Our military has gone through many phases throughout its history. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps are all older than the United States itself. They have fought in every war from the Revolutionary War to the present and unlike most other countries, they have never been a threat to the nation because they have civilians over them starting with the commander-in-chief and going through the secretary of defense and service secretaries.
Many of our veterans have become presidents, senators, representatives, governors and all other types of elected officials. The military has contributed much to the greatness of this country. Since 1973, it has been a volunteer organization and although it had some difficulties initially, it is the most powerful and competent military in history.
The military was ordered to accept openly gay individuals into its ranks, and the results of that decision are yet to be determined. The main cause for this was equality and little concern was given to the main mission of the military - to fight and win wars. Cohesion, camaraderie and teamwork all contribute to effectiveness of units, and that results in success on the battlefield.
For the most part. Military personnel could care less about one's sex life as long as it is not flaunted. Gays have been in the military since its beginning, but AIDS was not a problem until relatively recently. Other countries have been held up as an example of how successful they have been in opening their ranks to gays. On the surface, that may sound great, but none of those countries have the size of the U.S. military or its commitments throughout the world. Most have not been in combat since World War II.
The secretary of defense has directed that the Army and Marine Corps must open their close combat arms to females. Again, the main argument for this is equality. Proponents argue that women have been in combat for the past 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Being in combat and being in the combat arms is like night and day. Closing with the enemy requires much preparation and work before it actually occurs. Walking for mile after mile with a heavy pack, going on reduced rations and sleep for weeks on end is routine for the infantry.
I recall having a discussion in Vietnam with the troops while we took a break in the jungle to eat. We were trying to determine the best place to fight a war. We didn't want to be in the mountains. We had done that in Vietnam. We didn't want to be in the jungle - again. We had already done that in Vietnam also. We didn't want it to be too hot or too cold. We also did not want the desert. We finally determined that there was no good place to fight a war. Look at Afghanistan. It is mountainous with little road network and goes from extreme heat in the summer to extreme cold in the winter. Iraq had the desert and that causes unbelievable trouble for equipment.
The latest challenge for the military is to remove the ability of commanders to deal with disciplinary actions. Sexual assaults are supposedly on the rise in the military and the charge is that commanders are not aggressive in dealing with them. The latest charge is that "unreported cases of sexual assault surged 35 percent from 2010-2012."
When I read that, I wondered how a 35 percent surge could be determined if these cases were unreported. The same article stated that "it thought that 26,000 had been sexually assaulted in 2012." The operative word is thought.
During my time in the Marine Corps, I had the privilege of commanding three companies, an infantry battalion, an infantry regiment, the Recruit Training Regiment at Parris Island and Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. In each case, I had the authority to punish Marines who got into trouble. That ability was not taken lightly and allowed me to better control each organization.
I'll add at this time that my units always had the lowest disciplinary rate and highest re-enlistment rate of comparable units. The commanders also have the ability to promote and to recommend awards. That is the other side of the coin. Troops like any other people respond to positive and effective leadership.
There are only so many changes and dictates that can be placed on the military before it will begin to deteriorate. We have the greatest military in history, but it will remain great only if it is allowed to do what it was organized to do. Touchy feely does not do it for the military.
Donald J. Myers is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and a regular columnist for Hernando Today. He lives in Spring Hill and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.