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Warriors to Bureaucrats: Why Officers Start Out to be Sam Damon and End Up Courtney Massengale

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The United States, a large, powerful, industrial nation, has developed an Army of a particular nature and size and has evolved a military bureaucracy to run it. The bureaucracy affects everyone from the Commander in Chief to the rawest recruit at the company level. The bureaucracy is the frame-of- reference of the entire Army culture. An unintended effect of the bureaucracy is to stifle development of junior and mid-level leaders who would be the prospects of tomorrows top Army leaders. Todays senior leaders, who want candor from subordinates, do not get it. They want to give appropriate military advice to their own superiors in National Policy situations of the gravest import, but find the process daunting, threatening and sometimes dangerously ineffective. The novel Once an Eagle, by Anton Myrer, deals with some of these issues in the context of a dramatic story that ranges from World War I to the War in Vietnam. The novel has found a wide readership in certain military circles. This paper uses the basic themes of the novel as a metaphor to expose needed changes in the U.S. Army leadership environment. In the novel, Once an Eagle, Sam Damon, the protagonist, advances from Private to Lieutenant General. Along the way, another officer Damons nemesis, Courtney Massengale, always several ranks above Damon, confronts him. Massengale is a bureaucrat and a self-promoter, with little regard for people or their well-being. Thus, a situation builds that is all too familiar to many junior and mid-level officers today.

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  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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