17 May 2010

On Retirement and Janowitz' "Professional Soldier"

(I love the gang at CNAS, but for some reason, I'm on a CNAS kick. I'm also drunk, so maybe that explains it.)

Recently, CNAS guru Nathan Fick, a Marine officer who served in Iraq, posted a provocative guest blog at Tom Ricks' The Best Defense:
Cliff retirement at 20 years of service, for instance, strikes me as a relic of an age when twenty years in the Army left a veteran a broken man, with blown joints, no hearing, and a limited ability to work in an agricultural or industrial economy. Advances in medicine, lengthening lifespan, and the shift to a service economy in this country (albeit with large swaths of agricultural and industrial employment across the workforce) make me wonder -- as a taxpayer -- why we're paying 38-year-olds as they embark on their second full career.
While Fick brings up a topic worth mentioning, I'm not certain it's completely accurate, after reviewing some of the literature on the subject. In fact, it's covered in an excellent work on the US military's organizational culture entitled "The Professional Soldier" by Morris Janowitz. Says Janowitz on the topic of retirement:
Consequently, the entire concept of retirement has undergone a change. No longer is retirement the final phase of a gentleman's career, a continuation of the military style of life. It is merely another step in career management. The Army no longer speaks of retirement, but of a "second" career. Traditionally, the bulk of military professionals, when they separated from service, actually did retire; civilian employment was incompatible with their self-conception.
Janowitz wrote that line in 1960. However, he was referring to a time when 30 years of service qualified an officer for retirement, not twenty years. Nevertheless, was the "old" Army (around the turn of the 20th Century) really that hard?
At one time, the military style of life was leisurely; the typical officer's work day in the inter-war years (1919-1940) ended by noon, although office routine developed after World War I. Freedom from an 8.00 AM to 4.00 PM routine, and opportunity for extensive leisure and sports, were compensations for the rigors of training exercises and frequent separations from one's family...the military occupation made it possible for the officer to have a gentleman-like routine.
Seriously? Being a commissioned officer back in the "wooden ships/iron men" days must have been a lot like being a warrant officer today! Complete with the WOMAN (Warrant Officer Mandatory Afternoon Nap).

I just gave away the secret. I need to protect myself from WOLF (the Warrant Officer Liberation Front).

Janowitz' book is a great read. I never would have guessed how many traditions and cultural quirks the Army still retains from its days on camps on the old frontier. It also sheds some light on recent discussions about the military "welfare state" and the power of wives in military organizations. Check it out at Amazon.


J. said...

"...why we're paying 38-year-olds as they embark on their second full career."

What a BS comment. Did Fick completely miss out on "volunteer Army, development of" or is this just an insidious plot by the Marine Corps to degrade former Army officer careers? You spend 20 years on the line, yeah, you deserve a retirement check. And guess what, when you go for that second career, it's very likely that your new employer will know that you're getting a check already and offer you a lower salary. It all balances out, and it's beneficial to have former military in the contractor field. So STFU, Mr. Fick.

Christopher said...

I question Nate Fick's assertion that people are leaving without blown joints, and lost hearing among other ailments. Wearing 30-40 pounds of body armor plus other assorted equipment daily for a year, multiplied by two to three (at least) has shown to be a big detriment to the body in the long term. I was just talking about this with a fellow O5 who is getting ready to retire and just had his shoulder reconstructed.
The VA has not seen anything yet when it comes to orthopedic degradation. Wait until all those 20-year old hooahs of today get to be 40 (whether retiring then or having ETSed in their mid to late 20s).

Anonymous said...

Wait until all those 20-year old hooahs of today get to be 40

Excellent point. I don't think the physical price of Iraq and Afghanistan has yet been paid by the younger generation of people engaging there; it'll be a different story of chronic health issues ten or fifteen years down the line.