Rage Quitting Millennials

I have two articles that went up on Task & Purpose this week.

The first is a different take on the Millennials and war poll that suggested that Millennials are comfortable sending troops to fight ISIS but not interested in joining the fight themselves.

The second is about rage quitting video games while on deployment, and wondering if there wasn’t more going on than just gaming.

Check them out. And if you like them, share them.

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Twitch Plays Army Career!


I was talking with an officer the other day who is getting out of the Army. The conversation drifted into his reasons for getting out and the much-hyped “junior officer exodus.” One of his major complaints is something I’ve written about before, which is how demoralizing it can be to see your entire career neatly captured on a single PowerPoint slide.

While we agreed that there are many opportunities along the path, the officer doesn’t necessarily have much agency over the direction. I likened it to the way NASA communicates with the Mars Rover. They send a signal which takes about 20 minutes to get to Mars, and then the rover executes the command given the signal’s parameters. My friend agreed with the analogy, but added that in the case of the junior officer, there are more forces than just NASA inputting commands to move the rover along.

It was a good point. Through grit and determination an officer can get on the rails of a desired career path. But along the way, other forces are going to have input on where that path goes. “Needs of the Army” always comes first, and those needs can change on a dime.

I thought that a better analogy would be the “Twitch Plays” phenomenon. Twitch is a streaming service popular among gamers who broadcast their gaming activities. One of the chief draws is the chat room option which allows viewers to interact with the streamer while he’s playing the game. As a stunt, people have experiments in collaborative gaming through a Twitch stream and the chat room, where each person can input a command to control the game.

When thousands of people try to control a game at the same time, progress can be extremely difficult.

It took almost 40 straight days of gaming to complete Pokemon Red last year, which is still extremely impressive when you consider how chaotic it can be.

While navigating an Army career isn’t as insane as a Twitch Plays event, it does help frame how frustrating it can be for a junior officer trying to accomplish one thing when other forces are inputting their own commands.

It’s also easy to say “well that’s the Army, tough,” but it is exactly that rationale that leads junior officers who desire more agency over their careers to leave the service.

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Platoon run wearing full ACUs, body armor, and pro-masks while carrying logs

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Earlier this week I wrote about the power of scoring a 300 on the APFT, and in that post I linked to an older post defending the APFT as a good, easy to administer measure of baseline fitness. I actually don’t write about physical training that much, because it is one of the things that are hard to talk about in the military because just about everyone thinks they’re an expert.

Since physical training seems to be the theme on the blog this week, I’d figure I’d write about something I’ve noticed since being back in the Army in regards to PT. I’m prefacing what follows as being completely anecdotal – although I’ve confirmed it over and over with NCOs and officers who have been in for awhile.

First, it seems that the physical fitness of soldiers today is lower than it was a decade (+) ago when I was enlisted. This reflects in lower APFT scores (than I remember) and a general lack of enthusiasm for fitness. This is not to say that platoon’s don’t have their physical fitness monsters. They still exist and mostly blow the other soldiers away in terms of physical fitness. But the fitness of the soldiers who only do PT when they’re forced to do PT seems to be lower than it was before. Of course, this can have a lot to do with leadership and good PT plans – no question. And in fairness, the time requirements placed on soldiers today and the number of tasks that need to be completed in a given day also seems to have increased over the last decade as well. PT is often the first thing to fall off of the training plan out of necessity.

At the same time, we’re living in a wonderful time in terms of knowledge and understanding of physical fitness. The past twenty years has seen an explosive growth in what we know about the human body and how to maximize performance. Whether you hate it or love it, CrossFit has reinvigorated the art and science of exercise performance. Companies like Military Athlete (now StrongSwiftDurable), which studies how exercise correlates to actual tactical performance didn’t exist before. The internet allows this information to be shared and accessed instantaneously and at extremely low cost.

So while the general fitness of Americans has decreased, so has the fitness of the incoming generation of soldiers. At the same time, the top level potential of those interested has increased. I’ve seen the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs during the same time period.

Which brings me to the strange article title.

Part of the problem, as I can see it, is that because PT often falls off training plans and getting everyone together to do PT on a regular basis is becoming harder and harder, well-intentioned NCOs and officers often try to do everything all at once. At my current post, it isn’t uncommon to see an out of shape platoon wearing full kit and pro-masks running down the street carrying logs. Half of the platoon, of course, is 100 meters behind, struggling just to keep up.

There’s a tendency – especially among junior leaders who are good at PT – to try and “break off” their subordinates during PT, either as a way to “get it all in” or simply to establish that they are indeed good at PT. A commander I served with wrote about this last year, as a great lesson learned.

One of the hardest things to do as a leader during PT is train down to the lowest common denominator. A leader who is good at PT most likely got there by training hard, almost certainly on his or her own time, outside of work. What is hard to understand is that many soldiers – if not most – only do the unit PT they’re forced to do in the morning. This, after experiencing PT as a punitive event in basic training. What is right for the leader who is also good at PT probably isn’t the same for the young soldier who rolls out of bed dreading it every day.

There’s a way to get that soldier on board, but I guarantee you that a platoon run in full kit and pro-masks while carrying logs is not it.

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The Power of Scoring a 300 on the APFT

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After an Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), leaders always want to know two things: 1) who failed, and 2) who scored a 300?

The fastest way to get recognized (in a good way) in the Army is to score a 300.

I’ve seen it over and over: a soldier who is generally the gray man scores a 300 on the APFT and becomes an instant superstar. That soldier suddenly bubbles up to the top of the list for favorable actions – leadership positions, increased responsibility, promotions.

To score a 300 means that the soldier achieved the maximum points for each of the three events of the APFT; push-ups, sit-ups, 2-mile run.

Scoring a 300 is not a terribly difficult physical fitness goal to achieve, but it does require a measure of dedication and a more rounded physical training plan to accommodate  both muscular endurance and cardiovascular ability. In most units I’ve been in, only a handlful of soldiers hit a 300 on any given APFT.

Soldiers often scoff at the praise others receive simply for being in good shape. This goes for officers and enlisted alike. Just because someone scores high on the APFT or can run doesn’t mean they will be good at leadership – or anything else.

But there is evidence out there, although scant, that there are positive relationships between physical fitness and leadership, or at least, perceived leaderhship ability.

In my experience, good leaders tend to also be in good physical shape. That’s not to say that they are good leaders because they are in good shape. The two just seem to go together. Likewise, I’ve seen good leaders who aren’t in good shape and bad leaders who are – but I see those types less than the first.

Scoring a 300 on the APFT receives the praise that it does because it is one of the common denominators across the Army. All soldiers take the APFT, regardless of job or duty position. The standards are understood across the force and for most soldiers, you can’t really stumble into an APFT and knock out a 300 without some base level of fitness and effort.

And for those who knock the APFT as a poor measure of physical fitness, I’m not arguing with you. That’s also not the purpose of this article (see here if you really care).

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Metal Gear Deep Dive: COLD WAR, PROXIES, and PHANTOM PAIN

I’ve been on a Metal Gear kick for the past 6 months so when this video popped up in my feed I was excited to watch it. It’s a deep dive into the historical lore that courses through the Metal Gear series and does a good job of tying the game to history, and the genius of Hideo Kojima.

If you’re fan of Metal Gear, or think that video games can’t be intelligent and informative, the video is worth your time.

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