Chain of Hell: Why A Failing Command is a Death Sentence For Mental Health. In our analysis of Episode 6 ofA Grunt’s Life, our resident Licensed Clinical Therapist, Lauren Rich, breaks down the infamous (at least we think so) scene where an Afghan civilian was brought on base because he wanted to share the location of the enemy combatants but then attacked the Marines and attempted to stab Lt. Murphy in the back. Lance Corporal Jones kills him on sight.
What would seem like a clean-cut case of self-defense, we instead see the Company Commander question Lt. Murphy and his Marine's ability to make decisions. He slings accusations of incompetency and, most notably, expresses his concern at the effect this would have on his “reputation.”
The Consequences of Bad Command
And that, friends, is one of the most terrifying and nauseating aspects of mental health in the military. When you are told by your Commanding Officer that defending yourself is an inconvenience. Never mind the complete lack of support for the fact you're supporting a Marine that was just forced to take a life, now they’re going to make him feel worse about it. Now they’re going to take away the one justification he has for having to dehumanize this individual and maintain some type of mental stability. You know, the justification his command has been preaching to him for months (years?).
A failing command, or even one failing Commanding Officer, is a death sentence for the mental health of service members. As Donny O’Malley so eloquently puts it, “It is a complete mind fuck.”
The scene goes on to show Lt. Murphy making an attempt to alleviate Lance Corporal Jones’ guilt, but he knows it is a feeble attempt with so little support from his own chain of command.
A poisonous command is hell on service members. It’s hell on troops in every branch, on every deployment, in every situation. Camaraderie and having your buddy’s six helps, but only goes so far. The toxicity in military leadershipis setting service members up for failure when the mission is over, and the system needs to step back and take a good, hard, long look at itself.
Looking For a Solution
There is no overnight fix to the system, so we have a duty to continue to look out for one another. Look out for your buddies and do what you can to support each other in times of toxic leadership. Social connections save lives.