[August 25, 2018] Many years ago I was accused of ‘babysitting’ my troops because my priority as a Flag officer was taking care of soldiers. There is merit to the argument that modern leader trends now emphasize better treatment of employees and staff. But does that mean we are babysitting them?
The Commanding General at my Division headquarters (he was a Major General, a 2-star) accused me of doing too much for my soldiers. He went on to argue that by doing so I was preventing the troops from gaining the valuable experience and self esteem necessary to ensure they could perform successfully in a combat environment.
I’ve heard this before. Yet it was no mistake that the measurable “military readiness”1 of my brigade was rated as one of the best U.S. Army brigades during my tenure. The General, you would think, should have been more inclined to gain an understanding of what I was doing in my “steps to excellence” program instead of seeing me as a babysitter.
Associated with babysitting is the negative implication that soldiers are not mature or intelligent enough or lack the ability to take care of themselves. This shows a lack of respect for the soldier and for their leaders (including me). Of course, what he meant by ‘babysitter’ was that my unit’s leadership was doing too much.
To answer my own questions, “Are we babysitters?” I would think not. As long as we don’t interfere with the soldier maturation process and relevant experiences gained, then I can honestly say we did not babysit our troops. My “steps to excellence program” was designed to get unit leaders and soldiers to “think” about what they were tasked to do.
They would do this on their own. Their abilities improved over time and proved that a program that emphasizes excellence can instill the necessary traits we want of all combat leaders. I was not babysitting them, I was teaching independent thinking skills and the markers of excellence in all things they did. We were very successful and I was honored to be their commander for three years.
- Military Readiness is defined in the broad sense to describe whether military forces are able to do what the nation asks of them. That is usually seen as going to war to defend the nation. The trick is “how” to measure readiness and that is always being debated. See this older study that parallels many others today: https://www.gao.gov/assets/230/220577.pdf
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