When Alvin Greene won the Democratic Senate nomination in South Carolina, there were immediate questions about his past, namely a 13-year military career. During that time, Greene served in no less than four military components, compiling a less-than-distinguished service record. But there was little information about his military career; that remained something of a mystery, much like Greene's successful run for the Senate nomination.
Now, thanks to a local reporter for the Associated Press (and Greene himself) we're learning more about the candidate's checkered military career. AP reporter Jim Davenport recently sat down with the Senate nominee on Thursday, with Greene willingly providing copies of evaluations from his days in uniform. They paint a picture of an individual who was able to perform only mundane tasks; required constant supervision, and in the words of one supervisor, represented a potential "threat" to other airmen because of a persistent inability to perform assigned duties.
As someone who authored, reviewed and endorsed literally hundreds of performance reports during three decades in the Air Force, that last statement is rather stunning. True, USAF performance reports are filled with inflated ratings and descriptive puffery, and a lot of us fought lengthy battles over EPRs and OERs that offered an exaggerated picture of an airman (or officer's) capabilities. Still, it is very rare for an evaluator to use such terms to describe a sub-standard airman:
Greene is "usually capable of handling mundane tasks with supervision" but is "not able to adapt to any changes to daily routine," the reviewer wrote, also noting that Greene had received multiple disciplinary actions for failing to perform his duties.
Greene was also written up for posting sensitive information on a military Internet server, a mistake that resulted in a three-day work stoppage. Records showed Greene was kept at Shaw while the rest of his unit deployed after leadership "recognized his inability to contribute to the wartime mission."
A year later, Greene was evaluated again, this time in his new job as an analyst working with the weapons of mass destruction section. But Greene's job had little to do with intelligence analysis and more to do with shredding documents and escorting contractors around the base.
Again receiving low marks for ineffective leadership, Greene also was rated as not knowing much about his duties or performing them effectively and not complying with minimum training requirements.
The reviewer also wrote Greene "required a daily to-do list" to perform basic duties and had a "consistent inability to follow instructions or maintain basic job knowledge." Most seriously, the reviewer wrote that Greene would represent "a threat to others" because of his inability to grasp the basics of military training.
It's also worth remembering that Alvin Greene was not some airman, fresh out of technical training. By the time the negative reports were placed in his personnel file, Greene had spent almost a decade in uniform, seven years with the South Carolina Air National Guard (1995-2002), and more than three years on active duty at Shaw AFB, near Sumter. Yet, the tasks he performed--in an intelligence squadron--were consistent with a newly-assigned airman, not someone who should have advanced to E-5 (Staff Sergeant) by that time. Greene's final EPR is indicative of someone who has been denied re-enlistment, and the performance evaluation offers support that decision.
But there are still unanswered questions about Greene's days as a blue-suiter. His performance in the Air National Guard was good enough to allow re-enlistment and someone in the organization had to recommend Greene's transfer from the guard to active duty. It would be informative to review Greene's EPRs from his days in the Guard, and the package that allowed him to transition to the active Air Force.
At best, Greene's supervisors in the ANG ignored his obviously deficiencies; at worst, they papered over his obvious flaws for more than five years, and willingly pawned him off on an active-duty unit. Unfortunately, that speaks volumes about intermediate and command-level supervision within the guard unit. If Greene was a poor performer on active duty, then it's likely that his work was equally dismal in the guard; yet no one was (apparently) willing to send him packing, until that active-duty slot became available. Kudos to that commander at Shaw for doing a job that no one else was willing to tackle.
Despite his dismal performance history, Alvin Greene still received an honorable discharge from the Air Force. And six months later, Greene was back in a military recruiter's office, this time with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Apparently, no one in the Army Guard bothered to read Green's EPRs from Shaw, because he was quickly accepted into organization. After about six months with the guard, he transitioned to active-duty again, this time in the Army.
Mr. Greene hasn't released details of his Army service (perhaps Mr. Davenport should pay another visit to Manning), but from what we know, it was sub-standard, at best. When Greene first won the Senate nomination, a soldier who served with him said the soldier-turned-candidate arrived at their unit in Korea wearing the wrong rank.
Apparently, Greene had suffered more disciplinary issues in his previous assignment, and was busted back to Private First Class (E-3) from Specialist (E-4). NCOs in Korea noted the discrepancy when Green arrived wearing a Specialist's insignia, which did not match the rank listed in the personnel records. Greene was quietly advised to put PFC stripes back on his uniform, and he remained at that rank until his discharge in 2009, after fourteen years of military service.
We emphasize that fact because it takes someone special to spend that much time in uniform, and never advance beyond the grade of E-4. We're guessing that someone in Greene's Army personnel record, you'll find evaluations similar to those from his Air Force days. There is every reason to believe that Greene was denied re-enlistment in the Army as well, prompting his switch to politics.
Clearly, not everyone is cut out for military service. Each year, thousands are discharged by the various branches of service for "failing to adapt" to military life. Ideally, that decision is made early in the career of the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, before too much time (and money) h has been wasted on their pay and training. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case with Alvin Greene. He spent almost 15 years in the military--full and part-time. We can only guess how much money was frittered away on the abortive service career of Alvin Greene.
As for the Democratic senatorial nominee, you won't be surprised by his take on that long list of military misfortunes. You see, he's a victim:
Greene protested the denial (which kept him at Shaw while the rest of his unit deployed), writing that the reviewer "only concentrates on presenting a negative perception of me by making false statements of my character" and saying the reviewer and other airmen "create a hostile work environment."
Greene also objected to that appraisal, writing that corruption to his computer "can often make it impossible for me to accomplish tasks in a timely fashion" and said another airman "cursed me out and told me I am wanted out."
To be fair, Mr. Greene does have a couple of things going for him: first of all, military service means nothing to the Democratic Party, which has long history of lying about our armed forces(John F. Kerry, who served in Vietnam); "loathed" the military (Bill Clinton) or falsified their own achievements while in uniform (Tom Harkin). Indeed, Alvin Greene may gain some street cred in certain DNC circles for having been forced out of uniform by some heartless (and probably racist) military officers.
Additionally, the national political media has absolutely no interest in the Greene story; remember, the AP dispatch was filed by a writer in Columbia, SC, not the DC bureau or a political writer at the wire service's New York headquarters. And that's a reasonable call, given the fact that Greene's chances of winning are approximately zero.
But consider this alternative scenario. What if Alvin Greene was a Republican nominee who suggested that South Carolina's economy might be improved by manufacturing "bubble head" dolls that resembled him? Or had an embarrassing military record? Or, better yet, was an active member of the Tea Party? How do you suppose the AP would handle the story? If that were the case, we guess that Mr. Davenport wouldn't be conducting interviews and research for another member of the Columbia bureau, but rather, a heavy hitter from New York or DC.
That's the way the game is played in the twilight of American journalism. And if you don't believe us, just ask the fine folks over at JournoList 2.0--the same ones who discussed smearing Karl Rove or Fred Barnes as a racist, and worked to deflect the Jeremiah Wright story away from the Anointed One.