Sunday, February 17, 2013

This Is Ridiculous

Today’s military is beginning to remind me of the grade school, where everyone who runs the race is given a trophy so that no one “feels left out.” Reward has nothing to do with extra hard work or accomplishment. Self esteem is everything and it is assumed to be a natural attribute shared equally by all, rather than being earned by individual achievement and perhaps, perish the thought, personal pain and risk of failure.

Years ago the Army developed an elite unit known as “Special Forces.” The training was brutal and had a high failure rate, and the unit went into the most dangerous and difficult fights, engaging in battles more risky than other units could take on. They were known by their distinctive headgear and were called the “Green Berets.”

The regular soldiers were jealous of those snazzy hats. I thought they made soldiers look like French intellectuals who couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag, but the rest of the Army had their collective nose out of joint because the elite unit got to wear something they didn’t. They didn’t want to do the arduous training, you understand, nor did they want the extra risk in battle, but they wanted those neat hats.

So the Army put everybody in the floppy felt hats of a different color and made everyone feel equal. I suspect it rather pissed off the actual Green Berets, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and the Army wanted its soldiers to feel good about themselves. Self esteem and all that.

For many decades submarine sailors have worn a large pin on their left breast, sliver for enlisted ranks and gold for officers, to indicate qualification in submarine duty. They are called “dolphins,” and are earned by more than a year of training which is not easy, and by serving in ships which sink repeatedly. Service in submarines is difficult and highly dangerous.

Sailors serving on surface ships were jealous of the nifty and highly noticeable silver pins worn by submariners. They didn't want the year of rigorous training, of course, nor were they crazy enough enough to want to serve on those dangerous ships, but they thought those dolphins were really cool.

Just as the Army and its hats, the Navy came up with the “Surface Combat Badge.” It is a silver/gold pin which is almost exactly that same size and shape as a pair of dolphins, and it is worn in the same place. Sailors do not have to be in combat to earn one, they merely have to serve on a surface combat ship and perform the same training and duties that they have been doing since the Navy first had ships. So now everyone has a nice fancy pin on their chest, and nobody “feels left out.” Self esteem and all that.

Used to be if you saw that silver pin at a distance you knew you were looking at a submariner. Now you just know you are looking at someone who is in the Navy, and you could pretty much tell that from the uniform.

Now the military has come up with a medal “for valor” which does not require that the recipient has exposed himself to any risk of injury or death, and it ranks above the Bronze Star. It is designed especially for drone pilots, who do not presently qualify for medals of valor because they do not engage in battle.

I would say they do not qualify because they do not display valor, which is defined as “strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness.”

That a person flying a drone from the safety of a location in the continental US would be awarded a medal which ranks higher than a Bronze Star awarded to a combat soldier who was wounded and performed heroically under enemy fire is utterly obscene.


  1. bruce9:26 PM

    I never understood the army changing its headgear. There was a time when even getting the green beret accepted by the Army was a big deal. President Kennedy put his stamp of approval on that one.

    As far as the surface warfare badge., what's next? I had thought of something, but my dear navy family persons would not approve.

    I could understand the new medal as sort of an "I was there" kind of thing, where they would normally not get anything because, well they weren't there (in the theatre of operation). However there are other kinds of medals for that.

    Ranking it higher than a medal commonly awarded for valor is ridiculous.

  2. A drone "pilot" is nothing more than a kid who is a master of video games. The only difference is the real lethality.
    If one can "shoot" missiles from the comfort of a snazzy control center and then head out for a Big Mac when the shift is done, then they don't really warrant any kind of special award.