Unlawful command influence: dod public policy vs. “make it happen” culture within the military

I decided against putting “Covid-19” in the title, because neither the virus nor vaccine is ultimately the issue. The issue tearing apart the fabric of our military and destroying good order and discipline, which stands as the backbone of our entire way of life, is the unlawful command influence (UCI) exerted on units from their command teams. Also referred to as “undue” command influence in a bit less of a court room drama, UCI is the act of a commander/command team applying pressure to their troops to do something they are not legally allowed to enforce through direct orders. I’ll do my absolute best to lay this out logically and hope you concur with my opinion on this.

Directive from CSM of 1-506 Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 101st ABN DIV

This is guidance that was sent out to all members of 1-506 Infantry Regiment regarding the push to get Soldiers vaccinated against Covid-19. The reason this is a problem is because the DOD has emphatically told the public that the vaccine is optional, service members are not required to take it, and instruction to the branches has consisted of telling commands to educate rather than applying UCI, which is illegal. In fact, LTG Ronald Place, chief of the Defense Health Agency, stated:

“Voluntary for everyone,” LTG Place told reporters at a press conference at the Pentagon. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. Voluntary for everyone.”

That appears to not be the case according to this particular incident. You might think this is an isolated incident, but it’s not. Eagle 6, the commanding general of the 101st, is making battalion commanders who don’t have a 60% opt-in rate for the vaccine among their formations sit down with battalion commanders from 3/101 to learn how they were successful in harassing and shaming their Soldiers to receiving the vaccine. Here’s where I’ll introduce the “foot stomp” method of leadership into this article. A foot stomp is synonymous with “listen up, this is really important” in the military. When someone stomps their foot, you know they just gave the answer to the test, or something is critical to what they’re trying to convey. There’s public policy on the FACE of the DOD, then there’s what ACTUALLY happens when the cameras are off and it’s time to make things happen. More on that in a bit.

Story after story rolls in

Let’s take a look at a few more examples. These are all incidents across the force, completely unrehearsed or collaborated, yet they’re occurring in very similar ways.

4-23 IN, 2-2 SBCT

I stopped saving all of these at some point. There were too many. Sailors and Marines started messaging me saying they were experiencing the same thing. Then I got stories about people being removed from leadership positions at the company/troop level if they didn’t get vaccinated. The stories go on and on and on. I even got a few medical professionals. This one jumped out at me.

Commands are coercing, bribing, and flat out threatening in an effort to get troops vaccinated. But why? Why not just make it mandatory? It’s clearly within the scope of the president’s legal authority. The reason why is the same reason any political or higher decision comes out in the news, yet we’re often doing something completely different on the ground: public perception.

The Issue of Public Perception

There has been so much information (often times misinformation) that has poured out from every corner of the internet regarding the safety and credibility of the vaccine. I simply can’t highlight every argument for or against the vaccine, and I’m not going to try. The point is, a large swath of the public thinks they’ll get Bill Gate’s Cooties if they take the vaccine, and the government has done a very poor job communicating otherwise (you know, with all of the honesty and transparency often displayed by our elected officials…). To avoid a likely tempestuous backlash, the DOD did what they have done for the last year (and likely longer): they put out one thing publicly, then stomped their foot and winked at the branches while telling them to “make it happen.”

I did a story in a series of slides involving the 101st back in July that some of you may remember. (Read here, here, here and this yahoo article here.) Public policy from higher decreed that quarantine procedures were to take place when someone tested positive for Covid. The 101st (and many more we all found out over the coming months) were simply denying their troops medical attention so their ranks wouldn’t be attrited down to nothing. You can see how the PAO of the 101st came out and blatantly told absurd lies; lies that a private with a couple days under his belt would know were ridiculous.

My point is, the DOD has a need to remain socially accepted by the public while also staying combat effective. In an era of social media and lightning fast dissemination of information, they’ve done a very poor job of juggling the moving parts within the branches. It doesn’t take an investigative journalist to see what’s taking place. Commanders know what’s being directed of them. Every once in a while someone is stupid enough to put it in an email, or memo, but usually it’s a matter of putting out “intent” while stomping your foot to deliver the message. “Don’t break the rules! Remember, it’s optional, we can’t pressure them! Oh yea, evaluations are coming up next quarter and I need to do your counselings. There’s certain things I’m looking for in a quality leader, so let’s get them done.” **cough**

The Interconnected Truth

This isn’t an elaborate conspiracy. It’s the same thing the DOD has always done, but now we can connect the pieces like we never could before. Once upon a time we used to do our time, PCS, share a story about how shitty our previous command was and what they did to us, and that was it.

Now, the stories are coming together, and we can see a pattern of dishonesty. Our organization is one that’s grown its roots in the soil of integrity and honor. We have ALWAYS had a strict moral code, and the rules for breaking it were MUCH higher than the rest of the population. Sure, we’ve always had instances of the good ol’ boy club prevailing, officers or SNCOs taking care of their own, but this is different; this is a reoccurring pattern of lying that has shaken those roots loose from their grasp of nutrient giving soil.

The Dilemma

This isn’t a matter of someone taking or not taking a vaccine. I don’t care about a vaccine. If the Army told me to eat a pile of shit and somehow made it legal, then I’d probably snarf down a big ol’ plate of dookie and call it a day. I’d go home and be like, “damn, babe; you won’t believe what I had to do at work today.” That isn’t the case though. Orders are being disseminated for public consumption, but the opposite is being done in FULL VIEW for everyone to see. The public doesn’t care (because take your vaccine you big dummy; why would we come to your rescue)? It’s not some egregious breach of moral and ethical standards. It’s just simple lying about a thing people generally accept as being a normal way of life for the armed services anyways: vaccinations.

The heart of all of this is in the details though, and the details mean everything to an organization whose job it is to wage war and kill. If we can’t trust the very people whose responsibility it is to order us into battle, then the cohesive tissue that bind our all volunteer force will disintegrate into dust. We must be led by men and women of integrity. When they speak, we must KNOW they’re being forthright and honest, because any hesitation on the home front will translate into hesitancy on the field of battle. The security of our nation is in jeopardy because of leaders who say one thing and do another.