The Way We Treat Our Troops
By BOB HERBERT
Published: October 22, 2010
“You can only hope that the very preliminary peace efforts in Afghanistan bear fruit before long. But for evidence that the United States is letting its claim to greatness, and even common decency, slip through its fingers, all you need to do is look at the way we treat our own troops.
The idea that the United States is at war and hardly any of its citizens are paying attention to the terrible burden being shouldered by its men and women in uniform is beyond appalling.
We can get fired up about Lady Gaga and the Tea Party crackpots. We’re into fantasy football, the baseball playoffs and our obsessively narcissistic tweets. But American soldiers fighting and dying in a foreign land? That is such a yawn.
I would bring back the draft in a heartbeat. Then you wouldn’t have these wars that last a lifetime. And you wouldn’t get mind-bending tragedies like the death of Sgt. First Class Lance Vogeler, a 29-year-old who was killed a few weeks ago while serving in the Army in his 12th combat tour. That’s right, his 12th — four in Iraq and eight in Afghanistan…”
“Women will begin serving on four U.S. submarines in December 2011, the U.S. Navy announced Thursday.
Twenty-four are in training to be the first women to serve aboard U.S. submarines, the Navy's Submarine Group 10 said in a statement. The subs on which they will deploy are the USS Wyoming and USS Georgia, both homeported in Kings Bay, Georgia, and the USS Ohio and USS Maine, homeported in Bangor, Washington…”
U.S. military to experiment with unmanned helicopters
The U.S. military is hoping to use remote-controlled helicopters like these, shown in January 2010, for supply delivery.
Faced with increasing casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will experiment with remote-controlled, unmanned helicopters to deliver supplies to remote outposts, the U.S. Navy said…
The ugly truth in Bob Herbert’s column should infuriate all Americans, not just the people at the sharp and dirty end of the stick.
American armed forces currently are made up of less than 1% of our total population. Yet this thin line of troops, ships, and aircraft is expected to actively wage two wars in two different theaters of operations while maintaining the ability to support diplomacy by projection of military power around the world.
Herbert, a Vietnam veteran is actively supporting a resumption of the draft that fed manpower to the military in our nation’s past. He’s calling for a fair administration this time. That would mean no exemptions for political families, no exemptions for religion, for daddy’s money, or for anything that those unwilling to serve can convince an easily-bought Congress to exclude.
I’m willing to go along with Herbert’s call for resumption of the draft. If we can’t justify using our citizens to fight a war, then our presence in that war is highly suspect. If we can’t field troops who actually know why they are engaged in a war, then we have likely been duped into supporting yet another war for profits.
No soldier should have been subjected to 12 tours in our current wars. While I’m aware of the arguments for an all-volunteer military, draftees can be effectively trained for most combat-related jobs and for almost all logistics and support jobs that the military defines. We won WWII with a mostly-draftee army, navy, and Marine Corps. Vietnam was fought by draftees who filled the dirty positions and let the Officers and senior NCOs get the ticket-punching tours out of the way so that they could advance in rank and skills. We’re using “private contractors” at immense and unjustifiable costs to do the jobs we no longer wish to pay soldiers to do. We can save quite a lot of money in the military budget if we resume the use of soldiers for those jobs we currently pay agencies like Blackwater/Xe to perform.
Of course the private contractors will complain. War profiteers always do when the money dries up under public scrutiny. Let them complain. They can join up and serve the nation in uniform, or remain in uniform, if they are honestly committed to national security.
In the meantime, Congress needs to address increasing the size and compensation of our military. It needs to increase the funding for PTSD screening and treatment, the funding for TBI screening and treatment. Congress needs to address the problem of combat veterans returning home to no jobs, no income, no health care, and no homes. If the only choice for a soldier who’s contract is up is between re-enlisting and/or becoming homeless and jobless. Then the return to another combat tour seems less threatening than it should.
The use of female naval officers in submarines is going to generate some close scrutiny. While I have no doubt as to their commitment and ability to qualify in submarines, the reality of submarine duty may be another matter. It presents some unique logistics challenges to staffing that are being dodged by putting three female officers in each crew. That pattern will allow them to share berthing spaces jokingly called a stateroom. Toilet and shower facilities will need to be segregated or regulated by time. The solutions currently available on surface warships are not necessarily available in the tightly defined submarines. The integration of enlisted crew still remains to be solved.
One such extension of forces is the use of unmanned helicopters for logistics flights. We’re working toward developing a robot force of aircraft. For the most part it is becoming tactically and technologically feasible. We may be graduating to a new level of technology races within the major militaries. From space race to robot race, the programs are underway and under evaluation.