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Do What's Best For Our Army

J. D. Pendry

There's lots of discussion lately about what's best for our Army. All of our services actually. There is a problem with much of this discussion. Its point of origin is politicians, sociologists, and the news media. It's difficult to give validity to all the advice we're getting when the collective military experience of the groups giving it is too often nil. Most of these folks are educated and well meaning. They really believe they are suggesting the right things for our services and are trying to make a contribution. On the other hand, too many are self-serving and are interested in bolstering their own personal and political agendas. To push their own agendas they'd risk the effectiveness of our military services.

Like my peers and leaders I'm just a soldier. Not a very complicated person. I have no advanced degrees in sociology, I'm not a journalist and frankly, I have difficulty even understanding what it is many politicians do for a living.

As soldiers we are taught to learn from past experiences in order to strengthen our units and ourselves. We learned a very hard lesson. The last time politicians and well-meaning sociologists became so concerned about advising the Army on how to conduct itself we ended up with Viet Nam, body counts, McNamara's 100,000 and the hollow, broken Army of the 1970's. When we are leery of their advice we have our reasons. For the sake of our country let's not revisit the seventies with our Army.

I'm very confident we'll come out of our current situation in good shape. I believe that because I wasn't alone in that broken Army of the seventies. There were some other soldiers there. Pretty damned good ones too - officers and noncommissioned officers. These great soldiers knew what was wrong with that broken Army and decided to stick around and fix it. They used the craftsmanship that can only come from being thoroughly schooled in the military arts along with a knowledge of soldiers that is only gained from walking a mile in their boots to fix it. Knowledge and experience too many of our current advisors sorely lack.

Fix it? Oh, they more than fixed it. They gave us the most formidable force on the face of the earth. A force that waltzed through Sadaam's Elite faster than berries pass through a goose in case you missed it. And, they managed that without filling up the thousands of body bags much of the news media felt compelled to mention with every story on the subject.

So what's my point? It's simple. The officer and NCO leadership of our Army brought us out of difficult periods before and we've always emerged stronger. Our leaders, like most soldiers, are neither politicians nor sociologists. But, they know our Army, our culture and our soldiers. When the Army hurts they hurt and they feel the pain that comes with the failure of every single soldier. They know how to get to the heart of problems that affect soldiers and our readiness and fix them. It's not on their scope to tell anyone how to be a better politician, sociologist or news commentator. Others could learn from that. So when our would be advisors start tossing around too macho rooster in the barnyard theories; questioning whether our standards are too high, too low or too old and questioning if our basic combat training of men and women should be integrated or segregated I hope they'll consider a couple of things. First, they have to clearly understand what an Army does. Then consider how far our leadership has brought this force that stands unchallenged as the best in the world. Finally, trust their judgement, as their soldiers do, because at the end of the day the real leaders will show up and they'll do what's best for our Army and the country will be better off because of it.

Copyright ©1997, J. D. Pendry All Rights Reserved