I hesitated for a long time (a day) before writing this blog post. I’m sure it will draw fire from some of my fellow conservatives, and undoubtedly from some of my fellow veterans. Eh, I’m always in the soup for something, might as well be this blog for a change.
There is a great deal of angst on the internet right now over three incidents involving the military: the Honor Guard with the stupid pictures, the airman French kissing the POW/MIA emblem, and the Commanding Officer/Command Master Chief who solicited funds from a strip club for a golf tournament sponsorship. I’m not going to participate in the hand-wringing, and I’m more than happy to explain why right here, right now.
Let’s start with the honor guard. They were in training. It wasn’t a casket with remains. It was a stupid caption to a couple of stupid pictures. The only real crime here is that they were dumb enough to take pictures and post them on Facebook. If they’d kept the humor to themselves it would have been without notice for eternity. I can recall more smart-aleck comments during training than I would care to disclose. I wouldn’t want to be on an honor guard simply because of the tense nature of the job and the high standards they must uphold in front of the grieving family and the public. I wasn’t sharp enough in uniform to pull it off – my inner slob wouldn’t let me be a model sailor when it came to that duty. I did it once: it was cold, it was raining buckets, and I botched Taps. Not fun. I felt badly that I didn’t honor the deceased properly due to my lack of skills.
It’s not too surprising that the people in training blew off a little steam. For all of you calling for their heads on a platter, let’s spend a few honest moments thinking about our own behavior under similar circumstances. I’m quite sure a few of you never smirked, never thought evil thoughts, never broke formation and let it fly. Nope. Never. Not me. Liars.
It’s human nature. As long as they accord the families and the honored dead the proper respect when the time comes, let this drop. Bite their faces off verbally, and let it go. Take the ranking person in the group picture into the office, brace them up (position of attention for civilians) and make them sweat. Then send them out to march around the base with a full set of weapons and flags for a couple of sweaty afternoons in the sun. Then be done with it. Call it extra military instruction, don’t flag their files, and then act like the leaders you are supposed to be. Leaders correct stupid first, punish second. Unless they flip the lever again, call it even.
The second incident: it was tacky and stupid. That’s about it. No need to bust this woman down to E-1 and torture her dog, no formal letter of reprimand, nothing more than a verbal counseling that would go something like this: “I know the picture is over three years old. I hope you’ve matured in the meantime and I never see anything like this again. This is the end of the issue, no paper trail, no hit on your evaluation. Just pray that I never get wind of anything like this again and we’re good. If you repeat the mistake, I’ll flatten you like a paper cup under the nose gear of a B-52 at full takeoff weight. Clear?”
It was 3 years ago. She’s now an NCO with a good record according to reports. Before any of you write me an email/letter/Facebook post lecturing me about POW/MIA issues, the torture that goes on of our people, and how I’m unfit to lace their boots, let me remind you: I signed on for the ride. I was willing to go there. So was this young enlisted person. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s that whole Christian thing to forgive mistakes as far as I know. Was she a dope? Yes.
It’s an old picture. I really never understood the need to get vindictive about discipline over stuff like this – a good chew is more than enough. My Chief taught me that when I wrote up a sailor for a security violation. He (a great man, my Chief) persuaded me to make the kid miserable for a few days and not wreck his career. I’m glad he counseled me about my counseling. That kid, the sailor who made the mistake, went on to retire as a Senior Chief. Good for him. Glad I didn’t ruin his life because I was angry. That’s what real leaders do: they teach lessons, not ruin lives.
If they repeat the offense, then hammer them. But a whole bunch of my fellow vets who are yammering away on this topic on the web seem to have forgotten some of the stunts and stupid things they did in their youth. The big difference is that we didn’t have cell phones and nobody knew about the internet. Thank, God. If Facebook was around when I had chevrons I’d probably be buried under the jail. So let’s quit yelling at the kids to get off of our lawn, eh?
Now, on to our last evil-doers: The Commanding Officer and his Senior Enlisted Adviser who solicited donations from a strip club or two. I told this story to a coworker of mine. She laughed. “So, they’re in trouble for getting some money donated that originally belonged to their sailors?” That’s about the size of it.
Once upon a time, there were strip clubs inside the enlisted facilities on some military bases. There was one of those sad little outfits in the enlisted club where I had my first drink in uniform. Gotta tell you, never did anything for me. I just felt bad for the woman. In general the whole concept of strip clubs is pathetic. It lends itself to human trafficking and prostitution. On the other hand, I vaguely remember more than a few sailors frequenting those places. So it seems like kind of a natural thing that the committee that was fundraising for the submarine ball might wind up there for a donation.
Is it tacky? Yes. Is it politically incorrect? Yes. Is it something I would do? No. But since the guy was a submarine officer it probably didn’t seem all that strange. I kind of, sort of, vaguely, remember even officers going into those places. But to fire the guy over that and ruin his career *(both of them)* is over the top. There is some indication that contractors were solicited for donations, and that may be a violation of the ethics code. But the initial reports from the Navy made it clear that the issue was that strip clubs were solicited for donations. Legal businesses. Businesses that pay taxes. Businesses that have a lot of sailors visit.
This post may surprise some of you. But the politically correct insanity that permeates our military is going to eventually make everyone so nervous, and prone to punishing people versus leading them, that we’ll ruin the next generation of volunteers. We did that prior to WWII with our military. We made everything prim and proper, eliminated risk, sanctioned wild behavior, and wound up with leadership that almost lost the war.
I, for one, am fine with men and women that get a little crazy on occasion. After all, we’re asking them to take a bullet when the time comes. Let’s let the rules be used with common sense. No massive loss of blood, no broken bones, no criminal offense, and no foul. This is a leadership issue. It’s tough to lead. It’s even tougher to go to war with bean-counters in charge.
That is all.