What is wrong with subbies today?

Discussion in 'Officers' started by barbs, Jul 20, 2006.

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  1. I am under the distinct impression talking to people more grown up than I that there is a feeling in the Field Army that when the kids leave the factory they brain dump and shrug off whatever they have learnt along with the battle blazer. Is this a unique stand point? Does this mean I am getting crusty? Does anyone care?

    I am convinced that 80% of the kids who pass RCB would be ok with or without RMAS; mostly they would be 'better' but they weren't bad in the first place. What can RMAS teach the President of the winning Oxford boat crew about leadership, selfless commitment, teamwork and gerneral all-round-good-egg-ish-ness? Likewise can RMAS really test the commitment or robustness of the two blokes who rowed the Atlantic? I know, they are a distinct minority, but are good examples of the standard of man and woman wanting to be junior officers today.

    What about the remaining 20% - well most of them leave either of their own volition or by invitation. The stupid, devious ones get caught but the clever, devious ones don't. The ones who know how to play the game but don't like the rules slip through. Is the problem of 'bad' officers as stark as imagined. What on earth possesses young officers on leaving Sandhurst to:

    a. Walk into the RSM's office and introducing themselves: 'Hi, I'm Brian'?
    b. Sh@g a JNCO?
    c. Sh@g a SNCO?
    d. Call their pl sgt by his first name and 'dispense with all that formality cr@p'?
  2. Answers:

    a. Because they are either a Monty Python fan or a tw@t. Or both.
    b. Because other, more senior officers have done it without repercussions.
    c. See answer for 'b'.
    d. Because it (the 2Lt) is either a lonely little sh1t with no friends in the Mess or yearns to be in the SAS where he can call everyone 'Smudge', 'Legs' or 'Lofty' (fails to realise it will still be called Cnut).
  3. I think the ones that sh@g a NCO, introduced themselves to the RSM as Brian, or those on first name terms are certainly in the minority.

    I also think that the teaching given on etiquette are generally unecessary - by virtue of being at the Academy it can be assumed that cadets have an understanding of what are acceptable norms of behaviour. However, there will always be that one idividual who does not conform, I day say it happened too in the sepia-stained olden-days when you were a subbie too!

    With regards to sleeping with SNCOs and JNCOs it must be an infantry thing! :?

  4. One word : idiocy.

    When I left the factory (admittedly, many moons ago) I referred to the RSM as sir for years afterwards. In fact, only a few years ago did I start referring to him as "RSM". Never shagged either a J or SNCO - although did get into serious bother once for having a relationship with a Brigadiers daughter (I was but a young Captain at this point ... oops. And not a cavalry-type ... double oops. And can't stand horses ... ultra, mega, huge oops).

    Ho hum ...
  5. Firstly, we all have to admit the caveat of "plus ca la change" - if you read "Inside The British Army" by Anthony Beevor (1990) it's interesting to read that he'd gained the distinct impression that there was an unspoken consensus among the army that:

    a. Soldiers were more questioning, bolshy and very much less robust than interviewees considered their own generation. This was blamed on poor education, city life prior to joining up and soft training - the very same things that soldiers in the 50s considered the weaknesses of the NS generation. Who, looking back at Korea, would say that in retrospect?

    b. Young Officers lacked integrity and were too career-minded. This was blamed on the "Thatcher" generation and, implicitly, the declining public school proportion of RMAS intake (which has since recovered).

    I think:

    1) As Professor Holmes pointed out in "Dusty Warriors" despite all the dismissive talk about the "Playstation Generation" young soldiers were not (with a very few exceptions) found wanting in the warfighting phase of Telic, nor in the Peace Enforcement / Support since. The same is true of junior officers. But they are, obviously, different to the BAOR and then pre-Iraq generations before them. They're much more busy for a start.

    Given the extreme committment of all aspects of the Army, junior officers are spending an enormous amount of time with their men. Work/life balance aside, this can only be a good thing. They are leading men in arduous and dangerous environments far more than their predecessors.
    Living in cramped and unpleasant conditions for long periods, however, leads to greater informality. Unlike their predecessors there's less time for "normal routine" to kick in post-tour - in fact you could argue that traditional barracks life has all but disappeared in field units, and it aint coming back.

    Perhaps you could contradict this by pointing to the number of cold war exercises and infantry NI tours, I don't know.

    Conventional warfare training and an in-barracks routine which allows for healthy mess life (in every mess) and junior officer training re-emphasises the officer / NCO / Jocks rank structure and re-asserts the code of conduct YOs should live by.

    2) In my time (an Infantry SSC) I was markedly more formal than my peers, and very much more so than the Corps subbies who I worked alongside at an ATR. Obviously you have to adapt your style, and mine may well not have been appropriate to the RLC.

    However, instant informality doesn't work. Many YOs in the corps think that keeping a small but appreciable difference from your NCOs makes you aloof, priggish and old fashioned. It can but it needn't. If you're hard working, reasonably efficient, admit your mistakes and care for your guys you've got the essentials. You need to be a sound guy - thats what NCOs & Jocks want.

    It's about "Standards" and that's what RMAS is about. How much can you really remember from the Churchill or Faraway Halls? YOs may not always equal the experience and knowlege of your NCOs but they must have the character to lead. To do this they must demonstrably be more self-disciplined in manner, dress and morals than their subordinates.

    3) The best units I saw worked hard to be professional in every aspect of soldiering - not a few. By contrast the RLC troop who ferried me from BAS to SLB infrequently were poor in all. Scruffy, back chatting to JNCOs etc. No great thing there, but their rifles were dirty, their tactical skills dangerously poor and their weapons in the wrong readiness state - despite the Div order that weapons were not routinely made ready, theirs were. Because they wanted to and their YO didn't have the guts to enforce it.

    The major and the minor faults were linked. Their subby should have been on top of it. All very "Red Book" I know but its true.

    Ultimately, what soldiers and YOs need is a sound Commissioning Course - which I believe we have, although it should be shorter - and good mentoring during a long initial stint at RD.

    The officer class is self-policing. Mentoring is about doing what paperwork, values and standards booklets and JOLP can't do - if YOs are poor now its because their seniors are poor. Its about Barbs' peers making the time to advise and monitor their subalterns, unafraid to insist on high standards even where it makes them attract mutters in the mess about being a shit.

    In fact... to sum up... how about ruthless Adjutants and good Company Commanders? Not a new problem is it?
  6. cpunk

    cpunk LE Moderator

    I blame Andy McNab and his mates... indirectly at least.

    Pulling up a sandbag and lighting the tilly lamp... when I was a lad, thinking about becoming an officer, most of the first-hand literature I read originated from the First and Second World Wars and the majority of it was written by officers. This reinforced all of the old social and military stereotypes, usually in a good way. Officers talked about their sense of duty and their respect for their soldiers, and there was a clear demarcation between what officers did and how they behaved, and what NCOs and soldiers did and how they behaved. Even Spike Milligan didn't question the social divide between officers and soldiers in his memoirs.

    Unfortunately, more recent military literature has tended to blur all of that. Apart from presenting a somewhat tendentious picture of the importance and capability of SF, the books have largely been written by ex-NCOs whose 'stock in trade' is treating junior officers with contempt, particularly when they try to assert themselves in any way. I would bet you a pound to a pinch of sh1t that more OCdts at RMAS have read 'Bravo Two Zero' or 'The One That Got Away' than have read '18 Platoon' or 'Quartered Safe Out Here', probably by a factor of five or ten. But if you read these SAS memoirs, it would be easy to get the impression that the role of officers in the British Army is to rubber-stamp bright ideas which have been thought up by 'the lads'; and any officer who dares to cross the lads is invariably a d1ckhead or a numpty. The message of these very influential books to impressionable potential officers is that a formal relationship between officers and NCOs is a sign of incompetence or numptihood.

    Another factor is the awe with which SNCOs and WOs are regarded at RMAS. This does tend to obscure the fact that the NCO corps of the army contains just as many, lazy, incompetent, feckless, indolent, lying, lead-swinging, crooks as it contains superstars, and that when YOs are instructed to 'listen to their platoon sergeant', they also need to be told to then apply their common sense filter to what he or she is saying.

    As for the shagging, I think that's simply the result of there being more women in the army these days and of a liberalisation of attitudes towards sex. I've never shagged an NCO, junior or senior, but nowadays the zimmer frame would get in the way. The only effective way I've ever come across of stopping men and women having sex is solitary confinement and while we shouldn't approve of young officers bonking their NCOs, we need to accept that it's going to happen and have robust and fair procedures to deal with it.
  7. Nothing.
  8. I think these two points contribute largely to the sh@gging...

    ... as you rightly point out the esteem that SNCOs are held in by YOs is remarkable, and very, very rarely is that esteem eroded early on in the YO's career. The Pl CSgt at RMAS is god, your tp sgt or pl sgt take their place and assume the same attributes. Add to that admiration the loneliness of command and that the tp/pl sgt becomes your confessor (especially if you are not comfortable sharing your problems/concerns/fears with your peers) then the line between admiration and adoration is soon crossed. It is probably avoidable, but sadly, inevitable.
  9. There is nothing to stop SNCO's educating said junior ruperts on the ways of the world and etiquette at any time during his career! As should happen by the senior officer in his mess.
    If this is a real issue at unit level then thats why you have a CO, Adj and RSM its their responsibility to ensure new officers from the factory behave correctly, if they don't grip it then they have no one to blame but themselves (and you can blame them too!)
    Of course it works the other way when same junior rupert attempts to talk to a fellow LE officer as an equal - get this straight young sroat in 20 years you can talk to me as an equal until then its 9pm get your teddy bear and off to bed now and no stories tonight, you go straight to sleep now or else :)

  10. Speaking as a fairly senior Warrant Officer I think that people are forgetting a few things here. The originally mentioned "sins" have always happened during my career, but it wasn't so widely publicised, modern comms being what they are the slightest hint of an errant YO is spread around the whole Army in days, in the past such incidents would've been confined to barracks.

    Either way the result should be the same. The YO that introduces himself to the RSM as "Brian" should only ever do it once. That is the kind of story that should never leave the RSMs office, but the YO should certainly leave the RSMs office with a revised outlook on life.

    Personally I would like to see a lot less whining from NCO's about the standard of YO's and a lot more on the job training. There is nothing wrong with being less formal than the norm in the right environment as long as lines are clearly drawn and everyone knows the score.

    Edited to ADD, I agree with Baz, we were typing at the same time.
  11. Edited because I mis-read Baz44's post :(. Senior officers have their responsibilities, as does the YO's peer group of live-in subbies. Much as I found it a pain in the arrse when I became the senior-liver-in (and was refused permission to rent a nice apartment nearby), there is great importance in having people with experience at all levels in the Mess who can guide and mentor a new officer. The worst thing that can happen (and saw it when I was a 2Lt) is a new officer commiting a faux-pas on his first night and then being ostracised for years.

    The Mess is the home of the 'junior rupert'. He/she should be able to fully relax and partake of all the Mess life as an equal to any of its members (CO excepted normally). For discipline there are the OC/BCs, the PMC, the CO and the Adjt. A bit of over-indulging in the Mess should first be dealt with by the senior Lt. If it is ignored or the guy responds in a negative fashion it then goes to the PMC. Standby for a visit to the Adjt and a bollocking from the BC for embarrasing him.

    All the LE officers in every regiment that I served with were stars - great fun in the Mess (scarily good at drinking) and superb sources of information and advice. When I was a one-pip-wonder these guys looked after me and kept me out of trouble (also they were very good at leading me into trouble - but it was fun).

  12. I was quite amazed that within a few weeks of taking over as adjutant a subbie came to my house and was unshaven - despite the fact that he knew the CO was coming. His reasoning was that he never shaved at weekends. I put this down to the fact that he was one of a new breed we are starting to see of Subbies who get married straight out of RMAS and never live in the mess where their learn things like shave at the weekend if leaving your room.
  13. I agree that the role of the SNCO in the education of YOs is more important than it ever has been. Indeed, we overlook it at our peril. I would add that the role of other officers in the mess is vitally important - CC's point that the pace of ops means that peace-time mess life is slipping away is something I've not witnessed, but it makes sense. The environment for YOs is a bit less forgiving than it was when I joined, in fact glassing a fellow officer was dealt with by a stern Adjutantal chat - imagine a similar incident today [shudder].

    I would expect YOs to keep each other in check - a self-policing routine in place which means that just as you are about to drop the hand on the RAO's wife you get a polite rugby tackle from behind and taken away for another beer. If the YO isn't expose to mess life early he can't identify with the self-policing ethic and by extension doesn't apply it later. If he is constantly down the toon with the lads he is missing out on vital education in the mess.

    edited to apologise to dread for apprently plagiarising him when in reality my typing is too slow!
  14. There is a problem with subbies today because of the amount of education that needs to be done. If the grad/non-grad issue is ignored the majority of 2Lts only have 2 years until they become a Captain. Consider a 3 month YO's Course, and all of the hoops that need to be jumped through to qualify for promotion, in addition to the myriad of other activities that a subbie gets roped into. This is a very short amount of time at the coalface, indeed at the time when a subbie should be spending time with their soldiers they will be tied to a PC doing absolute gash.
  15. "All ranks will be clean shaven before twelve of the forenoon", or words to that effect, is in QRs. At no point does it add, except on weekends, holidays or during bar mitzvahs et cetera. Scots Wahey, you should hunt down the unshaven one and grant him the privilege of five or six weekends as ROO - "to help him get into the habit of shaving at weekends". If his unshaven behaviour is the result of going from RMAS to Pad, then five weeks of Tescos on her own may also help his bride to come to terms with battalion life.