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Subdeacon Joe

Intersting Thoughts - Military Officers Out At 50

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http://theweek.com/article/index/269484/why-the-us-military-should-mandate-officer-retirement-by-age-50

 

 

 

France's military history is littered with cautionary tales and glorious triumphs. And the secret differentiator between the two may be age.

The average age of Napoleon's generals was 41, and many of the brightest were even younger. Jean Lannes was named a general at 27, and a field marshal at 35. Andre Masséna was named a general at 35. Louis-Nicolas Davoust was named a general at 23 (really), and a field marshal at 34. Joachim Murat, Napoleon's legendary cavalry commander, was named a general at 29.

By contrast, in 1939, when France started what would be the most serious debacle in its history, the supreme commander of its armed forces was Maxime Gamelin, age 67. Before the end of the Battle of France, he was replaced by Maxime Weygand, 73. France's only World War II victories were won by a young general, who had previously written a prophetic book on blitzkrieg tactics, by the name of Charles de Gaulle.

This is a pattern so often repeated in military history that you can't help but ask, "When will they ever learn?" A military force wins a series of victories. After doing so, it becomes cocky, set in its ways, sure that its tactics will work forever. A hungrier force comes up with new and unexpected tactics. The older force cannot adapt. It is defeated. The phenomenon is so well known that "generals fighting the last war" has become a common expression.

We should always be wary of over-generalizations. Obviously, some of the world's most daring and innovative people are senior citizens, and some of its dullest and most conservative are in their 20s. But broadly speaking, these are exceptions that prove the rule. It seems hard to deny that there is indeed an inverse correlation between age and willingness to try new ideas, and between age and aggression, which are among the most critical features for military commanders.

 

 

A lot can be argued both ways on this.

ADDED: I think that is the point of the author, to get discussion going and ideas flowing.

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Sure happened in the Vietnam Era. A lot of U.S. senior officers were in WW II and Korea. They brought those experiences to the jungle and they didn't work out. The younger officers, who learned their trade then, brought a new perspective to later conflicts, such as Gulf War I and II. Schwarzkopf was one of the best known.

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Erwin Rommel was 48 when war started in 1939.

 

George Patton was 54 in 1939.

 

Douglas MacArthur was 61 when he lost the Philippines in 1942 and 71 when he was relieved on his command in Korea.

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I'll support that when they make the same retirement age for politicians... and give them the same retirement benefits that the military gets.

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It really isn't a simple deal, certainly not as simple as assumed by the discussion.

 

Age seldom trumps wisdom. Wisdom seldom trumps intelligence. Few things trump training. The hypothesis of this thread uses the example of French "leaders". No mention made of wisdom or intelligence. No mention of the challenge any French army faces, or which Italian armies faced in WWII.

 

How do you tell if it's an Italian tank? It has 1 forward and 4 reverse gears.

How do you tell if it's a French tank? It isn't at the front. It has a crew of 3 and THE commander/gunner/loader/radio man is out looking for wine. It is broken and none of the crew know how to fix it. It's facing the wrong way. It hasn't been delivered yet.

How do you identify a French fighter plane? You can't, there weren't any to speak of.

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Of course, you could look to our own Civil War. Most of the effective fighting senior officers were in their 40s. But then, Burnside and Little Mac were also in their 40s.

 

Personally, I think 50 is a bit on the young side to force retirement. But I do find the thought behind the article interesting.

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It's a matter of competence rather than age. Commanders who fail to learn from both positive and negative experiences shouod be removed, regardless of age. I think it's important to have officers in high command positions who have accumulated years of experience, especially in these very complicated times in which we live. They need to be able to have a global view of the military situation and have a good understanding of both their opponents and allies.

 

The Civil war is not muh of a benchmark. Things were comparitively simple for corps commanders. No air power, radio comms, or long range weapons, it was comparitively easy to gather intelligence, battlefields were small. It was a simpler time militarily. European armies of the past, and not just the French, were saddled with aging, titled aristocrats at the highest command levels. Many advanced to and retained their commands due to political influence rather than skill.

 

The main thing is to ensure the commanders are not mere ticket punchers concerned with their own careers. Men like Omar Bradley are the examples to look at. Men who understand the tactical and strategic situations and have the capability to act and react decisively with speed and flexibility.

Some young, fighting generals turn out to be less than outstanding when advanced to higher rank regardless of age. Planning campaigns is different than leading a brigade in the field.

As the author says, we should always be wary of over generalizations. Rather than a mandatory retirement, I think a case by case basis would be the best way to dull the herd. And we have a bloated herd of flag officers right now.

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With the bozo we got in charge, who knows?

 

He sure doesn't.

 

As a senior citizen, I have to say that the number of years a person has spent on this earth should

not be a measure of what that person has learned and their developed talents are. I know some folks that are well past the 50 year mark that are very well qualified to run things. I know others that I would not trust with the trash on it's way to the land fill. Same applies to folks in their earlier years.

 

It is all in what folks do with what folks have. The trail we leave in this life is a pretty good measure of where we are going and what we can do to get there.

 

JMHO

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The Civil war is not muh of a benchmark. Things were comparitively simple for corps commanders. No air power, radio comms, or long range weapons, it was comparitively easy to gather intelligence, battlefields were small. It was a simpler time militarily.

This is the argument I use when people start yammering about how we shouldn't have a standing military. This is not 1862. You can't just hand a guy a rifle and a pair of boots, march him around the ball field a few days and send him off to die. It takes years or even decades to develop new aircraft, new ships, new weapons systems. It takes months to train someone just at the basic level. It takes years more to develop and hone the perishable skills necessary to be effective.

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The Civil war is not muh of a benchmark. Things were comparitively simple for corps commanders. No air power, radio comms, or long range weapons, it was comparitively easy to gather intelligence, battlefields were small. It was a simpler time militarily. European armies of the past, and not just the French werensadfledwith agingtitled aristocrats at the highest command levels. Many advanced to and retained their commands due to political influence rather than skill.

 

 

 

Not so sure - it's all relative - I would wager that it was as much stressful if not more so because of the lack of technologies, medicines, logistics and just a general unknown about a lot of things we know about today. I reckon the argument could be made for both POV's.

 

GG ~ :FlagAm:

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We can also find examples of young brash leaders who were total screw-ups.

 

If an officer wages many brilliant campaigns and one bad one, the bad one is usually at the end of his career. What we need to do is stop him just before that last campaign.

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Not so sure - it's all relative - I would wager that it was as much stressful if not more so because of the lack of technologies, medicines, logistics and just a general unknown about a lot of things we know about today. I reckon the argument could be made for both POV's.

 

GG ~ :FlagAm:

Stress has nothing to do with it. All combat is stressful since the first caveman invented the pointed stick. Many commanders in the '61-65 unpleasantness were local militia who volunteered for service. These were frequently men who were elected asColonel by the troops. Usually because they may have had some military experience or were wealthy enough to buy the uniforms and equipment for the guys. Pre-war militias were largely a good ole boy club, more concerned with the fancy dress balls, drilling before the town picnic, and parades. Some of these commanders made hideous decisions in combat and got people killed. There were very few experienced, trained officers in either army. Eventually officers were rewarded with brevet rank, particularly in the Union army, for simply being aggressive. Custer is a prime example. The "ride to the sound of the guns" tactics of that era led to the slaugter of WWI. What I'm saying is that the successes of young CW commanders should not be used as an example that young officers are more valuable and/or competent.

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UB I agree with what you've said and most of what you've addressed is in the management of Grand Tactics and Grand Strategy. These do change with the passing of time and technology. Would you now please address "Leadership" and its affect by the passing of time and technology.

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I doubt there's a senior officer who can look back on his career and say he was a better leader at 30 than at 50. (Better looking maybe and in better shape possibly)

Leadership is a skill, a talent, a behavior, and an art. The basic principles are pounded into a young officer early on. Some never get it. We can oly hope their careers are short lived. Most understand and do the best they can. Some however seem to be somehow suited to the leadership role and take to it as a fish takes to water. But leadership takes time to mature. Over a period of years the officer hones his skill durig many varied assignments that will temper him through his successes and failures. He will gain a reputation as a thinker, a planner, an innovator, and a winner. By the time he is ready for a higher command, men will know his reputation and be willing to serve under him or run away from him. The technology and training available today are the highest in history. The days of the general who is only ready to fight the last war are no more. Senior officers must keep up with more than George Patton ever dreamed of. To cast a leader aside because he has reaced a magic age is simply a waste. Such a policy assumes too much and recognizes too little.

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Stress has nothing to do with it. All combat is stressful since the first caveman invented the pointed stick. Many commanders in the '61-65 unpleasantness were local militia who volunteered for service. These were frequently men who were elected asColonel by the troops. Usually because they may have had some military experience or were wealthy enough to buy the uniforms and equipment for the guys. Pre-war militias were largely a good ole boy club, more concerned with the fancy dress balls, drilling before the town picnic, and parades. Some of these commanders made hideous decisions in combat and got people killed. There were very few experienced, trained officers in either army. Eventually officers were rewarded with brevet rank, particularly in the Union army, for simply being aggressive. Custer is a prime example. The "ride to the sound of the guns" tactics of that era led to the slaugter of WWI. What I'm saying is that the successes of young CW commanders should not be used as an example that young officers are more valuable and/or competent.

.

 

As I said ... There's an argument for both POVs. We wouldnt have what we have today if those men and women didnt go through those 'simpler' times. It's all relative.

LOL

 

GG

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Barak Obama became Commander in Chief at age 47.

Uh huh! And look what that's got us! Teddy Roosevelt was about 42, IIRC, when he acceded to the presidency. Although JFK's tenure was short, he backed the Soviets down in the Cuban missile crisis. OTOH, Ronald Reagan was 72 or so when he took office, and effectively ended Cold War I. I think turning out 50-year-olds would be a big mistake! There are younger officers who should be "retired" at age 35, and some who would be effective into their late 70's. Has to be decided on an individual basis.

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Every now and then it's handy to have somebody around whomremembers what happened in the last war and maybe the one before.

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The last time this country fought a "war", and the last time we "won" a war, was 1945. Political interference, negotiated "peace", and walking away without finishing the job has become the norm.

 

Soon our store of people who remember previous wars will have disappeared and we'll be stuck with theorists who have no experience and will not even pick up a decent history book, and we'll be left with too many creeks and too few paddles.

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A good officer is hard to find! When you do, don't throw them away.

 

Just like life, there are a great many good officers in the military, and

a great many not so great ones. The big problem is that they all put on their

shoes the same way and sometimes it is hard to distinguish between them,

until it is too late.

 

Our biggest problem seems to be getting information UP THE CHAIN OF COMMAND.

Things seem to come down just fine and are acted upon by some really great folks.

 

The greatest intel in the world is no good, if the guy that gets it, discards it and goes

his own way. That would only happen in a comic book, right?

 

Oh wait......

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The last time this country fought a "war", and the last time we "won" a war, was 1945. Political interference, negotiated "peace", and walking away without finishing the job has become the norm.

 

Soon our store of people who remember previous wars will have disappeared and we'll be stuck with theorists who have no experience and will not even pick up a decent history book, and we'll be left with too many creeks and too few paddles.

40 I'm going to disagree with you on the last won war. We won the war against Saddam Hussein, defeated his Iraqi armed forces, removed him and his Bath party from power, occupied the country and established a new government and Army. Much as we did against Adolf Hitler's Germany. What we did in Iraq was throw away the Victory.

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I do not think that we will ever accomplish what we want in the Middle East, which has mostly to do with oil.

 

Oil is a world wide commodity and if ya don't have any, you ain't in the money game. The problem is that

the Middle East has an awful lot of it. The countries that need it to stay in the game, really don't like us

all that well. They are not going to see us do anything that will help us to overcome the tyrants. They would

rather do business with the tyrants than us. It becomes a strategic lever against us.

 

The other side of the coin is we are dealing with a tribal mind set. That goat is mine, no it is mine, no it is ....

 

This has been going on for a loooong time. If you can't convince your neighbor that the goat is yours, you

hit him over the head with a big rock. Over the years the rocks just got bigger.

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It's a matter of competence rather than age. Commanders who fail to learn from both positive and negative experiences shouod be removed, regardless of age. I think it's important to have officers in high command positions who have accumulated years of experience, especially in these very complicated times in which we live. They need to be able to have a global view of the military situation and have a good understanding of both their opponents and allies.

 

The Civil war is not muh of a benchmark. Things were comparitively simple for corps commanders. No air power, radio comms, or long range weapons, it was comparitively easy to gather intelligence, battlefields were small. It was a simpler time militarily. European armies of the past, and not just the French, were saddled with aging, titled aristocrats at the highest command levels. Many advanced to and retained their commands due to political influence rather than skill.

 

The main thing is to ensure the commanders are not mere ticket punchers concerned with their own careers. Men like Omar Bradley are the examples to look at. Men who understand the tactical and strategic situations and have the capability to act and react decisively with speed and flexibility.

Some young, fighting generals turn out to be less than outstanding when advanced to higher rank regardless of age. Planning campaigns is different than leading a brigade in the field.

As the author says, we should always be wary of over generalizations. Rather than a mandatory retirement, I think a case by case basis would be the best way to dull the herd. And we have a bloated herd of flag officers right now.

 

 

Omar Bradley is EXACTLY the reason the older generals should be retired.

After WW 2 he told secretary of defense that there was no real need for a navy nor marines.

And the US didn't need any new big carriers.

Hence the US Navy was forced to cancel the United States CV58 within a week of being laid down.

This precipitated the "revolt of the admirals".

Bradley was NOT qualified to speak about the need for the USA to have a navy.

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Omar Bradley is EXACTLY the reason the older generals should be retired.

After WW 2 he told secretary of defense that there was no real need for a navy nor marines.

And the US didn't need any new big carriers.

Hence the US Navy was forced to cancel the United States CV58 within a week of being laid down.

This precipitated the "revolt of the admirals".

Bradley was NOT qualified to speak about the need for the USA to have a navy.

Oh please.

I was not using Bradley as an example of over the hill officers but as an excellent leader. And he was.

 

As far as the Admiral's Revolt, that was simply inter service rivalry after Defense Secretary Johnson cancelled the building of a new supercarrier. Bradley and Air Force CoS Vandenberg both opposed it. Each service wanted as big a piece of the defense budget pie they could get and the 65,000 ton carrier was a pricey item.

 

Here's a very good paper on the "revolt".

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&redir_esc=&client=tablet-android-samsung&source=android-browser-suggest&v=141400000&qsubts=1413056411769&q=omar+bradley#hl=en&v=141400000&q=omar+bradley+admirals+revolt

 

I maintain that a mandatory retirement at 50 is simply foolish.

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Oh please.

I was not using Bradley as an example of over the hill officers but as an excellent leader. And he was.

 

As far as the Admiral's Revolt, that was simply inter service rivalry after Defense Secretary Johnson cancelled the building of a new supercarrier. Bradley and Air Force CoS Vandenberg both opposed it. Each service wanted as big a piece of the defense budget pie they could get and the 65,000 ton carrier was a pricey item.

 

Here's a very good paper on the "revolt".

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&redir_esc=&client=tablet-android-samsung&source=android-browser-suggest&v=141400000&qsubts=1413056411769&q=omar+bradley#hl=en&v=141400000&q=omar+bradley+admirals+revolt

 

I maintain that a mandatory retirement at 50 is simply foolish.

 

reading the following article particularly bottom of page 56

http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/Articles/1981/1981%20mcfarland.pdf

 

"Both Bradley and Vandenburg opposed the construction, but Denfield supported it."

 

According to this article on Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolt_of_the_Admirals

In the Background section;

 

"Said Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson:

There's no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We'll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy."

 

Top of the third page of the following link has a similar statement quoted.

http://www.veteransresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Mil-Hist-Revolt-of-the-Admirals.p

 

The above statement is EXACTLY why Bradley should have retired earlier. He was unqualified at that level to make that comment. History has since proved his position in this quote as being pure baloney.

 

Bradley was unable to understand that even though WW2 was ended with two atomic bombs there would be future military situations where a nuclear total devastation was NOT a viable solution. For example what if staff in a US embassy needed rescuing, clearly a nuclear option would be a useless solution.

Not only was his position when asked about the CVA-58 United States incompetent but it was arrogant and antagonistic.

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So your point is that because in your opinion Omar Bradley should have retired earlier, the 50 year mandatory retirement is a good thing?

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So your point is that because in your opinion Omar Bradley should have retired earlier, the 50 year mandatory retirement is a good thing?

 

My point is that Omar Bradley demonstrates all the reasons why officers should retire rather than fade away.

When some officers get to the point where they no longer can see what the future might reasonably hold it is time to retire.

He failed to recognize that war after a nuclear ended war might not be nuclear in nature.

He demonstrated that he was unable to play as a team player with the other services stating that the Navy and Marine Corp were not necessary.

 

My particular bone to pick with you is that you pointed him out as an excellent leader.

Clearly at that time he was NOT.

 

Do i believe that all 50 years or older officers should be retired....... Not really.

So I put the question back to you, Why do you think that we often fight this war with last years equipment and/or tactics ?

Military leadership is often chocked full of leaders who fought the last war and are not up to date on current technology equipment nor related tactics required by the current/next war.

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We will have to disagree on Bradley's leadership abilities.

But he was hardly alone in the military then in believing that future wars would be nuclear. That seemed reasonable right?

 

Fighting a conflict using last years tactics and equipment? Not many military organizations can refit equipment and change tactics that quickly regardless of whether or not over 50 officers are involved.

I say that mandatory retirement based on age is stupid. Retirement based on poor performance makes sense.

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Everybody is prepared to fight the last war. Every branch, every nation, everywhere. It simply is the nature of the beast. You don't become prepared for the current war until you become involved in it and realize things aren't going as you would like or as you anticipated. And Rumsfeld may have been clobbered for saying it, but it is absolutely true: you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want. And it is usually the people who just yesterday wanted to cut military spending and divert those funds elsewhere, who today are complainng that "we" have not provided our military with the equipment it needs.

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And it is usually the people who just yesterday wanted to cut military spending and divert those funds elsewhere, who today are complainng that "we" have not provided our military with the equipment it needs.

I'm okay with mandatory retirement for them. ;)

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We will have to disagree on Bradley's leadership abilities.

But he was hardly alone in the military then in believing that future wars would be nuclear. That seemed reasonable right?

...

 

Are you kidding me?

Not even close to being reasonable!

If there were more than that only proves the basic premise of this thread to be TRUE.

 

Consider this, O Bradley was one of the generals that had participated in a world war where 3 principal adversaries were defeated

and forces under his command dealt regionally with two of those adversaries.

The Italians resigned. The Germans were beat conventionally IE NO NUKES.

But the japanese took two NUKES to surrender.

 

How can a general come to the conclusion that ALL wars and other military adventures will end in the use of NUKES?

How does the USA rescue the staff at a beseiged embassy? Drop a NUKE, no, send the USMC!

How does the USA deal with piracy on the high seas? The US Navy. (A premise that Bradley had that the USN was not necesary).

How do you deal a 3rd world country doing something aggressive, Drop a Nuke, No, conventional bombing and conventional forces can handle it.

No need to escalate.

 

The position of using a NUKE to deal with all war situations is unrealistic.

That is an escalation well beyond need.

Sort of like executing civilians for J-walking.

 

(My caps are bad)

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How does the USA rescue the staff at a beseiged embassy? Drop a NUKE, no, send the USMC!

 

 

Actually, our present administration doesn't do a damn thing.

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