Thursday, April 12, 2007

Standing in Formation

Formations are times when all the soldiers in an organization are called together and stand in lines arranged by their organization- squads into platoons, companies, battalions, etc.

Sometimes we call formations for reasons more or less important to the various participants- either leaders or individual soldiers. One subordinate unit I have experience with calls formations 10 minutes prior to their higher level’s organization for no reason other than to have us stand there in formation for the 10 minutes so that we are “ready” for the next formation.
In one of these recent formations, we were all formed up in a battalion mass- everyone in the battalion in one formation, not arranged by squads or companies. As an aside, I always wish I knew in advance when we were going to stand like that, so I could just skip the formation entirely given that no one has any idea when someone is not present in such a cluster. Then, to start the formation, we were asked to “report”- a typical accountability process in which the leaders indicate who is there, accounted for, etc. In this case however, the soldiers in the four lead positions for the four ranks were not necessarily squad leaders and definitely couldn’t report on behalf of all of the battalion which was in their ranks. But they went ahead and “reported”: "All present and accounted for!" Honestly, they had no idea. But we go through the motions for some reason. Then, during the formation, we were counseled about not spreading rumors. “If you don’t know its true, and it’s not in your lane, then don’t say anything!” Hmmm, like reporting that all are present and accounted for even though you have no idea?
We basically went through an exercise which dispensed with reality in preference for giving the impression of a “disciplined” formation. To me it reinforces my belief that military leaders sometimes don’t want the truth.

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