by Andy Weddington
Saturday, 22 June 2013
"We are the men who want to fight for you. The enemy we have fought will not discuss, cite studies, or entertain debate. He will just rape or kill you." 1stLts B. L. Brewster, USMC & R. K. Wallace, USMC
The June 2013 issue, hard copy, of the Marine Corps Gazette arrived at our home about two weeks ago. As is customary on those early evenings, I first perused the content page. Toward the bottom the word "Commentary" caught my eye. Next under - the names of two Marine first lieutenants and their article, 'Let Us Fight for You'.
Intrigued, I flipped to page 67. Under the bold title was the subtitle - 'The moral imperative of a masculine infantry'.
Ah, as I've written commentaries on this matter of women in combat units, particularly the infantry, first to read what two lieutenants, both infantry, have to say. Adding to the draw, a tease, a quote by General Robert H. Barrow, USMC (27th Commandant), taken from his sworn testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee speaking to the matter, was in a pale red box adjoining their opening (a clue they'd seen the General's YouTube [see Author's Endnotes] that first appeared in March 2012 commentary and got that relevant video exposure).
An excerpt from General Barrow's remarks, that quote, "...exposure to danger is not combat..." is critically important as that thought rests at the heart of the matter. I recently watched a short clip of the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, offering public polar opposite perspective following visits to Afghanistan. Strange, for Secretary Mabus does not have the combat experience(s) of General Barrow. Nor, for that matter and as a point for perspective, as many field visits as the late Bob Hope.
Their article is impressive - in depth and breadth of thought; logic; and clarity. There's nothing like firsthand experience - too bad translation is limited to (restrictive) language but such is an unsolvable human problem. A truism - the Marine, rank irrelevant, who has walked the terrain (and fought through it) knows the terrain better than the Marine, rank irrelevant, who has merely studied the map. The map is not the territory!
Frankly, their commentary is superb! It's more in line with work expected of far more experienced and seasoned officers. And though there are opposing views, they lack the common sense and soundness of argument. Considering what's at stake, puzzling is why such mature, wise-beyond-years, perspective is not publicly flowing from the pens, keyboards, and mouths of graying flag officers - generals and admirals; active, reserve, retired. Quite the contrary is happening - and coming from folk without the experience and qualifications to credibly opine, make decisions, and influence if not implement policy; though entrusted with such sobering authority.
The bottom line is national security and the readiness and effectiveness of America's combat forces - that must be as powerful and capable as possible; always. Period. Surely there are senior active duty officers, in the highest of places, who oppose women in combat units; especially the infantry. Why are they not resigning in protest? And en masse? And with noise?
And, by the way, where are the voices of the retirees? The answer is not so many years ago retiring stars went home. They retired. A friend's father, after retiring, went home - and either refused or donated speaking honorariums. And when asked by the President to sit on an advisory board he refused compensation citing it was his duty. These days the stars are parlayed into big money and discretion a requirement. Look, there's an elephant in the room! Where?
Whomever breaks ranks is destined to be a legend - a true star; rich, if only in principle.
Now nonsense from politicians and political appointees is expected, the norm. There's plenty - more than is healthy for our country - of that nonsense ongoing these days. And ever will be the case. Outrageous it is but such is the American way - voting, that is, in a Republic.
But the generals and admirals are not supposed to be politicians - too many are. Generals and admirals are supposed to be warriors leading warriors - too many are not. That's a problem. And with that problem is the disconnect. Back to that point in a moment.
Two junior officers mustered the moral courage to write and publish an essay, in our professional journal, of their experiences in ground combat, with women (on occasion) part of their units. Their work merits serious consideration. Does anyone think these messengers are alone?
These lieutenants are not politicians. They are warriors who have and continue to lead warriors and what they are saying, as respectfully and diplomatically as they can while in uniform, is women in ground combat units is, bluntly, stupid. But the finesse with which they said it is remarkable - admirable and not generally speaking.
What their objective essentially boils down to is in keeping with the two goals of leadership - 1) Accomplish the mission; 2) Welfare of the Marines. Anything that weakens the tensile of those inextricably linked goals is problematic and unacceptable. And any Marine, private to four-star, has a duty to speak up, whether their observations and sentiments popular or politically correct, or not.
Allegiance is not sworn to political agendas nor is supposed to be self-serving. A Marine recruit or officer candidate cannot make it through entry-level training if placing self before platoon. Nor can Marines realize success - taking a battlefield hill or Capitol Hill - thereafter without teamwork. Service is to Corps and Country.
Consider this, our Marine Corps commandant (and more general officers, too), an aviator, does not have the combat experience(s) of the lieutenants nor many of the tens of thousands of young Marines under his charge. Not that that, in and of itself, is a statement against capability to serve. However, pay heed, and closely, to Marines who know what they are talking about. And, most importantly, stand behind them - to own peril, if necessary. That did not happen with repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) despite more Marines, particularly combat arms, than not against the change.
Interestingly, more than a thousand retired flag officers, representing all branches, courageously offered their names in a letter to the President stating there was no need to repeal DADT (comparatively, the number in support of repeal was miniscule - the minority won with agenda defeating debate and data). There may have been a newspaper ad, too. Or that may have been support for Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, I forget. If only.
While mulling over all the variables, an obvious conclusion struck - that disconnect: all past commandants were from ground combat arms specialties (believe all, at least those during my years, with combat experience at the company grade level). Now that company level and below combat experience (applies to just a few senior officers across the services) is missing at the top level. It's not through fault of those wearing stars but nonetheless missing.
Familiarity with combat through reading; formal schooling - whatever the level; studying combat footage; interviews; discussions; simulations; field visits; and even tough training and live fire exercises is not, and can never be, the same as enduring the physical and mental strains of combat. Sure, during study and training you can be killed but in combat the enemy is trying to find and kill you before you find and kill them.
How odd today's paradigm.
Is it not a bit troubling knowing senior military officers, with little or no relevant combat experience, are advising senior officials, elected and appointed, who don't have any military experience?
Last Thursday, angered earlier in the week after reading something written by a retired U. S. Navy four-star admiral supportive of women serving in the infantry and special operations units, I posted commentary, again, addressing women in combat. As with other commentaries on the topic there was heavy readership - I suppose finding Marines, and others, interested in the debate that's not a true debate.
Out-of-the-blue the following morning, yesterday, I received a note from one of the officers who wrote the recent Gazette article. And later his co-author sent a note. Someone had sent my commentary to them and they were merely offering a word of gratitude that senior officers, somewhere, were not afraid to address the truth. Well, truth was my practice in uniform (crossing swords with some who did not like it, including generals) and such remains a tenet of this forum and ever will.
Anyway, they welcomed me to share their article. Of course, I will. And I beg you, implore you, to read what two bright, dedicated, courageous and caring young Marine officers, family men, who have sacrificed (beyond comprehension and willingness of most Americans) and fought for you, have to say. You will be left with plenty to think about.
A couple of decades ago another courageous Marine officer entered the public arena with a controversial article titled, 'Disband the Marine Corps' (Marine Corps Gazette, January 1993) that addressed the loony idea of open homosexuality (along came DADT). Seniors were not happy. The article received attention - nationally. After reading what then Major Arthur J. Corbett, USMC had to say in defense of our Corps heritage, General Barrow, long retired, sent him a handwritten one-word note - "Bravo!"
Art's work - it's a work of art; a masterpiece! And General Barrow knew it. A link to the article is provided in the Author's Endnotes.
Were General Barrow alive, most probably he'd be equally impressed with, 'Let Us Fight for You' - and send like sentiments to the lieutenants who, realizing Marine Corps heritage and warfighting capability is (again) under assault, bravely stepped forward and stood tall knowing the risks for doing so. There's that thought of principle, of moral courage, again.
Now, do your duty...
You have a voice - contact your Representative and Senator. Please do - less your female folk could, may well, one day end up involuntarily serving in ground combat units. Impossible? Think again. For that is the ultimate objective of the left.
And, please, please, read and pass along - 'Let Us Fight for You': http://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/article/let-us-fight-you
Give Americans an accurate, a useful map - one drawn from field reports by the explorers. That is, those dispatched into danger, the unknown, who dutifully obeyed; the courageous, the bold, the daring. Think about Marines like Barrow and Corbett and Brewster and Wallace and all the others who've walked and conquered the terrain. Why their sworn verbal and written reports?
It's simple. For love of Colors - Corps and Country; for love of our fallen; for love of two words - Semper Fidelis - branded onto and into the heart and soul of Marines; and for love of doing what is right.
Marines, goodness, we're not making them like we used to, we're making them better. At least for the time being.
Finally, "Whom - amongst the living retired commandants, any generals or admirals, will acknowledge, with written or public word, the courage, the leadership, of two Marines true to their moral azimuth and Corps - whom?"
Since that first commentary in March 2012 (see first link in 5. Author's Endnotes), I've heard from many Marines - lance corporal to general - bewildered and angered by the move towards assigning women to ground combat units. Sometimes the language especially strong, and colorful. I am their voice.
The opening quote is the first paragraph of the conclusion in the lieutenants commentary.
Now Captain Wallace is assigned to a deployed infantry battalion. First Lieutenant Brewster is assigned to the Field Testing Branch, Warfighting Lab. How appropriate their current duties - one again walking the terrain and the other map making; from terrain walked.
Lieutenants in my day were convinced colonels were screwing up the Marine Corps. Mentioned to my wise Dad, he tucked that comment away for future use. Twenty or so years later, a colonel for a while, he asked if I still felt the same. No, of course not. But the seemingly inane things ordered, on occasion, more than 30 years ago don't hold a candle to today's insanity - women in ground combat being at the top of the list with open homosexuality a close second. What are lieutenants today thinking? No idea. Perhaps in their minds it's the generals. It'll be interesting to speak with them in 20 years or so, provided there is still such a warrior called "Marine" and they're colonels.
Thanks, Rob, Marine!
1. General Barrow's Women in Combat Senate Armed Services Committee testimony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy--whDNNKk
2. Major (now Colonel, retired) Corbett's article, 'Disband the Marine Corps' http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/fighting-for-our-culture/disband-the-marine-corps.html
3. Comment received on Thursday's post, 'That (Fe)male Thing, Again - Heavy Sigh' http://acoloneloftruth.blogspot.com/2013/06/that-female-thing-again-heavy-sigh.html
Her remarks appear as submitted.
"I apologize for being anonymous; I have none of the accounts listed, and no URL.
I believe that there are, rarely, women who would do well in combat. Not women who *think* they could, but who would be fully capable of doing so. (I am not, and never was, one of that tiny group.)
I also believe that it is very common for men to have an instinct to protect women, especially women they know. It is not the same as the way that members of a unit look out for each other; it is much deeper. And I believe that the men who volunteer for military service - for the right reasons - will virtually all have that instinct.
Therefore, a mixed unit of men and women would be a horrible failure. But I think that a unit of only women could be effective. (Note: I said "could.")
And I have believed for a long time that the standards that measure the ability to do *any* job should not be lowered to comply with political correctness.
signed, a gun totin' broad in the high plains"
4. From Staff Sergeant Robert "Bob" Hall, USMC aka: The Tartan Marine: "I suspect very few of the folks who are always lobbying to use the military to achieve their social goals were ever under fire themselves." This and other "Random Thoughts" now being put together in The Old Jarhead's Journal.
Follow him, postings, and look for his fine books (a writer and fabulous poet) at: http://tartanmarine.blogspot.com/
5. Links to past Commentary addressing women in combat.