just being over-sensitive. But wives read these articles. Mrs. Sims is printing and saving everything written about her husband to make a scrapbook so that someday her son can learn about his father. Do you think she wants that nasty comment by SSG Fitts in her memories? Look, son, this "combat-hardened NCO" says that your daddy was a screw-up. We family members don't want to read that; shame on SSG Fitts for saying it and shame on the reporter for printing it.

Imagine your spouse gets killed in a car accident. Then imagine that the newspaper writes an article about the accident and interviews a witness who says, "If the driver hadn't been swerving around like a madman and had been more responsible, he/she might still be alive today!" How would that make you feel, to read that about your own spouse? Now imagine the witness was a close friend, someone who should show respect and loyalty. That's how I as a spouse read that article. CPT Sims and SSG Fitts worked together. From everything I've heard, CPT Sims was one of the most respected COs on this post. I think SSG Fitts should've shown more tact and respect in the moments after CPT Sims was killed.

My two cents: take it for what it's worth.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:40 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 Sarah, As for the "The CO cares about the mission, I care about the people" statement: When I went through officer training, one of the things they stressed was that was an officer, your primary motivating factor must always be to complete the mission. Your number two goal will be to take care of your people. BUT - your people should always feel that they are at the top. It is not that officers are selfish, and only looking to get ahead - but that the military has a mission - and we can never be so risk averse that we will not risk, god forbid, the death of our troops to complete the mission. We will make every effort to protect our people, and hopefully try to take no foolish actions which will needlessly risk the lives of our troops. From what I've seen (albeit not much), the enlisted Army hates officers. It's hard to believe, but enlisted Marines seem to hate officers even more. If you think it's tough being an Army LT - try being an AF LT in a flight suit on an Army post. Most soldiers would rather commit suicide than salute you.

Posted by: S at November 17, 2004 06:39 PM (swRUK)

2 I feel for you, LT S. There's definite military branch animosity. My problem with that statement is not the Army priorities that it reflects, but the way it was said...and in front of a bunch of enlisted wives. To me, it sends a bad message: the CO doesn't care about your husbands or your families. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

Posted by: Sarah at November 18, 2004 01:54 AM (bdu13)

3 In the AF, most likely that kind of statement wouldn't be made. From my very, very, very limited exposure to the Army, it seems there is a tendency away from suger-coating things, even for dependants. Including making unnecessary statements to show how tough they are and to make allusions to how little the officers care. In the end Sarah, as you've experienced first hand, the great majority of officers are focused on their unit and the enlisted members. At least you can be confident in knowing your husband and his fellow officers are caring for their soldiers, regardless of what others say.

Posted by: S at November 18, 2004 03:35 PM (swRUK)

4 Sarah, As an experienced "Army Brat" (child of enlisted) and "Enlisted Spouse", I can completely understand how you can feel like enlisteds hate officers. Growing up the rivalry even existed between the children of officers and enlisted. The basis for this rivalry had no real basis, other than we had heard it from adults in our community, so it must be so. Now that I have grown and matured, I have come to see what it all boils down toÂ…Experience or Education! In the military of the past officers were often college educated while enlisted people were not, thus beginning the endless argument of who is better. In todayÂ’s Army the argument of old doesnÂ’t necessarily applyÂ…Â…Â…Â…many enlisted have degrees as well and many officers have gained valuable experience very quickly, due to excessive deployments. Overall, I feel that neither experience or education is more valuable than the other, both are needed for the military and individuals succeed in life. In the case of SSG FittsÂ…Â…while I understand his need to rally his men after such devastation, his timing and audience SUCKED! He should have thought twice about his choice of words, especially in front of a reporter. Lastly, where was Public Affairs? How could they allow something like this to be printedÂ….isnÂ’t it their job? My heart goes out to Mrs. Sims and her familyÂ…Â…officer or enlistedÂ….he was, above all a man, a husband, a son and a father. God bless you all!

Posted by: Vonn at November 19, 2004 10:09 AM (FmIVz)

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