Even Army Generals Can Screw Up

By | January 3, 2024

[January 3, 2024]  I’ve seen Army Generals screw up.  Although rare, it does happen; the outcome can seriously harm morale and mission and waste resources.  I recall a meeting on this date, January 3, 2007, with the Army’s Task Force 134 in Baghdad, Iraq.  The commander was a two-star Army General.

TF 134 was created in 2004 in Iraq to “oversee all aspects of the conduct of detainee operations,” according to the U.S. Army.  In early 2007, the TF was given a mission to expand its operations by an unknown number due to an increase in anticipated Iraqi prisoners.  This was a few months before “the Surge” of units, so the military was thinking ahead.

Since I was the senior facilities officer for the Coalition, I was asked to listen to an early brief from the 2-star at their headquarters location in Camp Victory, Baghdad.  One of the colonels on staff invited me to attend to gain Engineer situational awareness.  This staff meeting would be important because the TF would begin major planning to expand its facilities.

I walked into the briefing room accompanied by the TF staff.  Immediately upon entering, the General rudely asked, “What is he doing here?”  Until then, I had no dealings with the General, his staff or the TF.  His unprofessional display of anger was uncalled for.  Still, I politely stated that I had been invited by his staff to attend and, as the senior Coalition officer for facilities construction, I should be there.

“Alright,” he said, “Don’t ask any questions.”  Now, for those who know me, I am not the kind of person to sit back and not ask questions or for clarification if I don’t understand something.  I was working for a 3-star who also happened to be the Combat Commander of all forces in Iraq.  This 2-star didn’t know it, but his rudeness and trying to cut me out of the conversation would be a big screw up on his part.

I asked questions and was told to “shut up” several times.  This General was not going to shut me up.  As a side note, my reputation in combat was well-established, and I was well-known.  Plus, this General was not in my chain of command.  I did have to tread lightly because the guy was a General, but he had no influence over me.

After the meeting, his staff were intensely apologetic.  I told them it was okay if they didn’t need me or my engineering staff because I had too much to do.  They took me to their staff meeting room and showed me their plan to expand detainee facilities.  These guys were not engineers.  And that is why I was initially invited.

I politely told them their plan was seriously flawed and would fail.  Also, I told them that if they wanted me to help them develop a workable plan, I needed that task in writing from their General.  There was no way I would put up with any more of this General’s attitude.  On a side note, I learned a lot from him on how not to be a General.

Of course, the General refused to allow me to help.  When the “surge” was announced just a few weeks later, I was directed by the Coalition Commander, General Petraeus, to assist TF 134.  Now I had it in writing.  If it were not for this order, I would not have helped.

However, because several weeks of planning and analysis were lost, the TF could not produce a viable and timely detainee plan.  Eventually, this 2-star was replaced (I had nothing to do with it).

Yes, even Army Generals can screw up.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Even Army Generals Can Screw Up

  1. Eddie Gilliam

    Gen Douglas my friend. Excellent article. I experience this issue alot in the service both from racial and education position. I used the same diplomacy Gen used, if you wanted my help put it in writing. Excellent leader involved all people who can successfully make things happen for the good of the organization. They are not prideful to ask for help and willing to accept help. Proverbs say”Pride” leads to destruction and a harsh spirit before a fall .
    As leader in your role as fathers and mothers or leaders on the job ;involve your family and people. You don’t have all the answers.
    Moses father in law Jethro told Moses to get wise men under him to deal with the smaller issues. He was doing to much. Moses obeyed was blessed by it.
    Leader check your pride; keep it in the car when you get out to go in the office or home.

      1. Eddie Gilliam

        Gen my friend. Yes we do. Like we are brother from the same mother.lol

  2. Library Helmsman

    Great article today from Mr. Satterfield. Your leadership is inspiring.

  3. Max Foster

    For those new to this website, I recommend you read from the bottom and up in the comments section. Many of the best ones (no offense) are at the bottom. Like in this case. We heard from some of our vets on this forum and they have something important to say. My advice is to listen to them. But, setting that aside, the truth to this article by Gen. Satterfield today stands on its own. Many of the Generals and Admirals today are just good bureaucrats and NOT leaders. And that today is partly explained by the fact that Pres Joe Biden is not a good leader himself. Gen. Satterfield wrote about this some time ago on the lack of character of Joe Biden and he warned us that the results would be very very bad. And now, here we are.

    1. Eddie Gilliam

      Former or present president getting blamed for poor leadership by their military is harsh. The Leaders who failed to be good listener and followers are 🔑 to their poor leadership.

  4. Ted

    “Yes, even Army Generals can screw up.” At one point in time years ago, I would have disagreed with this statement by Gen. Satterfield but today, under the Biden regime and the promoting of tv generals, I think the point is spot on.

    1. mainer

      Yes! This is the kind of article that makes my blood boil. When bad leaders get to be in charge and yet they cannot look forward to act with respect to those that work for them. This Major General – 2-star – that Gen. Satterfield is talking about surely was one of those who should have never been put in charge. But when they are, failure is sure to follow. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for again highlighting this issue.

      1. Lady Hawk

        And now we have the Army promoting women into positions of command over more qualified men.

  5. USA Patriot II

    The secretary of defense Lloyd Austin III (shame on is parents for his screw ups) is the classic DEI hire. Failure at every level just like the Harvard President who just “retired” (read that as you retire or we will fire you) for her promoting anti-Semitism at Harvard. Blacks are good people but please don’t hire the unqualified, or things go to shi# in a hurry.

  6. Navy Vet

    Plenty of Army General screw ups today. They have to be baby sitters and ideological liberals to succeed. Promotion to GO today is rewarded by being a liberal democrat and expressing progressive ideals. That is how you get to be a big guy in the Army. Just look at the Daily Favorites today that showed that SECDEF Austin’s concern about “white racism and radicalism” in the US Army was put down hard. Too bad for him. Lloyd Austin is a clown, a diversity hire, and is the pinnacle of the Peter Principle.

    1. Army Captain

      Ouch, but nailed it. I would also think we have the same concerns about our political Admirals too.

      1. Jerome Smith

        Well said guys. Your direct experience and writing about it is good. Helps validate what Gen. Satterfield has written but he doesn’t really need to be validated. He is spot on, always. Thanks for your service.

        1. Maureen S. Sullivan

          agree, thank all our vets for their service to us and our nation

  7. Army Vet

    Gen. Satterfield has covered this topic before. One of those he exposed was GEN. Lloyd Austin who is now the current SECDEF. That shows us that under the Biden Administration if you screw up and you are black, then you get promoted.

    1. Ed Berkmeister

      Thank you Army Vet, I just want to remind folks about the article you wrote back in 2022 about this same idea, titled “Why No One’s Joining the U.S. Military” by you. This is a great article that told us about things to come. In it you talk about Lloyd Austin’s desire to stamp out “white privilege” and “racial discrimination.” The outcome of a study on this topic (in Gen. S’s daily favorites) shows this was not true. When you are driven by ideology, you will fail, and Lloyd Austin has failed. He is a big screw up.

      1. JT Patterson

        Powerful comments, and I agree. Too many diversity hires doing too much damage.


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