Best Defense

So you think you want to be a general?

It is not all it is cracked up to be, Gen. Donn Starry (U.S. Army, ret.) warns in his oral history. "As a matter of fact, brigadier generals get treated with much less respect and so on than second lieutenants do in many places. I got much better treatment as a second lieutenant, in many ...

ktylerconk/Flickr
ktylerconk/Flickr

It is not all it is cracked up to be, Gen. Donn Starry (U.S. Army, ret.) warns in his oral history. "As a matter of fact, brigadier generals get treated with much less respect and so on than second lieutenants do in many places. I got much better treatment as a second lieutenant, in many instances, than I did as a brigadier general."(P. 1103, Press On! Selected Works of General Donn A. Starry, Vol. 2, Lewis Sorley, ed.) 

Of course, when Starry was a lieutenant, he served in a tank battalion commanded by a lieutenant colonel and war hero named Creighton Abrams and his company commander was one George S. Patton III.   

Anyway, Starry’s observation reminded me of an exchange I had with a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back during the Bosnia crises. I asked a question, and the general said, "Oh, I don’t think anyone in a responsible position thinks that."

"Actually," I said, "it was just said to me by an Army brigadier general I ran into walking over here to your office."

"Well," he shrugged, "if you’re going to listen to every brigadier in the hallway…"   

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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