08 June 2010

Plagiarism Doesn't Pay

I don't subscribe to the "zero-defect" mentality. Indeed, I've learned to suffer honest mistakes and shortcomings in my subordinates lightly; after all, I certainly had my share of flaws. Yet, there are some flaws I can't overlook.

Take my lieutenant from my previous assignment. While there's all sorts of petty misconduct that's not punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice--incompetence, petty backstabbing, and the like--an officer is required to show up to work. My lieutenant had difficulty grasping the nuances of, well, showing up on time, staying at work the entire day, and checking in when he left.

Recently, he missed a major white cell staff exercise I planned. I was actually quite proud of myself, as I had created a staff battle drill scenario which exposed them to every major event in the last nine years of war within a span of two hours, and they performed quite well. Yet, my lieutenant completely blew it off. I can only imagine where he wandered off to during the day.

Suffice to say, I, a battalion S-3 no less, spent a large portion of the day tracking him down and getting him to finally attend the exercise. As I contemplated some form of corrective training, I thought I'd send him through the wringer. I'd make him write an essay on Army doctrine.

Think that writing an essay for me is easy? Well, not many lieutenants have the misfortune of being forced to write essays for someone that has his own blog on counterinsurgency. I assigned him a two-page, single-spaced essay on the topic of "battle command"; specifically, how did events in Kunar Province, Afghanistan (H/T Captain's Journal) as well as in the Battle of Balaklava (immortalized in the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson) represent a failure of battle command?

After referring him to the US Army's FM 3-0: Operations, I sent him on his way, giving him just under two weeks to complete his essay. He began writing the essay the afternoon it was due.

After reading through it, I wasn't certain if I should laugh or weep for the future of human civilization.

To say that he used FM 3-0 as a reference is a bit of an understatement. Indeed, to address my questions on "battle command" (Chapter 5 in both the 2001 and 2008 versions), he copied and pasted miscellaneous paragraphs from Chapters 1 and 2 into his "essay".

No kidding, I actually took the time to hunt down the plagiarized paragraphs, as I realized that I'd read them before. His "essay" consisted of: Paragraphs 1-47 through 1-51, 1-25 through 1-29, 1-39, and 2-75...from the old version from 2001.

Needless to say, my next encounter with him included this gem:

"Do you realize I'm probably going to notice that you plagiarized because I've read this book [FM 3-0]? Even Jon Stewart read FM 3-0!"

Of course, I should have also added that the reason I know Army doctrine so well is because I'm friends with Doctrine Man on Facebook. But then, I realized how sad my life truly is, and I decided to keep that tidbit to myself.


Adam said...

All you need is Article 134 ;)

SJD said...

The sad truth is that the hero-in-question will be almost certainly be promoted with peers until he's wearing a cluster of oak leaves.

Reminds me of the Gresham's Law comment I saw on The Best Defense a few days ago. I'm sure another great officer or two will be sufficiently jaded to give up on the Army after working for him ten years down the road.