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Case Study: Tabs and Tyrants

Marauder06

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#1
Tabs and Tyrants
a ShadowSpear Case Study

For those of you who are unfamiliar with how this works, in these cases studies one of us takes a real-life military experience, fictionalizes it, and serializes it into a series of posts. After each post, members are invited to share their own thoughts, observations, suggestions, and experiences related to the story at hand. Subsequent story-related posts are based largely on audience responses, in kind of “choose your own adventure” format.

Then, at the end, the original author re-writes it into one coherent story line and talks about the “real life” events that prompted this case.

Anyone, regardless of experience or expertise, is welcome to chime in. Keep in mind that this is designed to be both entertaining and developmental. Comments that are unhelpful towards those goals will be summarily deleted.

Here’s an example of ones we did a couple of years ago:
Case Study #2: The Loyal Wife
Case Study: Revolution

For reasons that will be revealed in the following pages, this story is called “Tabs and Tyrants.” Enjoy.

___________

When Second Lieutenant Scott Faith arrived at the battalion headquarters of First Battalion, First Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, he carried a folder with his medical and dental records, his inprocessing checklist, and ten copies of his orders. He also carried with him the weight of something he had never experienced before: failure.

Up to this point, Faith had been relatively successful in the things he thought were important in life. He got good grades in high school, coasted through college and ROTC, and got he wanted when it came to commissioning and his Army branch. He never lacked for friends… or girlfriends for that matter. It seemed that he was winning in every aspect of his life. But then, something happened. More specifically, “Ranger School” happened.

Ranger School would be tough, he knew, but it never occurred to him that he wouldn’t come out the other side “tabbed.” Yet here he was, at his first unit, a failure. A non-tabbed Infantry officer. A “tabless bitch.” At the Infantry Officers Basic Course, he was constantly reminded that this was literally the worst thing that could happen to a young lieutenant. “Better to catch a DUI charge en route than to show up at your first unit without a tab,” one of the noncommissioned officers trainers at the Basic Course told him. And Faith believed him. Still believed him. Ever since he got to Fort Campbell, he felt people were watching him, judging him. Because they probably were.

Taking a deep breath, he pressed on the swinging glass door and walked out of the hot Tennessee sun and into the cool darkness of the battalion headquarters. He checked in with a bored-looking specialist at the front desk, who nonchalantly directed him down the hallway to the office of the battalion’s S1, or personnel officer.

The S1 was a young and harried-looking captain whose cramped office was piled with books, folders, and Army manuals, with no apparent order or logic. The door was open and Faith raised his hand to knock.

“Come in,” the S1 said, sensing rather than seeing Faith at the door.

As Faith entered the room, the S1 stood and walked over to shake hands. As he did so, he glanced at the jacket of Faith’s battle dress uniform, which bore Airborne and Air Assault badges. That was good. But then his eyes skirted to Faith’s left sleeve, where a “subdued” green and black Ranger Tab should have been sewn above the “Screaming Eagle” patch of the 101st Airborne Division. His expression darkened.

“No tab?” he asked incredulously.”

“No sir,” Faith responded without elaborating.

“Why not?” the S1 pressed.

Faith thought about that for a second. There were many reasons. Too many people in the starting class meant a lot of lieutenants, including him, “failed” the PT test and got rolled into the next class. During a unit run in Darby Phase, someone behind him stumbled over a crack in the pavement and flew headlong into Faith’s ankle, twisting it painfully. Luck of the draw gave Faith some crappy missions in Mountain Phase. Being in a squad that was all West Pointers, except him, meant his peer evaluations suffered. About halfway through, his girlfriend broke up with him, via a “Dear John” letter. And a family emergency meant he couldn’t still around for more after he got “recycled” back to Day 1 of Ranger School. Preparation, persecution, family, and luck all played a role in the outcome. But if he were honest with himself, and now he felt like he could be, at the end of the day, those reasons were just excuses. There was only one accurate answer.

“I didn’t meet course standards, sir,” he said, with more confidence than he actually felt.

“OK. Well, that complicates things. I had you slated for a platoon in Charlie Company, but now I’m going to have to give it to one of the other new arrivals and figure out what to do with you,” he explained.

“Sir,” Faith began, “I’d really like to go to a line platoon right away. I need to get back to Ranger School and—“

“Slow your roll, Lieutenant,” the S1 interrupted, unsympathetically. “No one cares what you want or what you think you need. All we care about is the needs of the unit. Right now we don’t have any line platoons open, and even if we did, based on the Battalion Commander’s guidelines I wouldn’t send a non-Ranger qualified platoon leader down to the line.”

Cowed, Faith said nothing.

“Give me your medical and dental records and three copies of your orders,” the S1 continued. Faith complied. After perusing them for a moment, he said, “Everything appears to be in order. Here’s your battalion-level inprocessing sheet.” Then he picked up the telephone. “Sir, a new lieutenant has arrived. When would you like to see him?” A pause. “No sir, no tab.” Another pause. “Roger sir,” he concluded before hanging up.

“The Battalion Commander likes to see every new lieutenant as soon as they arrive,” he explained. “His office is down the hall and to the right. He will see you now. Good luck, Lieutenant Faith.”

Deflated, Faith made his way down the hallway to the Battalion Commander’s office. This was going to be as bad as he imagined. Well, Faith thought, at least the S1 didn’t call me a “tabless bitch.” But it was probably implied.

Faith knocked twice on the open door. “Sir, LT Faith reporting as ordered.”

“Enter!” a voice behind the desk directed.

(end)

Discussion topics:

1) Why is having a Ranger Tab so important in an Infantry unit? Does it have the same meaning in other units?

2) What should Faith’s priority be now?

3) What kinds of things should Faith focus on in his upcoming discussion with the Battalion Commander?

4) How have you dealt with your own failures, either in the military or in life in general?
 
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#4
@Marauder06 I'm going to skip question 1 since it is out of my lane, while I have an idea as to why I still don't feel as if I can discuss it accurately.

2.) He should be worrying about where he is at right now and making a positive impact on the new unit that he is in. If he starts gunning for a second chance it's going to leave a bad taste in his command and subordinates mouths, essentially showing them he doesn't care about them and that he's only there until he gets a second chance at the tab.

3.) I feel as if this pertains to the same area as question 1 did but I'll still try and answer it.

He should focus on honesty and clarity with the Bat. Commander, he needs to explain the impact that he is wanting to bring and how he is going to fit into the bigger picture per say. I would also want him to be open about his intentions to get the tab but make it clear that his mind is on the present task of doing what's best for his unit.

You can be a PT stud, smart as a tack, etc. But if you lack honesty or the ability to have your intentions clearly stated you will get no where with anyone in life.

4.) When I was younger I had a problem with dealing with them, hell I still do every now and then. No one likes to fail. However you can't let it defeat you, when life gives you a swift kick in the nuts you usually have two options. One, is to lay back and act like everything is out if your control and just let it continue or you the second one where you can stand back up, brush yourself off and ask may I have another.

Life isn't some soft blanket that you can wrap yourself in and it'll make you feel nice and warm. It's a constant stream of suck that you have to learn to deal with interrupted by periods of pure joy and happiness. When you lose sight of that and start letting life beat you down that's when you've already lost.

How I've learned to deal with failure in life is look at the reason that I failed, learn from it and move on. When you start wallowing in your failures you are doomed to never move on it's the same thing with the woulda coulda shoulda crowd. Failures are learning experiences and you should embrace it, in the end they make you a stronger person.


I've looked through and tried to get all of the spelling errors due to spell check, apologies if I missed any. Also I look forward to more of these case studies.
 

CDG

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#6
Discussion topics:

1) Why is having a Ranger Tab so important in an Infantry unit? Does it have the same meaning in other units?

2) What should Faith’s priority be now?

3) What kinds of things should Faith focus on in his upcoming discussion with the Battalion Commander?

4) How have you dealt with your own failures, either in the military or in life in general?
1) We've talked on this site before about how relevant Ranger School is these days, after 16 years of combat. That being said, it's still the gold standard in the Army for combat leadership. The Army loves badges, tabs, trinkets, etc. that let them easily identify how capable a soldier is. At least in theory. Ranger School proves you passed Ranger School. It doesn't mean you will be a great leader. It doesn't seem like ARSOF, outside of the 75th, puts as much stock in the tab. SF conducts their own SUT, leadership, and embracing the suck evolutions. It doesn't seem as important in Armor, mech, FA units, based on my experiences.

2) His priority should be doing everything he can to prove himself, working towards being ready for another shot at RS, and making sure he doesn;t fall into the trap of making excuses about why he didn't make it. He didn't do that with the S1, but resentment can fester for awhile and then surface in different ways, i.e. shit talking the school, blaming the cadre for favoritism.

3) He should focus on owning what happened, and expressing to the BC what his plan is for improving the areas he was weak in. He should state that he will stay ready to re-attend RS, and that he will do whatever he can to support the BNs mission.

4) Man, you just gotta accept it, learn from it, and drive on. Getting mad and/or feeling sorry for yourself can be a tempting outlet. You gotta fight the urge to indulge, and look at things objectively. What can I do to improve? What can I do to ensure I am more ready next time? Focus on that, and try to let the other shit go.
 

Il Duce

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#7
What kind of fucked up unit has the battalion S-1 deciding who gets a platoon or not? Sounds like something is rotten with that BC and LT Faith is in for some bad models of 'what right looks like.'

My $.02 on the discussion questions:

1. Book answer: it's the standard (though it's not written in any regulation, policy, or doctrine so I guess it's the 'unwritten' standard). I think the real answer is Army and especially maneuver culture. There is a culture of 'prove your machismo/bona fides/toughness/whatever in the Army in general and maneuver specifically. I was talking with an Air Force officer about this the other day as he discussed every time he met Army officers in groups (though not one-on-one) he had to go through a 'testing' phase of 'where have you been, what have you done' more akin to the playground on your first day as a transfer student. On the plus side it provides a common understanding of grit, experience, skill, and ability to make the cut - on the negative side it can be playground bullshit that has little bearing on your abilities as a leader. I've heard from many Rangers the school taught them little but how to be hungry and tired - that better men than them didn't have a tab and far worse did. But, culturally it's hard for me to even write that - and I would never say it in uniform, because I don't have the tab.

2. The same thing it should be for every 2LT - learn as much as you can, be the best leader you can be, and start getting a nose for who to listen to and who is full of shit. The last is no where near as straight-forward as you'd think but IMO is the most important attribute an officer will ever build.

3. Listening. If he has goals for his time as a CPT - command, broadening, SFAS, teaching at USMA - he should mention them if asked. But his LT years are given over to that BN and becoming a tactical company-grade officer.

4. Own them. There's nothing else for it. If you could stop giving a shit about them they wouldn't be failures, just history.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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#8
Discussion topics:

1) Why is having a Ranger Tab so important in an Infantry unit? Does it have the same meaning in other units?

2) What should Faith’s priority be now?

3) What kinds of things should Faith focus on in his upcoming discussion with the Battalion Commander?

4) How have you dealt with your own failures, either in the military or in life in general?
1) Although a Ranger Tab (RT) is important for uniformity in tactical leadership and SUT. The main thing it does is give the 2LT credibility and a bit of "hooah points" with the troops. Thats always a plus for a new 2LT.

If you look back to the WW2 era, Airborne troops were trained in many of the skills, tactics and leadership that is taught in Ranger school today. Most Airborne troops were trained to a very high standard before receiving jump wings. Fast forward to late 50 & 60's, the SUT, skills sets and leadership training is removed from Airborne training, leaving a gap of knowledge and ability. The stop gap, was Ranger school, hints all leadership positions in Airborne units requiring Ranger qualified leaders, maintaining a highly skilled standard of knowledge and leadership. Gen. Westmoreland saw this and attempted to address it early in the 50's at West Point, and again at the 101'st and again in Vietnam with MACV SOG "RECONDO" schools. Not enough Ranger qualified leaders, so he took Ranger qualed guys and had them teach a short course to elevate leadership and skill sets.

Bottom line is maintaining a standard of training and leadership skills. Thats not to say a Ranger Tab makes a good leader, or that someone non Ranger qualified is not a good leader.

2) Being the best 2LT he can be in whatever assignment he gets. He needs to out soldier/leader the other 2LT's with Ranger Tabs. While staying humble.

3) Being humble, not making excuses, and jumping at any opportunity the commander offers him. Thats not to say he shouldn't be asking for a platoon like a 16 year old girl wanting a car, but staying focused on what's in front of him, and doing it better than the other guy.

4) I've shit the bed a few times, felt sorry for myself and made excusses. Didn't get me anywhere...I've also fought for things I've wanted and stayed after them until I got them. Anything is possible, it's just how bad you want it. I think that applies to everything in life, work, small business, the military, education, marrige, family relationships, medical recoveries, etc, etc.

Anyway, my $.02
 

Marauder06

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#9
Great responses so far! Thanks for the input.

__________

Deflated, Faith made his way down the hallway to the Battalion Commander’s office. This was going to be as bad as he imagined. Well, Faith thought, at least the S1 didn’t call me a “tabless bitch.” But it was probably implied.

Faith knocked twice on the open door. “Sir, LT Faith reporting as ordered.”

“Enter!” a voice behind the desk directed.
Faith marched into the room, executed a sharp facing movement and stopped two steps in front of the battalion commander’s desk. Giving what he hoped was the best salute he ever rendered, he repeated, “Sir, LT Faith reporting as ordered.”

“Take a seat, Lieutenant,” the battalion commander directed. Faith sat in a small upholstered chair that he felt was deliberately designed for discomfort. He could feel the springs in the back, and the wood beneath the seat cushion. The battalion commander, a slight, bookish man in his mid-40s, had short graying hair and wore a pair of reading glasses. He looked through a folder on his desk while Faith sat there in awkward silence.

The pause in the action gave Faith a chance to look around the room. Because of his line of view he could only see his commander’s chest and right sleeve. On his chest, the battalion commander wore a Pathfinder badge, Air Assault wings, and an Airborne badge. Above the Airborne badge was a star and wreath that indicated a senior jumpmaster. Above all of these was a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the crowning jewel of an Infantryman’s professional credentials.

On his right sleeve was a green arrowhead patch that bore a black dagger. Crowning the arrowhead patch was an Airborne tab. Faith didn’t recognize this patch but he knew it was some kind of Special Operations thing. He also know that since it was on the right sleeve it was a “combat patch.” So, his battalion commander had seen combat as part of a Special Operations unit. That made him some kind of badass. And here Faith was, a tabless lieutenant. “That’s just great,” Faith thought sarcastically.

“Welcome to First Battalion,” the man across the desk said, in a friendly manner that Faith was not expecting. “I had a chance to look over your record. ROTC at a good school, decent grades, interesting college major, Mortar Leaders Course prior to coming to Fort Campbell. But…” he paused.

“Here it comes,” Faith thought to himself.

“But,” the battalion commander repeated, “no Ranger Tab. You’re going to want to fix that,” he stated matter-of-factly.

“So, the S1 tells me that we’re about to be full in the line companies, but where we really have a need is in the Weapons Platoon,” the battalion commander added.

“They’re 1 of 5 for platoon leaders, they don’t have an XO, and their one other platoon leader is about to move out of the job. So that’s where we’re short. But putting brand-new lieutenants in Weapons is tricky. It’s a different type of platoon, with a different type of soldier. Different type of NCOs. Different weapons, different tactics. Weapons often chews LTs up and spits them out.”

“We also have a need for a couple of assistant S3s. It’s a different kind of work, but there’s almost no field time which means plenty of time to prep to go back to Ranger School. It also means you get a feel for the different companies out there and you can bide your time until the line platoon you want opens up.”

“Here’s the bottom line,” he continued, “I’m going to give you something that most other lieutenants don’t get: a choice. You can either have a weapons platoon now, or you can mark time on staff until a line platoon opens up. One benefit of the former is that you can have a platoon now. The drawback is, it’s not a platoon you were trained for, and they are leaving for the National Training Center in about four days,” he explained. “It’s going to be harder for you to get back to Ranger School.”

“If you take the staff job, you’ll have time to PT your ass off and get back into shape and go back to Ranger School right away, and then get into the queue for a line platoon. The bad news is, that means your platoon leader time is likely to be extremely limited. Either way it’s fine with me, but you’ve got to decide right now,” he explained.

“Sir,” Faith replied after a brief consideration. I’d like to …”

(end)

Discussion Questions:
1) What should LT Faith do? Potential courses of action include taking one of the two options offered, suggesting a third course of action, or asking for more time to make a decision. There is a mortar platoon in the battalion, and Faith is a graduate of the Mortar Platoon Leader’s course. Maybe that would be a better fit for him?

2) What are some of the positive and negative implications of the course of action you’ve suggested?
 
Last edited:

x SF med

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#10
Take the Weapons PL slot, get the Jr leadership experience, with plenty of time to learn from NCOs and hone the skills needed to be a truly effective leader in the near future. The draw back... probably not going to get to Ranger School, ever... which will relegate LT Faith to future staff/support leadership roles. Not a bad thing, as those areas generally have a greater need for truly competent leaders.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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#11
Take the weapons platoon, be humble and work hard to learn the job.

Commander has a need, he basically told you he needs you here, but it's going to be hard, but that's what he needs. Or you can say fuck the unit, I'll play Shop and go to Ranger school. Basically a "will you sacrifice for the greater good, or will you be selfish and serve your own wants and desires" type decision.
 

Il Duce

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#12
Weapons PLT. What the LT doesn't know, but the BC does is a weapons PLT is frequently a 2nd PLT - giving some LT a chance at being selected as a Co XO. The LT is also being given a test - do you choose the hard leadership position where your primary commitment (at least the way the BC is laying it out) is leadership - or a staff job where your primary commitment (again as the BC is laying it out - staff are people too) is to yourself and prepping for the individual achievement of earning a Ranger tab.

The BC may even say 'I appreciate you're wanting the weapons PLT, I'll let you know' and moving him to the S-3. But, LT Faith has been added to the 'give him a chance' column. I wonder if LT Faith were to choose S3 if a line platoon would ever actually open up - that weapons PLT was never really on the table. You have to mistrust those bookish-looking motherfuckers...

Staff is a great place to refine understanding, learn how units run, and becoming a 'make it happen' kind of leader. But, there is no substitute for command at any level - that's the true crucible where leadership is formed. You are forced to learn how to take/receive guidance, plan, execute, and decide - or learn enough to fake those things better than many folks execute them. You've got limited time as a LT - where you will sponge knowledge good/bad - it's a shame when it's wasted anywhere but on the line IMO.
 

Devildoc

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#13
A newly-minted O1? Thank the BC, take the Weps job, don't look back. Weps platoons, at least in the Marines, will make or break a 2nd LT; if you don't break, the sky is the limit.
 

Ocoka

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#14
Take the weapons platoon billet, learn the crap out of it, hone your leadership skills and show everybody that you are balls to the wall squared away and combat ready.

Honestly I had no idea an Army infantry O was the red-headed stepchild unless he had the Ranger bling to prove his manhood. That's pretty fucked up to me because I had some total badass Marine infantry officers and the only bling they wore was their rank.

If the Ranger tab is so goddam important for Army infantry O's then they ought to make it a mandatory phase of infantry officer training and end the pissing contest. Either you get the tab and your in, or you don't and your no longer infantry.
 

Devildoc

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#15
If the Ranger tab is so goddam important for Army infantry O's then they ought to make it a mandatory phase of infantry officer training and end the pissing contest. Either you get the tab and your in, or you don't and your no longer infantry.
I thought the same thing, but it's not my family, so who am I to say. But yeah, the whole "you-don't-HAVE-to-have-it-you-have-to-have-it" thing is wearisome.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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#16
The Ranger Tab is more specific to units vs the Infantry as a whole. Airborne, Assault, Light, Mountian, etc. These units code their para/line leaders as V/G positions (airborne Ranger Q/Leg Ranger Q). Heavy, Mech, or motorized Infantry doesn't require a Ranger Tab. Generally squad leader and above in the 101st 173rd and 82nd are V slotted positions, Airborne Ranger qualified, and is like that specific to the units core mission capability, rapid deployment, kinda the Big A's shock troops for small engagements the likes of Grenada and Panama, etc. Those higher standards are needed for the masses, not everyone, but it brings the standards and skill level up across the board...
 

Diamondback 2/2

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#17
Another example, most light, Airborne/assault Infantry do not cross over to mech/motorized Infantry units. It happens, but it's not the norm. A good leader in an airborne unit will suck in a mech unit and vise versa. Some can and do do it, but most end up having life. Different mission and capabilities.
 

Il Duce

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#18
Another example, most light, Airborne/assault Infantry do not cross over to mech/motorized Infantry units. It happens, but it's not the norm. A good leader in an airborne unit will suck in a mech unit and vise versa. Some can and do do it, but most end up having life. Different mission and capabilities.
I think that's much less true for officers vs enlisted. Officers used to be expected to have heavy and light experience - though since the combining of infantry and armor 'light' experienced folks have been getting promoted to O-6 at much higher rates. There's a large bias towards Ranger Regiment and SOF experienced officers now that wasn't the case in the 80s and 90s. Needless to say there's a lot of heartburn in the armor community over it.
 

CDG

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#19
I'm going to go against the grain, and argue for him to take the assistant S3 job. I can certainly understand the reasoning presented for him to take the WEP PLT, and I can't say that any of that is wrong. That being said, Mother Army will always get hers. There's nothing wrong with doing what you can to set yourself up for success. As an infantry officer, he's gotta have that tab. Regardless of whether he "officially" needs it or not, he needs that fucking tab. I look at the WEP PLT as being the easy way out. The BC said that he probably wouldn't ever get to go back to RS. So what good does a WEP PLT do? He MIGHT prove himself there, and then he moves on from PLT command as a still-tabless infantry officer. I think he needs to show the BC that he's not afraid to put the work in to go back and re-attempt the thing that already kicked his ass once. He might have limited PLT time, but he will have a better understanding of the bigger picture from being on staff, and he will (hopefully) have a tab as well. More PLT time isn't going to mean anything when trying to compete for CO command without a tab.
 

Ooh-Rah

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#20
I'm going to go against the grain, and argue for him to take the assistant S3 job....As an infantry officer, he's gotta have that tab. Regardless of whether he "officially" needs it or not, he needs that fucking tab.
Agree 100%. I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon trying to write out what @CDG said so well.