Wednesday, August 20, 2014

SEALS and Green Berets are from Lake Wobegon

The commander of the garrison at Camp Adder, Iraq, when I was stationed there was a Lieutenant Colonel who was a Green Beret.  Because I helped with some garrison events I got to talk to the colonel a few times about being a soldier.  Once he said, "The difference between [Green Berets] and other soldiers is that we meet Army Standard in every area.  Most soldiers are good in some areas, great in one or two and bad in many others."  The applies to SEALS, Recon Marines and other elite units.  

Like the children of Lake Woebegon who are all above average, elite soldiers are fully qualified on their own weapon and every other weapon in their unit.  They know field medicine.  They are beyond Army Fitness Standards.  They can survive, escape, and evade capture.  

Outside these elite units, the Army looks very different.  Outside the combat arms fields--infantry, armor and artillery--soldiers tend to specialize in their job.  And competence breeds contentment so some of these skilled pilots, mechanics, technicians slip into pushing basic soldiers skills and fitness onto the back burner of their lives while they become the Iron Chefs of their particular specialty.

I have been in units in which the supply sergeant was an absolute wizard of Army paperwork and could pass inspections without any worry--either to himself or to his commander.  But that same guy could not even pretend to pass the annual fitness test.  I know motor sergeants, weapons sergeants and instructor pilots who are beyond out-of-shape and are obese, yet are incredibly good at their jobs.  And they believe their technical skill means they should be exempt from the fitness requirements of their career.

When the Army cuts the force in the coming years, they will do it the way it was done under President Clinton in the 90s.  By tightening height and weight and fitness standards, many mid-career officers and NCOs will decide getting in shape and staying in shape is not the way they want to live their lives.  

As you can imagine, the SEALS, the Green Berets, the Army Rangers, Army Airborne, the Marine Corps Special Operations Command and Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery units will not be affected by the cutbacks.  But the rest of the military will be smaller in numbers and wear a smaller size uniform once the cutbacks are complete.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt 1906-1975 Today a friend asked and I were talking about politics and how refugee problems have led to wars in the pas...