On December 15th of last year, by the hand of Army Lt. Gen. James McConville, First Sgt Katrina Moerk received an ARCOM for, wait for it, trolling. Or, so is the claim for many people in the world of Internets. The story first came to light when the U.S. Department of Defense issued a press release on December 17 highlighting Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel lauding First Sgt Moerk during the presentation of the award. The Army Times reported the story on January 2, but their emphasis was the backlash First Sgt Moerk received from the Internet community, which we know, has nothing but bad-asses. Several issues with the story confound me: sexual harassment, social media posting (ethical behavior) and the terrible awards system. I will focus on the last two because they hit home to me. Two times I have been submitted for a Bronze Star, one with Valor, and I received none, but that is a different story.
In short, First Sgt Moerk came across a YouTube video posted to a page she follows on a social media website. This video depicted a satirical representation of barracks living, where a group of soldiers showcased the barracks whore, AKA “Suzy Rottencrotch.” First Sgt Moerk objected to the video, and she was nearly instantly mocked, insulted and ridiculed by fellow trolls, some of them Active Duty Soldiers. Realizing the comments section of such a post was not the place to reprimand the soldiers, she decided to take it a step further and looked up the soldier’s Army e-mail address and correct them via e-mail Kung Fu. A year later, she received an award that any member of the Armed Forces can EARN under the following criteria: heroism, meritorious achievement and/or meritorious service.
My first issue.
I applaud the courage and actions of First Sgt Moerk. It really takes a lot of integrity to face Internet trolls and correct on their behavior, especially when they have profile pictures of themselves in a military uniform. Like it or not, they are representing anyone who has ever worn the uniform in a negative manner. I will be the first one to say that we are far from perfect, and when it comes to it, we can be a bunch of idiots. However, we are responsible to always be professional and make the American public proud of our image and behavior. We owe that and much more to them. Now, this is where she went wrong: the e-mail she sent to the soldiers was also copied to the Army’s director of SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention). One thing led to another, and the e-mail was probably passed around more than a sheep on a ship (ZING!). And, she received the award. I really think that she could have handled it in a different way. I understand her rage, her ire and what she did was justifiable. However, not attempting to fix it at the lowest level takes away from the merits of her actions. She inertly created chatter regarding the issue of sexual harassment in the service, which is good, but it is clear to me that this was not her intention as she claims that she did not expect this result (getting the award). It really baffles me how stupid service members can be over social media. Forget Big Brother who is always watching; how about our enemies? If you think that our enemies are not monitoring our Internet usage, you are out of your mind. So, why give them ammunition? Why put our families at risk unnecessarily? Please, police your social media profile, and think twice before you flex your keyboard muscles or exercise the 1st amendment.
My second issue.
Why did the Army gave her an award?! First of all, she is a First Sgt, so when she corrected those soldiers, she was doing her job. Let’s look at the criteria again. Heroism? Not there. Meritorious achievement? Nope. Meritorious service? Depends who you ask. Meritorious means praise or deserving reward. It is ridiculous the amount of awards that are handed out in today’s service. I have my personal beef with the awards system, since the Bronze Stars were downgraded for me. At the time, it did not bother me because I do my job because I love it and my country, but now, they have gotten in the way of promotion. I have needed the points of those awards to move to the next rank. Knowing the Officers who were in charge of me during those deployments did receive a Bronze Star and in their citation took credit for my actions makes me want to punch the same screen that is bringing this article to life. Squirrel! Getting back on track. She was doing her job. She probably did not want the award, and someone in her chain of command decided to reward her for doing what is expected from her. It really bothers me that the military in general is a promotion culture in which everyone is a winner; everybody is a “Top Performer,” which is far from the truth. We really need to change the ease in which awards are being given. It is not fair to those who really make a difference and not just doing their daily job.
If you want me to write on an issue of your interest, let me know on twitter or via our FB page. I have enjoyed writing on the news. On the topic, First Sgt Moerk only mistake was not to attempt to solve this at the lowest level. This was her intention. She chose to involve people with a lot more power, and as a result, she has unfairly become the target of mockery and some hilarious memes. I consider myself lucky because there is not record of all of the stupid shit that I did in my youth (gotta love the 90’s). Our youth does not have the same luxury, the Internet never forgets…. Never, ever forgets.
Sam is a USAF TACP who has been doing JTAC duties since before being a JTAC was cool. He is known to survive on cheap whiskey, craft beers and the tears of third world tyrants. He is also the only service member in history to be qualified to shoot explosive tip arrows from the back of a donkey. He is the second most interesting man in the world @Sam_Patrick_67