Opinion: Putting Your Hands In Your Pockets Will Get You Killed

The following is an opinion piece by Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

Listen up troops. Listen really closely. You want to put your hands in your pockets? Too friggin' bad. It's right there in AR 670-1. I helped write that piece of beautiful literature. I know the cost that comes with putting your hands in your pockets: the lives of soldiers.

You think I'm jerkin' you around? You think that putting your hands in your pockets doesn't hurt anyone? Tell that to all the troops we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can only imagine that someone around them had their hands in their pockets instead of manning a .50 or applying pressure to a sucking chest wound.

I'm going to tell it to you straight. Those fools that started a petition to allow members of the military to put their hands in their pockets are putting your lives at risk. Not only that, but they jumped the chain of command. I'll personally rain down an unwordly heck upon them myself, those friggin' idiots.

You put your hands in your pockets and *poof* there goes all good discipline and military bearing.

These things save lives, soldiers. We don't enforce these rules simply because it looks good on our non-commissioned officer evaluation reports. Nope, this is about saving troop lives — saving YOUR lives. You jump the chain-of-command and you've gone and screwed the pooch.

Everyone who signs this petition is stating that they value their individuality over their battle buddies' lives.

You think I got the "III" put in my name because of my birth? I earned that stuff. The Bronze Star Medal I've got will swear to that. It doesn't have a "V" device you say? Apparently you've never been deployed as a sergeant major. You can't comprehend the level of responsibility that comes with chewing out company first sergeants because their Humvee's aren't aligned perfectly.

The day you slack and park one Humvee slightly off-line is the day that insurgents of unknown national origins decide to launch an attack on your FOB. You'd be ready to respond, with efficiency and force if it weren't for that one truck being off-line most likely due to an oversight by a non-commissioned officer.

Really, if I had to guess, an NCO like that has probably never been to the Warrior Leader's Course. Any NCO that can stand the sight of troops with their hands in their pockets obviously hasn't been through WLC. You know what I've instructed Training and Doctrine Command to stress there? Drill and Ceremony. That's right, it all comes back to D&C. You take the time to learn D&C, you'll know why it's so important to keep your dang hands out of your pockets.

It all comes down to discipline.

If you can't march troops, you surely can't teach them to do a 9-line MEDEVAC or any of their basic battle drills. Heck, D&C is what's won us the Iraq war and the Afghan war. Without this small unit level of discipline, we would have been in another Vietnam.

You know who put their hands in their pockets? Troops in Vietnam.

Just ask em'. They'll tell you no sergeant major ever yelled at them for having their hands in their pockets. I see this as an obvious reason why we failed there.

It's my job as Sergeant Major of the Army to make sure our troops are receiving the best leadership possible from NCO's across the Army. We will not fail you soldiers. We will not let you fail yourselves.

Now take those sunglasses off your head, your hands out of your pockets, that 550 cord bracelet off, stop walking and talking on your cell phone, stop smoking while walking, and get back over to the drill field to practice your left-flank march. Because darnit, marching in a formation designed for warfare before automatic weapons is going to save your lives.