Military Opinions (A Barometer)
There's always people who gripe about the military. Sometimes it's unwarranted career complainers, sometimes there's some truth to it. Because the quantity and quality of complaints about the military from the people within server as a barometer to moral and readiness, I'm including this page. Some of it indicates how I feel, some of it I feel goes too far, but it's all a barometer to military moral.
A lot of things changed after September 11, 2001, and the terrorist attack that took down four airplanes, two trade center towers, and one portion of the Pentagon. War has a way of making the military slough off the inefficiencies that build up during peacetime. We'll see what comes of it. Already the military under Rumsfield is changing towards smaller, faster units instead preparing for another Cold War slugfest.
Some Military Thoughts
Articles I've found worth saving.
AWACS Crewdog Retirement Speech
Given By Major Todd J. Leiss, 10 July 1998
AWACS CREWDOG RETIREMENT SPEECH Major Leiss retired in July, 1998. I couldn't attend
the ceremony, but his speech is the current talk of the "little people." People
were so impressed that they asked that he type this up. When he was through talking, there
was a 4 minute standing ovation.
I have been very lucky in my life. I was born to great parents that have always supported me. Then to marry my wonderful wife Kathy, who also has great parents, and who have also been very supportive. Our parents have visited us wherever we were stationed, including Guam. Kathy and I have been blessed with two wonderful children: Jason and Ryan. I am very lucky. During my career I have flown with the US AWACS, NATO AWACS, the British, and the French. Recently, I trained the "now" Japanese Mission Crew Commanders, and I have to tell you that nobody does AWACS better than us!!!
My father was drafted in May 1941, seven months before Pearl Harbor. My parents were married in 1943, and shortly afterwards he left for England. He landed at Normandy about 30 days after D-Day. My father was in General Patton's Third Army, in the Fourth Armored Division. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge, crossed the Rhine at Worms, and marched half-way across Czechoslovakia before they were told to turn back and give it to the Russians. The men of my fathers generation saved the world, then came home and built the America we know today. I am very proud of what they did. However, I am also proud that I have never had to fire a shot in anger, and, except for a few days, our country has been at peace for my entire 20-year career. The only way that we have been able to maintain that peace has been to maintain our strength! During these 20 years, I have learned a few things that I will share with you today: Know No Hatred, Golden Apples, Honor, and Management.
Know No Hatred: Growing up in N Y, a lot of fathers sat around the kitchen table every night blaming all their problems on black people. - And they didn't call them blacks. When I was sent by the Air Force to Texas A&M University, I went out with some friends. One of the girls, after hearing me speak, said she hated Yankees. For her whole life her father sat around the dinner table blaming all his problems on the Yankees. When I was stationed in Germany, I had some Dutch friends. One told me that his father sat around the dinner table blaming all his problems on the Germans. Because of hatred, I have spent many years orbiting over Bosnia and Saudi Arabia.
If you watch the news, it is hatred that is causing major problems around the world: in the Middle East, Ireland, and many other places. Once when I worked in the 552 Wing Exercises, I went to Jordan. I was staying in a nice hotel. On Friday evening they had a wedding in the hotel. Everyone was dressed in fancy suits and nice dresses; it looked like the weddings the Italians have back home in New York. They had a great party with Middle Eastern music and dancing. The very next week I stayed at a nice hotel in Israel. At the hotel on Friday night there was a wedding, everyone was dressed in nice dresses and suits, and the music was Middle Eastern. It looked like an Italian wedding.
If you tried to tell those people that they have so much in common, they would think you were the one that was crazy. If you put an Irish Catholic next to an Irish Protestant you cannot tell the difference, but they hate each other. This hatred makes it so these countries cannot have what we have. They are being held back from the progress we are benefitting from, and their economies are in shambles.
In our Air Force, we have a wide variety of people, with backgrounds from around the world. Some individuals have ways that seem strange to us, but it is this diversity that makes us strong. We have people, right here, who, because of their cultural background, look at things in different ways and help us improve every day. So, if you see hatred, try to stop it. If you can't stop it, get away from it. If you find yourself sitting around your kitchen table blaming others for your problems, then it's time to make a change in your life.
Golden Apples: When I was young, the way my mother got me to do things was by offering me Golden Apples. In school, for doing good work, the teachers would give us gold stars. Early in my Air Force career, when I was offered a bad deal, I was always offered a good deal to make up for it. I would go anywhere they needed me, knowing I would get a good deal in return. When I was here from 1985-1990, we had a lot of good TDYs and some not so good. I had my share of bad deals, but in return I got good trips too. I went remote to Iceland, and once my remote was over, I was promised an assignment to Geilenkirchen (a very good deal).
When was the last time you saw a really good deal? There are no more Golden Apples! Here in the training squadron, we fly 40 sorties per month, our crews are tired and they get no benefits for working the long hours or putting in the extra effort. So many are leaving the Air force. If they wanted us to stay, you would think they would offer us a few Golden Apples! On an 11.5-hour sortie, we could fly to Hawaii. We could fly to Alaska; we could fly to Germany, or Norway, or England. If given the vision, some creativity, and freedom, we could make our training missions fun, educational, and a Golden Apple that makes people want to stay in the Air Force. Or, how about a TDY to someplace nice, like Tyndall AFB? Give us a scheduled day off; make it a 4-day trip. Give the crews a break and let them have a little Golden Apple. A lot more would stay.
As for myself, I was offered four more years in the Air Force. I received a letter that said mark this box if you want to stay and mark this box if you will retire at 20. If they wanted me to stay, maybe one person on the Wing staff could have talked to me and offered me a reason to stay. If they wanted me they would have said that I was valuable, and that they needed me and my experience. I understand how things work, I know they couldn't promise me much, but they could have offered me a small Golden Apple. I guess they didn't have any to give. It's not the flight pay. For most of us, it is not the money, it's not the flight pay; many enjoy the challenging work and long hours. What makes us decide to stay in the Air Force are the Golden Apples, and they seem to be all gone.
Honor: The white in our American flag stands for truth, the blue for honor. Growing up, my parents told me not to lie or cheat, and to keep your promises. If something happened and you couldn't keep your promises, then apologize. Then, it is up to you to make things right. As a supervisor, we make a promise to the Air Force that we will take care of our subordinates, give them guidance, and punish them if it is required. We are responsible for their performance reports and awards, and we must take the time to do it right. When we fail, we hurt those people for the rest of their careers; it doesn't matter if you're a Staff Sergeant or an Airman, a Captain or a Colonel, you must take the time to do it right. If you are going in ten directions, and over-tasked, you must tell your supervisor to give you the time you need to do what's right. If you do not, then you are not living up to the honor the Air Force expects of you.
What we see of our leaders and the things that they allow to happen to their people, make me wonder where their sense of honor is. Three years ago, I was reassigned to Tinker after 8 months and 4 days at Dover AFB. This was done because the Secretary of Defense mandated a build-up to 40 crews in an effort to reduce our TDY rate. The training squadrons worked their butts off to produce 40 crews. Numerous others were non-voluntarily assigned here. What has that promise gotten us? Less than 25 crews. What happened to their promise? Back in the 965th AACS, shortly before I came to the 966th AACS, the Squadron Commander had a brilliant idea. He insisted we fly as hard crews (my 5th hard crew experience in AWACS).
Each crew was given four "INVIOLATE" leave opportunity windows throughout the year. If you wanted to take leave, you had to sign up for one of those "inviolate" leave windows. If your parents scheduled their 50th wedding anniversary outside your window, you'd better tell them to change it. If you had already scheduled your wedding, you had better move it. Because, you had to fly with your crew, and take leave with your crew. Well, they needed another crew in Saudi and our crew was picked. It didn't matter that other crews hadn't gone on the last two rotations, and ours had. Our crew was going. I asked what about our "inviolate" leave window" - "Well, you-know, these things happen". Yes, I do know these things happen. I do know things change in the Air Force, but did our squadron commander or anyone else apologize to our crew for breaking his promise to us? Never! The rules he made were only inviolate for us to change, but not for him.
Today, we don't see a whole lot of honor among our leaders. They stand in front of us and tell us they are helping us, working for us, that, in the Air Force, people come first. Then when things get tough, we don't see them at all. As a supervisor, I could not take care of the people who worked for me. If someone was trying to complete their education I could not protect their schedule. If someone's wife was threatening to divorce them if they didn't stay home for a while, I couldn't help them. It seemed like everyday someone would come running into our flight yelling, "I NEED A WD (or CT or ASO) TO GO AWAY FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE !!! RIGHT NOW"!!! And, if they didn't have something in their schedule, they were going and I couldn't help them. Other people would put things into the schedule like Sandbox, Crayon Class, or Basket Weaving to make it look like their people were doing things. But, I could not, I couldn't lie. Of course, as soon as my poor guy was gone, someone else would come running into the flight yelling, "HOW COME THIS GUY THAT HAS BEEN TDY FOR 220 DAYS HASN'T DONE HIS WASAT (Continuation Training)"? I couldn't supervise the people I was charged to supervise. I couldn't help the people I was supposed to help. All I did was screw them. There was no honor or truth in it, and I was so thankful when I was asked to come to the 966th , where sanity reigns.
Management: Managers are now running our Air Force. They even call their new programs "Management"; things like Total Quality MANAGEMENT, and Operational Risk MANAGEMENT. They sit in meetings all day and review statistics and surveys, numbers that they think show them how things are going with those of us that are out there doing the job every day. Even our Squadron Commanders don't know what is going on in their own squadrons. They can't, because they have to spend all their time in meetings.
Those of us that have been around for a while can always tell when the managers are not comfortable with the statistics they are seeing. Instead of going out and talking to the troops, they stay locked in their ivory towers, and from out of their meetings we start to hear the worst words a crew member can ever hear: "Hard Crews". These managers say things like "Don't say 'can't' to me"; this is a CAN-DO outfit. But from them we get: You can't land early after flying 11.0 hours with no activity; you can't cancel your sortie after sitting on the ramp for six hours, when the regulation says three hours; you can't go to the Chow Hall to eat when Alice's (the flight line snack bar) is closed; you can't be trusted with a $10 comm. cord - but we issued you a $250 head set.
Once they decided on a Friday afternoon to solve the missing comm. Cord problem by taking all 24 of them off all of the AWACS planes and issuing them as a kit to each crew. Problem was, that, when the crews showed up on Monday morning at 0600L, they didn't know anything about it. So the crews had to jump through their butts to sort it all out. Eventually the meeting goers decided it was a bad idea. If they had asked us ahead of time, those that are out flying every day, we could have told them.
Recently, I was called by the command post at 3:00 in the morning after an 11.5-hour sortie, because they couldn't find a comm. cord. The Crew Chief and I had walked through the jet after we landed, and we had both signed the 781 stating that the comm. cords were all there. I guess, as a Major my signature is worthless. Some of the decisions they make in those meetings are incredible. When I was in Saudi two years ago, we had just moved to Al Karj. We got an FCIF that said we couldn't have personal flashlights or leathermans. Have any of them ever had to walk 1/4 mile to the toilet without a flashlight, or lived in a tent without a leatherman?
These meeting goers hardly ever fly, and, all to often, when they are on the schedule, they call two days before the flight and cancel because they have to go to a meeting! Naturally, this causes the crew dogs to go through a mad scramble, rearranging their whole schedule because the Wing management failed to live up to its commitments. During their meetings, they think it's so easy to change a squadrons rotations. Recently they went from 60 days to 45 days and within two weeks back to 60 days. Every time they make even what looks like a minor change on one of their slides, they screw every single person in the squadrons, from the Airmen to the Lt Cols, not to mention every promise those people made to their families. But to the people in the meetings, it was just a number on a slide - no Big Deal!
As for me, tell me now I'm going away next year for 90 or 120 days. Let's say from December to June. Then just leave it alone!! So I can plan my life, so I can arrange for my family to spend some time together. So I can let my children know when I will be with them, when we can plan a vacation, when I can coach their little league team. I can't do it now, because those guys in the meetings never seem to leave the schedule alone, do they? It is even rarer to see anyone from our Wing staff in Saudi or Turkey. And, when they do come, they stay for a week and just get in our way.
How often have you seen any of them go on a deployment and take the place of a crew dog, so he or she can stay home for just one rotation? I have a statistic for them to look at during their meetings. See how many people in the Wing and Operations Group have earned an Aerial Achievement Medal since they have been assigned there. It only takes 20 sorties. I'll bet there aren't many. When I was young I went out with a girl whose mother was a shut in - she watched soap operas all day, every day. She came to believe that what happened on those shows depicted the way that the world really is. Soap operas were her reality. Now our managers have become like that old woman. They stay shut in their meetings and have no idea of what is really going on with those of us who are doing the job. The Air Force doesn't need any more managers. The Air Force needs leaders! Leaders who are out with the troops, and seeing what's going on every day!
Now, it is time for me to go. I know it is because I find myself sitting around my kitchen table every night blaming all my problems on the Air Force's managers.
Thank you all for coming. I will miss you and the Air Force very much. For my entire twenty years, in spite of its problems, I have loved every day.
Retirement Speech. It wasn't fun.
The following is the retirement address of Marine Col Wayne Shaw who
recently retired from Quantico after more than 28 years of service.
In recent years, I've heard many Marines, on the occasion of retirements, farewells, promotions and changes of command refer to the "fun" they've had in the Marine Corps; "I loved every day of it and had a lot of fun" has been voiced far too often. Their definition of "fun" must be radically different from mine. Since first signing my name on the dotted line 28 years ago I have had very little fun. Devoting my entire physical and mental energies training to kill the young men of some other country was not fun. Worrying about how many of my own men might die or return home maimed was not fun. Knowing that we did not have the money or time to train as best we should have, was not fun either. It was no fun to be separated from my wife for months on end, nor was it fun to freeze at night in snow and rain and mud. It was not much fun to miss my father's funeral because my Battalion Commander was convinced our peacetime training deployment just couldn't succeed without me. Missing countless school and athletic events my sons very much wanted me to see was not much fun either. Not being at my son's high school graduation wasn't fun.
Somehow, it didn't seem like fun when the movers showed up with day laborers from the street corner and the destroyed personal effects were predictable from folks who couldn't hold a job. The lost and damaged items, often irreplaceable family heirlooms, weren't much fun to try to "replace" for pennies on the dollar. There wasn't much fun for a Colonel with a family of four to live in a 1200 sq. ft. apartment with one bathroom that no welfare family would have moved into. It was not much fun to watch the downsizing of the services after Desert Storm as we handed out pink slips to men who risked their lives just weeks before. It has not been much fun to watch mid-grade officers and senior Staff NCOs, after living frugal lives and investing money where they could, realize that they cannot afford to send their sons and daughters to college. Nor do I consider it much fun to reflect on the fact that our medical system is simply broken. It is not much fun to watch my Marines board helicopters that are just too old and train with gear that just isn't what is should be anymore. It is not much fun to receive the advanced copies of promotion results and call those who have been passed over for promotion.
It just wasn't much fun to watch the infrastructure at our bases and stations sink deeper into the abyss because funding wasn't provided for the latest "crisis". It just wasn't much fun to discharge good Marines for being a few pounds overweight and have to reenlist Marines who were HIV positive and not worldwide deployable. It sure wasn't much fun to look at the dead Marines in the wake of the Beirut bombing and Mogadishu fiascoes and ask yourself what in the hell we were doing there. I could go on and on.
There hasn't been much fun in a career that spans a quarter century of frustration, sacrifice, and work. So, why did you serve you might ask? Let me answer that: I joined the service out of a profound sense of patriotism. As the son of a career Air Force Senior NCO, I grew up on military bases often within minutes flying time from Soviet airfields in East Germany. I remember the Cuban Missile crisis, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the nuclear attack drills in school, and was not many miles away when Soviet Tanks crushed the aspirations of citizens in Czechoslovakia. To me there was never any doubt that our great Republic and the last best hope of free people needed to prevail in this ultimate contest. I knew I had to serve. When our nation was in turmoil over our involvement in Vietnam, I knew that we were right in the macro strategic sense and in the moral sense, even if in the execution phase we may have been flawed. I still believe to this day that we did the right thing. Many of our elite in the nation today continue to justify their opposition to Vietnam in spite of all evidence that shows they were wrong and their motives either naive or worse. This nation needed to survive and I was going to join others like me to ensure it did.
We joined long before anyone had ever referred to service in the infantry units of the Marine Corps as an "opportunity." We knew the pay was lousy, the work hard and the rewards would be few. We had a cause, we knew we were right and we were willing when others were not. Even without a direct threat to our Nation, many still join and serve for patriotic reasons.
I joined the Marines out of a sense of adventure. I expected to go to foreign countries and do challenging things. I expected that, should I stick around, my responsibilities would grow as would my rewards. It was exciting to be given missions and great Marines to be responsible for. Finally, I joined for the camaraderie. I expected to lead good men and to be led by good men.
Marines who would speak frankly and freely, follow orders once the decision was made and who would place the success of the mission above all else. Marines who would be willing to sacrifice for this great Nation. These were men I could trust with anything and they could trust me. It was the camaraderie that sustained me when the adventure had faded and the patriotism was tested.
I was a Marine for all of these years because it was necessary, because it was rewarding, because our nation needed individuals like us and because I liked and admired the Marines I served with ... but it sure wasn't fun. I am leaving active service soon and am filled with some real concerns for the future of our Marine Corps and even more so for the other services. I have two sons who are on the path to becoming Marine Officers themselves and I am concerned about their future and that of their fellow Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers. We in the Corps have the least of the problems but will not be able to survive in a sick DoD.
We have gone from a draft motivated force, to an all volunteer force, to the current professional force without the senior leadership being fully aware of the implications. Some of our ills can be traced to the fact that our senior leadership doesn't understand the modern Marine or service member. I can tell you that the 18 year old who walks through our door is a far different individual with different motivations than those just ten years ago.
Let me generalize for a moment. The young man from the middle class in the suburbs comes in to "Rambo" for a while. He has a home to return to if need be and mom has left his room unchanged. In the back of his mind he has some thoughts of a career if he likes it or it is rewarding. The minorities and females are looking for some skills training but also consider a career if "things work out." They have come to serve their country but only in a very indirect way.
They have not joined for the veterans' benefits because those have been truncated to the point where they are useless. No matter what they do, there is no way it will pay for college and the old VA home loan is not competitive either. There are no real veteran's benefits anymore... It is that simple, and our senior leadership has their head in the sand if they think otherwise. As they progress through their initial enlistments that are four years or more now, many conclude that they will not be competitive enough to make it a 20-year career or don't want to endure the sacrifices required. At that point they decide that it is time to get on with the rest of their lives and the result is the high first term attrition we currently have to deal with.
The thought of a less than honorable discharge holds no fear whatsoever for most. It is a paper tiger. Twenty years ago, an individual could serve two years and walk away with a very attractive amount of Veterans benefits that could not be matched by any other sector or business in the country. We have even seen those who serve long enough lose benefits as we stamped from weaker program to weaker program. This must be reversed. We need a viable and competitive GI Bill that is grandfathered when you enter the service, is predicated on an honorable discharge and has increasing benefits for longer service so we can fill the mid-grade ranks with quality people. We must do this to stop the hemorrhage of first term attrition and to reestablish good faith and fairness. It will allow us to reenlist a few more and enlist a few less. The modern service member is well read and informed. He knows more about strategy, diplomacy and current events than Captains knew when I first joined. He reads national newspapers and professional journals and is tuned into CNN. Gone are the days of the PFC who sat in Butzbach in the Fulda Gap or Camp Schwab on Okinawa and scanned the Stars and Stripes sports page and listened to AFN. Yet our senior leadership continue to treat him like a moron from the hinterland who wouldn't understand what goes on. He is in the service because he wants to be and not because he can't get a job in the steel mill. Three hots and a cot are not what he is here for. The Grunts and other combat arms guys aren't here for the "training and skills" either. He is remarkably well disciplined in that he does what he is told to do even though he knows it is stupid. He is very stoic, but not blind.
Yet, I see senior leaders all of the time who pile on more. One should remind them that their first platoon in 1968 would have told them to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. These new Warriors only think it... He is well aware of the moral cowardice of his seniors and their habit of taking the easy way out that results in more pain and work for their subordinates. This must be reversed. The senior leadership must have the moral courage to stop the misuse and abuse of the current force. The force is too small, stretched too thin and too poorly funded. These deficiencies are made up on the backs of the Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers. The troops are the best we've ever had and that is no reason to drive them into the dirt. Our equipment and infrastructure is shot. There is no other way to put it. We must reinvest immediately and not just on the big ticket items like the F-22. That is the equivalent of buying a new sofa when the roof leaks and the termites are wrecking the structure.
Finally, let me spend a minute talking about camaraderie and leadership. I stayed a Marine because I had great leaders early on. They were men of great character, without preaching, men of courage without bragging, men of humor without rancor. They were men who believed in me and I in them. They encouraged me without being condescending. We were part of a team and they cared little for promotions, political correctness, or who your father was. They were well-educated renaissance men who were equally at home in the White House or visiting a sick Marine's child in a trailer park. They could talk to a barmaid or a baroness with equal ease and make each feel like a lady. They didn't much tolerate excuses or liars or those with too much ambition for promotion. Someone once told me that Priests do the Lord's work and don't plan to be the Pope. They were in touch with their Marines and supportive of their seniors. They voiced their opinions freely and without retribution from above. They probably drank too much and had an eye for beautiful women as long as they weren't someone's wife or a subordinate. You could trust them with your life, your wife, or your wallet.
Some of these great leaders were not my superiors --- some were my Marines. We need more like them at the senior levels of Government and in military leadership today. It is indeed sad when senior defense officials and Generals say things on TV they themselves don't believe and every service member knows they are lying. It is sad how out of touch with our society some of our Generals are. Ask some general you know these ten questions:
1. How much does a PFC make per month?
2. How big is the gas tank on a Hummvee?
3. Who is your Congressman and who are your two Senators?
4. Name one band that your men listen to.
5. Name one book on the NY times bestseller list.
6. Who won the last Superbowl?
7. What is the best selling car in America?
8. What is the WWF?
9. When did you last trust your subordinates enough to take ten days leave?
10. What is the leave balance of your most immediate subordinate?
We all know they won't get two right and therein lies the problem. We are in the midst of monumental leadership failure at the senior levels. Just recently, Gen Shelton (CJCS) testified that he didn't know we had a readiness problem or pay problems.... Can you imagine that level of isolation? We must fix our own leadership problems soon. Quality of life is paid lip service and everyone below the rank of Col. knows it. We need tough, realistic and challenging training. But we don't need low pay, no medical benefits, and ghetto housing. There is only so much our morality should allow us to ask of families. Isn't it bad enough that we ask the service members to sacrifice their lives without asking their families to sacrifice their education and well-being too? We put our troops on guilt trips when we tell them about how many died for this country and no hot water in housing is surely a small sacrifice to make. "Men have died and you have the guts to complain about lack of medical care for your kids?" The nation has been in an economic boom for damn near twenty years now, yet we expect folks in the military to live like lower middle class folks lived in the mid fifties. In 1974, a 2nd Lt. could by a Corvette for less than his annual salary. Today, you can't buy a Corvette on a Major's annual salary. I can give you 100 other examples... An NROTC midshipman on scholarship got $100 a month in 1975. He or she still gets $100 in 1999. No raise in 25 years? The QOL piece must be fixed. The Force sees this as a truth teller and the truth is not good.
I stayed a Marine despite the erosion of benefits, the sacrifices of my wife and children, the betrayal of our junior troops and the declining quality of life because of great leaders, and the threat to our way of life by a truly evil empire that no longer exists. I want men to stay in the future. We must reverse these trends. There will be a new "evil empire" eventually. Sacrifices will need to be made and perhaps many things cannot change, but first and foremost we must fix our leadership problems. The rest will take care of itself, if we can only fix the leadership problem. Then, I still can't promise you "fun" but I can promise you the reward and satisfaction of being able to look into the mirror for the rest of your life and being able to say: "I gave more to America than I ever took from America.... and I am proud of it.
Semper Fi and God Bless you!"
of the Vietnam Generation
By James Webb
[Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star medals for heroism as a Marine in Vietnam. His novels include The Emperor's General and Fields of Fire.]
The rapidly disappearing cohort of Americans that endured the Great Depression and then fought World War II is receiving quite a send-off from the leading lights of the so-called '60s generation. Tom Brokaw has published two oral histories of "The Greatest Generation" that feature ordinary people doing their duty and suggest that such conduct was historically unique.
Chris Matthews of "Hardball" is fond of writing columns praising the Navy service of his father while castigating his own baby boomer generation for its alleged softness and lack of struggle. William Bennett gave a startlingly condescending speech at the Naval Academy a few years ago comparing the heroism of the "D-Day Generation" to the drugs-and-sex nihilism of the "Woodstock Generation." And Steven Spielberg, in promoting his film Saving Private Ryan, was careful to justify his portrayals of soldiers in action based on the supposedly unique nature of World War II.
An irony is at work here. Lest we forget, the World War II generation now being lionized also brought us the Vietnam War, a conflict which today's most conspicuous voices by and large opposed, and in which few of them served. The "best and brightest" of the Vietnam age group once made headlines by castigating their parents for bringing about the war in which they would not fight, which has become the war they refuse to remember.
Pundits back then invented a term for this animus: the "generation gap." Long, plaintive articles and even books were written examining its manifestations. Campus leaders, who claimed precocious wisdom through the magical process of reading a few controversial books, urged fellow baby boomers not to trust anyone over 30. Their elders who had survived the Depression and fought the largest war in history were looked down upon as shallow, materialistic, and out of touch.
Those of us who grew up on the other side of the picket line from that era's counter-culture can't help but feel a little leery of this sudden gush of appreciation for our elders from the leading lights of the old counter-culture. Then and now, the national conversation has proceeded from the dubious assumption that those who came of age during Vietnam are a unified generation in the same sense as their parents were, and thus are capable of being spoken for through these fickle elites.
In truth, the "Vietnam generation" is a misnomer. Those who came of age during that war are permanently divided by different reactions to a whole range of counter-cultural agendas, and nothing divides them more deeply than the personal ramifications of the war itself. The sizable portion of the Vietnam age group who declined to support the counter-cultural agenda, and especially the men and women who opted to serve in the military during the Vietnam War, are quite different from their peers who for decades have claimed to speak for them. In fact, they are much like the World War II generation itself. For them, Woodstock was a side show, college protestors were spoiled brats who would have benefited from having to work a few jobs in order to pay their tuition, and Vietnam represented not an intellectual exercise in draft avoidance or protest marches but a battlefield that was just as brutal as those their fathers faced in World War II and Korea.
Few who served during Vietnam ever complained of a generation gap. The men who fought World War II were their heroes and role models. They honored their fathers' service by emulating it, and largely agreed with their fathers' wisdom in attempting to stop Communism's reach in Southeast Asia. The most accurate poll of their attitudes (Harris, 1980) showed that 91 percent were glad they'd served their country, 74 percent enjoyed their time in the service, and 89 percent agreed with the statement that "our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win." And most importantly, the castigation they received upon returning home was not from the World War II generation, but from the very elites in their age group who supposedly spoke for them.
Nine million men served in the military during the Vietnam war, three million of whom went to the Vietnam theater. Contrary to popular mythology, two-thirds of these were volunteers, and 73 percent of those who died were volunteers. While some attention has been paid recently to the plight of our prisoners of war, most of whom were pilots, there has been little recognition of how brutal the war was for those who fought it on the ground.
Dropped onto the enemy's terrain 12,000 miles away from home, America's citizen-soldiers performed with a tenacity and quality that may never be truly understood. Those who believe the war was fought incompetently on a tactical level should consider Hanoi's recent admission that 1.4 million of its soldiers died on the battlefield, compared to 58,000 total U.S. dead.
Those who believe that it was a "dirty little war" where the bombs did all the work might contemplate that it was the most costly war the U.S. Marine Corps has ever fought-five times as many dead as World War I, three times as many dead as in Korea, and more total killed and wounded than in all of World War II.
Significantly, these sacrifices were being made at a time the United States was deeply divided over our effort in Vietnam. The baby-boom generation had cracked apart along class lines as America's young men were making difficult, life-or-death choices about serving. The better academic institutions became focal points for vitriolic protest against the war, with few of their graduates going into the military. Harvard College, which had lost 691 alumni in World War II, lost a total of 12 men in Vietnam from the classes of 1962 through 1972 combined. Those classes at Princeton lost six, at MIT two. The media turned ever-more hostile. And frequently the reward for a young man's having gone through the trauma of combat was to be greeted by his peers with studied indifference or outright hostility.
What is a hero? My heroes are the young men who faced the issues of war and possible death, and then weighed those concerns against obligations to their country. Citizen-soldiers who interrupted their personal and professional lives at their most formative stage, in the timeless phrase of the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, "not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, but in simple obedience to duty, as they understood it." Who suffered loneliness, disease, and wounds with an often contagious Úlan. And who deserve a far better place in history than that now offered them by the so-called spokesmen of our so-called generation.
Mr. Brokaw, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Spielberg, meet my Marines.
1969 was an odd year to be in Vietnam. Second only to 1968 in terms of American casualties, it was the year made famous by Hamburger Hill, as well as the gut-wrenching Life cover story showing the pictures of 242 Americans who had been killed in one average week of fighting. Back home, it was the year of Woodstock, and of numerous anti-war rallies that culminated in the Moratorium march on Washington. The My Lai massacre hit the papers and was seized upon by the anti-war movement as the emblematic moment of the war. Lyndon Johnson left Washington in utter humiliation. Richard Nixon entered the scene, destined for an even worse fate.
In the An Hoa Basin southwest of Danang, the Fifth Marine Regiment was in its third year of continuous combat operations. Combat is an unpredictable and inexact environment, but we were well-led. As a rifle platoon and company commander, I served under a succession of three regimental commanders who had cut their teeth in World War II, and four different battalion commanders, three of whom had seen combat in Korea. The company commanders were typically captains on their second combat tour in Vietnam, or young first lieutenants like myself who were given companies after many months of "bush time" as platoon commanders in the Basin's tough and unforgiving environs.
The Basin was one of the most heavily contested areas in Vietnam, its torn, cratered earth offering every sort of wartime possibility. In the mountains just to the west, not far from the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the North Vietnamese Army operated an infantry division from an area called Base Area 112. In the valleys of the Basin, main-force Viet Cong battalions whose ranks were 80 percent North Vietnamese Army regulars moved against the Americans every day. Local Viet Cong units sniped and harassed. Ridge lines and paddy dikes were laced with sophisticated booby traps of every size, from a hand grenade to a 250-pound bomb. The villages sat in the rice paddies and tree lines like individual fortresses, criss-crossed with trenches and spider holes, their homes sporting bunkers capable of surviving direct hits from large-caliber artillery shells. The Viet Cong infrastructure was intricate and permeating. Except for the old and the very young, villagers who did not side with the Communists had either been killed or driven out to the government-controlled enclaves near Danang.
In the rifle companies we spent the endless months patrolling ridge lines and villages and mountains, far away from any notion of tents, barbed wire, hot food, or electricity. Luxuries were limited to what would fit inside one's pack, which after a few "humps" usually boiled down to letter-writing material, towel, soap, toothbrush, poncho liner, and a small transistor radio.
We moved through the boiling heat with 60 pounds of weapons and gear, causing a typical Marine to drop 20 percent of his body weight while in the bush. When we stopped we dug chest-deep fighting holes and slit trenches for toilets. We slept on the ground under makeshift poncho hootches, and when it rained we usually took our hootches down because wet ponchos shined under illumination flares, making great targets. Sleep itself was fitful, never more than an hour or two at a stretch for months at a time as we mixed daytime patrolling with night-time ambushes, listening posts, foxhole duty, and radio watches. Ringworm, hookworm, malaria, and dysentery were common, as was trench foot when the monsoons came. Respite was rotating back to the mud-filled regimental combat base at An Hoa for four or five days, where rocket and mortar attacks were frequent and our troops manned defensive bunkers at night.
Which makes it kind of hard to get excited about tales of Woodstock, or camping at the Vineyard during summer break.
We had been told while in training that Marine officers in the rifle companies had an 85 percent probability of being killed or wounded, and the experience of "Dying Delta," as our company was known, bore that out. Of the officers in the bush when I arrived, our company commander was wounded, the weapons platoon commander was wounded, the first platoon commander was killed, the second platoon commander was wounded twice, and I, commanding the third platoon, was wounded twice. The enlisted troops in the rifle platoons fared no better. Two of my original three squad leaders were killed, the third shot in the stomach. My platoon sergeant was severely wounded, as was my right guide. By the time I left my platoon I had gone through six radio operators, five of them casualties.
These figures were hardly unique; in fact, they were typical. Many other units-for instance, those who fought the hill battles around Khe Sanh, or were with the famed Walking Dead of the Ninth Marine Regiment, or were in the battle for Hue City or at Dai Do-had it far worse.
When I remember those days and the very young men who spent them with me, I am continually amazed, for these were mostly recent civilians barely out of high school, called up from the cities and the farms to do their year in Hell and then return. Visions haunt me every day, not of the nightmares of war but of the steady consistency with which my Marines faced their responsibilities, and of how uncomplaining most of them were in the face of constant danger. The salty, battle-hardened 20-year-olds teaching green 19-year-olds the intricate lessons of that hostile battlefield. The unerring skill of the young squad leaders as we moved through unfamiliar villages and weed-choked trails in the black of night. The quick certainty with which they moved when coming under enemy fire. Their sudden tenderness when a fellow Marine was wounded and needed help. Their willingness to risk their lives to save other Marines in peril. To this day it stuns me that their own countrymen have so completely missed the story of their service, lost in the bitter confusion of the war itself.
Like every military unit throughout history we had occasional laggards, cowards, and complainers. But in the aggregate these Marines were the finest people I have ever been around. It has been my privilege to keep up with many of them over the years since we all came home. One finds in them very little bitterness about the war in which they fought. The most common regret, almost to a man, is that they were not able to do more-for each other and for the people they came to help.
It would be redundant to say that I would trust my life to these men. Because I already have, in more ways than I can ever recount. I am alive today because of their quiet, unaffected heroism. Such valor epitomizes the conduct of Americans at war from the first days of our existence. That the boomer elites can canonize this sort of conduct in our fathers' generation while ignoring it in our own is more than simple oversight. It is a conscious, continuing travesty.
SNCO Academy Graduation Speech
by General John P. Jumper at Maxwell AFB, Ala., 27 June 2001
Thanks for that introduction Sergeant Davis (SMSgt Johnny Davis). Thank you Don (LtGen Donald Lamontagne, Commander, Air University), for your interest in furthering the interests of Aerospace Power. And thank you Chief Ball (CMSgt Ball, Commandant, SNCO Academy), for the invitation to speak here tonight.
On this date in 1950, President Harry S. Truman committed US Air Forces, along with Naval Forces, to their first major conflict following the establishment of our separate service. We stand ready today, as we did over half a century ago, to protect American values at home and abroad. You graduates are already committed to your nation, and are the true leaders of the force. To you falls the responsibility of sustaining the best Air Force on the face of the earth.
Tonight I am going to tell you about heroes -- small heroes, but heroes nonetheless; heroes that have been beacons of inspiration in my life and career. My first memory is when I was two years old -- sitting in my Dad's lap in the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang. He was a second lieutenant just after WWII. We were stationed at a small base near Tokyo during the occupation of Japan. His job was to take fighter planes that had arrived by barge, and after all the preservatives were removed, to test fly them and ferry them inland to their permanent bases. Before I was 3 years old I had time in all the great WII fighters: P-51, P-43, P-38 and British Spitfire. I just wish I could remember more about them than the noise they made.
I grew up in an era of heroes; my Dad's contemporaries were all heroes, like Chuck Yeager who was the first to fly faster than the speed of sound. My Dad commanded an F-106 interceptor squadron at Langley AFB, Virginia and we lived on Eagan Avenue. On the same street were several of the Mercury 7 astronauts. I was captured in the world of flying, and heroes from an early age. They were larger than life; I knew that even then -- but there were other heroes not so large.
When I was the commander of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida we were in the final day of an ORI. We already had achieved an Outstanding, and had generated 71 of 72 jets. I was sitting back in the command post, ready to knock it off, when the DCM (we had DCM's back then) came in and said, "Boss, before we knock it off, you need to come out and see this."
So we jumped in a truck and went down to the flightline, and there was a group of about 5 people pushing a jet down the taxiway. There was that 72nd jet, a jet with an engine write-up, being pushed over to the trim pad, trying to get the last check done to run up the engine and generate the jet. On the way, the towbar had broken, but these folks were doing what they needed to get the airplane ready to fly. See, it was a matter of pride with that last crew chief that his jet was going to be generated for the ORI. So the DCM and I jumped out, and we started pushing the jet too. And more folks along the flightline started to join in. People in buildings all around the base started filing out to help get this jet to the trim pad. By the time that the last check was done, and the chief signed off the checklist, there were probably 3,000 people gathered in the area -- a lot of them probably had no idea what was going on -- -and when he signed it off, a cheer arose that was better than anything you have ever heard in the Super Bowl.
When I was commander of the 457th Fighter Wing at Nellis AFB in Nevada, I got an unusual call. The Chairman of the racing division at General Motors called and asked to come out and take a look at our operations. I agreed, and he and some of his folks came out to look around. We had an aircraft out on the flight line and some of our maintenance troops there to talk with the GM team. The Chairman asked the young NCO out there if the aircraft was ready to fly. He said "No, see if you look up here, you can see that the power supply is burned out, but I've got the part over to Sgt Smith in the repair shop, and he'll get it fixed and get it out here; If he doesn't get it out here, I'm gonna go over and kick Sgt Smith's butt. We'll have it installed and ready at about 1400 so it can fly this afternoon." The GM folks were amazed that this young man would place such personal interest in the mission status of this aircraft. He asked the young Sergeant why he was so motivated to make it happen. And this crew chief replied that "Well, sir, that's my name on the side of the airplane." It's that kind of professional pride that we have in the Air Force, and you don't always see in the outside world.
Next, I'd like to talk to you about something that happened during Operation ALLIED FORCE. Specifically, let me describe a single night from ALLIED FORCE that I'll never forget, 27 March to be exact. In fact, some of you may also remember this night, because it was the night we lost the F-117 near Belgrade.
Now those of us that were in Vietnam learned very early to dread the sound of an aircraft emergency beacon. And as I sat in my office at Ramstein AB, through the marvels of modern technology, I could hear that beacon and knew that we had lost one of our own. An F-117 had been hit, right over the center of downtown Belgrade, and managed to glide to the outskirts of the city before the pilot was able to eject. Well, soon after this, a young Captain named Cherry -- an A-10 pilot -- scrambled his aircraft and began to organize the search and rescue effort. And I sat there and listened to him do exactly what our nation had trained him to do: direct planes to the tanker, position surveillance aircraft, and coordinate with the helicopters to set up for a very difficult effort to save his fellow airman.
While this was happening, I had one of those red phones you see in the movies, with all the buttons -- the first one being the President, and the rest all the way down the chain of command. Well, this thing was ringing off the hook! All the lights are flashing at once, and everyone with the same questions: "Why aren't we in there?" "When are we going to pick him up?" and so on. In the background, that young Captain Cherry was calmly continuing to marshal the forces, ensuring that every piece was in place prior to executing the rescue. Well, my answer to some high officials in our government was "Sir, the very best thing we can do is let Captain Cherry do his job. There's nobody better equipped to do what needs to be done." When the time came, it was incredible to see a package of 75 aircraft converge on downtown Belgrade, just waiting to pounce on the smallest move from the Serbians. There wasn't a peep! The helicopters then worked their way into the area, picked up a very grateful pilot, and brought him out safely, followed by the rest of the package. It was truly inspiring to watch the spirit, dedication, loyalty and patriotism all come together.
But what do these stories tell us? What do they mean? These are demonstrations of character -- manifestations that attend the character of those able to transcend preoccupation with self -- that virtue within us all which elevates the human spirit, compels us to reach beyond our meager selves -- commands us to seek more -- to attach our spirit to something bigger than we are.
When I was a Rat at VMI, entering in 1962, the cadet Regimental Commander was a fellow named Josiah Bunting. Si graduated in the class of 1963, was a Rhoades Scholar, served in the US Army in Vietnam and has since devoted his life to higher education, having been a professor at the United States Military Academy and President of several colleges. He is now the Superintendent at VMI and a noted author. Si Bunting lectures widely on value-based education. I recently heard him render the finest definition of character I have ever heard. He said, "character is integrity projected over time." And then he reminded his audience that the Indo-European root of the word integrity is "tag" -- to touch.
Literally translated, the word integrity means "that within us that cannot be touched." But we went through a period in the decade of the 90s where the AF lost some of its character as an institution. We once had a quality Air Force that was ruined by a concept known as Quality Air Force. During the early '90s, I was in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff and in OSD while the Air Force was taking up something called the Quality Air Force.
When I was going to take command of 9th Air Force, the QAF had taken root. Now, I had read about Deming and Baldridge, and some of what they said made sense -- common sense. The management tools they talked about were good in some cases. We were using them as well -- we didn't talk about it though, we just did it. When I arrived at Shaw, the first guy to meet me was the Quality guy. He said we needed to have an off-site -- get the staff together and come up with our "mission, vision and goals" for the future. I understand the off-site idea, get folks focused on planning and get away from the distractions of the office. Then he started talking about how we needed to break down barriers. And this was a little curious, so I asked him how we were going to do that. He said, "Well, we're not going to wear our uniforms -- and we are going to call each other by our first names." It was all about breaking down barriers in his mind. It was bullsshit. My plan was a little different. We went off station, but we wore uniforms, and we used ranks and were professional in all we did. We used no coaches, no timekeepers, and we were able to accomplish everything we set out to do, and more. We were told to believe that big business had all the answers. "Quality" was used as a substitute for leadership. It let words and slogans guide our behavior. Words like 'empowerment,' 'break down barriers.' We stopped mentoring our people. We lost touch with the fine art of chewing ass.
An example of this is the Blackhawk shootdown. We screwed up with those F-15 pilots. The essential nature of our business is to gain and maintain air superiority by shooting down bad guys. When you visually ID an aircraft and shoot it down, and it's one of ours, you have failed in your primary mission. It's worse than a doctor taking out the wrong lung. Something should have been done. Then Gen Fogleman made his video about accountability. He sat there as chief, on the edge of his desk, and with an angry tone talked about how we were going to be accountable for our actions. Scared a lot of people in the fighter community. He said we needed to have our flyers take responsibility for their actions. For starters, a good butt-chewing would have worked.
Another example is the Lieutenant Kelly Flynn situation. You remember, she was the one who was caught messing around with an enlisted member's husband. Now, the press tried to make it into an adultery issue. It was never an issue about adultery; it was about lying. Lying, and taking responsibility for your actions. Now her squadron commander had the opportunity to stop the problem before it got out of hand. If he would have brought young Lieutenant Flynn into his office and said, "I don't know if the stories I'm hearing are true or not, and frankly, I don't care. But I'm giving you one chance, and one chance only to knock it off!" I guarantee that would have been the end of it. That's what our young people today need: a little personal attention and counseling.
So this virtue of character is about institution, but it's also about individuals. The character we seek to define is the fire of conscience that burns within us and superintends our conduct over a lifetime. But character is out of vogue in this world whose standards are set more by the culture of Beavis and Butthead, or the Simpsons, than by the standards of, say, our founding fathers: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison.
These men were truly unique. They transitioned easily from the pulpit to the plowshare to the musket. They wrote the history of their time with powerful words that will live forever: The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Federalist Papers. And they used words we don't hear today -- Words that describe the supreme traits of virtue and character that inspired them. Words like Continence: "Self-restraint; the ability to refrain from impulse."
Also Disinterested: "Free of selfish motive;" -- intellectual curiosity in the lifeblood of real civilization." Thomas Jefferson once said of John Adams that he was "as disinterested as the being who made him." It was the supreme compliment for one who was totally devoted to crafting the framework of a new nation. It is that same dedication we see in the F-15 crew chief, or the A-10 pilot who is determined that we won't leave one of our own stranded deep in enemy territory.
Bunting describes the "death of shame." It is the propensity that exists in today's society to reward the most unconscionable behavior with a "tell-all" book or a movie contract. To hate the sin but love the sinner; to turn the perpetrator into the victim; to deflect blame and responsibility anywhere but on me. But this is not a diagnosis of despair -- these traits of culture are turned around by generations that seek the path of higher standards. Such a generation sits before me tonight.
You, here, have chosen such a path -- the path of most resistance instead of least resistance. The path that can forge the very character we seek to revive. And it will be tested -- again and again -- as you exercise the power of your choices: To do the right thing and to make it prevail at whatever cost; to always speak the complete truth; to assume responsibility; to be accountable for your mistakes as well as rewarded for accomplishments; and, to make these choices without calculation of risk or reward. It is the sum of that power which gives strength to this nation, and will define the character and integrity of your generation of senior NCOs. You, as future Air Force Leaders, must earn the right to lead our heroes.
Finally, here are a few practical tenets that have served me well for more than 35 years in uniform. Jumper's Rules of Life:
Number 1. Your most meaningful memories will be the times when your character, integrity, endurance, stamina or fortitude were most challenged and you had the courage to do the right thing.
Number 2. The things that make you feel best about yourself will not be things you do for yourself, but the good things you do for others. During the Kosovo war one member of my staff went to a refugee camp where twenty thousand or so Kosovar Albanians were living in tents. As he entered the front gate with several other people they were immediately surrounded by a huge throng of people -- none of them could speak English but soon a chant began to arise from the people: "NATO, NATO, NATO." The people were grateful; they were alive because NATO was protecting them from the Serbian military that had tried to eliminate them.
Number 3. I can tell you exactly how to get ahead -- the unfailing key to success: Always do the best at the job you have right now -- the rest will take care of itself. How remarkable it is that prosperity, good luck and fortune come to those who work hard.
Number 4. The experiences in your life that truly elevate the human spirit will not come from material rewards, but from moral and spiritual rewards that attend virtues of sacrifice, duty, honor and courage.
So, as you sit here tonight you are ahead in the marathon of life and your goal is to finish. You have already demonstrated the virtues of hard work and success that shape character. Stay on that path -- remain the same person that got you where you are today -- listen to the wisdom that surrounds you: your seniors, your peers, your spouses, your children all contribute to that wisdom. They have walked the path you are on and they do understand. They are beside you here tonight because they care. Remain united with them into your future.
Thank you, and God bless the United States of America and the US Air Force.
Fighter Pilot In Iraq
The following is a verbatim transcript of a speech someone gave about their experiences as a combat fighter pilot in Desert Storm (1990). It was widely forwarded at the time, and the name was stripped off at some point. I have no idea who this person was - I wish I knew. This presentation apparently had some slides or photos to go along with it, so you can only imagine what they're referring to by the context of their words. The text has been cleaned up a bit to make it an easier read, but the content hasn't been touched. This is a sobering recollection of personal experiences that illustrate how "personal" war is.
(Speaker) Over the years I've been asked to talk about desert storm and not long ago I was asked to give a presentation on my personal lessons learned from my experiences in combat. Well, to put this list together I sat down - I spent about an hour and a half making this list and I kept thinking and thinking and thinking... what can I put on there? Great lessons I learned I wanted to pass onto future generations and when I finished I had about 15 items, and I realized that none of them were lessons learned. Not one of them. Every one of them was a person, or an event, or just a feeling I had. But I have never forgotten, and never will. And that's what I want to talk to you about today.
It's important before I start for you to remember that combat, any kind of combat, is different for everybody. You know aerial combat happens at about a 1000 miles an hour of closure. It's hot fire, cold steel, its instant death, big destruction, it happens like this and it's over. Ground combat's not that way as you can imagine. And those of you who've heard infantry soldiers talk about it know it's kinda endless time, and soaking fear, and big noises and darkness. It's a different game. And you need different training to do it, and different types of people to handle it well and to provide leadership in that environment. So it's different. But it doesn't matter how many people you have standing beside you in the trench, or how many people you have flying beside you in the formation. Combat - especially your first combat - is an intensely personal experience. And so during the course of this commandant's leadership series over this year you're going to hear different people give different opinions and different perspectives. Today I'll tell you the things I remember.
(First slide) You don't have to see this picture very well...it's an F-16 parked on a ramp with a helmet on the canopy rail. One week before desert storm the air campaign actually started we were flying missions called taco bell. Because we'd go fly up north up in northern Saudi Arabia and practice dropping simulated bombs at night on targets in the desert to see how well the army was camouflaged themselves against our radar and to see if we could find them so we could all get qualified in that for those of us who didn't do it full-time. And then we'd all line up and how many airplanes we had, 6 or 8 or 10 F-15's we'd do it at higher altitudes, the air to ground guys would do it at lower altitudes everyone would push it up to 500 knots at the same time and we'd all run straight for the border. (Laughter). And we'd take a lift through the signal intelligence gathering platforms and how the Iraqi radars and air defense systems reacted to this. And folks, we'd collect data on this and that's how we helped put together the air campaign plan for the first night of the war. On this particular night when we were done with our run for the border we hit a post strike tanker heading back to the base I was staying at which was about an hour and ten minutes south in the United Arab Emirates almost 400 miles away. We got gassed up by the tanker and climbed up to flight level 420 (about 42,000 feet) plugged into mid-afterburner cause we had a full tank of gas and we could burn it up, put the auto-pilot on and lean back in that 30 degree tilt back seat and just kinda stared at nature. And it was a gorgeous night. The moon was big and full and directly overhead and I remember thinking I can't believe how bright the desert moon is. And out around the horizon, something I had never seen before and still haven't seen to this day, was a halo. A beautiful, huge white halo that went all the way around the moon. Completely unbroken. I talked to my wingman later and he said he did the same thing I did we just stared at that thing all the way home going, ...I can't believe how beautiful this is... It's one of those moments you have flying airplanes. And you don't forget. I'll never forget the halo.
I also won't forget that when I landed that night Major JD Collins my Assistant Operations Officer met me at the bottom of the ladder and said, "boss, we lost an airplane." You can't see the name on the canopy rail but it's Michael Chinberg. Captain Mike Chinberg had joined us only 2 weeks before that in the desert because he'd stayed back in Utah to get married. He and his wife April had been married 2 weeks when he told her that he had to go to the war and join the boys and he headed over to join us, he'd just finished his 3 ride local checkout and he was on his 2nd night ride. We think that somehow Mike got a light on the ground confused with his flight lead's rotating beacon and he tried to rejoin on as he headed for the tanker. Chins hit the ground going 675 miles an hour, 60 degrees nose low inverted and full afterburner...he died relaxed. (Next picture.) This was at his memorial service 2 days later. I don't think dying relaxed was good news to his wife April when I called her and told her after we had confirmed he was in that smoking hole. Or to his Mom and Dad. When I called them and told them - I won't forget those phone calls. And I won't forget sitting here looking at this airplane with the helmet with Chin's name on the visor cover, his name on the canopy, and his spare g-suit hanging under the wing with is crew chief saluting the jet while bagpipes, the bagpipe tape of Amazing Grace played in the background and every fighter pilot on base had these big stupid sunglasses on so nobody would know that they were bawling their eyes out. And I won't forget staring at this airplane thinking, how many more of these are we going to have when the war starts?
(Next slide) The night before the war started, the squadron commanders got told by the wing commander that we were kicking it off tomorrow morning. So we gather our squadrons together at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon we give most of them the first briefing they've seen, the first real mission that we were going to fly which we'd preplanned and only a small group had seen it. And then I did what I thought was a real "commanderly" thing ...I told em all to go back to their rooms and before I gave them the tail number of the morning, they had to hand a letter to me to their family. And in that letter the game plan was to shed all of the emotional baggage you'd take with you into combat. "I didn't tell my wife this…", "I didn't hug my daughter...", "I didn't do this…", "I didn't call my parents…" …because the phones were shut off at this point. And I told them they didn't fly until I got that letter. Which shut em all up for the first time since I'd known them. And they headed out the door and I'm feeling pretty proud of myself and patting myself on the back and my Ops officer Lt Col Adams came up to me and said, "what a great idea." And I nodded knowingly and he said, "By the way you can give me a letter before I give you your tail number in the morning." Now if you haven't had the pleasure of sitting down and thinking about your family, this was mine at the time (pictures of family) - it still is, it just changed sizes (laughter). If you haven't tried to tell your children that you're sorry you won't be there to see their next ballet recital or watch them play little league baseball, or high school football, or graduate from college, or meet their future spouse, or get to know your grandkids, or if you hadn't had the pleasure of telling your parents how important they were to you, and trying to do it on a piece of paper at midnight, 9000 miles away from them, or try to tell your spouse how the sun rises and sets in her eyes, then you haven't lived. I'd recommend it. I won't forget writing that letter.
(Next slide) Next morning we got up at about 1:30 in the morning because we had a 2:15 briefing. This is the base we were staying at, it's called Al-Minhad. It's in the United Arab Emirates, it's about 2 miles long and about a mile wide, the whole thing. You could see the main runway, a parallel taxiway and on that side of the picture there's a road that ran the whole length of the base. In the upper left corner is where the tents were for the officers and the hootches and then about halfway down the field is where the tent city was. That next morning at 1:30 we got up, all my guys met in the chow hall, we had breakfast, we jumped in cars to drive down for our mass briefing, which was down here at the lower left-hand corner of this slide. And as we drove down that parallel road, two things happened. The first was the folks from Col. Tom Rackley's 421st Fighter Squadron lit their afterburners as part of the first launch of the Gulf War. The night fighters in the 421st. And at 20 second intervals as we traveled down that road, they lifted of going this way one at a time. They accelerated about 400 miles an hour and pulled the nose up and went straight up to avoid SAMs at the end of the runway, pulled that afterburner, and disappeared. And I suddenly realized that was the first time I'd ever seen airplanes take off with no lights on. Cause obviously we were darked out for combat. It was pretty sobering.
And we're halfway down this road and one of the guys in the car with me says, "boss… look at this" and he points out the right side of the car. (Next slide) This is the tent city that was off the side of that road, that road this is the bottom and we were traveling down going this way. And on the right side of that road as we came to tent city I looked over and thousands of people, the population of this tent city who wasn't working that night, had come out of their tents when that first afterburner lit and they were standing along this road. They were in uniforms, (for those that had just gotten off work), they were wearing jeans, they were wearing cutoffs, they were wearing underwear, pajamas, everything. And not one of them is talking. They're just watching these airplanes take off. Because they knew what was going on. And the other thing that I noticed immediately was that all of them were somehow in contact with the person next to them. Every single one of them. They were holding hands or holding their arm or had their arm around shoulders or on the back or they were just leaning on each other. These are people that don't even know each other. But they're all Americans. They're all warriors. And they're all part of the cause. And as we rode down that road I will never ever forget their faces coming into those headlights and fading out. It's burned in here.
(Next slide) Later that morning after our initial briefing for the first mission of the war, we went to the life support trailer where all the flying gear was for my squadron. All 24 airplanes were flying, so 24 of my guys were going and I was lucky enough to be the mission commander for this first one. Now anybody who's been in a fighter or any kind of flying squadron knows that in life support, as you're getting ready to go, this is a pretty raucous place. You're giving people grief, you're arguing at who's better at whatever... something's going on all the time... it's fun. This morning, there wasn't a sound. Not a whisper. That's Col. Andy Perona right there on the right. USAFA (US Air Force Academy) class of 73. Guy next to him's Major JD Collins USAFA class of 75. I got dressed listening to nothing but the whisper of zippers as people pulled on flight gear. I walked out of the trailer down to the bottom of the steps, left the door open so the light from the inside shined out just in a little pool outside these steps outside the trailer because the rest of the base was blacked out and we were under the camouflaged netting and you couldn't see anything outside this trailer. And as my guys came down the steps I took each one of their hands and just nodded at them. Nobody said anything. And I watched as one by one they turned and disappeared into the black. As each one left I wondered if he'd be coming back that afternoon. Cause we didn't know. And then when the last one had gone, Master Sergeant Ray Uris who ran my life support shop and had been standing in the doorway watching this walked to the bottom of the steps, shook my hand, and watched me disappear. I'll never forget watching their backs disappear in the dark.
(Next slide) In the background is an airplane that was flown by my squadron weapons officer. His first name is Scott and I won't give you his last...he's USAFA 78. About the 2nd week of the war we flew a mission against the nuclear power plant south of Baghdad. I believe Col. Rackley may have been the mission commander for this, I don't remember. Col. Rackley, by the way, is also USAFA...class of 71, I think. Scott was a leader for 12 airplanes on this mission, and this mission was scary. Easily the scariest thing we saw in the war. Cause the Iraqis defended the area south of Baghdad and they really defended the nuclear power plant. From about 25 miles to the target till we got to the power plant, I bet I saw 100 SAMs (Surface to Air Missle) in the air. And I remember screaming and cussing to myself all the way to the target until it came time to roll in and drop the bombs at which point your training takes over and you kinda go quiet. Until you drop your bombs, and then you start screaming and cussing again. (Laughter). This was scary. Scott's wingman got hit as we came off target...an SA3 blew up, we don't know how close, right underneath his airplane and blew off his fuel tanks, put about a 113 holes in the airplane...73 of them through the engine bay and engine compartment, which isn't good in a single engine F-16. And for the next 2+ hours Scott escorted him as they tried to find an emergency base to land at because the weather had rolled in and they went to 5 different places and they couldn't get him on the ground. And Scott worked emergency tanker diverts, he was having tankers come to them to get gas...he was phenomenal. He saved this guy's life.
So he landed about 3 hours after the rest of us did. I heard he was on the ground, I was in a debrief, I came out and I walked out to see how things had gone with his wingman, and it was dark by this time, and I walked out toward that life support trailer, I came around the corner under this darkened out camouflage netting and I ran into something. And then realized that it was Scott. And Scott was standing leaning against a bunch of sand bags, just holding on to them, and shaking like a leaf. He couldn't walk, he couldn't talk, he couldn't move anything. All he could do was stand there and shake. Guy had nothing left. All his adrenaline was gone. He gave everything he had that he could do that day. And as I'm trying to figure out what the heck do I do with Scott, the door to this life support trailer opens and a young life support technician named Shawn, who was a farmkeep from Minnesota -- 19 years old-walks out, looks at what's going on, walks down, and says, "boss, I know you got stuff to do. I'll take care of it." And I said, "well let me help you get him inside. "And he says, "boss, you got stuff to do, I'll take care of it." So I left. And I saw Shawn helping Scott up the steps in the life support trailer as I went around the corner. About 5 hours later, about 2 in the morning, I left the mission planning cell and I went to see how Scott was doing back in his tent. And when I got up to the tent, I kinda came around the corner... and this is January in the desert, folks, it's cold outside...and there's Shawn sitting in the sand in front of the tent shaking like a leaf cause he's still wearing BDU pants and the t-shirt he had on in life support. And he's got a pistol in his hand. And this was in the first week of the war...we were worried about the terrorist threats, and you know, guys coming and helping out the Iraqi cause. And Shawn had taken that to heart. And I said, "Shawn, what are you doing here?" He said, "Sir, I was afraid the Major would wake up, he'd finally gotten to sleep, and if he wakes up I wanna make sure I let him know everything's okay. "You'll meet lots of Shawn's in the Air Force. And I'll never forget this one.
(Next slide) This is a Catholic priest ... this is father John Pearson. Father John was our Squadron Chaplain. The first day of Desert Storm, as we headed out to the airplanes after we walked out into the black I told you about, I got to my jet and standing right in front of the nose of the jet is father John. At first I thought he was a crew chief so I got close enough to see who he was. Now Father John was popular with us because father John was the first guy to buy you a whiskey, he was the first guy to light up a cigar; he was the first guy to start the party, the last guy to leave (laughter). And he would've been the first one, along with Father Pat I suspect, of wading into hell with his BVD's to pull you out if he had to. We knew father John real well...he fit in great with the Fighter Squadron. As I got to the airplane, Father John just said, "hey, I thought you might like a blessing before you go." And I immediately hated myself because I consider myself fairly comfortable in my religion. And I'd never thought of that. Too many other "wrong priorities" on my mind at the time. So I knelt down on the cement right there in front of the jet and father John gave me a blessing. And I went over to the preflight of the airplane and as I'm getting ready to climb up the ladder I notice all these guys running, coming out of the darkness, who had seen this. And all my other pilots are running over to the airplane to get father John to bless them. (laughter) So he did. And when everybody came back safe from the first sortie we kinda decided that's it. Father John has to bless everybody. (A lot of laughter). Can't change that. And it didn't matter if you were Jewish or Baptist or Islamic, it just didn't matter. Father John gave the blessing for the 4th Fighter Squadron. And the amazing thing was it didn't matter whether you flew at 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning, we flew around the clock. And later on talking to Tom Rackley who was commanding the 421st, I found out that father John did the same for his guys. I don't know how he did it. But he did, and every time I landed from a combat sortie ... every single time ... my canopy would open, I'd shake the hands of Sgt. Manny Via, my crew chief, who was the first guy I shook hands with everyday, then I'd climb down the ladder and at the bottom of the ladder was father John to bless me and welcome me home.
(Next slide) When I came back from Desert Storm I ended up alone, different story… but I ended up single ship returning to Hill AFB, and when I pulled up into the parking spot here these are the folks who were waiting out front. Now my squadron had been home for 3 days before I got there and down at the far end you'll recognize Father John again (laughter). That's my wife Betty, and a couple of my kids, and a couple of their friends who were with them. I'd written Betty and told her about Father John and his blessings… and you want to know how cool she is? When this airplane stopped, and the canopy came up, Manny Via climbed the ladder and shook my hand, and I walked down to the bottom of the ladder and Betty told Father John: "You first…" Father John walked over and blessed me and welcomed me home. And then Betty and I did some serious groping (crazy screams and laughter).
(Next slide) A year and a half later, a year and a half later...father John Pearson dropped dead of a massive heart attack. Great story, huh? Too much whiskey. Too many cigars, too many parties, I guess...a week after he died, 16 of the 28 pilots who flew in my squadron in desert storm were at his funeral at Stockton, California. They came from Korea, they came from Europe, they came from Australia, they came from all over the United States. To tell his family about Father John, and to bless him, and ask God to walk him home. I'll never forget Father John Pearson.
(Next slide) This is a place called Allamaya barracks in northwestern Iraq. These are ammunition storage bunkers. They're not real significant. Except there's a guy I want to tell you about who had something to do with the holes in them. His name's Ed, USAFA class of 86. Ed left for the desert with his wife Jill, pregnant with her first child. This is a story repeated throughout Desert Storm and all the services and throughout history in the military. Obviously he couldn't go home for the birth. About 2 in the morning one night, I got woken up in my hooch by my exec who said, "yeah, call up the command post" which was about ten minutes away. So I get dressed and go sprinting to the command post and it's my wife. And she says, "Mark, I'm at the hospital in Ogden, Utah and Jill Rank is in labor and she's having problems. Is there any way we can get Ed on the phone with her." So we went and rousted Ed, brought him down to the command center and my wife had worked out some arrangement with the hospital, so when Ed walked in, sat down, and I handed him the phone, he's talking to Jill who's in the middle of a really bad labor. And as he held the phone with one hand and talked to his wife, I sat in front of him in a chair and I held his other hand. For about 2 hours. Which is something neither of us has ever admitted publicly before. (laughter) And I could see the happiness in his eyes every time he said she talked back to him and said anything. And I could see the worry and the pain in his eyes every time another contraction started and he heard her flinch or gasp or scream. And I felt him squeeze my hands every time he could tell she was really in pain. And I saw him smile when he heard his son Nate cry for the first time, from 9000 miles away. (Next slide) And he says Ed, when he came home and met his 6 month old son Nate, I'll never forget Nate. 12 hours after Ed hung up that phone, he was the cell leader for a 12 ship of F-16s that hit those bunkers at Allamaya barracks. It was the best battle damage assessment we had in our squadron during the war. They hit every target and a lot of them, as you saw on that photo, dang near dead center. Ed went from caring, concerned, loving, father and husband, to cold-blooded, calculated killing-machine in 12 hours. Only in combat folks. I'll never forget watching the transformation.
(Next slide) One of the most important things about combat is sound. Anybody who's been there will tell you that things you hear are the things you remember the longest. Now I want to tell you about two things I heard that I'll never forget. The first one was during one of our missions up north in the Baghdad area, a pilot and an F-16 from another unit who was part of the strike package we were in was hit by a surface to air missile. And over the strike common frequency, because one of his radio systems was damaged he could only talk on the radio with the strike frequency...and he couldn't change off that frequency for some reason, we listened to he and his flight lead talk about his airplane falling apart as he tried to make it to the border so rescue could get to him. And he'd come on every now and then and talk about the oil pressure was dropping, and vibrations were increasing, and his flight lead would encourage him to stick with him, we can get there, we can get there. This went on for about 14 to 15 minutes. Until finally he said, "oil pressure just went to zero." And then, "my engine quit." And then, "that's all I got. I'm outta here. "Now we couldn't see him. I'm not exactly sure where they were. But there wasn't another sound on that radio for another 14 or 15 minutes. And then there was a kind of pregnant pause, and then the last call we heard was "tell my wife I love her." I'll never forget those 14 minutes.
The other thing I heard was when the ground war actually started and an F-16 pilot by the name of Billy Andrews, some of you may have heard or seen or met, cause he won the air force cross for his actions that day, was shot down in the middle of the retreating Republican Guard, and I mean right in the middle of them. A call went out from AWACS, "is there anybody around who had the ordinance and the fuel who could get to where he was located in case we needed him for SARCAP." And a lot of people responded but the first one that I really paid attention to was the voice of an army Chinook helicopter pilot, who came on the radio and said, "look, I've got this much gas, here's my location, I can be here in that many minutes, give me his coordinates ... I can pick him up." Now everybody knew where the Republican Guard was and everybody knew he was right in the middle of them. And you gotta remember a Chinook is about the size of a double decker London bus with props on it. And it doesn't have guns on it. And I don't know how you feel about women in the military, but I guarantee you I would follow her into combat. And I'll never forget her voice. Last two things I'm going to mention: This is the highway of death. You guys have seen it in pictures before.
(Next slide) This road leads north out of Basra, it's a retreat route of the Republican Guard and they got cut off, right about where the black smoke went over the Euphrates river valley and everywhere from there south it looked like this. Not a new picture...I'll tell you what's significant about it. I killed people here. Me. This combat is an intensely personal thing, folks. I think I mentioned that. I've killed people before during this war, but this time I saw 'em. I saw the vehicles moving before the bombs hit. I saw people getting out and running and then I aimed at 'em with CBU. And dropped hundreds of bomblets on their head to make sure they wouldn't get away. War is a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. There is nothing good about it. But it is sometimes necessary. And so somebody better be good at it. I am. Trapper Carpenter is. Corkie Vonkessel is. I guarantee General Oelstrom is. He didn't get to be a 3 star general and do the things he's done by not being good at this business. You better be.
(Next slide) And I won't forget this. Before I got back to the US, as I was flying in Tom Rackley's squadron on the way to the east coast of the United States. We checked in on the first US air traffic control site that we had talked to the entire route and Col. Rackley checked in with something along the lines of ah, it was Boston Control: "this is Widow Flight, 24 F-16s coming home." And the air traffic controller responded "welcome home, Widow." And then at regular intervals for the next 5 or 10 minutes, every airliner on that frequency checked in and said something. "Welcome back." "Good job." "Great to have you home." "God bless you." Whatever... About 10 minutes after that I got my first glimpse of the US coastline......
Heart On The Line
By Frank Schaeffer, Washington Post, Tuesday, November 26, 2002; Page A29
Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me. Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.
In 1999, when the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way. John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and flawless uniforms. I did not. I live on the Volvo-driving, higher education-worshiping North Shore of Boston. I write novels for a living. I have never served in the military.
It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown and New York University. John's enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling. I did not relish the prospect of answering the question "So where is John going to college?" from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard. At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.
"But aren't the Marines terribly Southern?" asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation. "What a waste, he was such a good student," said another parent. One parent (a professor at a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and suggested that the school should "carefully evaluate what went wrong."
When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3,000 parents and friends were on the parade deck stands. We parents and our Marines not only were of many races but also were representative of many economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of pickups, others by bus. John told me that a lot of parents could not afford the trip.
We in the audience were white and Native American. We were Hispanic, Arab and African American and Asian. We were former Marines wearing the scars of battle, or at least baseball caps emblazoned with battles' names. We were Southern whites from Nashville and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids from Cleveland wearing ghetto rags and white ex-cons with ham-hock forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos. We would not have been mistaken for the educated and well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John's private school a half-year before.
After graduation one new Marine told John, "Before I was a Marine, if I had ever seen you on my block I would've probably killed you just because you were standing there." This was a serious statement from one of John's good friends, an African American ex-gang member from Detroit who, as John said, "would die for me now, just like I'd die for him."
My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before. I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends. She has two sons in the Corps. They are facing the same dangers as my boy. When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it. His younger brother is in the Navy.
Why were I and the other parents at my son's private school so surprised by his choice? During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit. If the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?
Have we wealthy and educated Americans all become pacifists? Is the world a safe place? Or have we just gotten used to having somebody else defend us? What is the future of our democracy when the sons and daughters of the janitors at our elite universities are far more likely to be put in harm's way than are any of the students whose dorms their parents clean?
I feel shame because it took my son's joining the Marine Corps to make me take notice of who is defending me. I feel hope because perhaps my son is part of a future "greatest generation." As the storm clouds of war gather, at least I know that I can look the men and women in uniform in the eye. My son is one of them. He is the best I have to offer. He is my heart.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book, co-written with his son, Marine Cpl. John Schaeffer, is "Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps." He will answer questions about this article in a Live Online discussion at 1 p.m. today at www.washingtonpost.com
Doesn't Kill Enemy Soldiers -- It Kills Ours
By David H. Hackworth, 27 October 1998
The Pentagon is broke, right?
It has to be. The generals and admirals and service secretaries have been shaking their tin cups, crying poverty and telling horror stories about how our defense machine is flat out of gas. And last week the Republican Congress, who never saw a new weapon they didn't want to buy or a military budget they couldn't fatten, filled those cups right up. Not only did they stuff $270.5 billion in the 1999 defense bill -- they added another $9 billion kicker.
Even by Washington standards, where a billion bucks is petty cash, $279.5 billion is a swag of dough! Especially when you consider that since Desert Storm, our active-duty military has been slashed by almost a million folks. This budget provides more defense money per soldier than at anytime in our country's history, more even than during World War II and the Cold War when Hitler and Stalin were coming at us. Even though in 1998/99, apart from terrorism, we don't have a serious enemy in sight.
For sure our soldiers and sailors are hurting. Their military housing and medical benefits stink and most of their trucks, tanks and aircraft are older than the kids who operate them. They're also miserably paid -- 13.5 percent lower than comparable civilian jobs, where by the way, the employees are not being shot at and they come home to Mommy every night.
But will this incredible amount of money -- more than the rest of the world combined
spends on defense -- be spent on the right stuff or will the Pentagon continue to buy the
wrong weapons for wars and strategies long since over or just waste it on foolishness?
My bet's on more $2 billion B-2 bombers, $2 billion Sea Wolf Submarines, $10 billion
carriers (aircraft included) and other gold-plated obsolete cold war relics. The Pentagon
doesn't want to know that the Soviets are no longer on the radar screen and that what's
left of the former Evil Empire is on USA provided food stamps.
And then there's the foolishness!
Recently the four-star out in South Korea flew to the USA to attend a conference. His giant aircraft carried only 10 passengers. The round-trip cost was close to a half-million bucks. And, by the way, the conference was held not at some austere military base but in sunny Corona, California. At a luxury resort.
The USAF conducted a military mission transporting Keiko the whale, the star of the movie
"Free Willy," to Iceland. The $200 million cargo plane's landing gear was broken
on the trip. Cost to the Tax payer: $2 million. The Air Force apparently has no problem
flying a movie star around while it's airplanes are grounded because of a lack of spare
Morale is essential to soldiering, right? The 1999 budget takes care of that. It includes $50 million for Viagra. Now do young soldiers need encouragement in this area? Wonder who all these pills are for?
A three-star Army general down in Texas spent over a million bucks dolling up his headquarters with trappings fit for royalty. Meanwhile his troops were worried about where the next roll of toilet paper was coming from. The general did such a good job wasting taxpayer money that he was promoted and moved to Georgia where he and his aspiring interior designer wife can continue their assault on taxpayer's bucks.
At another Texas Army base, a unit spent over $450,000 on landscaping the desert areas in their motor pool. This consisted of having contractors tear up the grass, put plastic down and put gravel on top of that. A sergeant says "This seems all the more ridiculous when you look at the fact that my battalion is deploying to Southwest Asia in March and we don't have enough money to fix our vehicles."
In the last three years, Newt Gingrich forced the Air Force to buy 20 C-130 aircraft -- built in his home district -- that the Air Force did not want. Cost to you: a cool billion bucks. (There were no additional funs to provide for maintaining them, putting fuel in them, people to fly or work on them. Just a billion dollars to buy them. Wayne) I've yet to see pork or perks put a hole in an enemy soldier. Nothing will change until you get out there and demand that defense dollars be spent on defense. Have a good week.
Keep five yards. *
*Means spread out so one round won't get us all.
Support For War Erodes So Fast
We're not raising kids to be war heroes
by James P. Pinkerton, June 30, 2005. Click
here for link to article.
'Americans have always held firm." So said President George W. Bush in his Iraq-war speech on Tuesday night. But in point of fact, Americans haven't been holding firm in recent decades. And there's an underlying demographic logic to that softening, which Bush, as well as future presidents prosecuting future wars, will have to take into account.
Bush's speech will surely boost popular support for his Iraq campaign, but what's most striking is the steep decline in support during the past two years. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 53 percent of Americans now believe that the Iraq war was "not worth fighting" - the seventh consecutive poll during the past nine months to show such a majority.
A further peek at the poll numbers finds that by a margin of 69 percent to 29 percent, Americans view the level of casualties in Iraq as "unacceptable." And yet by historical standards, in the sweep of U.S. history, the Iraq casualties - about 1,750 killed in the past 27 months - are, to put it bluntly, negligible. During the Civil War, Union forces lost 360,000 men, out of a population of 22 million. Which is to say, almost 2 percent of the entire Northern population was killed in four years. Yet President Abraham Lincoln hung on to his support and was re-elected by a landslide in 1864. Of course, public opinion polling and television didn't exist back then.
But there's another factor, too: big families. In 1860, more than half the population of the U.S. was under 19. It's a cold fact that if there are a lot of kids around the household, it's easier to give some over to war. But the long-term trend toward smaller families has undercut this demographic "surplus." That's the underlying reason Americans did not "hold firm" in Vietnam, and why they do not seem to be holding firm in Iraq. Then and now, American forces were not in danger of losing on the battlefront. But the home front was, and is, a different story.
The first Americans were killed fighting in Vietnam in 1957. By the summer of 1965, total KIAs in Vietnam reached the same level that they are in Iraq today. Yet four decades ago, support for the war stayed stronger longer. A majority of Americans didn't say Vietnam wasn't worth fighting for until August 1968, by which time some 30,000 American soldiers had been killed. So while Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War was one-hundredth as costly as Lincoln's Civil War, on a relative basis - the 36th president, unlike the 16th president, was thwarted in his bid for re-election.
The percentage of children in the country was a key factor in these shifting war-presidency fortunes. By 1965, the share of under-19-year-olds had fallen sharply, to 37 percent. So in 'Nam, each combat fatality - magnified, of course, by the media - was felt more strongly. Today, the under-19 percentage is down to 27. Families that once had five or six kids now have a couple at most. Poll numbers on Iraq - and plummeting enlistment rates - show the impact of demography on the polity.
These long-term trends, and their political implications, were evident to one farsighted thinker more than a decade ago. In 1994, Edward Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., surveyed the U.S. experience in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia and concluded, in a Foreign Affairs article, that America had entered its "post-heroic" era, in which the public would have a permanently low tolerance for casualties.
In his piece, Luttwak considered possible responses to this new reality, such as recruiting more non-Americans, a la the French Foreign Legion, or learning to ignore "tragedies and horrific atrocities" when they occur around the world. In this Luttwakian scenario, the U.S. would need either mercenaries or a less interventionist agenda. Bush, and probably most Americans, would likely reject both those options. In which case, the challenge to be faced is squaring a heroic foreign policy with a post- heroic demography.
of immaculate warfare
By Ralph Peters Wed Sep 6, 7:49 AM ET
Under the right battlefield conditions, sophisticated military technologies give Western powers remarkable advantages. Under the wrong conditions and employed with unreasonable expectations, high-tech weapons inflict more damage on our own political leaders and national purpose than they do on the enemy.
Precision-targeting systems and other superweapons are dangerously seductive to civilian leaders looking for military wins on the cheap. Exaggerated promises about capabilities - made by contractors, lobbyists and bedazzled generals - delude presidents and prime ministers into believing that war can be swift and immaculate, with minimal friendly or even enemy casualties.
It's a lethal myth. The siren song of techno-wars fought at standoff range makes military solutions more attractive to political leaders than would be the case were they warned about war's costs at the outset. Inevitably, the "easy" wars don't work out as planned. Requiring boots on the ground after all, they prove exorbitant in blood, treasure, time and moral capital.
A lesson in Israel
In recent weeks, Israel lost a campaign for the first time after a government and its senior generals convinced themselves that a new form of terrorist army - Hezbollah - could be destroyed with airpower alone. The Israelis had become so confident in their technological advantage that they neglected the readiness of their ground forces. Technology failed to accomplish the mission - as it always will in the Cain-and-Abel conflicts of our time. The army had to go in on the ground. But Israel's army, too, relied heavily on technology. Most units lacked the range of infantry skills necessary to defeat a well-prepared enemy - as I saw for myself on the Lebanese border.
Israel had ignored the lessons of America's recent military experiences. In the prelude to the campaign to topple
Saddam Hussein, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his senior advisers deluded themselves that an air effort employing precision weapons - "shock and awe" - would convince the Iraqi regime to surrender. Ignoring the enemy's psychology, the techno-war zealots failed. We were more fortunate than the Israelis were, though. The United States had a professional Army and Marine Corps capable of redeeming the mistakes of the
Pentagon leadership. But in violence-torn
Iraq today, we continue to pay for the prewar fantasy that technology would solve human problems.
A paradox of this era of dazzling technologies is that the conflicts we face are born of ethnic bigotry and faith gone haywire - atavistic challenges that cannot be resolved with guided bombs or satellite imagery.
Employed incisively, technologies certainly help our troops, but they aren't a substitute for troops. And they won't be. Yet, the false promises will continue.
We've been through this before. In the 1950s, large ground forces were supposed to be obsolete, superseded by missiles. Then came Vietnam, followed by a succession of brutally human conflicts, from Lebanon through Somalia to the Balkans. For the 78 days of the
Kosovo campaign, NATO aircraft attempted to force Serbia - a weak, miniature state - to agree to treaty terms. In the end, it took the threat of ground troops to achieve the international community's goals. After the firing stopped, we found that our expensive, sophisticated technologies had been fooled by cheap Serb mock-ups of military vehicles.
Why are defense contractors and partisan generals nonetheless able to convince Congress and one presidential administration after another that technology has all the answers? Because Congress and the White House want to believe machines will get them off the hook when it comes to sending our forces into battle. And there are huge practical incentives to buy big-ticket weapons systems from politically supportive defense contractors.
The defense industry silences military leaders who know better by employing them on generous terms after their retirement from service. The system is legal, but it's morally corrupt and ethically repulsive.
Meanwhile, the impressive-in-theory capabilities of the latest weapons cloud the vision of military planners, leading them to focus on what the systems can do instead of concentrating on what needs to be done. Rather than buying the weapons we really need, we twist the conflicts we face to conform to the weapons we want to buy. The results are flawed war plans based on unrealistic expectations - in short, Iraq.
Adapting to real-world missions
None of this means that we shouldn't pursue advanced military technologies. But they must be relevant to real-world missions. We should continue to develop unmanned aerial vehicles, which are effective, versatile and affordable, as well as a new generation of tools for urban warfare, now the dominant form of combat.
Yet we continue to buy breathtakingly expensive systems designed to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists, such as the $360-million-each F-22 fighter. We're buying Ferraris when we need pickups.
We have to break the habit. We must stop pretending that technology will be decisive in the flesh-and-blood conflicts our troops will continue to face.
There will be no "bloodless wars" in our lifetimes. In the words of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a brilliant Civil War soldier and wicked man, "War means fighting, and fighting means killing." In an age of fanaticism and terror, confronted by enemies who see death as a promotion, we will not be able to find easy, sterile solutions to our security problems.
The promises made for advanced military technologies are all too seductive to political leaders with no experience in uniform. Hype kills. Until we abandon the myth of immaculate wars, our conflicts will continue to prove far more costly than the technology advocates promise.
Ralph Peters is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors and the author of the new book Never Quit The Fight.