A US Army colonel who published a splendid attack on top-heavy bureaucracy and PowerPoint culture at NATO's top headquarters in Afghanistan has been sacked.
Colonel Lawrence Sellin, in his critique of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command (IJC), suggested that the IJC exists primarily "to provide some general a three-star command", and that it will soon be enlarged because "an officer, who is currently without one, needs a staff of 35 people to create a big splash before his promotion board".
Wired magazine now reports that less than 48 hours after the colonel's article was published by wire service UPI he was fired.
Sellin tells Wired that an unidentified two-star general, angered by the article, told him he was "a coward, unpatriotic, ignorant [and] petty". However, his own commanding general (there are many generals at the IJC) was "very polite" as he gave the colonel his marching orders.
ISAF spokesmen confirmed that Colonel Sellin had been dismissed for violating NATO regulations requiring clearance of media activities through the public-affairs apparatus.
"His duty position and responsibilities did not offer him the situational awareness needed to validate his postings to the media," an IJC spokesman told Wired.
Sellin's article said that NATO staff officers in Afghanistan do little else but prepare and sit through "inane" and "useless" PowerPoint briefings and meetings. "Cognitively challenged generals", he wrote, listen to the PowerPoint presentations "in a semi-comatose state".
"I have not done anything productive" in two months' service at the IJC, he added.
Reportedly there was a good deal of support for Colonel Sellin's views among middle-ranking officers at the headquarters such as majors and lieutenant-colonels (junior officers and enlisted personnel are seldom seen in such places). Other colonels were less sympathetic.
"I have marks all over me from where they have been touching me with ten-foot poles," he told Wired.
We here on the Reg defence desk believe that the US Army and NATO in general could use more officers like Colonel Sellin - though much fewer officers overall. But that's exactly what the IJC won't be getting.
Instead, the colonel is headed for his home in Finland where he works in IT (he is a US Army reserve officer rather than a full-time regular). Meanwhile, the IJC headquarters is to gain another 30+ PowerPoint-happy PONTIs**.
We'd guess that Colonel Sellin may become something of a hero among frontline troops in Afghanistan, no matter what the unidentified two-star IJC general thinks of him. ®
*Officers above the rank of full colonel wear stars as their rank insignia in the US forces: from one star for a brigadier-general to five for a "general of the Army". The same use of numbers of stars to describe officers of equivalent ranks (and jobs for them) is common across NATO, particularly in the British forces, though actual rank insignia worn on national uniforms are different.
**Person Of No Tactical Importance. Frontline personnel sometimes use this abbreviation to refer to staff types.