hr-mcmaster-size0-army.mil-51179-2009-09-22-140954

[UPDATED 6:30 pm] HUNTSVILLE, ALA.: The ever-beleaguered Army has a reputation — not undeserved — for being bland, conformist, and bureaucratic, an organization where brilliant mavericks are forced to retire at colonel and the guys who make general don’t rock the boat. Just ask any of the long-serving and long-suffering officers convening here in Huntsville, home of the massive Army Materiel Command, for the Association of the US Army’s annual winter conference.

But it looks like 12 years of war and three years of budget chaos may be able to shake things up. One sign of the times is that the Army plans to promote two generals who are smart guys with enemies.

H.R. McMaster is the most notorious name here, and we’ll get to him — but let’s take the less famous one first: Maj. Gen. (soon to be Lt. Gen.) Kevin Mangum. A helicopter pilot who once commanded the 160th SOAR, the Army’s elite Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Since 2011 he’s headed the Army’s aviation center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, the central temple to which all Army helicopter personnel return again and again throughout their careers.

In recent months, however, Mangum has had the unglamorous and grueling job of making the case for major cuts. As the high priest of the cash-strapped Army aviation community, he’s had to sell his flock on a 2015 budget plan — one still awaiting White House approval and certain to face a fight on Capitol Hill — that would retire almost 900 helicopters over the next five years.

That includes the entire fleet of OH-58 Kiowas, a venerable armed reconnaissance machine that the Army just can’t afford to replace. To fill the resulting holes in regular active-duty scout units, the plan also calls for stripping the Army National Guard of all its AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. The two moves together leave the Guard with no combat helicopters — only transports – and a big grudge against the active-duty officers who authored the plan, including Mangum.

It’s a time-honored rule in Washington that angering the National Guard and its allies is a bad career move. But Mangum is getting his third star and ascending even higher in the Army’s doctrinal priesthood, formally known as the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), where he’ll be a deputy commanding general and the chief of staff.

Then there’s H.R. McMaster. A blunt-spoken bulldog of a man who made his name as both a scholar and practitioner of counterinsurgency in Iraq, McMaster long looked like the classic Army maverick who did well on the battlefield but made too many enemies to rise past the rank of colonel. After McMaster was passed over for brigadier general twice in a row — normally the death knell for an Army career — getting him his first star required action from the arch-counterinsurgent, Gen. David Petraeus.

Petreaus’s own star has fallen since with his resignation from CIA. And there’s lots of talk in national security circles that his “COINista” followers are following him, now that we’re done with messy guerrilla wars forever for the umpteenth time and get to focus on a proper high-tech enemy like the Soviet U — excuse me, China.

But this will be McMaster’s third star in less than six years. That’s a remarkable rate of ascent. As a major general, McMaster is currently commander of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga, which is holy ground for infantrymen and tankers just as Rucker is for Army aviators. As a lieutenant general, he will be TRADOC’s deputy commanding general for futures, in charge of something called the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC).

In English, ARCIC is the Army organization tasked to think full-time about the next war and how to win it. So McMaster’s new position makes him point man for the entire Army as the service struggles to figure out its post-2014 role. What’s more, he takes that mission at a time when both the Army’s budget and its case for strategic relevance are coming under intense assault. If there was ever a time the Army needed a bare-knuckle intellectual like McMaster in the job, the time is now.

 

[UPDATE - 6:30 pm: It seems some readers took this article as an insult to H.R. McMaster because I said he was twice passed over for promotion to brigadier general and implied he wouldn't ever have been promoted without Petraeus's intervention. Quite the contrary: I am insulting the promotion boards for not making him a general until Petraeus arrived to smack some sense into them. If you are a fan of H.R. McMaster, as I am, you should not be offended by this article. If you're an Army personnel system bureaucrat, you probably should be.]

Comments

  • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

    As long as either one will back up the troops in the field with all we got they can have 10 stars.

  • Don Bacon

    A Petraeus COINista nation-builder — just what we don’t need.because it’s been proven to be a huge waste of people and money, and doesn’t work. McMaster:

    We have the counterinsurgency manual,
    the stability operations manual, and the security-force assistance manual, but
    I don’t think we have put the politics at the center of those manuals. So, for
    example, we assume in our doctrine that the challenges associated with
    developing indigenous security forces are mainly about building capacity, when,
    in fact, they’re about trying to develop institutions that can survive and that
    will operate in a way that is at least congruent with our interests.

    • rhadagastt

      Wow– he sounds more like a politician than a soldier. Since when was the freaking ARMY supposed to be in charge of building other countries’ INSTITUTIONS? Good Lord that is sooo misguided.

      • General_Chaos

        Since the President ordered them to. Guess they should have just mutinied rather than try and make hard orders work?

        • paulrevere01

          Pres: ‘We MUST have freedom and democracy and rule of law!’
          Army: ‘YES SIR! Now, where are my ‘secretly-eliminate-the-bad-guys-who-we-deem-bad-guy- who-are-fighting-US-as-patriots-in their-country, guys?
          Pres: Here, use these mercs and those palletts of freshly printed ‘C’-notes over there, just had ‘em air lifted in last night.
          Army: ‘YES SIR!’, what about air and sea support, sir?’
          Pres: ‘Just signed an exec order to use the ol credit card, we’ll worry about the details later.’
          Army: ‘SIR, YES SIR!…now, about that promotion…er, never mind, Academe just made be a standing offer after separation along with Martin-Marietta, Lockheed, Sargent, Bear, Mossad…er, oops wusn’t posed to mention them…gulp.

          WTF?, said the citizen-patriot-vet-entrepreneur-taxpayer.

          • delahaya

            ???

    • General_Chaos

      McMaster and COINdanista…is that all you have? He was the brilliant tank commander in 73 Easting and author of Dereliction of Duty. COIN, Tanker, Historian. The man is way more than a cardboard cutout for your dreaded COIN.

      • dts3204

        Let us put it this way the General is no WC Clark, or Colin Powell. He earned his effing stars. By eveything I have read and heard he can be hell on wheels and cut through the BS.

  • madskills

    Kiowas worked and still do. Why the military won’t do minor upgrades and order another 800 is beyond me. They probably want a $50 million helicopter with a cappuccino maker and capability to shoot down ballistic missiles.

  • Winston Smith

    Why do we have more general officers know then we had at the end of WWII?

    • silbey

      We don’t.

      • Browncoats

        Bullshit!

        • silbey

          Well, there’s an argument for you. Wrong and rude to boot. It still remains the case that the US had more general officers during WWII than now.

          • Browncoats

            Oh well, don’t get your butt hurt…You might be right but the ratio is still all screwed up. http://fabiusmaximus.com/2012/09/10/american-military-force-changed-43153/

          • silbey

            Joss Whedon would be embarrassed by your comments. One of the interesting things in that article is that the ratio of generals to enlisted in the US is still more than two of the most successful armies, that of Napoleonic France, and the Wehrmacht of 1940. You should really actually read the thing fully, you know. Makes you look less of an idiot.

          • Browncoats

            blah blah blah butthurt blah blah blah…I have read it ass clown and I spent 23 years in the service as an officer and also served in the Regiment with McMasters and like him I don’t care about your butthurt. The Army has NEVER in my 23 years cut a GO billet or an O-6 billet nor will they. Cybercom, AFRICOM, NETCOM the Director of NSA used to be a 2 Star Billet…It is now a 4 Star billet. Maybe you should pull your head out of your butt. Joss Whedon is a liberal douche, so who really cares if he gets his panties in a bunch. It like me caring that you’re trying to snipe at me, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

          • silbey

            I love how your grammar and spelling get better the angrier you get.

            Also, dude, you realize your screen name and image is from a SHOW BY JOSS WHEDON, right?

          • Browncoats

            Duh…really…You know it is really ironic that Whedon writes a show where the hero is Anti Statist unlike Whedon himself…DUDE!

          • RumpKicker

            The other thing that is ironic is comparing your apparent level of intelligence to your opinion of your own intelligence.

          • RumpKicker

            I also might add that “23 years of service as an officer” doesn’t make you special.

            In my experience the best officers either got out of big green, or got out of the Army at the earliest possible opportunity. I’ve also known some pretty terrible senior leaders who had a lot of time in the service. One example was the E8 who used to constantly rattle on about how he knew what he was doing because he’d been in for 18 years, but didn’t seem to understand the concept of interlocking sectors of fire (A skill level 1 knowledge item).

            If your first defense of your argument was “I’ve been in for X years”, odds are that you’re just diverting attention from the fact that you don’t have a damn clue what you’re talking about.

          • Browncoats

            Wow, you got me! You’re right! I’m just a dumber than dirt, zero experience guy who got by in the military by being political correct and kissing butt. Lets look at facts shall we. Name a time in the last 50 years the Army has ever cut an O-6 or above billet? I’m not saying changed the command name? Name the number of O-6 and above billets that have since transitioned to O-7 and above billets. You can’t because the Army continues to grow these billets and thus the ration of flag officers to enlisted continues to grow, but you know what. It doesn’t matter what you believe or think or really what you say to me, about me. You site the “Best Officers” got out of big green early, really? What about those officers who took their Oath seriously, those don’t count, those who believed in the document, who stayed to fight the good fight, while everyone else went to chase the dollar, a lot of them the tax payer’s dollar in big defense contracts, the mercenaries those are the best and the brightest, the ones that owe their existence to the Military Industrial Complex good ole boy retired flag grade officers, who’s companies continue to lobby congress for more solutions to problems we don’t have, those are the best and brightest! Sounds like they were the ones who figured out how to game the system and weren’t happy just doing their duty and serving their country and making a modests wage. Sounds like they were full of themselves. Granted the military has PLENTY of people who are and do hang out waiting on the next promotion, blame that on a lethargic QMP and a strong lobby by the Senior NCO’s and Officer Corp protection societies. Plenty of good with the bad. However you can’t dispute the fact that Flag Officer Billets never go away. They will shuffle them around someplace else when not needed, and then create another one when that position is need again. That is the reason they are so hesitant about force reductions below our 500k, because by law then they have to cut flag officer positions. I think it is 21% of the Force, minus COCOM and CJCS billets. But whatever, believe what you want, say what you want about me, my give O’crapmeter really doesn’t register. This is just a way to pass the time between reading other news sites. Opinions vary and for at least now, everyone is entitled to their own!

          • silbey

            Paragraphs, man, use paragraphs. They’re your friend.

          • Rainbow

            Right! I’ve heard it said that “If you have nothing relevant to say, or you’re losing the argument, attack their grammar”. Then if that does not work, play the race card! LOL!

          • silbey

            And I’ve heard the “If I can’t read what you’re saying, then you’re not saying anything” saying, so we’re about even.

          • silbey

            I’m just impressed that you’ve tied yourself so closely to someone you despise so thoroughly. Do you avert your eyes when Whedon’s name flashes in the credits to “Firefly”?

          • Browncoats

            Well, the regardless of the screenwriters intent, the message is quite clear as is the ideals of the Browncoats and therefore causes me no issue. Whedon can be a Statist all he wants if he does a show enspousing Statist ideals, I won’t be watching it. However, Firefly embraces Liberty, Independence and Freedom and frowns upon Big Government, Military, Imperialism. I have a feeling he was trying to make a mockery of the GOP while doing this and that is the reason Fox canceled the show in part, but the Dem’s have no reason to applaud as they are in the same boat. The establishment Dem’s and Republican’s arguing about the National Debt or anything is like watching two drunks argue about the bar bill on the Titanic. It’s not that I necessarily despise Whedon either, I think he’s a brilliant screenwriter and I think he see’s what is wrong with the country but has trouble being honest with himself with what the actual cause is. A lot of people have that problem as they are worried about what others will think, what their peer group will think or family will think. I’m a 2nd generation Army Officer, I was taught from an early age to think for myself critically examine the facts and form my own opinion. A lot of people go along to get along. I admitted I was wrong about calling “Bullshit” a long time ago. I know for a fact the ratios I provided you are pretty damn close to fact. However, you wanted to continue on the butthurt portion, so it seemed like a fun line to follow, but the facts remain. Interesting how people can’t get over personal bias or feelings when it comes to something they believe especially when they get their feelings hurt. Feelings, smeelings! Have a good one!

      • Winston Smith

        Yes we do.

        • silbey

          No, we really don’t. In 1945, the US military had around 2000 general officers. The number now is below 1000.

          http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/11/05/does-the-military-have-too-many-generals/military-should-trim-the-top-like-most-innovative-organizations

          • Mike

            You forgot to mention this from the above article:
            Troop strength WW-ll: 12 Million
            Troop Strength currently: : 1.2 Million

          • silbey

            I didn’t forget, I simply didn’t mention it because it’s not relevant to my point. If Winston Smith had started things off with “as a ratio to enlisted, we have lots more general officers now than we did in 1945″ I would have agreed. But he didn’t. He made an absolute statement about overall numbers, a statement that was simply wrong.

          • Winston Smith

            Mike hit the nail on the head. A ratio of 1.6 generals to troop strength in 1945/ 8.6 in 2013. Boy, the current troops must need a hell of a lot of supervision for a 700% increase in genera officers.

  • WRS3

    These are “yes” men for Obama. That’s all. They will continue to weaken the military and NG while at the same time arming the government union workers to be the Gestapo of tomorrow. Anybody who trust s this government has their head in the sand.

    • CharlesHouston

      Your tin hat is way too tight!! And if you do not trust anyone, anywhere in this government – you are raising your own militia now?

      • delahaya

        He may have a tinfoil hat but the record speaks for itself, Obama has purged more high ranking officers than any other president. Something to consider.

  • EVA-04

    No better choice for TRADOC than McMaster. At least something still works in the Army.

  • Don Bacon

    McMaster is a COINista — a failed profession.

    McMaster’s new position makes him point man for the entire Army as the service struggles to figure out its post-2014 role.

    So McMaster is the wrong point man.

    • RumpKicker

      I can respect his effectiveness as a leader(in theory, I haven’t met the man), but I agree that you would have to be fairly dense not to see the failure of COIN.

      As human nature never changes, history is cyclical in nature and of course COIN has been tried before. Every time it has been tried it fails miserably…..and it will be tried again and fail then too.

      More effective counter-insurgency strategies are based on effective partnerships(which we do not have in Afghanistan, our allies are corrupt and ineffective), and with the leadership of strong leaders with the ability to creatively solve tactical problems on the battlefield.

      One real life example. I know a guy who was a highly successful Infantry commander in Vietnam(he earned a bounty on his head and four valor citations, while almost negligable casualties). His unit’s A company had gotten annihilated attacking an entrenched Vietnamese position. For his attack he had two of his armored platoons advance on the enemy positions. Those camps were located on two hills, while the easiest approach to the side was a large field to the right of his unit’s LOA. When he attacked, it wasn’t long until they spotted a company sized vietnamese element moving to flank his platoons through the field. At that point he called up his XO, who was in reserve with the third tank platoon and let him know that the Vietnamese had reacted exactly as expected. 3rd Platoon moved up and with their tanks already loaded with flechette rounds was able to annihilate the Vietnamese with little resistance.

      Again…that’s not a particularly amazing strategy. It’s based on a common sense anticipation of enemy actions. But how many of nowadays “by the book” commanders would be capable of something like that?

    • cavcop

      Counter insurgency can work fine in practice, as well as theory, as long as all parts are working from the same playbook (politicians, diplomats, soldiers, NGO’s and so on). No one part can pull off the operation without all the others. And in a micro sense, McMaster showed the way in Tal Afar.

  • nwwapiti

    To remove Lt Attack/Recon Helicopters is a huge mistake, and trying to get AH64′s to fill that gap is ridiculous. As former Kiowa Warrior Pilot I know first hand how ineffective AH64′s are at anything other than their intended role, a role that they fulfill brilliantly but they aren’t recon helicopters. Trying to use UAV’s is going to meet with equal failure and the Army is going to have to pay an even higher price in lives and taxpayer dollars to bring a dedicated Recon Helicopter back in the future.

  • ziggy1988

    COIN has been an utter failure. I see no reason whatsoever to promote McMaster. Wroting a book isnt enough.

  • buddymcfall

    This promotions seem to be in order to me….

  • Baron Lords

    Yawn. Assuming that the majority of readers here are experienced members of the defense community, what is the point of pushing the myth of the superhero General officer riding to the rescue? Virtually all of your readers know this is merely window dressing, so why bother? We’ve sat and watched COIN burn through trillions of dollars, be hyped as the future of armed conflict, and then fail miserably. When one of it’s acolytes, Ray Odierno, reaches to top of the hierarchy only to be famed for two achievements, slashing the budget and sponsoring Ray Chandlers tone deaf crusade for more haircuts, I think its obvious that we’ve been hoodwinked.

  • http://www.military-history.us/ Cincinnatus

    H.R. was my Squadron CO in 1/4 Cav in the early 2000′s. I can think of no one better suited to think realistically about future threats and advocate for the force structure changes the army so desperately needs going forward. I will never forget him POing everybody in the 1ID staff when he finagled the dollars for realistic training out of them for out Troop Challenge exercises in Germany. The bean counters were upset because he was using all of our Squadron STRAC allocation and borrowing ammo from other units who were not using theirs to get us fully trained. The only time I ever remember getting so much range time in my 23 year career was getting ready for the 1994 III Corps Cav Cup at Fort Bliss.
    H.R. has his detractors but at heart he is a soldier’s soldier like Omar Bradley and his first priority is making sure Joe is properly trained, equipped, and organized to defeat the enemy. No true soldier will ever argue with that no matter miserable the training environment.

    • Recon

      I served with him as well in 1-4 CAV (C-Troop), quite the leader and his physical presence was known in training or on deployment. I think he’ll succeed just fine.

  • Bill B

    I served with Mcmaster in his first unit, 1-66 Armor. He was my XO when I was a brand new tank platoon leader with no clue what end of the main gun the rounds came out of. He was patient but firm, and showed signs of leadership beyond his years even then. An example of this was our unit’s annual football game played before the Army-Navy game, the “Toilet Bowl”. The game was played between the junior officers and the O-3′s and above of the battalion. HR was of course the quarterback, and any notion that this was a fun game was lost right away with the first nasty hits. I will never forget the chaplin swearing and getting in a full fledged fist fight with the mortar platoon leader. That was a great unit! Anyway, a senior NCO had the thankless job of reffing the game. The battalion commander, who was a turd, was pulling rank and intimidating this poor guy. Most of the LT’s were pissed, but what are you going to do, tell the battalion commander he is cheating b–tard? Well Mcmaster did, he told the guy he was a cheat and a disgrace and we were going to beat them no matter how much the Colonel cheated. You could hear a pin drop on that field, but Mcmaster did not care, he stood up for what was right. The battalion commander yelled at him and told him to watch it (cause he was a turd), but Mcmaster did not care. That always impressed me and was an important lesson to me in leadership. When I heard many years later that he told Rumsfeld basically the same thing that he told the battalion commander at Fort Hood in 1986, I was not surprised. Good man, the army got it right this time.

    • Rene’ Cubille’

      Hey – I know you! Good times in A-1/66. Remember the great basketball games and the the killer heat in the motor pool. McMaster was my plt. leader before the CO stuck us with crazy lt. brooks.Hope you are doing well

  • 1I(D)VET ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

    Glad to see my old boss H.R. McMaster getting his third star. Well deserved and will be a plus to the Army.

  • RJ

    Herb McMaster is a good tactical commander, but he is not an “intellectual.” He was fortunate to make BG and it is good to have diversity of opinions in the GO ranks. He has a big issue of getting along with others and working in a team–it is his way or the highway. A bit ironic now since he did not like that attitude in his bosses as a company grade officer. .