by Jack Hadley
Farewelled by my unit and signed out on PCS leave, I stood at a German train station headed to the airport. Then my phone went ding! I reflexively glanced at it, feeling a small but noticeable tinge of stress. I was no longer a Company Executive Officer (XO), but my pavlovian response to text messages had been trained into me for months. The XO group chat. I opened the message. Just a request for help from an adjacent XO—no crisis. Still, the message sucked me back into the distraction-filled task execution I had eagerly awaited leaving behind. So right there, at the train station, I decided it was finally time to exit all seven XO-related group chats. A cathartic wave of relief washed over me. I finally felt free.
Why was my group text exodus so liberating? Because these group texts were the symbol and source of my greatest professional frustration while serving in a Brigade Combat Team (BCT): our sloppy over-reliance on texting. The effects of our poor text communication habits include spotty and ever-changing ‘guidance’, inefficient task coordination, normalized distraction, and, as a result, dissatisfied soldiers. These negative effects’ accrual will affect our combat readiness–if we don’t change our current texting norms.