Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Draft? We don't need no stinking draft!

From USA Today:
Edwards: No military draft if Democrats win
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Vice presidential candidate John Edwards promised a West Virginia mother on Wednesday that if the Democratic ticket is elected in November the military draft would not be revived.

During a question-and-answer session, the mother of a 23-year-old who recently graduated from West Virginia University asked Edwards whether the draft would be reinstated.

"There will be no draft when John Kerry is president," Edwards said, a statement that drew a standing ovation."

Big deal. There won't be a draft if John Kerry isn't elected, either. Edwards may as well have announced that the sun will continue shine if Kerry is elected.

Look, the draft makes sense only if the country is engaged in total war on a global basis and our society's future is in serious question. Otherwise, we don't need it. Unlike the US military of the 1930's (pre-WWII draft), today's military is a very capable force, well-equipped (although my son does fly a 35+ year old helicopter -but then again, so does the President) and well-trained. It has more tooth to tail than it used to because transferring support jobs to the civilian world or to the reserves allowed the active forces to focus more on warfighters and less on cooks and barbers. Today there is far less time spent finding "make work" projects to keep the excess troops busy (e.g. painting rock along the road white) and much more time spent in trainers, in training and in "head work." The modern active force, regardless of rate or rank, is composed of real professionals - yes, professionals -just like doctors and lawyers and accountants. Our best soldiers, marines and sailors have to continually prove themselves in exceptionally difficult training. If a lawyer like Senator Edwards has a bad day in court, he might lose a case and some money. Let's just say that in combat, the stakes are a little higher. The point is that modern warfare, as practiced by our high-speed low drag forces, is not a place for rookies or amateurs and we can't afford the babysitters that draftees would need.

The lesson of Vietnam is that draftees fought well, but had a higher death rate than professionals. I base this on statistics from an article titled "Fact vs. fiction": By B.G. Burkett and Glenna Whitley (found on the Vietnam Veterans of Florida website). Of the total number of military draftees from 1965-1973 (1,728,344), 38% actually served in Vietnam and accounted for 30.4% of combat death (17,725). However, on average, only 50% (somewhere between 40-60%) of the 38% of draftees served either in combat or in close support. That means that roughly 19% of the combat forces accounted for 30% of the deaths.

Why? Because of inexperience. Old soldiers are older soldiers because they understand combat better than rookies. That's why "new guys" were not always immediately accepted into line units in WWII- their prospective lifespan was too short to want to get too close to them (and in WWI, too, and in any army - read All Quiet on the Western Front and you'll get the idea). Experience (and more training) saves lives.

So, assume you had a draft and that a draftee spent 9 weeks getting through bootcamp. If the draftee has but two years to serve, his time is now down to 22 months. In 2 years he earns 60 days of leave. His useful service time (UST) is down to 20 months. However, bootcamp does not teach him the soldier skills he needs, advanced training is required. Job training for an M-1 Abrams Tank Systems Maintainer consists of the nine weeks of Basic Training and 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training. Part of this time is spent in the classroom and part in the field. A draftee places in such a position would then have a UST of 16 months and he would still have to spend time (probably 6 months) actually working with real equipment before he could be considered marginally qualified to go into the field. UST is now 10 months. He could make part of a deployment and then would leave the service. All along the way he will require supervision from personnel who would serve better in other roles. This is an enormously expensive way to build troop levels.

Far better to spend the money on a soldier who wants to be there and who will serve a longer period of time.

Reservists offer further proof of my point. Combat arms reservists, many of whom have experience in Desert Strorm, still require a lot of training to get back in the combat groove. In fact, one of the complaints of the active forces in Desert Storm was how long it took certain units to get up to speed. Some skills you cannot maintain on a training cycle of one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Some you can come close on, like lawyers and certain staff functions. It would be a rare reservist who was ready to step right into command of a combat brigade or of an aircraft carrier battle group...

So, stop Congressman's Charlie Rangel's draft. http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/01/07/rangel.draft/

Oh, yes, one other point. Why wasn't the mother of the WVU grad asking Senator Edwards how her son could join the fight against global terrorism or how he could serve the nation that provides his freedom and protected his life for 23 years? And why didn't the Senator make that point?

No "Duty- Honor- Country" there- just "what's in it for me" and hope someone else picks up the slack.

Well, mother of a WVU grad. Sleep well - some other mother's son or daughter has the watch tonight. And God bless them for it!

Update: Here's another site with info on draftee deaths in Vietnam: http://www.vetshome.com/vietnam.htm

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