A Few Words on Fort Hood

I expect a few things after the recent tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas.

Leaders and politicians will assure us that measures are being adopted to prevent this from happening again. The media will publicize the stories of relatives, acquaintances, and co-workers of the accused shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan--trying to determine how many warning signs were missed.

The families of the victims will bury their dead loved ones: parents, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, soldiers, and comrades.

Finally, a few months from now, a report will be issued that, among many concerning issues identified after studying this mass murder, discusses how the executives and employees of federal agencies don't communicate very well with each other.

One element that I do not anticipate being covered in the media or the lengthy post-incident reports relates to organizational structure and control in the military.

The armed services use a very strict disciplinary and supervisory style. The "militaristic system" is designed to tightly control the behaviors of soldiers; especially the actions of lower-level employees (e.g, privates and corporals). The lower the rank of the solider, the greater the constraints and risk for disciplinary action.

With police agencies using quasi-militaristic organizational structures, this observation is applicable to law enforcement as well. The patrol officer has many more controlling eyes and ears on his or her behaviors as compared to a precinct's captain.

Is it easier for a major in the US Army or a captain in the city's police department to display troubling behaviors that go unreported? Is the Internet use of command staff watched as closely as entry-level workers? What about vehicle use?

Would lower-ranking employees be hesitant to document suspicious actions of their supervisors' supervisor?

In the armed services and in policing, fewer controls are applied to those with higher rank as opposed to the grunt or the beat cop.

I pitched this idea to career USMC sergeant major Dad, and his quick response was:

Sure, that major could have waltzed in the front gate of the base with a howitzer, and not been challenged. At least he could in that branch of the service.
Despite dad's reply sprinkled with the usual healthy dose of rivalry that exists between the Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force, I still think that the alleged gunman's high rank played a factor in the failure/slow pace involved in investigating his behaviors prior to the attack.

I don't expect to see this issue addressed because it is difficult to modify the militaristic system--it has always been that way. Unfortunately, this incident shows that lives are at stake and reports (without fear of punishment) from lower level employees about potentially dangerous behaviors of ranking officials should be encouraged and not suppressed.


torn blazer said...

I'm inclined to agree with you on this one Slam

angelcel said...

Of course we have entirely different reporting of this and the background leading up to it but from what has been said on UK SkyNews at least, this person *definitely* warranted closer scrutiny, regardless of his rank. From what we're hearing, the indicators were so obvious that 'the system' simply has to be in the spotlight and, I hope, radically changed.

Erin said...

That's an excellent point. One that I hadn't thought of.

J. J. in Phila said...

Good post, and I agree to an extent.

However, there were indications that Maj. Hasan's colleagues did report problems over the years and there was increased supervision of him at some points.

I think there is another problem, that is being missed. Maj. Hasan is also Dr. Hasan, a psychiatrist. Some of his military colleagues, that were not in the medical profession, may have assumed that:

1. He was able to recognize any psychological problem in himself.

2. His colleagues that were in the medical profession could recognize them.

These factors may have played a role as well.

BobKat said...

I am simply impressed, as having very little knowledge of the way those things work, Slam Dunk has put it in terms even I can understand, and he's been able to put into words my thoughts and concerns, though not all of them.

The chain of command won't change. No way! My Boss will continue to be my boss... and I really don't want to piss him off... although I have.

Granted, there may have been behaviors that co-workers missed... but chances are he didn't let much out. Not anything as important as that feelings that led him to "snap".

Natalie said...

I love this "thinking outside of the box" viewpoint, and definitely agree with it.

In the hub's own department I see higher-ranked officers getting away with things that would send a lower-ranked patrol officer out on his keester from a fraction of the situation.

That said, I also agree with J.J. Assumptions that "they have experience, they know better" can actually lead to the individual's and those around them's downfall.

Interesting discussion!

Cindy Beck said...

Interesting thoughts and I think you made some good points! I can't imagine too many people complaining about a major's behavior ... unless they want an earlier deployment.

Oz Girl said...

A sad tragedy indeed. Made all the more dificult to believe by his rank. One can only hope that measures would be put in place to HELP prevent something like this from happening again.