The Long Reach of Leadership Consequences

Above: The Retired Colors of the Reserve Officers Training Corps, Cadet Corps and Cadet Battalion, University of Massachusetts

Article by A170 Tom Rozman

An infantry captain had completed his 18 months academic assignment as a graduate student officer at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst a semester early.  He had completed his MBA requirements and the courses designated by the Military Personnel Center that would support his alternate specialty of logistics.  He had been released from the Army’s Student Detachment at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana with a following assignment to the U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) 1st Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Region and its instructor group at the University.

The captain had expected this following assignment.  The graduate school program the captain had just completed was designed to provide academically qualified assistant professors of military science to the TRADOC university instructor groups.  Specifically, the program was designed to provide officers who met the university instructor criteria to be awarded university instructor privileges on campus.  A primary criteria for the candidate was completion of a master’s degree.

Even as late as the end of the 1970s many in the civilian professoriate harbored less than congenial attitudes toward all things military and many campuses were doubling down on the Army to meet their minimum instructor credentialing for ROTC assistant professors.  In the case of the University of Massachusetts’  instructor group a high hurdle had to be negotiated by the Army, the University’s Academic Affairs Subcommittee.

The instructor group and the Army were held to a high level of scrutiny by the subcommittee.  As the university body that oversaw credentialing of instructors at the school, a “no vote” regarding a nomination could derail a Department of the Army candidate. Such a derailment of even one Army candidate would be hugely problematic given that the instructor group supported programs at four other area campuses and allowed participation by students from four other area colleges. The University of Massachusetts, as the host school for the instructor group and the most significant approval authority for an Army nomination, was the first and most critical hurdle to negotiate regarding extension of university instructor privileges.

This sensitivity of the university to the Army’s affairs on campus, however, had a preamble beyond the anti-military sentiment that had developed in the second half of the 1960s through the 1970s.  The source of some of this antipathy would become more apparent to the new assistant professor as he settled into the instructor group.

As noted, the instructor group supported the program on other campuses.  The new assistant professor was also extended instructor privileges at then Western New England College and Westfield State College in and near Springfield, Massachusetts, a good half hour and more drive to the south of Amherst.  This meant in practice that the new professor would instruct courses at three different widely spread out campuses in western central Massachusetts.

Because the officer had been a graduate student on the campus he had interfaced with the instructor group on several occasions in their offices. And it was the visits to the offices that gradually laid out a curious cautionary senior leadership gone wrong case study.

The captain on first visiting the instructor group’s offices was struck by how non-descript they were.  The building appeared to be a temporary cinderblock single story structure with a flat roof and occupied a location that had once upon a time been on the very southern edge of the campus.   Now, thanks to later campus development and construction, the university was growing around the building. Directly across the street from the ROTC offices were four large tower dormitories of over 20 stories had been built.  On the opposite side of the Army ROTC building across a large parking lot was the School of Physical Education’s building.

The exterior cinderblock walls were unpainted, the entire building being surrounded by pine trees as if to conceal it from public view.  Students attempting to make contact with the instructor group to enroll in the program or discuss the program with group staff would often call stating they could not locate the building.

As it happened, the building was a repurposed remnant of the 1950s-60s era…a military vehicle motorpool.  In those years the school provided pre-commission armor officer training.  The motorpool supported six M-41 tanks and other vehicles.  It had been a significant part of the larger Army ROTC campus footprint.   After the vehicles had been withdrawn from campus in the 1960s the garage/shop had been re-purposed as the campus police building. On learning this information the captain wondered, even with the Viet Nam era turmoil, why the Army program was in such a humble and less than ideal situation.

The captain already had part of the answer.  While a student, he had come upon a building about a city block away to the north and west of the current Army ROTC building, a 1950-60s era three level red brick masonry structure built into a grade aside one of the main campus roads.

Dickenson Hall, University of Massachusetts ROTC Building 1960-1996…the building is named for a captain and West Point graduate who was a professor of military science in the late 1890s at the school who was recalled to his regiment and killed in action in Cuba during the 1898 Spanish War.

The rear of the building displayed all three levels, the bottom level incorporating equipment storage, arms rooms and supply rooms and an indoor small arms range to support both the Air Force and Army programs, loading stoops and an adjacent paved parking and parade/formation area.  The front of the building exposed two levels with a nicely designed entry, an attractive and impressive aluminum cast federal eagle with shield mounted above the entry with a substantial flagpole mounted at an angle protruding from the exterior wall on either side of the eagle.

As impressive as the entry was, the interior space was more so.  The building had been purpose built to support the Army and Air Force ROTC programs.  It had ample and spacious staff and administrative offices, classrooms, library, and other supporting spaces duplicated for each service. And the Air Force continued to occupy the building.

The new assistant professor wondered at the stark difference in the Army Program’s facility accommodation by the university since he also had become aware that the Army program had been a hallmark of the school in earlier years. The school was one of the first land grant school corps of cadets established under the 1863 Morrill Act, a school established shortly after the Civil War.  That act which was a reaction to the intense shortage of competent junior officers available to the Army of the Republic as it attempted to expand in the beginning stages of the 1861-65 Civil War, required schools established in each state under the act to require military training for the students sufficient that they would build a trained reserve of junior officer for the country.

The initial school, Massachusetts Agricultural College, formed a cadet corps that became significant on campus outfitted in uniforms identical with those worn at West Point, the only difference being the brass buttons which were flat with the school cipher stamped into the brass.

Even after World War I and reorganization of the school into Massachusetts College, the campus program now organized under the larger ROTC program was an honored and favored student activity.  It trained horse cavalry officers for the Army reserve horse cavalry regiments organized in New England.  The program was one of the social mainstays on campus.

This status remained true even after World War II. In those initial post war years the college reorganized as a relatively small public university of perhaps 8,000 students.  Its ROTC program retained its honored place on campus training, as noted earlier, armor officers.

But this would change.  A rapid three-fold expansion of the university’s student body in the state’s response to the Great Society initiative of President Johnson, combined with the effects of growing reaction to the Viet Nam War, altered the campus landscape dramatically.  The professoriate was increased greatly, many being brought in from backgrounds far less aligned with the existing agricultural college faculty norms which tended toward the conservative interpretation of western Massachusetts.

The stage was set for a drama that played out several years before the captain’s arrival on campus.  The previous Professor of Military Science (PMS) was a colonel of a support branch that had, in his preceding assignment commanded a brigade of that arm in Europe, a command that typically earmarked the commander for one of the brigadier general selections in that arm.  Apparently the officer had become involved in a disagreement with superiors which did not produce a command tour that continued his upward career progression.

Subsequently, the colonel was selected and approved by the Army and the university for the PMS position and headed the university’s military department and the ROTC instructor group.  What followed was related to the captain by his counter part and, coincidentally, West Point classmate.  The recounting proved a classic cautionary tale of what not to do as a senior leader, most notably for the farther reaching effects to programs and others than just the personal damage suffered.

As related by the captain’s colleague, the PMS soon after assignment engaged in an acrimonious dispute with the Professor of Air Science (APS), his university Air Force counterpart, considered a co-equal by the university.  At the time of the PMS’ assignment, both programs occupied the purpose built red brick ROTC building.

As the relationship between the two professors deteriorated, the PMS’ situation with the university professoriate also began to deteriorate.  As related by the colleague, apparently the PMS was an exceedingly pompous individual lacking in effective diplomatic ability often making ultimatum style demands.  Given the still less than favorable attitude toward the military programs a few short years after the Viet Nam withdrawals, the PMS’ behavior was not in the best interests of the Army program.

From the accounting, the APS apparently was an effective diplomat who held good standing with the faculty contacts necessary for the good standing of the military programs.   And then, a university policy development occurred.  The university determined that to more efficiently manage and use its classroom space it would integrate all classroom inventory into one program and establish a central scheduling and management system.  All departments would surrender the classroom inventory they held to this system to include the military departments.

From the recounting the PMS furthered his less than diplomatic approaches and apparently accelerated the demise of the already deteriorated relationship with the APS.  The result was the removal of the Army program from the very nice brick purpose built facility to essentially a cinderblock bunker.

The building was perhaps a square 25’-30’ on a side.  It had six private offices, a small corner library, corner separate supply room and corner lavatory and dressing room against the building’s outer walls.  The offices, library and lavatory had windows. A large central open area with waist high enclosing wall served as the administrative work area for the sergeant major, a staff sergeant and two civilian secretaries.

The outer offices (6) and supply room housed the PMS on one corner, a major, four captains, two operations sergeants, and a supply sergeant.  The offices were small ranging from perhaps 10’ X 10’ to some 20’ X 20’ for the PMS, the same size for the library (the only meeting space available to the Military Department that was organic and under its control).

This arrangement, as time increased from Viet Nam War and students increasingly began to seek and enroll in the program, rapidly expanding the cadet corps from under 100 to some 250 in a three year period, made the facilities arrangement inadequate.   The building clearly had limitations if the program continued to expand.

The instructor group had begun to seek support to obtain better and more adequate quartering but the captain, shortly after promotion to major, completed his assignment at the university departing to attend the Command and General Staff Officer’s Course at the U.S. Army Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

The exposure to the above related earlier PMS situation that had occurred at the university and its long standing negative effects suffered by an entire staff of 14 military and civilian personnel and a cadet corps that had increased to over 200, proved valuable from a leader development perspective.  It provided an abject example of what a senior leader should not do.

The importance of maintaining the best of relations with colleagues and organizations apart from one’s own organization of responsibility was made crystal clear by the PMS’ cautionary tale.  The leadership lesson regarding the long term consequences of a past leader’s actions was brought home every day the captain went to work in the instructor group’s substandard facility.

U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command