What is really happening inside the US Army and what are the long-term implications?
This line of inquiry begins with "My Saddest Consumer Experience, Ever". It's a diary which relates the following encounter with a career Marine:
"I'm a Marine, and I just got back from Iraq on... what day is it, Friday? Monday, and I've been drinkin' since. Probably be drinkin' until I go back - not to Iraq, but back in. This war is a mistake, it's all based on lies. We never found any weapons over there, men and women are being killed for no reason. It's a mistake and there's no reason for it. I've been there.."
...his face jolted as if he had just realized what he was saying. This man was broken, and there was absolutely no reason for it. His voice cracked as he continued
This is a stark illustration of one of the unintended consequences of the Bush Administration's Iraq fiasco. Its aftermath will bring fundamental and disturbing changes to US Army demographics.
The topic has been discussed at the US Army Officer Candidate School (OCS). The Army OCS Foundation hosts a web forum for Officers and Officer candidates. This forum is a goldmine of inside information and it also demonstrates the insidious nature of Right Wing Noise Machine influence.
The Collapse of Army Recruiting Standards ... Exhibit A is a thread that gives us is an inside look at how the men and women who will serve as the backbone of the Army's Officer Corps perceive the current recruiting and retention trends.
This thread starts out with a report of a 40 year old woman who was injured in BCT (Basic Combat Training). The report under discussion was here, but for reasons that will made clear, this report has been scrubbed from the www.defenselink.mil website.
The forum's moderator (Darkstar) provides this interesting statement:
The Army raised its recruiting age to help alleviate some of the recruiting problems it was experiencing. This is not the inability of the Army to recruit fine Americans (recruiters work their butts off), this is the inability of the American people to step up and serve next to fellow Americans in a time where lives are being lost. Luckily there are many people stepping up and trying to do what is right, but I believe there are a lot more whose support for the troops and this War Against Terrorism amounts to nothing more than lip-service.....[this] story should have been plastered across the media, but we all know this is not the kind of story the media likes to show... too positive... too pro-American.
I found this interesting because the "Yellow Elephant" meme is juxtaposed with the "media doesn't report the good news from Iraq" meme. This juxtaposition is the first indication of how the deeply ingrained the RWNM memes have become. This thread also has several implicit and explicit references to the "Yellow Elephant" meme:
Let's try [recruiting] the vast expanse of white, upper middle class suburban America before we stoop to 40 year old women.
Site Administrator tnkr111:
Interesting Blog. Read the top posts regarding a Conservative Student convention being held at GWU from July 30 to August 5, keynote speakers are noted conservative columnists and even a Harvard Professor. The point, to get the "chickenhawks" off the fence...the "elite" conservatives who agitate for war, but can't seem to find the time, intestinal fortitude, or commitment to do what many of you have decided to undertake. SERVE!
Nobody on dKos would argue with tnkr111. But tnkr111 has also made the following statements:
Main Street America is gone....it died a slow death in the late 60's with the gradual coup d'état performed by the far left via academia, the media, and Hollywood.
Seriously thise neo-Libs scare me because they are nothing more than recycled Communists, while the neo-Cons are recycled Fascists! Just look to Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Franken for the evidence.
Al Franken is a recycled Communist?!
If you read all of tnkr111's statements on this thread, you'll see how badly the RWNM Echo Chamber has poisoned political dialogue in the US. These Army OCS posters have to deal with the reality of the Bush Administration's Iraq War fiasco; so they have come to the same reality based conclusions and positions that we have here.
But since they have little contact with the reality of Al Franken, they embrace the RWNM characterizations of him, even when they have consciously rejected the spokespersons of the RWNM. Even though the real Al Franken has placed himself in harm's way to go on USO trips and entertain the troops, to a RWNM indoctrinated soldier: Al Franken is a recycled Communist. I'm sure that this partially due to the fact that Armed Forces Radio carries Rush Limbaugh and other RW personalities, but not Air America. Even though many of these troops have seen through the Limbaugh and O'Reilly bullshit about Iraq, they still accept their characterizations of Al Franken.
More on the Army's demographic problems from Voodoo94:
no one wants felons and skinheads in the Army and it is a real frustrating situation. Do I believe more middle-upper class to upper-class kids should be in the military, especially since they probably are reaping all the benefits of being an American
I'm concerned about "after Iraq". I think we've poisoned the well ... a very bad thing. We've fought a two front war without any shared sacrifice, so we will have almost 40 years withoiut any collective notion of providing for the common defense.
What's more, traditionally demographics with high enlistment propensity are lost forever.
A generation of USAR/Guard folks have bad attitudes.
Dark days are ahead post Iraq
This is the first explicit reference to what may become a demographic time bomb in the Army. The Iraq war is fundamentally altering the Army's demographic character and the trend isn't good.
This OCS thread started because of a report on the www.defenselink.mil website. Now we find out why the report has been purged.
Well folks, my original cause for alarm about PFC Cindra Smith (the woman featured at the top of this thread) was apparanely justified.
This washed up 40 year old was the subject of an Army propaganda piece on how she enlisted as an EOD tech to avenge the injury of her daughter in Iraq. Numerous right-wing military blogs held her up as a scion of virtue and a sign that 40 year olds Moms are just as desirable E-3s as 20 year old men. There was only one problem: her daughter was never injured in Iraq or even in the military.
Both Smith and PFC Stephen Green were the subjects of Army News propaganda pieces. Both were found to be deviants (of varying degrees of course). If these folks are held up for media scrutiny, what is to be said of those we deliberately try to hide from public view.
The full story in all its unbelievable glory....
Is anybody really surprised by this? Recall what the Pentagon did with the Jessica Lynch "rescue".
Another thread on the OCS forum has an insider's critique of the "good recruiting news" for 2006. The report that the Army meets active-duty recruiting goal early is discussed:
The active Army met its fiscal 2006 recruiting goal ahead of schedule today when the 80,000th recruit enlisted at the Times Square Recruiting Station in mid-town Manhattan.
Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey conducted the ceremonial enlistment of Shirley Salvi, who enlisted under the 98XL option to receive language training before assignment as a Signals Intelligence Analyst or Cryptologic Linguist...A graduate of Rutgers University, Salvi said she enlisted for the "travel, leadership and experience."
Smoke and Mirrors ...
They are cooking the books quite creatively. Example: Reserve/Guard transfers to Active Duty are now being counted as "new accessions" for recruiting purposes.
You know that something's amiss when the DoD took over "the books" from the individual services in July 2005. Believe me, there's legions of PR flacks dilligently working to make things look fine. Wouldn't want the public to get upset realizing our Army is overstrained.
But the most damning aspect of this "Army meets its target" story is that it comes at the expense of the officer corps, Voodoo94 explains:
That story is a DISGRACE. The Army is 3,500 active duty officers short as of 1 October and we are enlisting college grads as E-4s. God help us ...The bottom line: if we, as an organization, can't even steer the eligible towards officership, what will we do in the future when there's 100% promotions to LTC* (give it 5 years)? * Lieutenant Colonel
The Army's officer accession problems are worsening with each passing month. ROTC enrollment is down and USAREC has selected 100% of qualified 09S packets for the past 26th months. The command is currently granting waivers for DUIs and medical conditions that were unheard of as recently as 4 years ago. Despite these changes, the Army faces a projected shortage of 3,500 RA officers in FY 2007 and currently has over 10,550 LT* and CPT* vacancies in the USAR. The shortfalls are comparable in the ARNG. The existing USAR Company Grade shortages are the equivalent of 11 USMA* graduating classes or 3 years of nationwide Army ROTC commissions. Simply put, that's quite a lot of missing officers.
LT = Lieutenant
CPT = Captain
USMA = US Military Academy (West Point)
Military recruiters have no incentive to direct qualified candidates to become officers. Quite the contrary: the recruitment targets are only for enlistments. If a prospect joins the Army to become an officer instead of an enlisted soldier, that prospect does not count towards the recruiter's enlistment quota! The way the system is set up, the recruiters have an incentive to cannibalize the officer candidate pool in order to produce enough enlistees to meet their quotas.
rockfoote sums the situation up this way:
the numbers of college grads who are getting enlisted for the sake of numbers versus being sent through the OCS program...it just makes no sense.
In the Politician's vs Generals Discussion In deciding troop level thread guest poster Jonesey states:
I'll say it: The Administration has undone 30 years of military recovery undertaken since the end of Vietnam.
If you keep throwing your Army against the sharp rocks, eventually, you're going to break it. Right now, the Army is pretty much broken.
There are no brigades outside of theatre that are "ready to go" according to the Army. The only way they will make TO&E to deploy is by spackling the units with officers and enlisted soldiers cobbled together from other units. This is "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and we're just about at the point where it will no longer be feasable to do this.
I remember Desert Storm, and George Bush I telling us "We will never send out military into harm's way with one hand tied behind it's back" ala Vietnam. Guess what George Bush II has been doing since 2003.
And a reminder, General Shinski was fired for stickiing with his assessment on the need for "hundreds of thousands" of troops in Iraq. Rumsfeld disagreed, and the General "retired." The last two Chief's of Staff have done little except parrot the party line; if you disagree with this administration you will soon find yourself unemployed.
The problem for some of us not in the military at this time is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to stand by while our Army is decimated, recruiting standards are lowered, divisions and reserve units are filled on paper and sent into harm's way without the proper training or equipment, and our friends and family are wounded and killed for a situation that is most likely going to end in a pullout, like Beruit in 1983, or in the constant and further quagmire of military action with no results, like Vietnam.
Some of the other posters took exception to this; they said that jonesey wasn't on the inside and he didn't know what was really happening. But then site moderator Voodoo94 supported jonesey's position:
I agree ... The ARMY IS PRETTY MUCH BROKEN.
- 100% OCS Selection Rate for nearly 2 years
- IET (Initial Entry Training) attrition is a third of what it was before OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and we've LOWERED the standards of who comes in.
(xynz: this means that two thirds of those who would have failed the previous training standards are now passing)
- 42 year old E-1s (new enlistees)
- 3500 RA Officers short next FY
- 10,554 LT/CPT vacancies in the USAR
- Record USAR Retirements
- Automatic E-5 at 48 months TIS (automatic promotion for Time In Service)
If these aren't the "dashboard" lights of a broken Army, I'd hate to see what a broken force looks like in your book.
The future leaders of the US Army are very worried about the impact the Iraq War is having on the character of the US Army. The demographic implications of these retention and recruitment problems must be considered. What kinds of troops are being inducted? What kinds of troops are likely to leave and what kinds troops are likely to stay?
The following quotes from Voodoo94 are crucial. The are from The All-Volunteer Army: Can We Still Claim Success? thread:
I'm not sure I want an Army filled with 11Bs and 19Ds that enlisted during a war with a romanticized notion of combat, a lust for revenge or feelings of youthful invincibility. To me, this is a recipe for disaster that will attract excatly the people we DON'T want in the Infantry.......
........The "normal" idealistic kids have been weeded out by accurate portrayals of the risks inherent in military service. What's left are a healthy dose of patriots and a large group of misfits that through ideology or mental illness want to see combat.
The Army is filling up with "....[enlistees] with a romanticized notion of combat, a lust for revenge.... a large group of misfits that through ideology or mental illness want to see combat"
tnkr111 chimes in with this quote of this article from Soldiers for the Truth:
Just recently, Army Times sounded the alert about the quality drop. It reported that from 2004 to 2005, Army recruits admitted with serious criminal misconduct jumped 54 percent, to 630 recruits. Those with drug and alcohol waivers jumped 13 percent to 737 troops. And the number of recruits with misdemeanors spiked to 25 percent--to 4,587. Meanwhile, medical waivers for Asthma, ADHD and other problems are also handed out like candy, while the recruiting age has been raised to--42 years of age!
Before the Iraq disaster, the military was relatively right-wing and it used to be one of the GOP's most reliably constituencies. In the current political climate, the military does not lean as heavily towards the GOP, but this is a temporary condition. The military is moving slightly towards the center only because many of the troops no longer believe the propaganda about the war. But, as we have seen, the other RWNM memes have been retained.
The disillusioned troops who have seen through the Bush/GOP/NeoCon Bullshit are also the troops most likely to leave their military careers. If these troops do leave, then the demographics of the military will swing even further to the right than before.
Under the current conditions, the troops who are most motivated to stay in are the true believers. These troops are "patriots" who are fervently loyal to their God, their Country and their President (When s/he's not a Democrat). These are the troops who will rise to positions of responsibility and command. These troops "with a romanticized notion of combat, a lust for revenge", this "group of misfits that through ideology ... want to see combat" will become the backbone of the US Army. This will be a military where General William G. Boykin and Colonel Ollie North are the norm.
That opens the door to some very disturbing possibilities. How would such a military react to the impeachment and conviction of a Leader like President George F. Allen? How would they react if such a President used his "war powers" to "nullify" such a conviction?
I think this is one of the issues that the Democratic leadership needs to address when it gets into power. At the very least, I think the Congress should pass a law mandating that the troops understand the Constitution that they have sworn to protect. The troops already have to demonstrate that they understand their specific duties, Army regulations and portions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). They should be able to demonstrate an understanding of their most basic and fundamental duty: to protect and defend the Constitution.
Beyond that, the Democrats need to address the fundamental demographics of the military. The US cannot afford to have an Army dominated by the kinds of soldiers that are currently being recruited and retained. Even the Army OCS sees this threat: the Iraq War has planted a demographic time bomb inside the US Army.
[I put some work into this. So, show me a little love and give me "the finger"...the one on the "recommend" button :) ]