COMMENTARY: Leaders – ignore USAWTFM at your own peril

Command Sgt. Maj. Jody L. Stanley (center left), command sergeant major for the 232nd Medical Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, accepts the guidon from Lt. Col. Caryn R. Vernon (center right), 232d Med. Bn. commander January 3, 2017. Stanley is one of a long line of senior Army leaders who have ignored messages from USAWTFM at their own peril. (Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)

Editor’s note: This commentary has been corrected to reflect the correct alignment of the 232nd Medical Battalion.  The battalion is aligned under the U.S. Army Medical Command, not the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. USAWTFM regrets the error.

Two years ago, U.S. Army WTF Moments! was a Facebook page with a relatively small but dedicated following, roughly poking fun at the Army one “WTF” at a time.  Today, we’re a soldier and veteran-powered juggernaut, with more than million loyal followers between several different social media platforms, a website with hundreds of thousands of unique views a week, and an award-winning internet radio station. We gain thousands of followers each week without any signs of slowing.

So why are we telling you this?

We know YOU know – it’s your leadership we’re worried about, like Command Sgt. Maj. Jody Stanley of the 232nd Medical Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  We’ll come back to her in a minute.

Once upon a time, we just posted things without confirmation, or took a sole source story and threw it up there just to see the world burn.  We learned better ways, though, in an effort to serve you better.  We now place journalistic standards on our material, requiring a minimum of two sources, and do our level best to independently verify information.

There are times, however, when we cannot get more than a single source.  In those cases, we very carefully weigh the consequences of putting up a story under those conditions.  In the times we simply cannot publish, particularly in circumstances involving bad behavior, we take another route.  We reach out to leaders directly.

This brings us back to Command Sgt. Maj. Stanley.   Late last week, we received a report from her battalion about a urinalysis gone horribly wrong.  Our sole source, a noncommissioned officer, told a sordid tale of AIT platoon sergeants blocking off latrine use, resulting in cases of soldiers being forced to sit in the hallway and urinate on themselves.  in one case, a male soldier was prevented from defecating before providing a sample – which subsequently led to the troop defecating on himself instead.

While the report details a textbook violation of TRADOC regulation 350-6 (Enlisted Initial Entry Training Policies and Administration), it’s also piss-poor treatment of the sons and daughters of America, and as such deserves a hard look from outside the company level.

USAWTFM staff weighed the report carefully.  With nothing to back the story up – but no reason to NOT to believe it – we decided to reach out directly to Stanley, the battalion’s senior enlisted leader, to fix the problem. Our request was simple – find out what happened at the company level and reply to our note, acknowledging receipt.  We’ve done this dozens of times before, frankly, with no issues.

As of tonight, Stanley has refused to reply, even after repeated requests.  That’s unfortunate, because we’ve received a follow-up in our inbox intimating that the company is “handling it” with platoon sergeants “in an office somewhere.”  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like the right leader reaction to making a troop shit themselves.  Based on the follow-up and Stanley’s seeming lack of concern, we would appreciate our followers to head over to MEDCOM’s Facebook page and express your own concerns over this lack of accountability.

If you’re a leader of any kind, print this out and put it on your wall… memorize it like a drill sergeant school module… or plebe knowledge from West Point.  USAWTFM has the best interests of the Army and our soldiers at heart.  We always have.  Admins are both officers and enlisted, juniors and seniors.  Our ranks have team leaders and sham shield-wearing specialists.  We have instructors and students.  We have commanders and sergeants major.  In fact, you would be SHOCKED at some of the people actively involved in this enterprise.

With that in mind, ignore us at your own peril.  If you see a message in your inbox with a heads-up on something shitty going on in your formation, look upon it as a gift and not a curse.  If we ask for the courtesy of a reply, please provide one.  We’re helping you, not hurting you.

Your PAOs may tell you to avoid us.  Some may say embrace us.  Take their advice as far as you want to – but remember, it’s not their name and face on our page.

It will be yours.