THROUGH THE HILL
By Geoff Metcalf
February 14, 2009
Captain Roger Hill is in danger of receiving a less than honorable discharge from the Army and it is flat out over the top way wrong.
In 2003 I wrote a column in defense of LTC Allen West. West had been targeted by politically correct myopics for having fired his pistol over the head of a recalcitrant enemy combative prisoner.
As Colonel West writes in a recent note, “Now here we are and history is repeating itself, this time a stellar young Army Captain protecting his Company in Afghanistan.” West got deep in the kimchi for firing his pistol over the head of a prisoner. Hill fired his into the ground from about 20 feet.
Captain Hill is a West Point graduate and former ‘Old Guard’ (3d Infantry Regiment) in Washington D.C. Hill was the Officer-in-Charge of President Ronald Regan’s funeral detail. That is a very big deal and a “highly respected honor.”
Apparently the Army, in a supreme act of bureaucratic brain flatulence is reportedly considering an “Other than Honorable” discharge for Hill. Within four to six weeks the fate of this extraordinary officer will be decided by lesser men at Fort Campbell. The potential negative ramifications of hosing Hill would be epic and long range.
A comprehensive article was in the Washington Post in December and I encourage you to read it.
The soldiers who served at Hill's side call him heroic. However his fate will be decided by men at desks, not the men who with Hill, had to sift through the “charred and crumbling remains of fellow service members” or struggled to get the sticky dried blood of buddies out from under their finger nails. Hill himself reported such experiences “can somehow make a commander more protective."
Remember that when only the smell of cordite masks the stench of battle carnage, soldiers are fighting for their buddies…the troops with them wading through the blood, the guts, and the mud. Ultimately, soldiers do not fight for political concepts or partisan policy wonks. They fight for the immediate imperatives that largely include self preservation and protecting others. A leader is responsible for the “welfare, discipline and tactical deployment of his troops”.
Over 1,200 troops from the 10th Mountain Division are now pouring into Wardak, Afghanistan (an area about the size of Connecticut) to replace the 89 soldiers of Captain Hill’s company.
A long list of supporters (including retired LTC Allen West) has joined Hill’s wife, family and lawyer.
During the West incident in 2003 I observed, that when Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan interrogates a bad guy working with terrorists by shooting him in the arms and legs we cheered. When an Army officer scares an enemy in a combat zone with a loud noise they want to nail him to a wall, and brand him “unworthy”?
The same kind of politically correct desk jockey types who are Jonesing to put women in combat, emasculate fighter jocks, and impose rules of engagement for a cricket club instead of barbaric 13th century guerrillas, now once again are apparently seeking to destroy an exceptionally effective combat leader. What is wrong with this picture? Some senior civilian in the Human Resource Command is or will be tasked with Captain Hill’s fate. The HRC office works under Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and it is being suggested you (respectfully as possible) direct any letters or comments to Secretary Geren.
There really are consequences to what we do and don’t do in life. That axiom is true for institutions as well as for individuals. For a military struggling with morale, recruiting and retention issues, to do what they tried (and failed) to do to LTC West and now apparently are trying to do to Capt. Hill will result in negative consequences we as a nation cannot and should not be forced to suffer.
Woodrow Wilson once observed, “Leadership does not always wear the harness of compromise…Men of strenuous minds and high ideals come forward…The attacks they sustain are more cruel than the collision of arms…Friends desert and despise them…They stand alone and oftentimes are made bitter by their isolation.”
Brave warriors like the two men referenced herein, and their comrades should never be put in myopic and fickle cross hairs of unknowing, uncaring, politically motivated public opinion.
One of the unintended (but positive) consequences of the wars we now fight is the development of experienced combat veterans. If we can retain this institutional knowledge and experience, our cadre of experienced senior leaders (ten to fifteen years down the road) will be vastly superior to the officer corp General Marshall inherited when we had to fight WWII with inexperienced leaders.
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However, if the military discriminates against hard charging, “of the troops for the troops” type leaders (West and Hill as just two examples); it will revert to a “do no harm” politically correct goop, incapable of protecting their betters at the sharp end of the spear.