12570 Mike Kennedy has much to say concerning leadership at RMC – past & present

Some Further Perspectives on the “Jeansgate” Affair

By 12570 Mike Kennedy

As another academic year draws to a close, it is interesting to look back on the recent flap over the “Jeansgate” affair, and the fallout that has apparently resulted from it. It has been likewise interesting to read the perspectives offered in articles such as the one by Ocdt Navarre Hebb, and the comments these articles have elicited from readers of e-Veritas. In thinking about “Jeansgate” and its aftermath, I’m starting to wonder whether this whole business is not simply about a violation of some possibly out-of-date dress regulations, but rather, a symptom of a much deeper and more significant problem at RMC.

In the summer of 1977, after I had been informed I was being released from the Canadian Forces following BOTC, I was obliged to spend about three weeks at the College waiting for the necessary paperwork to be processed. In contrast to my frantic experiences as a recruit less than a year earlier, much of this time was spent basically sitting around, waiting to be sent home once and for all. I was accommodated in Fort LaSalle, and passed the time with a fellow classmate who was in the same predicament that I was.

I remember that one day, having little else to do, I went into the Wing Orderly Room in Fort LaSalle, and opened up a filing cabinet in which were stored copies of the charge sheets that had been submitted over the preceding year by the various squadrons throughout the Wing. The drawer was basically filled almost to overflowing with hundreds and hundreds of the old yellow forms that had to be filled out whenever a cadet was placed on a charge. Reading through these various documents, it quickly became clear that while in a few cases the charges involved were for serious offences, the vast majority of them involved infractions that were so trivial they would be almost laughable today.

A good example of the latter instance was a cadet who had been charged for falling asleep in class. I knew the guy who was involved in this particular case; he had been in my platoon in BOTC, where he received an “A” on the course, and he finished his career a few years ago as a General officer, one of a very few in our class to attain that rank. Evidently, somewhere along the way he must have figured out a way to stay awake.

Did the plethora of charges that had been laid during the 1976-77 academic year mean that the cadets of that era were a bunch of irresponsible and mutinous rogues ? Somehow I don’t think so. If that had really been the case, it would be hard to explain the impressive successes that so many of them have had in their lives after the College. I’d suggest that a more realistic characterization of that situation might be the fact that the seemingly innumerable number of charges laid was a reflection of the larger circumstances that we found ourselves in.

To be sure, the “Truth, Duty, Valour and don’t get caught” mentality was alive and well in that era. Given the environment that prevailed at the College at that time, it almost had to be. The reality we were faced with was, in order to maintain our pride and our sanity, there were times when it was almost necessary to break rules and disregard orders that did not make any sense. You knew what the risks were, and if you got caught, you paid the price. It was that simple – and we all accepted that it was all part of the game back in those days.

So, 40-some years later, back to Jeansgate. Much has been made over a matter that, at least on the surface, seems like a pretty harmless transgression. In the aftermath of this affair, a lot of different opinions have been voiced. For what it is worth, I’d suggest that the questions we now need to be asking ourselves are, what’s the real problem here ? What do we need to do about it ? And perhaps most importantly, what can be learned from this experience, and how do we move forward from here ?

As a management consultant over the past 25 years, I have worked with organizations of many different kinds. Based on my experiences, I am a firm believer in the notion that poor discipline, in any organization, is invariably a symptom of poor leadership. It is a sign that people either do not understand what is expected of them, or else do not believe that the expectations that have been imposed are fair and realistic, and appropriate for the organization’s larger mission. Of even greater concern is the fact that poor discipline is a clear signal that people have lost confidence in the leadership of the organization, and are no longer willing (if they ever were in the first place) to follow the direction of those who are supposedly in place to take proper care of them.

I am not necessarily suggesting that I believe this to be the case at RMC today. Fundamentally, I would imagine that the cadets of 2018 are much the same as their predecessors of any era in the College’s history: they are intelligent and motivated young people who come to RMC prepared to take on a significant challenge, and seeking to improve themselves in life. Many if not most are perfectly willing to abide by rules that are sensible and reasonable, and have no desire to deliberately go looking for trouble. But when a situation arise where even a small minority begin to flagrantly defy the authority of the chain of command, that tells me we have a problem. And it also strongly suggests that it is a problem that can only be solved with the right kind of leadership.

Past experience shows that even in a deeply troubled organization, effective and inspiring leadership can make a huge impact in terms of setting things right. Consider the case of Colonel David Hackworth and the 4/39 infantry battalion in Vietnam, whose story is told in Hackworth’s 2002 book Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts. When Hackworth took command of the 4/39th in 1969, it was a disaster – a demoralized, poorly led unit that was fraught with disciplinary problems and widely considered to be the U.S. Army’s worst fighting battalion.

Hackworth, who had previously been highly decorated in both Korean and Vietnam, quickly set to work turning things around. He started by making small and seemingly insignificant changes, such as ordering his soldiers to reverse their helmet covers to conceal the graffiti that many of the men had scrawled on them. Hence, the 4/39th became the only battalion in the U.S. Army whose helmets were brown – the colour of helmet cover inner linings- as opposed to the standard camouflage green.

Initially, Hackworth’s insistence on tightening up standards did make him popular, and for a while, he reportedly had a price on his head. But over time, as Hackworth demonstrated fair and steady leadership as well as his own personal courage under fire, attitudes began to change, and along with them, the battalion’s effectiveness saw a dramatic improvement. The eventual result is that by the time Hackworth’s tour as their commander ended, the brown-hatted soldiers of the 4/39th were well-known – and with good reason, widely feared – by their North Vietnamese adversaries.

Another similar example is the experiences of 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea under the command of General Hank Emerson in the early 1970’s, discussed at some length in General Colin Powell’s memoir My American Journey. In the difficult years following the Vietnam War, when the U.S Army was making the transition to an all-volunteer force and military service was deeply unpopular, Emerson’s division was a textbook example of a dysfunctional organization. Manned largely with soldiers drawn from the bottom rungs of society, and charged with a primary mission of sitting around waiting for a possible but unlikely attack by the North Koreans, it was no surprise to anyone that the division was a fermenting hotbed of trouble.

It was in this environment, that Powell, then a battalion commander, witnessed an astonishing transformation under Emerson, whose mantra was that “If we don’t do our jobs right, soldiers will not win.” To promote camaraderie and ease racial tensions, Emerson ordered the troops to watch Brian’s Song, popular 1970’s movie about the first interracial roommates in the NFL. To prepare the soldiers to more effectively fight the North Koreans, he was an advocate of “reverse cycle” training, wherein soldiers trained throughout the night and rested mainly during daylight hours. Finally, to improve their chances at finding eventual civilian employment, Emerson organized programs to help the many soldiers who were high school dropouts to earn their General Equivalency Diploma qualifications.

The end results of these efforts were impressive. As one example, Powell notes in his book that as a direct result of the initiatives Emerson put in place, morale soared and his battalion was successful in qualifying more men for the Expert Infantryman Badge than almost any other in the Army. The remarkable transformation that had taken place was the result of Emerson’s passionate and practical leadership to which the soldiers readily responded; punishment had nothing to do with it.

So what’s the bottom line here ? I’d suggest that maybe “Jeansgate” is about a lot more than just blue jeans – or for that matter, about obedience of lawful orders. Maybe we have a problem that will not – that cannot – be solved simply by imposing the kind of collective punishment that took place last month. Maybe the time has come to do something about the leadership at the College. Maybe what Jeansgate really tells us is that RMC and the cadets that it is in business to train are in desperate need of the kind of leadership that would be provided by a David Hackworth or a Hank Emerson.

The fact of the matter is, cadets may be young, inexperienced, and in some cases naïve, but one thing they most definitely are not is stupid. They can readily see what is B.S., and what is not. They can instinctively sense the difference between the leaders who genuinely care, and the leaders who care only about themselves. They will respond to leadership that sets highs standards but treats them with fairness and respect, and that they know ultimately has their best interests at heart. But at the same time – like every generation of cadets who have gone before them – they will resist by whatever means available the demands imposed by leaders who care first and foremost about their own self-importance, and who are mainly preoccupied with exacting mindless and unquestioning subservience from their subordinates.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a retired General who had served as Commandant during one of the most challenging periods of RMC’s history. He remarked that one of his biggest frustrations during his tenure was the feeling of being compelled by Ottawa to accept individuals as Squadron Commanders who he personally felt were unsuitable. If that indeed was the case, then it is a state of affairs that I find deeply troubling. As an institution charged with the mission of producing future leaders for the Canadian Forces, RMC is a place where the services should be sending their very best officers and NCO’s. The College (and for that matter, any other military training establishment) should absolutely not be used as a convenient dumping ground for deadwood that the Forces otherwise don’t know what to do with.

I recall that when I was a cadet 40 years ago, the members of the military staff who made the greatest and most lasting impression on me were the drill instructors. These men were all seasoned senior combat arms NCO’s who demanded the utmost effort from all of us, but at the same time, who looked out for their boys, and who led by their own example. The quality of the commissioned officers who were posted to the College in those days was much more uneven. There were certainly many who were clearly very competent officers and who were respected as such by the cadets. Unfortunately, however, there were also a few others whose leadership qualities were much more suspect, and who as a result were considerably less successful in earning the confidence of their subordinates.

I’m thinking that may the time has come to re-think the current practice of continually rotating members of the military staff on postings of a few years, and go back to the system wherein commissioned  officers and NCO’s were hand-picked for their exceptional leadership abilities, and assigned to the College for the long term. Think back to RSMs such as Coggins and McManus, and to officers such as the immortal Major Danny McLeod. These men served at RMC not in terms of thinking about punching a ticket towards the next rung on the ladder of career advancement, but rather because they were doing a job that they loved and believed in, and because they cared very deeply about the training and development of the cadets they were responsible for.

Coggins, McManus, McLeod, and others like them set high standards for themselves and expected nothing less from their cadets, and to be sure, they would not tolerate any disobedience or insubordination. But at the same time, over the course of their many years of service, they made a profound impression on the lives of countless young men who were fortunate enough to benefit from their guidance. And today, they are remembered as being not only highly respected and much loved leaders and role models, but also as true nation builders who sent forth from their care many thousands of Ex-Cadets who have since helped to make Canada the country it has become today.

As we think about Jeansgate and its implications, I am reminded of the timeless phrase from the Citadel Knob Knowledge, “Discipline is the state of order and obedience, derived from training that makes punishment unnecessary.” Or, as the indomitible Sergeant Major Fournier once told me, “You train them right, you treat them right, they will go to hell and back.” Wise words indeed from a man who knew from experience what he was talking about, and who was highly respected by all of us who knew him.

I’d suggest that the deal should be the following. We have every right to expect cadets to give their best effort to all aspects of their training, and to comply with rules and orders that are sensible, appropriate, and necessary for the effective functioning of the College. This is perfectly reasonable, given the value of the educational opportunities the cadets are being provided. As Ex-Cadets, we, in turn, have a responsibility to do everything we can to guide, mentor, and encourage those who are coming up behind us. This is our opportunity to give back what we ourselves were given, during our own time as cadets at the College.

In my view, the overall objective of the system should be to develop people, not destroy them. But we must never allow ourselves to lose sight of what kind of people we should be seeking to develop. The goal should not be to produce automatons who will slavishly follow whatever orders they are given (however lawful those orders may be), but rather mature and disciplined leaders who can think for themselves, who are able able to make intelligent and thoughtful decisions, and who are willing to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences that result from them.

So when we look to the future, what I would like to see – and I believe I am not alone in these sentiments – is a state of discipline grounded in a collective sense of acceptance of responsibility, rather than driven by a fear of punishment. Achieving this won’t be easy; it will require a commitment to making real change, and a willingness to get rid of petty rules and outdated policies so as to focus on what’s really important. And above all else, it will require leadership and inspiration of the kind that can only be provided by people who approach their duties with common sense and compassion, and who can visibly show that they genuinely care about those they are responsible for.

Yes, this poses a challenge. But I believe it can be done. And if it can be accomplished, I’m confident there probably won’t be a need for any more collective punishments of the kind that recently followed in the wake of Jeansgate. But much more importantly, it will also contribute to making RMC the kind of unique and special institution that all of us can be proud to be a part of.

Note: The opinion expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the RMC Club Executive; RMC Club Executive Director or the membership of the RMC Club of Canada.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author…..

12 Comments

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    April 23, 2018 at 10:13 am

    For the benefit of our readership, I wish to fully acknowledge and confirm that the opinions expressed in the above article are my own personal opinions, and mine alone.

    However, I think this is an important issue, and I would therefore encourage readers to express their own views on the topic. Where you agree or disagree with me is entirely a matter of personal opinion, and I respect your right to express your views. However, given recent events at the College, I do think we need to get a dialogue going on this issue, and that is why I wrote the article.
    I look forward to receiving feedback from any and all readers who may wish to comment.
    Best to all,

    Mike

  • 161412 JJ Smith

    April 23, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    It’s difficult to conclude what was the more risible failure of senior officer leadership at RMCC in the so-called Jeansgate matter: (a) an ill-advised decision to reverse cadet walking-out (i.e. leave) dress to a standard (no denim) outdated even in the late 20th century, or (b) the illegal mass punishment of the cadet wing (confinement to barracks, early morning punishment drill redolent of a soviet gulag).* That the ongoing debate focuses on the ideals of cadet discipline is useful, but misses the crucial (and exemplary) point of bad orders being badly enforced. Some responsibility rests with this writer, for not having sufficiently put an end to a focus on leave dress as a false assurance of officer comportment during his time as a cadet when the same foolishness was exhibited by the senior college staff of the day.
    * Illegal as being contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for which the present officers in formation at RMCC will surely be in the vanguard of protecting in future years.

  • D.K

    April 23, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    Great article sir, and I much enjoyed! One thing that I’ve often wondered about is the necessity of the punitive approach; many claim that it doesn’t work and is ineffective, yet much of our system – both the organization and wider society – is built upon it. One might argue that punishment is a key ingredient in instilling discipline and in the socialization process.

    We dream of a society that is absent of punishment, but perhaps this is polyannish and pragmatically unrealizable. Is it possible that the punitive approach does indeed have a part to play in forging great leaders; or does it limit their potential where they could have emerged as even better leaders had they never been punished. Perhaps there is training value in the tough-love and group-punishment approach. Maybe forging effective leaders requires a multi-dimensional approach that requires influence by not only rewards, inspiration, and empowerment, but also by punishment. And those that are responsible for leader-development need to have the wisdom to know when to apply each.
    Cheers,
    D.K

  • 11766 James Philip Doherty

    April 24, 2018 at 7:15 am

    I respect Mike Kennedy’s astute reflection on “Jeansgate” that gives important food for thought from someone who is obviously knowledgeable and passionate about leadership. His words encourage people to think about the leadership issues and promote an ongoing discussion that will lead to progressive positive change.

    I have come to believe that the cadets entering the College these days are understandably different from those of us who enrolled decades ago by virtue of their family, academic, and community experiences prior to enrolment. One constant truth is that “it takes a village to raise a child”, and we are all products of our upbringing. However, that upbringing has evolved over time from a “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality years ago, to a wiser, gentler, and arguably better approach that promotes self-esteem, encourages healthy debate, and rewards creative ideas. Certainly, I feel that my parents, my teachers, my coaches, and even my clerics ingrained in me a very strong respect for authority, where there was indeed subservience, some blind obedience, and, at times, corporal punishment. A big difference then was that they did not need to earn my respect; rather, society demanded it. Since the leadership style was authoritarian, following orders at RMC forty years ago was not a culture shock. Nowadays, young people are encouraged to question more readily and disagree openly without repercussions. I believe the evolution of our society has been positive and children are now raised with higher self-esteem, mutual respect, and constant encouragement. The upside of this, as Mike points out, is that they are smart, and they will not tolerate any bullshit. They will question everything, so what we demand of them must be meaningful, sensible, and constructive. Moreover, anyone in a position of authority has to earn the respect of his or her followers.

    In the end, the outcomes that count are instinctive self-discipline and a strong sense of responsibility. In that regard, the youth of today are no different than we were. The big question is: In this day and age, how does the leadership that is exercised at RMC and taught to the cadets have to adapt in order instill discipline and responsibility into a fighting force? Mike Kennedy has hit the mark with his statements that “when we look to the future, what I would like to see…is a state of discipline grounded in a collective sense of acceptance of responsibility, rather than driven by a fear of punishment…it will require…a willingness to get rid of petty rules and outdated policies so as to focus on what’s really important.” I cannot help but feel that cadets will embrace those ideals with inspirational leadership from excellent role models.

    I would be interested to hear the perspective of the senior leaders at RMC in this regard, perhaps through a future article in e-Veritas. I might even suggest that ex-cadets and RMC cadets could be invited to meet during reunion weekends to discuss the subject and compare and contrast experiences at the College. I think that would be a positive and enjoyable experience for all concerned.

    I must conclude by congratulating Mike on his excellent essay and for the courage of his conviction to express his views for the benefit of the College and ultimately Canada since RMC graduates are destined to lead this country in all walks of life.

  • 11766 James Philip Doherty

    April 24, 2018 at 7:16 am

    e-Veritas is an impressive publication, and I would like to congratulate Bill & Rolande Oliver for providing readers with not only a thorough insight into the activities and the lives of cadets at RMC, always with a positive perspective, but also an excellent forum for readers (primarily ex-cadets and RMC cadets) to discuss and debate what is happening at the College openly and transparently.

  • 8475 Rem Westland

    April 24, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Mike Kennedy’s advice, to my mind, presents us with a challenge. On the one hand, I agree that longer tenure by properly vetted leaders encourages more responsible decisions. When I was a public servant I was of the view that four years in a job was the minimum. It means a decisionmaker has to live with the consequences of his or her decisions. On the other side of the equation is tenure that is too long. Human minds become entrenched. A sense of entitlement may arise. The challenge is to get it right, with periods of tenure customized to fit the nature of the work and the character of the leader.
    I take issue with the input by our colleague JJ Smith. Risible, ill-advised, outdated, illegal, foolishness, and still other strongly negative words in a very short contribution. Effective leadership requires balance, not only with regard to tenure but also with regard to attitude. Mr. Smith drops a combination of words that nonetheless presents a challenge of a different kind: “bar orders, badly enforced”. If bad orders are effectively enforced, what then? If proper orders are badly enforced, then what? Of the two, I would take the former. If the effective leader is at least four years in the job, he or she will find a way to change those orders during the period of tenure.
    At RMC we cadets faced, and will always face, a conundrum. As leaders in fourth year we have only one year to see through anything that fell to us to initiate. Mind you, in the field in Afghanistan our leaders often had only six months. So character and balance, and a strong values base, must be key. We have collectively proven that three years is just long enough, in a place like RMC, to become the kind of fourth years that all of Canada can be proud of.

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    April 24, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you, gentlemen, these are all valuable comments, and greatly appreciated. I hope it will be understood that all of want to help the senior staff at the College, and work with them to contribute to ensuring that the cadets have the best possible learning experience we can provide them with. For sure, it has to be challenging and demanding in order to help them reach beyond what they may perceive as being their limitations, but at the same time, it has to be meaningful, and geared towards serving a larger purpose that they can understand is important.

    Because of this, I do hope we can encouraging an ongoing dialogue about how we can all work together to make things better, and I would therefore encourage other readers of e-Veritas to share their views.

  • John Penney -7108

    April 24, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    It appears that some people are now trying to turn the recent Jeans Affair at RMC into a leadership crisis at the College. I beg to differ. I see no reference to the fact that the cadets broke a lawful rule. Whether the rule is a good one or a bad one, I belive that it is the cadets’ responsibility to obey it, lobby to have it changed or wilfully break it and accept the consequences. As young offers in the field they will not be given the leeway to question every order given to them. This is an important lesson that needs to be taught at RMC.
    The Director of Cadets has a distinguished career as a leader in the Army and is a ex-cadet. I am sure that he and the Commandant (also a distinguished career officer & ex-cadet) did not take this matter lightly when they decided to punish the Cadet Wing. Although eveyone may not agree with the punishment, I believe that both men showed strong leadership in dealing decisively with a thorny matter.

  • 8430 Michael Keefer

    April 25, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    Thanks to Mike Kennedy and to those who’ve responded to his thoughtful remarks. Though I’d like to join the conversation, I feel handicapped by a lack of information. But “Fools rush in…”: you know the proverb. Let me then, in all ignorance, risk a couple of opinions. I’d suggest, first, that the jeans business looks to me like a symptom of underlying and more pervasive problems of discipline and morale. And an administrative recourse to collective punishment looks rather like an act of desperation–and I think an injudicious one.

    Beyond that I won’t go. My own academic career included a number of years during which I worked on academic and strategic planning issues at my own university and did consulting work for other universities; I have some sense of how complex and difficult such matters can be. I hope RMC’s administration is able to draw upon the best possible analysis and advice.

  • Doug (Shag) Southen

    April 26, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    I have found that if Mike puts pen to paper it is always worth reading, regardless of whether I agree or not with Mike’s point of view.
    I was on staff at RMC from 1996 to 2000 as DAdm as a Lieutenant-colonel. It was a pretty intense time and the college had four Commandants during that time frame. Budget cuts, and more insidious, PERSONNEL cuts, hit us very hard, and for sure some of the staff were exceptional and some, not so much. But just about every military staff member was working at their capacity, and beyond. I believe the same was true of the civilian staff, but by and large this conversation stared by Mike is about military leadership. All that by way of background.
    I am not convinced that the military leadership is at issue in this affair about blue jeans. And I am HIGHLY unconvinced that Mike’s opinion about the current cadet body is accurate. I do NOT believe that the current cadets are exactly like the ones who have gone before them, including my own class. Indeed, many articles have been written about the demographic that currently finds itself in the cadet body. Call it Generation Z or whatever you will, these young folks are NOT the same as people of Mike’s age (or mine). And it is my opinion that it is the perceptions of those folks, the current cadet body, that frames this situation, and NOT the educational “withdrawal of privileges” by the College leadership. Cut it however way you wish, some cadets chose to disobey a lawful command, and some cadets (perhaps a majority???) chose to turn a blind eye to it. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THEIR OPINION MIGHT BE OF THE LAWFUL COMMAND. Disobedience of a lawful command cannot be ignored on the part of officer candidates, and must be met with a firm rebuke. YES it is just a rule about wearing blue jeans, and YES many people wear blue jeans. But if walking-out dress, by whatever name, prohibits blue jeans, then cadets can choose to obey or to disobey that lawful command. (If you are in doubt as to what constitutes disobedience of a lawful command, I will add this at the end of my note, and from my fading memory). IF they choose to disobey a lawful command, they deserve to be punished. I consider the actions of the College leadership to have been measured, appropriate, and most importantly EDUCATIONAL for the cadets, who need to learn this lesson. They cannot be officers in the CF if they cannot follow orders (unless the orders are manifestly unlawful, see my note). So in fact, where some cadets could (and maybe SHOULD) have been charged and subject to a summary trial, if the offence was so widespread and so poorly enforced by CADETS in positions of authority, then a very reasonable course of action was to ensure that all of the cadets got the message loud and clear about obedience of orders. Twenty year old kids do not have the knowledge, let alone the authority, to ignore lawful commands. If this hurts their precious self-importance, they are in the wrong business and should go into a civilian job.
    Doug (aka Shag)
    ~JMOYMV

    OK Doug, what are the elements of the offence of disobedience of a lawful command? If memory serves me, ALL of the elements had to be proven:
    1. Is the order manifestly unlawful? (“Kill all the women and children”) If not, it must be obeyed.
    2. Is it POSSIBLE for the order to be carried out?
    3. Is the person giving the order in a lawful position to issue the order?
    4. Is the person tasked with carrying out the order under command of the person issuing the order?
    5. Is the time frame available sufficient to carry out the order?
    6. Is the order related to military duty?

    If all of the elements can be proven, then the offence has been committed and the person committing the offence may be found guilty of that.

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    April 26, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Sounds like we got a pretty good discussion going here, with some strongly held opinions !

    I would be very interested to hear what other readers think. Keep the comments coming.

  • 8899 Al Crosby

    April 26, 2018 at 10:58 pm

    Mike,
    I agree with your opinion that this isn’t about jeans or “group punishment”. It is obviously about leadership, or a warped version of it. One must learn from both good and bad leadership at the college both past and present. I’ll mention the future later. If you are going to lead, then it is best you make your mistakes at the college and not in the field. Your recollections of the NCOs reminded me of one college learning experience with Sgt Nowell at RRMC. After someone threw a bun at the head table during lunch with some visiting dignitary, we were all marched down to the parade square at dusk for “group punishment”. And yes JJ Smith, maybe it was a bad order or mass punishment contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but we all followed the order anyway. I thought it was a ludicrous waste of time myself. Around and around we marched and I vaguely recall Sgt Nowell having us present arms for inspection although we couldn’t see much in the failing light. Looking down the barrel of my colleagues rifle he said “There are little green gremlins in there. What are you going to do about it?” My colleague yelled: “Little green gremlins – Fall Out!” Well, Nowell couldn’t hold back his laughter and we all started to laugh. He said “good answer” and we headed back to the dorm. We all knew this was a stupid exercise, and that some officer took the incident far too seriously. But that situation really helped me to realize that the college antics were only a learning experience. Sometimes you say no, or why, and sometimes you play along – yes sir! You have to know when to take a situation seriously in order to question it, and when to laugh it off and go along. A good leader and a good follower need to understand the difference so your points seem to indicate that some people can’t do that which is too bad for the type of leadership we need in the future.