Saturday, December 03, 2005

An Army Broken?

Major John blogged With all the eagerness of a dog returning to something it has vomited up, the conventional media has latched onto Rep. Murtha's rambling discourse about the Army being "broken" and "has done all they can." Unmitigated crap. And I don't say this out of defensiveness or service pride - I'll tell you about how far we have had to come in a bit. First, though, a little material for you to mull over.

The US Army is quite open about how it works, what it sees for its future, what it has been told to do in the future by the civilian authorities we serve. You can see its budget, strength, recruiting, retention, doctrine and philosophy. And not just official sources. US Army Soldiers tell the world about things that go right and wrong. Also, what we do on our own. We are our own strongest critics and staunchest defenders.

You criticize yourselves when criticism is earned, but you don't do like the MSM and people like Rep. Murtha do, and that is criticize the military unfairly, in an effort to harm the country.
What really infuriates me is that someone like Rep. Murtha knows better. Ask any veteran who served between 1975-1982/3 what the Army (or the rest of the Armed Forces for that matter) were like. Drugs everywhere, low pay, morale was non-existent, equipment was falling behind or scarce, there was no great sense of mission or purpose. Only the heroic measures of a few dedicated officers and NCOs saved us from absolutely bottoming out. We needed the Reagan Era build up (hell, even Jimmy Carter, not the brightest or strongest to even stumble across the White House threshold, realized things had gone down too far, too fast, by the last two years of his miserable term in office) but almost as important, we got our elan back - we were told we mattered, we were the shield of liberty against Soviet totalitarianism. I felt that deeply, and in March of 1985 I walked straight into a recruiter's office and signed up.
And let me thank you for your service.
Oh my Lord - I had joined an Army National Guard that was about to get dragged into readiness, professionalism and competence, whether it willed or no. The first field exercise I went to featured Miller High Life to wash down the first generation MREs. By 1988, things were WAY different. I remember taking a 14 hour convoy from central Illinois up to Ft. McCoy, WI. We went straight to the field site, tactically, and didn't come out for 12 days. When we did come out, it was just in time to take a strictly graded Physical Fitness Test, clean up, pack and convoy home the next morning. The look on some of the old-timer's faces was something I will NEVER forget.

But the Gulf War (I) showed that we still had a ways to go. The National Guard Brigade called up to go fight in Desert Shield/Desert Storm never made it. We still had work to do. Bosnia, 1996-onward showed that we were awfully close. I was part of the Army Reserve serving in Operation Joint Guard/Joint Endeavor (my time was FEB 1997-NOV 1997). We didn't do too badly - even the Regular Army folks said as much. But we weren't finished yet.

The Guard and Reserve had been getting shoved through two of the worst places God made (to steal a line from Lawrence of Arabia) JRTC and NTC. I thank the Almighty I only had to go through JRTC, and not both. The same beat-you-to-your-knees-training that the Regulars had to do. It helped. You never get so good an insight into your strengths and weaknesses as when you have been worn down to exhaustion, attacked constantly and been living in a frickin' bayou the whole July.

As anyone who has read this blog knows, The Inner Prop and I served in Operation Enduring Freedom V (Afghanistan, March 2004-March 2005). We stood at the end of the longest sustained supply line in the history of human conflict. We were in war-torn Central Asia. Af-frickin'-ghanistan. We had decent food, e-mail, phone (OK, sometimes they weren't always working, but almost all the time) excellent medical support, good pay, regular (if slow) mail. We had a PXs at most of the larger bases, and coffee places sprang up too. We had so damned much ammunition that we needed to build a bigger ammunition supply point at Bagram, AF. We had so many vehicles that we were constantly squabbling over where to put them all - and we had enough up-armored ones too. Our supply warehouses were stuffed with clothing, boots, body armor and the like. "Living hand to mouth" is the worst lie of the bunch.

The constant stream of re-enlistments was a revelation to me. When I was the Executive Officer of the garrison at Bagram Airfield (a job I gladly traded away after 5 months) I had to find room to more than double the size of the Retention Office. I personally administered the oath of re-enlistment to an E-5 and an E-7. The E-5 was a mother of two young children and the E-7 was eligible to retire when we got home!
The constant stream of re-enlistments tells me that our military knows they are doing a good job, and a job worth doing. The lies the MSM has been spreading here may have hurt recruitment some (although as I understand it, all but the Army is above quota even with recruiting here, and the Army is not that far behind quota).
Broken? Hardly. Is it difficult work? Yes.
And you are doing a fantastic job. Thank you again for your service.
Do not mistake hard work for foundering. Respectfully, Rep. Murtha - you are wrong. Dead wrong.

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