• February 28, 2014
  • 19

Concerning Selfies and Salutes

By now you’ve all seen and heard about young PFC Sheffey.

Suffice it to say the universal response to this is blind outrage. What I really find interesting are some of the comments like: “Any soldier who refuses to salute the flag is in the military for the wrong reason, and should be removed by dishonorable discharge with loss of all benefits … If they won’t salute it, they damn sure won’t fight for it,”

By and large most seem to be demanding her removal from the Army. Many pretty much want to see her drawn and quartered and the pieces sent to the far corners of the earth. My favorite remarks are usually from former and active military types who all have an opinion on how this disgrace of a soldier should be crucified publicly.

Here’s a little secret: most military types who say they never ducked colors are probably lying. There are all kinds of ways to do it. The most common way is to haul ass to wherever you’re headed around 1700. Another is to hide indoors until it’s over. This isn’t uncommon.

Funny because it’s true.

In Bahrain I once came upon a couple of Marines standing just inside the glass doors of the MWR food court complex. I asked them what they were doing. They said they were waiting for colors to finish. “Don’t be afraid of a little music,” I said “Let’s go.” We took two steps out of the door and rendered a salute as colors finished playing. I turned to the Marines and reminded them not to be so wishy washy and that Sailors were watching them act like pansys.

If I paid attention to internet comments I suppose the two Marines should have been catapulted into the Persian Gulf with their DD214 stapled to their forehead. The problem with that approach is they wouldn’t have learned anything.

In the early 90’s I remember our company 1stSgt caught a LCpl running from evening colors.  After verbally flaying the offender he announced an interesting ‘punishment.’ The LCpl was ordered to don his dress blues every evening and be outside the company office by the five minute warning. There he was joined by the 1stSgt where they would salute colors and the 1stSgt released him for the day. In hindsight this was classic remedial training of a known deficiency.

Everyone seems to have an opinion of what to do about PFC Sheffey. My advice to my CO under similar circumstances would be to have the offending Soldier don a service uniform daily for a uniform inspection before 1700. As a social media twist, the platoon sergeant could post photos of her rendering honors to evening colors on the internet every day for a week.  I’d also assign her to give a period of instruction on the military history of bugle calls, taps and selected portions of the flag manual. The symbol of the national flag won’t mean anything to her if she doesn’t understand what it represents. Develop a sense of responsibility in our subordinates? Madness I say!

In my mind I’d treat a post on the internet as if it were said right in front of my face. Technically, it is in front of your face. If one of my PFCs had the nerve to say IDGAF to me I’d swiftly give them a reason to change their outlook. For me personally, the one inviolate rule broken in this case was: DO NOT SHOW YOUR ASS IN PUBLIC. If Marines ever want an inner ear fracturing experience in my office, all they’d have to do is publicly bring discredit upon the Corps.

One final thought: PFCs in the military are going to do stupid things. It’s in their job description. It’s a leader’s role to teach troops the way they should go and why that way is important. I often remind people that three months of basic training/boot camp doesn’t automatically fix a lifetime without any discipline or a fundamental character flaw. Troops are going to do stupid things. Training and remediation are continuous. It takes many troops years of experience before they actually ‘get it.’

In the end I’ve got a feeling her immediate leadership will do something appropriate.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. Really great perspective! I am a former Staff Sergeant Army veteran (8 years active duty) and I saw this article posted by one of my former NCOs. He is now a 1SG and judging by his posts he has grown into a great leader through his experiences. I’m not so sure that the “Corporal” version of him would act the same way…. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog sir.

    Very Respectfully,

    George Ohan

  2. 1. With regard to your last sentence/paragraph: You are being unwarrantedly optimistic.
    2. Four reasons which don’t need to be spelled out.
    3. PFC’s will do stupid things. In this day and age, they will be hammered into the dirt, if it’s the right PFC and right offense. Otherwise, the little so-and-so will probably walk -but someone WILL carry the can.
    4. Remember being read in on the follow up to an offense that stirred up HQMC. Dinosaurs walking the earth time.
    5. The Division Chief of Staff showed me five messages. Summed up, they asked “what are you going to do about this?
    6. “What are you going to do about this?” translated: Whose head is going on the platter?
    7. They really wanted it to be mine. Unfortunately, had requested intervention six times in that particular case and had the requests and refusals by the Naval Medical Authorities to prove it. Thanks to a really smart and savvy First Sergeant.
    8. Mind you, even peripheral association with such ugliness is not career enhancing.
    9. Tho my fate had been sealed by my sordid Army past and a big mouth.
    10. The military is back in ‘peacetime’ mode, for better or for worse.
    V/R JWest

  3. A year’s worth of guard duty at Johnson Atoll would be good punishment. That would give the PFC plenty of time to meditate upon the errors of her ways. Who knows? She might even develop a taste for MREs.

  4. Excellent, Sergeant Major!
    Used similar techniques on a Restricted Man many years ago when he was be bopping while part of the Color Detail at NAS Whidbey Island WA. The OOD had him do colors morning and evening for the next seven days.

  5. Ducking colors?
    OK Guys it’s 1650. Let’s close this place down. I’ll be back at my desk after chow. Get a move on. If I miss colors, you’re all coming back too.

  6. Jorgie, Eh-rah!

    George, Corporals fulfill a particular role which involves drinking the blood of troops who aren’t cutting it. Whenever I could hear one of my NCOs yelling at someone I assumed whatever the situation was it was being handled.

    LTMG, or a taste for sarin. Do we even have anyone at JA anymore?

    Glenn, nice! Actually, some of my earliest memories are from Whidbey Island in the early 70’s.

    Zail, if colors meant libo they’d be sprinting into formation.

    Well Seasoned Fool, I just assumed if he was there at 1500 he was particularly dedicated.

  7. I was one of those stupid PFC’s at least once. Love your 1st Sgt’s training, nothing like good leadership. By the time I was a corporal when colors was about to sound I was sure to render proper respect regardless of my attire.

  8. Great post, SgtMaj. I’m glad to see some common sense being applied to this. While I’m disgusted by her comments, and boot does need to be put to ass, some of the outrage is excessive. You and I both know, however, that many of these young service members that display crappy attitudes are going to be uttering the call of the $*itbird for the duration of their enlistments.

  9. One on One counseling for PFC’s/SN’s/An’s usually does the trick, as it shows them somebody really does care about them and willing to show them the way. Seen it work more than once.

  10. Magoo, in the morning and the evening on military installations we raise and lower the national flag or colors. This is accompanied by music or a bugle call. Service members are required to face the flag and render a salute as it is being raised or lowered. Some troops regard this as an inconvenient interruption of their day and are treated accordingly.

    Shay, now THAT would fire me a little bit.

    Blaine, proper training cures most ills.

    John, some knuckle heads will never get it and we can’t save them all. Hopefully this is a wake up call for her in that it’s not all about “me.”

    MikeyB, unfortunately in this case the young PFC has probably taken it out of her immediate leader’s hands and made it big Army’s business.

  11. Someone within the decision making group of the various services’ enlisted mafias needs to send out a memo remind one and all that the objective is to get away with doing stuff.

    Posting incriminating evidence in a public place and bragging about doing stupid crap ain’t doing it right.

    I blame college. We didn’t have these problems until college kids swarmed into the enlisted services.

    – Grimmy

  12. “PFCs in the military are going to do stupid things. It’s in their job description. It’s a leader’s role to teach troops the way they should go and why that way is important. ”

    Another one to share with a few friends.

    I’ll say, social media doesn’t make shitbirds; rather it exposes them. (rank aside)

    Those who purpote this is a social media generation’s problem are the same who believe Bill Clinton is the first president to have an affair while in office.

    I agree re: a great leadership opportunity.


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