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Monday, October 18, 2004
The Changing of the Guard
Which story is more disturbing - this one about Reservists refusing an order and shirking their duty or this one about the 11th Armored Clavary Regiment deploying to Iraq?
In my mind, they are both stories about the same problem - the failure of force management by the Bush-Clinton-Bush adminstrations. I might know something about it. I signed up in January of 1986 and ended my enlistment in January of 1997 (technically Reagan-Bush-Clinton years). I deployed with the 7th ID (Light) to Panama for 3 months of mopping up after the Invasion of Panama. I lost 5 good friends. I was recalled to active duty for the first Gulf War. I spent 3 frozen months in Germany preparing for the invasion of Baghdad that the UN never sanctioned. My National Guard unit deployed to Germany to support the mission in Bosnia for 9 months. I have deployed as an active Army member, as an Inactive Ready Reservists, and as a member of the Army National Guard.
I was challenged by my service in the Army. I might still be there had the Army kept up its end of the deal. "Be all that you can be". The truth was not be all that you can be but be all that you can be and that we are willing to allow you to participate in if the funding is available which it is not. At first, I joined the Mississippi Army National Guard as a member of a mechanized infantry unit. Seemed like the thing to do. But at basic training, I got my first glimpse at a world I liked. Challenges, training, free gun range. For me, the Army had something to offer. After a year in the Guard, I volunteered for a 3-year active duty enlistment with a light infantry division.
The problem came with the being all I could be. I was more than the Army could have hoped for in an infantryman. I liked it and I was intelligent. But I wanted to do more. I wanted two things above all else - Ranger school and sniper school. I never failed to qualify as expert with the M-16. Also, I passed the division's pre-Ranger program known as "Combat Leader Course". Of my class, 13 of 50 passed. Yet, I never came close to gaining one of the slots for either school. If the retention officer in our unit wanted to pursue me, there were only two words that would have sealed the deal - guaranteed slot. The problem is that the Army does not think in terms of gauranteeing slots to Ranger school. It just was not programmed that way. The one time I was on top of my company's list for Ranger school, the slot was given to an officer who had previously attended but dropped out due to injury. The Army put more value into his career than mine. So be it. I was free to leave at the end of my enlistment.
If you asked my friends in the Army, they would say that I always looked towards Ranger school. If I wanted a career, that was the one step that had to be taken. Officers and senior NCO's treat NCO's who have passed Ranger school differently. It is a mark that inspires and I wanted it.
My point - the two stories are about the Army's force structure. One illustrates the lack of a warrior mentality and the other is about the lack of warriors. Both are the same problem.
In previous statements, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposed that we had enough total troops but the troops we had were in the wrong places with the wrong training. Since, we have heard that the Bush administration plans to remove troops from South Korea and Germany. The UN actually controls the mission in South Korea. The forces there still enforce the cease fire from 1953. The troops in Germany actually protect Western Europe should the Soviet Union invade. Our military is devoting a large portion of its total force to two missions that ended decades ago.
If you were paying attention during the Clinton years, the military could not get a coherent message about its future. Do you remember the "Peace Dividend" that candidate Clinton hyped in his election bid. Now that the Soviet Union was gone, there was no threat to justify the expense of the mititary. Looking back, we can barely hear the vocal few who claimed that the military would need an INCREASED budget because the foe was no longer a singular entity but could come in any form. The result was a need for an increasingly flexible military with many contengencies. Yet, what we got thanks to Leon Peonetta and others was a decreased military strength.
What we can clearly see now is that we need warriors. We need to quit preparing for a war that will never come and prepare to deal with whatever may come. My cousin couragelously volunteered after September 11th. He had been in air defense artillery as an enlisted man. When he completed Officer Candidate School, they made him an ADA officer. His unit ended up performing convoy security. He was/is in an AIR DEFENSE ARTILLERY unit. Did the Iraqi air force last an hour into the war? Did they successfully launch one aircraft?
We need a military that is lighter, more flexible, and less dependant on reserve forces.
Then, we would not have the question of the Reservists who would not drive trucks. Think hard. Accept the argument that the fuel they were asked to transport was contaminated. Does that excuse them from performing their mission? HELL NO. What would history have noted had the 101st Airborne surrendered. No winter clothes, little food and weapons, no medical services. An entire division faced the best German units without any of the essential supports for fighting except strength of character. Where would we be now without their example?
All service members swear the same oath - I will obey the orders of all officers appointed over me. I took an online poll about the possible actions for the reservists. I was one of the 40% who responded that their actions should have consequences. Honestly, they should recieve a dishonorable discharge at a minimum. The political climate is in their favor. They should do do hard time. But I could settle with a dishonorable discharge.
The 11th ACR deploying is as notable as the reservist stories because it clearly lets us know how short-staffed we are. The 11th ACR is the unit currently responsible for training our forces in the desert at Fort Irwin. That training was crucial in our victories in both Gulf Wars. To pull them for a rotation is to signal that we are running out of idle troops. We need fewer mechanics, cooks, water purification units and more warriors. In order to have more warriors, we are going to have to spend more on the fewer, well-trained troops or more on the many lesser-trained troops.
As a force structure policy, we are going to have to embrace an officer (let's say the Commandant of the Marine Corps as an example) who has a bold suggestion such as a bachelor force for first enlistments. For the price of a Ranger school slot, I would be in the Army and would not be a doctoral candidate at the University of Tennessee. Had the Army been willing to invest in me, I would still be enlisted. And if media reports are accurate, I would probably be pulling a second tour in Iraq.
Read Sam's post below. Sam knows a thing or two about nuclear energy. He has conducted research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. In short, though not a subject matter expert, he has the attributes to know what questions should be asked.
Now, you and I know less about nuclear energy than many who have training, knowledge, and experience. But we are still equipped with common sense and basic knowledge base. That is what the concept of voting rests upon. The average person can make an informed and logical decision.
I have a question and the media should be answering it. More pointedly, someone in the media should have had this question occur in their minds and should have set about answering it before we news-consumers came asking. Did the post-Andrew building codes save lives, money, and time in Florida?
What???? No question about Iraq, media bias, the federal deficit, Scott Peterson, Martha Stewart, President Bush, Senator Kerry, campaign finance reform, voting machines, or yadda-yadda-yadda ad nauseum. A simple question - building codes, did they work?
First the question and then my bigger point. After the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, the state of Florida and many municipalities implemented new building codes. The metal brackets that hold rafters down are now called "hurricane clips". I have briefly touched on this subject in a previous post. After all to the media buzz and over-reporting, where is the real journalism. I remember seeing Anderson Cooper leaning into the wind on a Florida beach doing the "wind is really blowing here in Lost Umbrella, Florida." ANDERSON COOPER. He has his own show on CNN - Anderson Cooper 360. He was on a beach contributing to the highly informative hurricane update reporting. From what I gather, the wind was blowing really, really hard and the rain was like, wet. Mobile homes were destroyed. Really?????? Hmmm. Good job reporting.
Where are the journalists asking the real questions? Did the communities that imposed the more recent building codes benefit from their efforts? Did it matter? I have not seen one follow-up report, investigative spot, anything. Just some political spin about hurricanes be more frequent under the Bush Administration.
The bigger point? I would say I have average intelligence or maybe slightly above. I am not a genius. I have my limitations. If I can ponder questions of substance that have not gained the media's attention, how many more questions are out there.
An observation - the only thing Ralph Nader has accomplished it to make cars more dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Two words - air bags. Mr. Nader insisted that occupants were not wearing seatbelts and that manufacturers had to make vehicles safer. This advocacy forced air bags into existence. Air bags were developed because people were not wearing seatbelts. Yet, the warning labels clearly inform you that not wearing your seatbelt is dangerous because of the air bag. Because people were not wearing seatbelts, we forced car makers to install air bags that make the car more dangerous if you do not wear your seatbelt.
Where are the journalists hitting Candidate Nader with the hard questions. Mr. Nader, did your advocacy actually make vehicles less safe or more dangerous?
Another observation - the kevlar helmet. I was in the US Army during the transition from the steel helmet (aka steel pot) to the kevlar helmet. After some data was analyzed, the Army decided that 2 criterion for a new helmet were important - weight and breakaway chin straps. During longterm wearing (say a war), weight leads to neck problems. I can vouch for that one. A week in the field and your would get spasms in your neck. The other was noted by doctors. If the concussion of an explosion caught the helmet, the chin strap could cause a neck injury. So, the Army sank millions into development of a new helmet.
The kevlar helmet weighs 1.5 pounds more than the older steel pot and the breakaway chin straps were scrapped because the force needed to activate the mechanism was lower than daily use stress. Carrying the helmet by its chin strap could cause the chin strap to break off. So, the idea was scrapped. The replacement helmet was heavier and did not have a breakaway chin strap. The benefit of the kevlar helmet is the signature flap that extends around the back of the helmet from ear to ear. It provides added protection to your neck. The problem is that it interferes with your hearing, especially at night when vision is limited and hearing is more important.
Where is the accountability? Where are the journalists asking questions? Do we need new helmets? General, helmets are the troops #1 need? What about hearing?
Rathergate, to me, is an example of just how shallow, cowardly, and herdish the large majority of journalists have become. They do not ask thoughtful questions, they do not put careers at risk, and they cannot be original. The spirit of David Pearl is dead. In the late 1960's, had David Pearl been killed, a race would have occurred by journalists to pick up his notes and finish the story. Has anyone noticed Dan-Tom-Peter leading with an in-depth look at what story got David Pearl killed? Why not?
If you are not going to take risks, then ask real questions. Did the building codes benefit the communities? Haven't asked? Well, tell us if the wind is blowing really hard.
Roger L. Simon
Michael J. Totten
Winds of Change
Outside the Beltway
Daniel W. Drezner
The Ornery American
Iraq the Model
The New Republic Online
National Review Online
The Crayon Years
Number 2 Pencil
The Weekly Standard
New York Times