The Abuse of Power in the Military
By CH (CPT) Raymond Folsom
What is abuse to me, as a chaplain? My definition of abuse is simple: anything you would
not want videotaped. What if there were cameras in the billets... would treatment of other
Soldiers be different? Without producing a list of abuses, my definition is anything a person
would not want recorded. This then leads to an abuser's life style: secrets and intimidation. All
abusers are angry but not all angry people are abusers...but just susceptible to abuse. In
saying that, I will make a broad observation in "my" world...we have some angry people in
positions of authority who are abusers. These abusers should be a concern for all Soldiers in
the Army. Has there been a rise in family abuse, assaults, drinking related issues, and murder
among our Soldiers?
The Abuser: The abuser walks around with a chip on their shoulder. The conversations
would be "dark", ugly...angry in general because life sucks for them. What are the reasons?
Who knows but the "reasons" do not justify unprofessional leadership that destroys the people
around them, to include their own family? With this self-destructive behavior, it is only a matter
of time, their family will fall apart, and then they become even more enraged!
Now if the Army places this person in the position of a squad leader, platoon sergeant,
platoon leader, etc...now we have just placed a person drunk with anger behind the preverbal
steering wheel. What are the second and third orders of effect with placing an abuser in the
position of authority? Would it affect the unit's morale, loyalty, trust, and retention? What would
the impact be if the abuser were a Drill Instructor (DS)? Let me say, the only way an abuser
can abuse would be in private or the support of their battle buddy.
The position of the DS is a long honored position. The wearing of the drill hat stands
for what a real Soldier is, respected and honored! The abuser brings a spirit of ugliness to the
Army, which we do NOT need. They bring disgrace and dishonor to the profession and to the
The Abuse: Abuse is NOT pushing the Soldier to excel in their training and having the
expectation that they give it their ALL. Abuse is not the push-up, the flutter kick, or the
counseling statements. There is nothing wrong with making things hard (making it difficult to
reach or accomplish). Abuse IS the manipulation of a subordinate through intimidation and
deception (physically or mentally). Maybe another way to look at it is any action contrary to the
Army Values. Abuse is the failure to maintain the Army values.
1) Individual Soldiers...NEED to take on the responsibility for caring for our battle buddy! We
need to make an asserted effort to care for our fellow Soldiers-whether they are the abused, or
the abuser. What the Army does NOT need is a witch-hunt or the mentality of hang'em high
when they are caught. If the abuser did something illegal, the CMD or judge will pass
judgment. Would it not be our DUTY to help each other...NOT...cross that line? If there are
SECRETS, there is ABUSE. We at TRADOC need to be more alert to trends because we are
the "grassroots" of our Army. We directly have an impact on the ARMY as a whole!
2) Locating the problem is not difficult. First, there will be animosity towards any inquiry and
perceived as an intrusion into their "space". They will guard their secret; i.e. a spirit of
uncooperativeness. Secondly, there will be poor performance by their subordinates (the abuser
will be eaten up by that too because they are NOT in absolute control!). There will be
disciplinary and morale problems. Their angry demeanor will be the only clue you really need.
Go to the abuser with personal pride for what the Army is really all about; Loyalty, Duty,
Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage! Live the Army Values.