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The way I saw it – ‘loss of privileges’ order

Photo by: OCdt V. Pierrot

For a few, dark clouds over the peninsula; for most,  lesson learned.

27472 OCdt Eliza Bruce is a 4th year, Hon. English with a Psyc Minor; Military Occupation Classification: 00328 – Air Logistics. 4 Squadron CFL; Fencing Team Manager, first term Cadet Wing Band Officer; member of choir/Brass and Reed and, in particular, a regular contributor to e-Veritas.

Following are her personal views on the ‘loss of privileges’ order handed down to the Cadet Wing earlier in March.

The way I saw it

27472 OCdt Eliza Bruce

Eliza Bruce

20 years is more than enough time for a generation to lose perspective, and it has been 20 years since any discipline resembling wing-wide loss of privileges has been implemented at RMC. My immediate reaction to this sudden and unexpected measure was frustration and bitterness, but that perspective has changed as a result of seeing the united and outstanding response of the cadet wing and realizing more was going on at the heart of the scenario.

When one of us makes a choice to disobey a rule it is not simply a matter of personality or a case of individual insubordination–the decision is informed by the influence of all the peers and people around us that make us feel that breaking a rule will be safe and accepted. While many might have been forthright and consistent in maintaining personal dress standards and deportment and calling out others for their lack thereof, what we were hesitant to do or completely neglected was to check others for their attitude. When Officers Cadets  talk against the authority structures and question orders, how hard would it have been to say ‘I see your point, but have you considered that isn’t the perspective we need to have as leaders?’ and silence the dissent.

We can’t expect to reach a unit, pass on orders to our subordinates,  then follow it up with denouncing those orders and saying it’s okay to skirt these directives as long as no one is caught, or that someone will ‘cover’ for you. The mindset is developed here. This week alerted us to some gaps in our perspectives. We need to own all responsibility as leaders, which means even if we didn’t commit, for example, dress infractions, we need to approach it like we did so we can problem solve.

Reporting your peers is not blading, it’s saving them from worse errors in the future.  Yes the individual needs to look after their own behaviour, but in the military it should be with the support of teammates. We need to take orders seriously rather than waiting poised to make some cynical review whenever we are issued directives that are simple and just need to be followed. Questioning is okay, but like all things within reason. Ultimately, we have signed on for a career where there will be times orders come down and we’ll be expected to comply immediately and without question. Can we be ready to do that when all we’ve practiced is a sub-culture of resistance, apathy, lack of respect? I am discouraged to see that some seem to have sunk further into the mindset as a result of negativity over the loss of privileges. However, I believe a hopeful outlook adopted by everyone else will demonstrate a better model of behaviour and attitude for others to follow.

I’m happy with the way people have restored the chains of communication, leadership, and friendship this past week as we were forced to interact with each other more and put in practice the patience and critical thinking needed to wait out the situation and develop solutions to the root problems that caused it. If those that have responded to our brusque awakening share the lesson learned and hold themselves to that higher standard of leadership, this past week will have been one of the most pivotal  moments in the history of RMC culture.

9 Comments

  • 7276 Wade Cuthbertson

    March 26, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Well done, Eliza. You have responded the way a leader should. My reaction a few weeks ago to some of my Class of ’67 was that I was disappointed that the cadet leadership had not policed itself and that the CWC and CSLs in particular should be counseled on their lack of leadership. It should not take commissioned officers like the Director of Cadets to impose discipline on the Wing. I am pleased to see you agree and hope you all see it that way for reasons you have quite eloquently expressed. TDV.

  • Darren Rich

    March 26, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Eliza you are spot on. As one who has recently retired, and from a Command billet at that, I can tell you that not only must you talk the talk, you must walk the walk. And you also need to be fair and consistent across the organization in how you handle dress, deportment and level of effort issues. This does not mean that you must abandon compassion, but that you must factor all aspects when you decide on how to deal with an issue. (Note I did not use the word problem, but rather the word issue. Words matter.)

    Doing the right thing is not easy, and it is not expedient. As I’d mentioned to more that one or two of the Team, “this (the resolution of an issue or set of issues) has the possibility of getting worse before it gets better and it may take some time.” Indeed, one of the more difficult issues did take three solid years of steady application of effort before we got to the right result for all concerned.

    Bottom line is that as leaders we are not put in positions of accountability, authority and responsibility to do the easy thing. If that was all that was expected (to do the easy thing) then anyone could be a leader.

    Final point, although you must always treat your Team with respect and compassion leadership is not a popularity contest and it is indeed lonely in the corner office.

  • Joshua Juneau

    March 27, 2018 at 11:44 am

    OCdt Bruce desperately needs to get some perspective and stop pandering to the “leadership” who orchestrated this national embarrassment. You are at college! Advocating for the reporting of your peers on minor issues – such as wearing jeans off campus – is just nasty, and does not promote group cohesion and/or esprit de corps. It promotes isolationism and paranoia. As an English major, I’m sure that OCdt Bruce is familiar with this basic Orwellian concept.

    It is more disappointing that OCdt Bruce is advocating the benefits of group punishment. In times of armed conflict (what you are training for) any such group punishments against an enemy would violate the 1949 Geneva Convention. Why should an enemy have more rights than your comrades? To promote discipline? This is laughable.

    Additionally, OCdt Bruce’s statement that “Questioning is okay, but like all things within reason” is problematic. Questioning is required. Under the Code of Service Discipline, CAF members only needs to obey “lawful” commands. Blind obedience is for sheep, and does not promote “critical thinking” as OCdt Bruce suggests. Of note, it would allow control of the “proletariat” as is suggested in Marx’s famous Manifesto.

    Finally, OCdt Bruce writes that “this past week will have been one of the most pivotal moments in the history of RMC culture.” This is also an exaggerated and sad commentary which I take as mere opinion. When RMCC is able to eradiate sexual misconduct, this will be an accomplishment worthy of praise. This entire article is short-sighted.

  • 15566 Helga Grodzinski

    March 27, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Joshua, get a grip. The orders in question were indeed lawful, albeit unpopular. The cadets had no lawful basis by which to disobey. Sorry, but this is what we sign on for when we “accept the Queen’s Shilling.”

  • 7077

    March 27, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    The College motto is truth, duty, valour, in case it slipped your mind. If the miscreants had had the presence of mind to obey a lawful command (duty,) or the cajonies to fess up (truth) when the caper was noticed and take their medicine (valour … perhaps) this would all be gone. It is basically a tempest in a teapot. I am with 7276 (close but no beer) Wade on this one!!

  • Joshua Juneau

    March 27, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    If you agree with this article, then you agree that: (a) group punishment is a justifiable and good idea; (b) snitching on your peers for any minor infraction of the “code” is doing them a favour and has no significant impact on esprit de corps. It will instead (somehow) foster critical thinking; and (c) one should never question your chain of command, and blindly follow. If true, these alleged “tenets of military culture” should be plastered on every recruiting center wall. This is a slippery slope – but must be music to the ears of all in leadership positions, particularly point “c”.

  • C.C.

    March 28, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    “Reporting your peers is not blading, it’s saving them from worse errors in the future”
    Reporting your peers is also a fantastic way of isolating yourself from other members of the college. If you have a reputation of enforcing rules, then many OCdts acting in their own self interest will avoid you (to no one’s surprise). Reporting fellow peers damages relationships in unhealthy ways because it suggests that the person issuing the report knows better than the accused. The reporter seems self-righteous, essentially. The fact that many of the leadership positions are filled by necessity and not merit only makes this problem worse. Leadership implies that leaders know better than their subordinates, and at RMC this is often not the case as OCdts perceive the Barslate as an artificially constructed and inauthentic authority. There is a proper time and place to report fellow cadets, but it’s no wonder that few enjoy doing so.

  • Craig Thomson

    April 15, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    I think that Ms. Bruce is right about one thing and that is that it is easy to lose perspective, both over time and when you are inside of a bubble.

    Admittedly I graduated from RMC many years ago and my source of information is the mainstream media and not the military grapevine, but my first reaction in hearing about this issue was that of disappointment.

    We have people in this country both in and out of the military struggling with a myriad of issues related to mental illness, disability, equality and affordability yet our cadets and future leaders are upset that they can’t wear jeans into town and that needs to be brought to the attention of the national media.

    If this has been a “pivotal moment” and “restored the chains of communications” then great. I hope that it has also brought a dose of common sense as well.