Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Professionals

Here's some background to my comments: I spent most of my life around and in the military. Grew up in a military family (Air Force), married an Army brat. Went through Navy ROTC and served about 9 years active duty and 21 years reserve. My oldest son is a Navy pilot.

My dad was a WWII and Korea Air Force veteran who started out in the Army's segregated (mostly white officers, black troopers) horse cavalry patrolling the Mexican border, flew bombing missions over Germany with the Mighty 8th Air Force, flew B-26 missions in Korea, and ended up serving in the Strategic Air Command during the long, dark Cold War years. My father-in-law won a Bronze Star on the beaches of Normandy and, as a tanker, spent several years in Germany holding the Fulda Gap. They were professionals. Experts.

Before GPS, my dad could navigate a bomber group through the sky from point A to point B using the stars, the sun and some math. And get them there on time, on target. Probably uniquely for an Air Force officer, because of his cavalry background, he could shoot a .45 while on a horse at a gallop and hit his target. My father-in -law served as an advisor in Vietnam almost before anyone knew we were there. They could guide junior officers, put up with the admin and get the mission done. They were the good guys. And they were just part of the larger team.

In my own service I did Vietnam (on a ship), Desert Storm (on the beach in Saudi Arabia) and Kosovo staff duty at the NATO headquarters in Italy. Though much of my time was reserve, the reserves became the "subject matter experts" in a lot of areas the active forces decided were not needed on a daily basis. We got pretty good at some things. I know in the Army that the Civil Affairs people were/are largely reservists. Lawyers, city managers and mayors. People with the skill set to help other countries develop. Professionals.

My exposure to the modern, post-Vietnam active forces caused me to have nothing but respect for the young men and women who decided to serve the United States.

We have an exceptionally professional military, active and reserve. Every American should be proud, and humbled, by the willingness of these young men and women to put it all on the line for us all day, every day, in every part of the globe. From the Coast Guard Port Security Teams to Marine Recon to the submarine crews, they all serve to protect and defend.

As a lawyer in civilian life, I have been exposed to other professionals. Not one of them has been any better than the people I served with on active duty or with the reserves.

So I go a little crazy when some mother or father acts as if the military is a job of last resort for life's losers.

Who worry about their precious child being called to serve via a draft.

Who look at me as if I just grew three heads when I tell them my son is deployed and I'm proud of him out there doing his job. Who are astonished when my younger son says he wants to be a Navy fighter pilot.

Who don't seem to have a handle on the GWOT and how important this mission is.

I worry that their precious child doesn't believe that volunteering to serve is the least he or she could do. For whom the expression "freedom isn't free" has no meaning.

I worry about the minds who so misunderstand the current military that they would propose a draft so that the "rich" might share the dangers along with the "poor."

The people in the services are many things but what they are most is professional. And they resent the hell out of the patronizing attitude of these draft-mongers.

Here an anonymous trooper lays out a few words that might help to explain how the professionals feel about the idea of forcing people to join them:
Enlistment ain't a punishment, our units ain't a cell.
We want no men
women here who'll turn their face from hell.

We understand and
welcome the sacred charge we hold.
We signed on for this country;
peace or war unfold.

We've been called 'bands of brothers'
we're here to
say that's true.
We all train long and hard, and trust all
crave to see it

Who's at our side is vital, likewise who
minds our back.
Our lives are too important for this motivation's lack.

Absolutely correct!

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