The Army wants our youth. But unfortunately for the “Green Machine,”
not enough of our youth want the Army!
Despite more than a quarter-billion-dollar annual recruiting budget,
6,000 top NCO and officer recruiters (who are mainly combat leaders) and
more than 3,000 staff weenies who man the 46 recruiting headquarters —
more than enough talent to cadre three tank divisions — our
all-volunteer Army isn’t mustering enough recruits to fill the squads.
These factors are part of the problem:
- A booming economy, which makes tooling down Mainstreet USA in a
new set of wheels more attractive than playing RoboCop in one of
Clinton’s global villages.
- College fun and games over close order drill and war games in the
- Too many harebrained missions such as Kosovo that are stretching our
forces to the breaking point and causing the troops to ask, “Why go to
the Balkans to be shot at for nothing?”
- Relatives and friends who because of a recent bad military trip or
broken promises, such as reduced medical, hospital and other retirement
benefits, are telling young people, “Don’t join up. You’ll just get
used and abused like I did.”
- Generation Y-ers without the same patriotic fever or motivation that
their fathers and grandfathers mustered when they faced the Imperial
Japanese, Nazi Germany or Cold War communists who, in their time, were
all major threats to our security.
- And senior brass — both politicians and military leaders — who talk
a good game of caring for the troops, but rarely put their efforts or
money where their mouths are. Few, for example, have challenged the
poor pay and near-ghetto housing, the silly missions or the kinder,
gentler Clinton administration policies which have wreaked havoc on the
vital warrior ethic.
The brass are pulling out their hair on this one. From long
experience, they know that regardless of how high-tech their weapons
are, without skilled and motivated warriors the best weapons in the
world are worthless.
Many solutions are being kicked around. Unfortunately, most have to
do with “dumbing down” the Army by further lowering standards instead of
smart moves like immediately fixing the pay, cleaning up the lousy
living conditions and taking the teen-age summer camp out of basic
training. Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera has proposed accepting
more high-school drop-outs. Caldera, a West Point graduate, should
eyeball the lessons of Vietnam. During that cruel war, Project 100,000
was implemented to produce more grunts for the killing fields of
Vietnam. It took unfit recruits — classified as Category IVs — from
the bottom of the barrel and rushed them to Vietnam. The result was
human applesauce. Cat IVs sustained the highest casualties of any group
and caused such massive discipline problems — fraggings, drug use,
racial strife — that by 1973 the Army had been virtually brought to its
Ten smart-and-fit soldiers are better than 100 out-of-shape dummies.
From a decade of combat experience as a soldier and war reporter, I’m
convinced that the brighter the soldier, the higher his chances of
making it through the nightmare of combat.
Fort Gordon, Ga., recently put out a memo that said, “Keep in mind
that the objective is to graduate and ship the soldier to the field. …
It is not illegal or immoral to give the soldier the benefit of the
doubt (on a PT test).” Meaning if the soldiers don’t pass, look the
other way and move ’em out.
We’re back to the quantity over quality system that produced Lt.
William Calley of My Lai shame and filled so many body bags in Vietnam.
The Army should follow the Marines’ example and push for higher
standards — not lower. The Corps continues to make its boot training
tougher, and the line to become a Leatherneck grow longer.
Meanwhile, almost 37 percent of those who do join the Army — many
receiving incentives such as college-tuition aid of $50,000, in addition
to a $19,000 enlistment bonus per soldier — become disgruntled and quit
or get thrown out before their first hitch is up.
Young people clearly want a challenge. They want to be molded into
warriors, not treated like spoiled kids.
Won’t the Army brass ever learn?