back to article Colonel who slammed Afghan HQ PowerPoint culture is fired

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 …


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  1. twelvebore
    Thumb Up


    "His duty position and responsibilities did not offer him the situational awareness needed to validate his postings to the media"

    translation: he don't know what he talkin' 'bout sucka! He jus' jive talkin'!

    1. TeeCee Gold badge


      Oops, you seem to have figured out what they actually meant there.

      Presumably the military PR type who issued that statement has just been fired and they are now putting together a team to work on better opaque language specifications in order to prevent that ever happening again.

  2. Sergie Kaponitovicz
    Thumb Up

    On full pension?

    Read the title - and good luck to him.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    More effective that pencils up your nose.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
      Thumb Up

      and saying


  4. Dr Paul Taylor

    Parkinson's law

    This story sounds precisely like the one that underlies Parkinson's Law.

    As I recall (sorry, I can't find a link), sometinme during WWII, Major Parkinson found himself in charge over a weekend when by chance all of the more senior officers were unavailable. He was unable to deal with the mountain of bureaucratic tasks that faced him. So they didn't get done. However, the sky did not fall in. He later wrote a quasi-academic paper about this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Parkinson, C. Northcote

      Scroll down to "Law Inspired by Military Bureaucracy"

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      You can actually find a book

      by C. Northcote Parkinson called Parkinson's Law. It pops up second hand sometimes. It's hilarious and all too true!! It did not contain the above anecdote.

  5. Bryce 2

    What a shame

    We could use more officers like him.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    unpatriotic, ignorant [and] petty

    They used to call it "spreading alarm and reality [sic]" when I was in.

  7. Mike Hanna


    "Sellin tells Wired that an unidentified two-star general, angered by the article, told him he was "a coward, unpatriotic, ignorant [and] petty"."

    Unpatriotic?! I can imagine the two-star now. His official position has been attacked and he's a high ranking American soldier who requires a staff of other middle-to-high ranking American soldiers working under him, so he's creating American jobs who will then all pay American taxes, therefore that obviously means the Col doing the attacking is terrorist supporting commie who hates America.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: all pay American taxes

      Actually, a lot of them are hoping and praying for these cushy overseas jobs just outside (but still "supporting") combat areas.

      Hazardous Duty Pay, Basic Allowance for Quarters, Basic Allowance for Sustenance (if you can scam your pay clerk into filing for hardship), and a slew of other bonuses and benefits that are rightfully paid to most soldiers due to the conditions and to allow their families back home to keep the house paid up are prime pickings for opportunistic officers (commissioned and non) who can swindle, cajole, intimidate a personnel clerk or are just part of the "boy's club" of the unit.

      Without these positions, Word & Slide Show Warriors would have to do real jobs for normal pay back CONUS.

  8. QrazyQat

    please tell us

    that he was fired via a PP presentation.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How unsurprising...

    ... and admitting there _is_ a problem.

    One could argue that admitting that lots-of-stars brass does little but sit around and bore each other with powerpoint just to see who breaks down in tears first is a state secret and of the highest strategical importance. However, I'd argue you have bigger problems on your hands if that's the case. And that they do. Being this petty is sign of a thoroughly unfit-for-war military staff machine. And to think Peter Drucker spoke so highly of their personnel placement procedures. Well, perhaps they do have that, just too much deadwood to place really well, and apparently no way to get rid of them, for -you want- public opinion by voice of the media demands competent people in the front line. And if the brass is going to be cynical about not being able to win the war anyway, why not game the seniority game as thoroughly as possible?

  10. smudge


    ""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."

    I believe that translates as "He didn't know what he was talking about."

    But the fact that IJC spokesman chose to say it the way he did supports Col Sellin's case.

  11. Mystic Megabyte


    Perhaps the BOFH could be called in to cover their IT needs. Please :)

  12. Christoph

    Some new definitions for the US dialect of English

    "a coward, unpatriotic, ignorant, petty"

    Coward: Someone who tells the truth because it's important, knowing he'll get fired for it.

    Unpatriotic: Putting the good of his country above the good of the parasites he works for.

    Ignorant: Knows where the bodies are buried.

    Petty: Does not go round firing people for annoying him then sneering cheap insults at them.

  13. Peter 39

    new job

    Maybe Secretary Gates will hire him to help with the downsizing

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    So this must be it!

    Taliban are making progress in Afghanistan because they don't use powerPoint. Gosh, instead of bombing those poor guys NATO forces should drop more MS-Office on them.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Is that not banned

      under the Geneva Convention?

  15. JaitcH

    Mission accomplished? (Ticket home)

    I guess his wish came true; out of a time wasting job and into a useful one.

    NATO is so dumb, digging up some arcane rule whilst millions, nay billions of dollars, euros or pounds are wasted. There should be a fixed ratio of foot-soldiers to a general established to stop all this bull.

    1. Apocalypse Later

      There should be a fixed ratio of foot-soldiers to a general established to stop all this bull.

      And you don't need power point for that. A one-page spreadsheet ought to do just fine.

      1. Daniel 1

        Christ, this is heresy!

        You'll be recommending the Navy has at least as many ships as it does admirals, next!

  16. John G Imrie

    Send me your ...

    disenchanted, your boat rockers and your mavericks, then I'll show you how to get things done.

  17. SImon Hobson

    Well that was a surprise wasn't it ?

    Or rather not. A totally predictable response to criticism - fire the messenger rather than fix the underlying problem. Mind you, the ones responsible for firing him were probably worried about their cushy jobs and the size of their empires.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Would this be a case of.........

    .......Mission Accomplished!!

  19. Hollerith 1

    Wasted in the Army

    They've now demonstrated they don't want anyone brave enough to step up to the plate.

    If Colonel Sellin wanted out of the Army and back into civvie-land, he couldn't have chosen a better way. I think we'll start seeing others who want out realising that a bit of frank and honest speakign will be followed by a polite showing of the door.

  20. Hud Dunlap

    Reminds me of WWII's Bill Mauldin

    As a cartoonist he told it like it was. His commanding officer thought he did great work. Patton hated him. If it hadn't been wartime he would have been fired too.

    I will drink a beer in his honor.

  21. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Now all they need... to also fire another thousand-odd colonels and a couple of hundred generals to get some semblance of sanity back.

    I always liked the Mobile Infantry concept from Robert Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers', ie everyone fights, including maintenance men, chaplains, mess cooks etc, all of whom are soldiers first and whatever else as a supplementary duty. In an armed force, the ratio of combat troops to total complement should be as close to 1:1 as possible, in reality posts seem to be created out of thin air just to give (high-paying?) jobs to soldiers for whom there is no need .

    1. Dave Gregory

      That would be

      The US Marine Corps.

      "Every man is a rifleman"

  22. The Cube
    Thumb Up

    did not offer him the situational awareness needed....


    It appears to me that he knew it would piss off some pointless chair warming tosser(s) and get him sent home, that strikes me as perfect situational awareness...

    Anyway, well done that man, more money and equipment for the folks actually fighting, fewer helicopter rides and expensive bases for the command ballast. How is it that when we shrink a military we can only get rid of useful troops not the overdressed ornaments?

  23. Gary Turner


    Line grunts in Korea and Viet Nam had a much better acronym, REMF; Rear Echelon Mother eFfer.

    The good colonel seems to have the truth of it.

  24. Cantab

    Cowardly and ignorant? sums said general right up!

    First General Stanley Mcchrystal now Col. Sellin, maybe the US army needs to start listening when its Ruperts start speaking out!

  25. Anonymous Coward


    Sorry, the term for these Power Point warriors when I was in was REMF:

    Rear Echelon Mother F*cker.

  26. Jemma

    ... cunning indeed ...

    He realised they were on a hiding to nothing - somewhat belatedly - and got out before the whole lot fell down around his ears... good for him.

    If even the rank and file are getting the hell out of it and telling it like it is do you think theres a chance of the PHB's listening now?

    No, I thought not, I thought not....

    You can half imagine it...

    Obama: "You know me Blackie, Not a man to change my mind..."

    Blackadder, Jr III "No Sir, we'd noticed that..."

    *icon because it probably bears a strong resemblance to 'nameless-2 star-general'

  27. Anonymous Coward


    facebook page setup if anyone wants to show their support. Although.. I can't help but feel that going all social networking on this is maybe ironic?

  28. me n u

    "situational awareness"?

    I think the col. new the situation very well! <Let's see, I have a 2 * a$$ hole at my back door and I'm pinned in a corner without my vaseline>

    I admire a man who has the courage and fortitude to stand up and speak his mind against daunting odds. My respect for this particular col.

  29. Rogerborg

    "a coward, unpatriotic, ignorant [and] petty"

    Them's fighting words. Pistols at dawn, sir - I'm sure you have a bootlick who can lend you one.

    Sorry, I may have been reading a little too much Master and Commander - if that's possible.

  30. Blofeld's Cat

    Sellin Out

    You missed a headline opportunity there Lewis.

    It's the flak jacket.

  31. DrJaymansLoveCookie

    "...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)."

    So he got rewarded?

  32. john 212

    what is the NATO national anthem then?

    Sellin tells Wired that an unidentified two-star general, angered by the article, told him he was "a coward, unpatriotic, ignorant [and] petty".

    I didn't realise NATO was a country. Must be on the newer maps on this non-ignorant person has access to (I’m guessing a normal map and a big rubber NATO stamp).

    Who makes those Top Secret stamps anyways or is it a secret? I dare not Google for using the terms Top-secret in case I end up in seeing results from some unsecured Government database or Obama’s Chief of Staff’s face book group and find myself on being deported for hacking.

    It brings comfort to know these well informed individuals are responsible for the lives of many soldiers and Afghan civilians.

  33. Anonymous Coward


    need a big staff to wank on. that is all.

  34. Dave Taflin

    Sounds like he wanted to go home

    He had to know what the result of this would be. Mission accomplished. I wonder if he was involuntarily recalled...

    Beer, because he's probably hoisting them now.

  35. Anonymous Coward


    He couldn't take the continual singing of 'we're here because we're here because we're here because we're here ...' by the British.

  36. cordwainer 1

    What's really sad...

    is no one seems to notice officers used to LEAD troops into battle. Since when did we become a country - and a military - where the leaders hide and send their command out to fight on their own?

    I don't agree with the wars we're in, and don't want to leave the impression I do. But, damn it, if the U.S. is requiring soldiers to go out there and risk their lives for their country, then every f***ing Sergeant, Colonel, Captain, Corporal, Chief, Lieutenant, Major, Officer, General and any other rank ought to be out there with them. Tell them to take a tent and a folding table, like the officers in the Civil War. Give them satellite phones, laptops with blade modems, webcams. If officers in the 18th and 19th Centuries could run a war from the field, with all our technology, so can we.

    There is no excuse for military officers hiding in offices acting like the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, are some for-profit corporation. War is where people die...the innocent and the guilty, the military and the civilian.

    If our political and military leaders agree a war is necessary, then military leaders should be right there with the troops, and in FRONT of them, not cowering behind.

    Every single one of those SOB's should be ashamed of themselves, not only for firing an officer for speaking the truth, but for having so little integrity they care more about self-aggrandizement than the men and women under their command.

    Yes, I oppose the wars we've entered into. Yes, I believe they were based on lies, that no country has any business ever starting a war, disobeying international law, acting as if even the U.S may do as it pleases with no regard for other countries.

    I believe we are better than that.

    But never, never will I say one word against the troops in the Middle East, Afghanistan, or anywhere else. They have the right to their beliefs, their honor, and their courage. Whether my opinion is the same as theirs is irrelevant. They back their beliefs with their lives.

    For that same reason, i have nothing but contempt for any officer, regardless of rank, who is too cowardly to risk his or her own life for what they allegedly believe. What you believe, you do. How can you do otherwise?

    What ever happened to true leaders?

    Sick at all the deaths and grief, for once with no "cheers,"


  37. James Woods

    well this should come as no surprise

    how else do we find ourselves occupying 2 countries at the same time without declaring war yet they are both referred to as wars.

    perhaps I missed the memos where they were declared.

    this Colonel was exactly right that we have armchair generals running our military and that's why we now have military economy's rather than military victory's.

    We can't afford to win or (get out) because what are all these soldiers going to do once they come home? Alot of them are being refused their jobs at walmart they held previously so if theres no work at home I guess guarding poppy and lithium is better than collecting welfare and foodstamps.

    Im not sure what goes through the minds of todays young kids that enlist in the military. You aren't enlisting in your grandfathers military that's for damn sure.

    Your grandparents enlisted to serve this country and to defend it from the whitehouse that we have today. A slice of todays youth that enlist go in for free education and hope to not have to do anything.

    Your grandfathers would say what the hell are we are doing all these years in these countries and how the hell did we end up with a president whose previous occupation was a street agitator.

  38. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Brought to you by from the ministry of the blindingly obvious!

    "IJC exists primarily to provide some general a three-star command"

    In other news, sky is blue, water is wet and the recession is not over and no-one cares about dead people in faraway lands.

    Paris wonders where that Agfanisthan can be found on the map.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    the saying goes...

    its never a good thing to be correct, when the government is wrong.

  40. AndyMM


    (As already said), the term in the British Army in the 80s was Rear Echelon Mother F*****s

    Classic story of the brass not liking the truth being known.

  41. John Hughes

    though much fewer officers overall

    Please rewrite in English.

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