Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on October 28, 2015


– Lowest since the Carter Administration.

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I happened to have lunch recently with a friend in the military, a captain in the Air Force. In the course of our conversation, he complained about the state of morale in the military. A few days later I happened to talk with another military friend, a captain in the Army, who also spoke of the growing morale problems in his branch of the military. The similarities of their separate remarks surprised me.

As captains, I look upon them as “middle management” in the military, charged with instructing their men under orders from their superiors. Remarkably, both painted a dismal picture, not at all what the general public perceives as the state of our military. What I heard was a dog-eat-dog world where there is little teamwork or cooperation, a cover-your-ass mentality, and people bailing out of the service as opposed to making it a career. They described a very bureaucratic world with an inordinate amount of paperwork impeding progress. There is also a lack of leadership, and you are discouraged from taking charge. In other words, there is no longer a culture of “improvise, adapt and overcome” as characterized by the Marines. Instead, it appears the military is suffering with a bad case of “Theory X,” a top-down autocratic form of management best characterized by the expression “micromanagement.”

I was also told the millennials coming into the service are “soft” as they feel entitled to promotions without having to earn it. This is alarming to people just ten years their senior.

After speaking with the captains, I was reminded of the military culture under President Jimmy Carter, which was perhaps one of our lowest points in recent memory. This all changed for the better when President Ronald Reagan became Commander-in-Chief.

Following these discussions, I decided to do a little investigation to see if these were legitimate grievances. It didn’t take me long to validate their stories. This past December, the “Military Times” ran a story titled, “America’s Military: A force adrift” which described a worsening morale crisis. The Times surveyed 2,300 active-duty troops and from this, “found morale indicators on the decline in nearly every aspect of military life. Troops report significantly lower overall job satisfaction, diminished respect for their superiors, and a declining interest in re-enlistment now compared to just five years ago. Today’s service members say they feel underpaid, under-equipped and under-appreciated, the survey data showed.”

The survey goes on to report, “active-duty troops reported a stunning drop in how they rated their overall quality of life: Just 56 percent call it good or excellent, down from 91 percent in 2009” (at the start of President Obama’s administration).

All of this follows years of deep cuts in the military and tens of thousands of troops pink slipped. Unfortunately, most soldiers do not see the military getting better any time soon, hence the growing disenchantment. From this perspective, the parallel to the Carter years is uncanny. What is most troubling is the American public has no idea of the problem and prefer to think everything is rosie in the military. The truth is, it is not. It should make us all wonder what kind of leadership we’ll have in our next armed conflict, and if anyone will follow.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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11 Responses to “MORALE IN THE MILITARY”

  1. You hit upon key issues, with the most serious being a lack of effective, committed leadership.

    These following words by you summed up the entire military experience for me personally, and largely why I chose NOT to remain until retirement —

    [There is also a lack of leadership, and you are discouraged from taking charge. In other words, there is no longer a culture of “improvise, adapt and overcome” as characterized by the Marines. Instead, it appears the military is suffering with a bad case of “Theory X,” a top-down autocratic form of management best characterized by the expression “micromanagement.”]

    What I have truly found sad is that what you have described regarding the current situation in the military is also indicative of the society we presently are in, with these deficient attitudes affecting society across the board.

    Once again, I thank you for your observations and words.


    Raymond Sean Walters

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A P.W. of Buffalo, New York wrote…

    “Yes it is. I have people I know in the military. They have absolutely no respect for the WH resident.”


  3. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “Sad to read. I pray for them every night.”


  4. Tim Bryce said

    A W.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “A “few” observations from a “middle grade” naval officer, now retired over 25 years.

    A local friend of mine has a son, USAFA graduate, JUST promoted to LtCol, is an instructor pilot for B1 bombers. He has already announced to his father (a retired LtCol himself) that he will retire on 20 years and 1 day regardless of the promotion boards that may or may not consider promoting him to bird colonel. He is tired of the chicken-sh*t going on, constant deployments away from a growing and young family, and yes … congress’ seemingly lack of concern over pay, benefits, etc. Oh, all the wrangling over revamping the military retirement system won’t impact him – he’s grandfathered. But, he has to work with and oversee young men and women who WILL come under those new and more restrictive and less friendly rules. He’s also mindful of all the very senior officers and senior non-commissioned officers being fired of late for “poor command climate” or “lack of confidence in their ability to lead” without having any concrete idea of just what it was that REALLY caused those firings. In the navy, I can tell you that we went through a period of time when your APPEARANCE in uniform (meaning, you needed to LOOK like a slim and trim fighting machine) was more important than your ability to actually DO YOUR JOB.

    Now, back in the Viet Nam era, when Admiral Zumwalt came into the picture by being selected by Nixon for CNO as a 3 star (bypassing all the other more senior 3 and 4 star admirals on the active duty list – creating all sorts of grumbling from the senior ranks), he talked about “chicken regs” that he was going to abolish (and he did). The problem was, the CULTURE of the navy was such that most Commanding Officers noted that it was THEIR ship, not CNO’s, and they would be damned if they were going to allow (this or that) the CNO talked about (mustaches, beards, sideburns, longer hair, etc). Of course, the era was rife with dissent anyway about Viet Nam, even among those on active duty because many were there involuntarily (remember the draft?). As we moved away from that era, the all-volunteer force became the norm and things started to settle out.

    I have to tell you, the day I retired (mandatory for LCDR’s passed over for promotion to CDR) at 20 years and 1 day, I took a job that IMMEDIATELY put me into a situation where I made more money than most Rear Admirals on active duty, and my responsibilities and salary went up every year commensurate with my value (real or perceived) to the company I worked for. When I retired finally in 2012, I was making more money than ANY general or admiral on active duty. Now, to be fair, any of those flag officers that retired and went into industry made a BOATLOAD more money than I did – because they landed jobs in upper level management or on Boards of Directors not necessarily because of what they could do as managers, but because of WHO THEY KNEW in government that could land contracts. But, my jobs in civilian life were satisfying (although occasionally frustrating because in the final analysis, you get the same kind of people everywhere whether it’s in civilian life or military). I LOVED serving my country and being in the navy. I left not because I was frustrated, disappointed, or wanted to do so, but because regulations required it. I loved the people I worked with, the duty stations (join the navy, see the world) I had, and the challenges in every job. Yes, I was disappointed and in some respect resentful that I wasn’t promoted because people who worked for me said that I was a better officer than many they knew who were promoted to CAPTAIN (AF/Army bird colonel equivalent). And, I had a couple of experiences helping young enlisted that made all the frustrations and disappointments worth the time I did stay in – in spades.

    One young sailor had a 6 year old daughter who tried to commit suicide because “daddy was never home” (he rode submarines). She felt that mommy was so sad all the time because daddy wasn’t there, and daddy wasn’t there because she was a “bad girl” so she’d kill herself, daddy could come home, and mommy would be happy again. The command tried to discharge this sailor after 17 years of exemplary service “for the good of the service” because his family problems were preventing him from being assigned to those same submarines over and over. I managed to intervene with FRIENDS of mine who were in charge of assignments and get him shore duty near a hospital with pediatric psychiatrists to finish out his 20 years because if they had discharged him at 17, he would have gotten ZERO retirement, ZERO medical benefits, and that just wasn’t right. That young man came into my office on my last day to do nothing more than shake my hand and thank me for helping him and his family.

    Oh, there are plenty of stories about people I know from the “cold war” era like this, and plenty of people I know who were in the same boat with me re: promotions. But, the morale I’m hearing about today is probably as low or lower than I’ve ever seen it in over 40 years of military and post-military service.

    Just look at all the wailing and complaining about the costs of military medical care for our returning injured warriors. The VA is an example of how bureaucracy can ruin something intended for good, and Congress doesn’t want to (or can’t?) take steps to fix that problem of rotting management in the core. If you can afford to send them into harm’s way, you should be willing to afford the care for them (and their families, by the way) when they do come home.”


  5. Tim Bryce said

    An R.B. of Melbourne, Florida wrote…

    The only time morale was very high under a Democratic President was during FDR. Otherwise, our military prospers under conservative leadership, and falters in direction under Democratic “leadership.”


  6. Tim Bryce said

    An S.M. of Mountain Home, Idaho wrote…

    “This is absolutely true. It’s day and disappointing. We can only hope that our next president will truly make America great again and restore morale in our military.”




  8. Wayne Brown said

    I served almost seven years in the USAF as a flight officer ending my stint in 1977. Ironically, the times were much like today with Vietnam just behind us and a president coming into the White House with liberalism dripping out of his every pore. Flying as an instructor navigator was my primary duty yet it played little into my ability to get promoted passed my current rank of Captain. The system required that one be an “officer first and a flyer as a sub-category”. That premise was further complicated by the fact that navigator retention was poor throughout the Vietnam years and the career field was critical at the time. In order to get promoted, an officer had to get out of the cockpit and find other duties and professional schools to expand his promotion potential. At the same time, he had to be logging very high Officer Efficiency Ratings (annual evaluations). By content and wording alone, OER’s can easily be the death of a career and the language that fills them is easily decipherable across the services. By the time I had reached the rank of captain, I had already calculated that I had less than two tenths of one percent of earning a promotion to full Colonel rank by the time I retired. In fact, I would be luck just to earn my next rank. The risk in all that is that by the time that you figure out that you are not going to make the rank, the military either ejects you back into the enlisted ranks or runs you out of service–the old GE “cut the lowest 10%” plan applied to the top 75%. This is true in times of both war and peace but war creates a distraction from the truth of it. Flyers left the Air Force in droves after Vietnam and throughout the Carter years. Now, Obama is oriented to force reduction so there are no commanding officers in the business of making the military a more tolerable life. That fact is evident from the Supreme Commander in Chief on down. Sadly, this nation depends on an all volunteer force and our enemies are becoming more emboldened every day. Obama thinks technology can overcome “boots on the ground”–the conclusions of an idiot or a person who is purposely out to destroy our military. As a life-changing experience, I would recommend the military to anyone; as a career, i would recommend it to none.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wayne Brown said

    I had much the same experience during my time in the USAF as a flight officer. I resigned my commission in 1977 after my five year program had been fulfilled. Ironically, the times were much like today–Vietnam was over and idiocy had overtaken the White House

    Liked by 1 person

  10. […] of Jamestown, NY” – #1 overall “Morale in the Military” – #2 overall “Our Fascination with Trains” “Chinese Food Sampler” […]


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