The FBI, the Army, and 9 mm

The Army is looking to replace its current stock of M9 and M11 9 mm pistols with newer, more modern weapons. One interesting twist in the request for submissions from potential vendors is that the choice of caliber has been left open. This has led to speculation that the Army may wind up joining the Coast Guard in adopting the .40 S&W round or the Marines who have partially readopted .45 ACP. Some have suggested that the .357 Sig round might be chosen.

Meanwhile, the FBI has announced that it will begin transitioning its agents from .40 S&W to 9 mm. Apparently, a significant number of Special Agents have difficulty mastering a pistol chambered for the more powerful round. Given that 9 mm ammunition has been greatly improved over the past couple of decades (and is significantly less expensive than .40 S&W), the change is not unreasonable for a large, bureaucratic organization.

If the Gentle Reader were to spend some time pursuing the comments on various sites reporting on these two stories, he will find them filled with the pontifications of a plethora of Internet arm chair experts, almost none of whom have any real world experience or practical knowledge of combat shooting with a handgun. My personal preference is for a Model 1911 pistol in .45 ACP, but that is based on my training and actual combat experience. I suspect that the FBI will wind up swapping their .40 Glocks for 9 mm Glocks or something very similar. It will be interesting to see what wins the Army’s shootout.

Buffer Inventory Control

Darrell Fawley has an essay over at Small Wars Journal about the Army’s challenge retaining its best and brightest junior officers. (H/T, Instapundit) If you’re interested in the future of our military, you should read the whole thing.

One thing Fawley points out that drives many good soldiers out of the Army is the its tendency to pettifogging bureaucracy in a peace time garrison environment.

Forcing leaders to fill out pages of high risk trackers to be briefed to generals rather than allowing commanders to own their companies is just one example.  Having COMET teams run around post stopping vehicles to ensure they have their warning triangles is another.  Carrying around a standards book as an inspectable item?  Does that show trust?

No, it doesn’t. And I can sympathize based on my experience as a Second Lieutenant.

My initial set of assignment orders had me assigned to a unit at Ft. Hood as a Combat Signal Officer following completion of the Signal Officer’s Basic Course at Ft. Gordon. However, I did so well in the course that the Signal School retained me as an Instructor in the Officer Basic Course. One day, I received a set of orders appointing me the Buffer Inventory Control Officer for the School. Buffer Inventory? Was this some sort of supply detail? I called up the Adjutant’s office and asked what I was supposed to do.

I was to be the property custodian for the month of October for all the floor polishers (“buffers”) on the property books of the School, all 124 of them. I was to sign for all of them and then pass them along to another officer in November. If any were missing, I’d have to reimburse the Army for the full purchase price of a replacement.

So I decided to conduct a sight inventory of the “buffers,” signing only for the ones that I could actually find. I should mention that the orders specifically said that use of my private vehicle was not allowed, so I took off walking around Ft. Gordon. It was obvious from the reactions of the various NCOs and Army civilian employees I encountered that no one had ever actually asked to check on their floor polishers. After a couple of days, the Colonel I worked for asked me what I was doing. He called the Adjutant and got me a staff car and driver. That lasted for about a day-and-a-half until someone up the food chain realized what I was doing. I was actually following orders, and that was screwing up the system.

It turned out that sometime in the early ’60s someone lost a floor polisher. The corrective action (on paper) was to assign an officer to be responsible for Buffer Inventory Control, and so that became a slot on the School’s duty roster. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Apparently, I was the first officer in years who actually did an inventory, and I wasn’t finding all the “buffers.”

Around the 10th of the month, I received a second set of orders canceling the duty.

That’s how the bureaucratic garrison Army tends to be. If it can’t change, it will lose its best soldiers to civilian life.