Monday, April 23, 2012

The draft is stupid.

 Not sure how else to title this post after reading an opinion piece in the Washington Post about it being time to get rid of our all volunteer military and replace it with the draft. According to the WP it would seem an armed force of willing, capable, trained professionals are among a number of unnecessary traditions, ideas, and institutions we need to toss out.

 Why should we do such a thing with our armed forces? Examine this we shall. Some quotes from the article below:

"It has been too successful. Our relatively small and highly adept military has made it all too easy for our nation to go to war — and to ignore the consequences."

  So the answer is to have a less adept military comprised of amateurs instead of trained professionals? How is this a good idea? Let's send an army of surly malcontents to regional conflicts around the globe so they can fail. Brilliant! A nation that ignores the consequences of deploying an all volunteer army won't ignore the conscript one?

"The drawbacks of the all-volunteer force are not military, but political and ethical."

  If the drawbacks are not military then why alter how we recruit our armed forces? Sounds to me the problem is with politicians and their ethical decision making.

"We had a draft in the 1960s, of course, and it did not stop President Lyndon Johnson from getting into a ground war in Vietnam. But the draft sure did encourage people to pay attention to the war and decide whether they were willing to support it." 

  No, it was questionable reporting by our news media who were able to televise the war for the first time. From what I can tell most Americans agree the failure of Vietnam was one of political will.

My father told me a few stories about his experience in Vietnam dealing with drug abusers. Some leaders ignored the problem, my dad was one of those who went after them. He told me about two separate incidents where they tried to frag him. Once by tossing a hand grenade in his hooch and another grenade when they were interviewing a druggie they had caught. Both times he just happened to step out before the attack. I suspect these types of incidents do not occur as often in an all volunteer force and not by drug offenders.

"A nation that disregards the consequences of its gravest decisions is operating in morally hazardous territory." 

  How is it better to have this morally hazardous territory navigated by conscripts who are there against their will? In what fantasy world does this scenario end well?

"If there had been a draft in 2001, I think we still would have gone to war in Afghanistan, which was the right thing to do. But I don’t think we would have stayed there much past the middle of 2002 or handled the war so negligently for years after that." 

  It wasn't the military who handled the war negligently but politicians. Hmmm... perhaps the answer is to conscript lawmakers? We have jury duty after all. Why not Congressional duty?

"Resuming conscription is the best way to reconnect the people with the armed services." 

  I would suggest the author is the one who is disconnected from the armed services not American citizens. (Before anyone points out that the author is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and has written books on military command, I'd suggest these things do not mean he has any connection to troops on the ground who are making things happen.) Everywhere I go people thank me for my service or pick up my tab at a diner. Ask the families of service members how disconnected they are. If memory serves it was during the era of the draft when returning vets were spat upon. How are the people disconnected with the one government institution they have the most confidence in?

 As a matter of fact, it seems to me the draft is a great way to make true the erroneous notion our ranks are filled with rapists, the uneducated, the immoral, the desperate, and a general lower class of citizen. If the issues are political, ethical, and morally hazardous how is fiddling with a military that actively instructs its members in moral and ethical behavior the solution?

 It's like realizing our architects have created lousy blueprints.  Then we decide the solution is to fire the carpenters guild in order to hire a bunch of dudes with hammers and no desire to build. Huh? Is it me or does this sound like it would compound the problem?

Here's a military maxim to take with you: A poor plan executed well is better than a good plan executed poorly. 

 If we look to Vietnam as the writer suggests, it was a time when the armed forces was rife with drug abuse, race division, and poor leadership.  All in all this suggestion seems Orwellian in nature and quite disturbing. At a time when our military is being drawn down and only the very best are being retained, are we seriously considering replacing proven professionals with conscripted amateurs? It seems all too easy to make America weaker - and to ignore the consequences.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

My shipmate, NavyOne, has some thoughts on the same article over at the Mellow Jihadi.

UPDATE: I don't mean to imply above the draft causes an influx of drug use. As I point out in the comments, my point in using the druggie story was to illustrate a less professional, frankly criminal, element creeping in with the draft. Drugs continue to be a societal issue the military deals with. The two are not necessarily related but I have never had to protect myself from drug offenders during my tenure. Unlike my father, who related he and a buddy had to stand guard over each other when they used the head or showers. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Growing up under the green blanket.

My dad was a Marine Sergeant Major whose career spanned over 33 years and two wars.  Living under the roof of such a person, there were a few immutable rules which in retrospect I wonder weren't unique to my father's house.

One of the rules was there would be no closed doors within his home save the bathroom door. If the door to my room happened to be shut it would violently crash open, splintering under the sound waves of my dad's concussive voice: "WHY WAS THIS DOOR CLOSED?"  The concept of knocking before opening a door was utterly foreign to him. I still shudder to think what would have happened in the event the unspeakable heresy of a locked door were to have occured within our home.

In hindsight this somewhat strange mandate might be explained. My mother would occasionally agonize at the mere possibility of her son even using the word drugs. The solution in my father's mind was to eliminate this possibility by forbidding the closing of all doors I might hide any drug use behind.

This is interesting considering my dad's complete indifference to the quality or quantity of girls I  dated, how late I stayed out, or how much alcohol I imbibed.  Of course, knowing how late I was because my drunk friends were honking car horns in the driveway at 03:30 in the morning was a  completely different matter.

Another interesting phenomena I noted growing up was my dad's utter disregard for clothes while in the house. In the middle of the day, with the windows wide open, my old man would swagger throughout the place swingin' in all his magnificence.  I never understood this and am happy to report it is a trait I have not inherited from him.

I'd  express my consternation that the entire world could see his nudity parading about the living room. Windows rattled in their panes as he gave his customary response as to his worries about what other people thought: "I DON'T GIVE A #@%$! I'LL WALK AROUND MY HOUSE BUTT NAKED IF I  $%&# WANT TO!"

Whether or not this invited onlookers or kept the neighbors well away from their own windows we may never know.  

During this time I worked in a 50's diner and was dating the hostess. Late one night after work she gave me a ride home and I invited her inside.  We were chatting in my room when the old man burst through the door with a loud ka-boom naked as the day he was born: "Hey son....Whoa! Huh, see ya' in the morning!"

He shut the door behind him as he left.

Semper Fidelis!
America's SgtMaj

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Milbloggie Awards Time!

That's right gang, it's the time of year again when milbloggers the world over take out their egos and admire them.  As a SgtMaj in the Marine Corps, I must admit mine is as formidable as any.  I also need a reason to post something, so let's take a look at some of the finalists shall we?

In the category that matters we have four finalists representing the World's Finest United States Marine Corps:

All the true praetorians know who to vote for.

Maj Pain, over at One Marine's View. He's a multiple award winner and very popular. A tough nomination to beat.

Taco Bell, author of the Sandgram. A friend of ours and also a prior winner of this fine award.

ME! ME! ME! Oh, did I mention I was a finalist? For the sake of full disclosure, I won the award the first year I was nominated and there was much rejoicing.

All the above are the usual suspects if you ever follow the Milbloggie Awards at all. So it's nice to see a new hat thrown in the ring with our final nomination: Vintage Engineer Boots.

Marines aside, there are a couple other categories I have a bias in so make sure you check them out.

In the U.S. Reporter category we have Red Bull Rising authored by Charlie Sherpa. You should vote for him. Trust your SgtMaj.

Parents have a category too. In this case I recommend Semper Fi Parents or perhaps Maureen's Marine because, you know...MARINES.

Finally in the Military Spouse category my bias leans toward Kanani making things happen at The Kitchen Dispatch.  Of course, neither Kanani or I will be mad at you if you vote for Wife [Widow] of a Wounded Marine.

You can go check out the rest of the categories and finalists at the Milblogging site. The voting opens some time today and the consequences for not voting could be dire indeed!

Flog that one for not voting for Castra Praetoria!

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Combat hiatus!

The recent lack of posting is a direct result of my having been on the road and bouncing around my new area of operations, the continental United States.  I'm on my way to my new duty station but have stopped off here and there to visit family and friends.  So what does America's SgtMaj do while visiting friends? FIGHT THEM!

Above is some naginata action while I was in Sedona. When dominating friends in the training area my mantra is Meet, Defeat, Repeat.

Here I am applying a dose of super speed in order to cut a kidney out. Kidney's sell quite well on the black market.

At any rate, figured I had to post something or you all might become concerned the zombies got me.

Semper Fi,
America's SgtMaj

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ask America's SgtMaj: Martial Options

An anonymous reader asks:

   "I am thinking of taking up a martial art, I live near Cleveland and I have all kinds of options close by including Brazilian grappling, kung fu, tae kwon do etc.  I am interested in actually being able to defend myself rather than just fitness.  Any suggestions?"

I would say finding a good instructor is more important than finding the "best style" of martial art. It would be preferable to train under a sharp boxing coach rather than a Krav Maga instructor who is a clown. I have addressed some of my thoughts on martial arts before.

Personal defense begins long before any physical violence occurs.  The Japanese have a concept called zanshin: "dominating awareness." Using our capability coupled with situational awareness, we can dominate our immediate surroundings with our presence. Ideally we have created too many variables for a potential attacker to deal with.  Our comportment, vigilance, and confidence sends him in search of an easier target. This starts by using that organ between your ears. See some of my earlier posts on that subject here and here.

I myself prefer weapons based forms of training. Seems to me things you can do with a weapon you can do with your hands too. I am a member of a traditional Japanese battlefield koryu. We train with various battlefield weapons like spear, sword, etc. This is a good basis for the rest of my training including firearms, believe it or not.

A little live blade action with odachi.
When I have the time, I like to spend a few days at the Spartan Training Center in Sedona, AZ. Their training focus is weapons based, ranging from rifles all they way to empty hands. One of their principle based training systems is called Battlehand:

Working with basket hilt swords is not only great PT but is a good tie in with firearms training.

A doorway drill with two bad guys.

On the subject of firearms, let me just leave you with a quote from the late Jeff Cooper: "The pistol - learn it well and wear it always."

Again, a good firearms instructor is paramount as simply carrying a weapon doesn't make you safe. It is a common misconception that a firearm somehow works like a talisman magically protecting the bearer from harm.

"Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician." - Jeff Cooper. 

In the end we need to engage our minds before we engage our fists. Shop around before joining any particular dojo,  club, or self defense school.  Make sure they are providing the product you want. Owning a black belt never saved anyone from a good beating.

Semper Fi!
America's SgtMaj