Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Jasper Family, the U. S. Army, and Four Really Bad Hours

When the U. S. Army makes a mistake, it's often a big one. I think that's because of its size, and its soldiers being in life-and-death situations.

The latest snafu to hit the fan was in The Associated Press's news last night:
"An Army unit is reviewing how it delivers information to families after a call to a western New York couple led them to believe their son had been killed in combat.

"Ray Jasper of Niagara Falls said he, his wife, Robin, and their extended family spent four hours Sunday mourning their son, Sgt. Jesse Jasper, before learning from his girlfriend that he was alive...."

The Horror! The Inhumanity! The Callous Disregard for Feelings!

The Army recognizes that its soldiers are people with families, and has procedures to deal with the fact:
"...A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division said Jasper's unit, through its family readiness group, notifies all families of deaths within the unit to prevent undue worry and misinformation. Maj. Brian Fickel said callers are instructed to read from a written script to prevent misinterpretation...."
There's an investigation going on, but right now it looks like the script was read exactly as written - but that the phone connection dropped during a critical few moments, changing the meaning of what was said.

The unit is apparently considering re-writing the script.
"...Fickel said the unit is considering starting the scripts with 'your son or daughter is fine.' Internal jargon like "red line message" will probably go, he said...."

The Army Goofed! Anybody Surprised?

The Army makes mistakes. No surprises there. Sometimes they're really big mistakes. Again, no surprises. This is the second time this year that something's gone wrong with the Army's procedures for notifying next-of-kin.

That might be a surprise - but this time it was a single incident involving (apparently) a perfect storm of a written script, internal jargon, and a faulty phone connection. About nine months ago, it was about 7,000 "John Doe" letters sent by some contractor.

Yes, I think somebody at the contractor's end dropped the ball - but a Colonel's name was on the letter; the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Virginia; was responsible for the mission of getting (more appropriate) letters sent out: and a Brigadier General apologized for the mess. (January 7, 2009)

In that case, a unit of the army was responsible for getting something done right, something went wrong, and the problem was dealt with. I'm pretty sure that there will be changes, this time, to ensure that another family doesn't have the experience that the Jaspers had for four hours.

The Army Learns from Mistakes - That Might be a Surprise

It's not that I've got a blind faith in America's military - or in America. This country's made some world-class blunders over the last two-and-a-third centuries. It's also corrected most of them. Some corrections are, in my view, still pending - but I don't expect instant fixes.

America's military is the same way. They've made mistakes. Sometimes huge ones. And, learned from them.

I think that's why "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003–January 2005" didn't get the enthusiastic press coverage it might have.

In my view, there were 'way too many facts in the document - and too much discussion of routine procedures that the Army has for spotting mistakes and seeing to it that they don't happen again. ((June 30, 2008) Some mistakes, of course, are repeated - but with the exception of outfits like the K-9 corps, soldiers are almost exclusively human - and 'to err is human' is all too true.

It'll be interesting to see if old-school news media and other traditional gatekeepers approach the Jasper family's experience with the same polite deference and reserve they've used for ACORN's chronic ethical lapses.

Of course, 'that's different.'

Related posts: Background:
On a personal note: when thinking about large, long-established, organizations, I'm inclined to look at the entity's history and nature - not just what a small number of people affiliated with it have done recently.

A couple decades ago, while the pedophile priest scandal was starting to boil over, I converted to Catholicism. Not because I approve of men in authority raping boys, but because of what I had been learning about the Catholic Church. (February 19, 2009, in another blog, for starters)

Yes, priests raping boys was - and is - wrong. The activities of a handful of priests should have been dealt with earlier. Priests are human beings, and sometimes they do things that are bad. (July 29, 2009, July 25, 2009, and elsewhere, in another blog)

No comments:

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.