This week I have been reading Genera (ret.) Tommy Frank’s book American Soldier. It’s a great read. I wasn’t even aware that General Franks was writing a book until I heard him on the Sean Hannity radio show last week when driving home. His interview was engaging, entertaining, and emotional at times. His book has been one of the most enjoyable I’ve read this year.
Some of General Frank’s frustrations came when trying to put together a joint warfare effort in both Iraq and Afghanistan – particularly when meeting with the Joint Chiefs. After one particularly grueling meeting where his plan was torn up – from multiple single service perspectives – Franks shares this story about a brief encounter with two of the service chiefs the next morning:
Before I met with the SecDef the next morning, Marine Corps Commandant General Jim Jones asked to speak to me in his office. When I arrived, I found Jim and the CNO, Admiral Vern Clark, sitting beside Jones’s desk.
“Tom,” Clark said. “We really do support you.”
“Nothing we said yesterday was meant as criticism, Tom,” Jones added.
“Great,” I began. “I do want your input.”
“But I want your advice as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not as individual Service Chiefs scrabbling for the biggest piece of pie in this operation.” I didn’t give them time to respond. “Look. You guys each have a three-star who commands a service component for me, and represents the service expertise we need to put together a joint plan. It’s best to let those guys know your ideas. And then trust them to work for all of us to build a cohesive approach, rather than a patchwork of service interests.”
Clark and Jones understood my reasoning. I wanted to nail this problem here and now. “If you don’t trust those three-stars to represent you and assist me in joint war-fighting,” I told them, “you should replace them.”
They nodded again. But I wasn’t finished.
“Yesterday, in the Tank, you guys came across like a mob of Title Ten motherfuckers, not like the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Thanks for hearing me out,” I said, they turned and left.
I knew they’d gotten my message: No operation that is totally satisfying to any one service is truly a joint operation.
Title Ten Motherfuckers. Gotta love it.