April 06, 2007


"America's Broken Down Army" is a completely disheartening article. I could fisk just about every paragraph in the thing, but the fact that it was even written makes me want to cry. I will say a couple of things.

"For us, it's just another series of never-ending deployments, and for many, including me, there is only one answer to that—show me the door out," wrote an officer in a private e-mail to Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey.

If Time had asked my husband for his opinion, they'd've gotten the exact opposite answer. He's looking for the door in, trying to figure out how he can be more useful to the Army.

"Their wives are saying, I know you're proud of what you're doing, but we've got to get out of here," says Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star general.

If McCaffrey had asked me, he would've gotten the exact opposite answer again. I am so proud of what my husband is doing, and I am doing everything I can to help him get closer to the fight.

After training to fire the artillery's big guns at foes 15 miles away, his unit is pulling infantry duty. "I love the Army," the 12-year veteran, a native of Columbus, Ohio, says, "but I hate this war."

No one in the Army is doing what they trained to do in AIT or OBC, save 11Bs and 19Ws. And everyone hates this war. My husband hates this war. But he still thinks we have to fight it.

Three weeks before his enlistment was up last year, the Army ordered him to Iraq for a second tour. He had been planning to live with his wife in Chicago and attend film school by now. Instead, Santopoalo stalks Sunni insurgents through the palm groves. "You start to think about what life could be—sitting on a beach drinking a Corona," he says. "That's when it affects you."

My husband and I had two very different reactions to this quote. My husband said that this is the most normal feeling in the world. All soldiers wish they were relaxing and drinking beer, all the time. He's leaving for the field this weekend, and he says he knows all week he will wish he were at home in his recliner. That's what soldiers do: dream of relaxing. My reaction is the same reaction I have whenever I think of my own husband deploying: our life is not worth more than anyone else's. If my husband doesn't deploy, someone else will. Someone has to do the job, and we have never once thought that we've already done our time and now it's time for someone else to do it. Until this war is over, it is ours to fight.

I could go on and on about this article, about how they mischaracterize the Blue to Green program as the Army "cannibalizing" the Air Force, or how they beat that eternal dead horse that is uparmored HMMWVs. Their own figures make the argument that the Army is doing everything a lumbering bureaucracy can do to make this better:

A World War II G.I. wore gear worth $175, in today's dollars. By Vietnam, it cost about $1,500. Today it's about $17,000. [...] The Army said at the start of the war it would need 235 armored humvees; the number is 18,000 today—and each time the Army improves the armor on the truck, the insurgents improve their IEDs. The Army has packed on all the armor a humvee's transmission and axles can carry, so the military is rushing to buy 7,774 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles for an estimated $8.4 billion—more than $1 million each. Their V-shaped undercarriage is designed to deflect blasts from the soldiers on board.

Yes, the Army thought OIF, this one stage of the Global War on Terrorism (oops, can't say that), wouldn't last so long. So freaking sue them. Whiny microwave, drive-thru culture...you can't have everything you want as fast as you want it. This is a war. War sucks. People have to fight in it and they have to die in it. Forgive my lack of empathy, but I just finished reading a book on Sherman's march in the Civil War, and I have a hard time shedding tears that we've got to let more folks with GEDs in the Army to meet recruiting goals. Union men in the Civil War fought for years on end with no employer benefits waiting for them back home, fought to end the slavery of other men; they were in no danger of becoming slaves themselves. Today we fight an enemy who wishes all of us to submit, to become slaves to shariah. Forgive me if I don't care if you have a marijuana bust on your record or a low ASVAB, so long as you want to help us fight this long and awful war.

Is the Army broken? Maybe it wouldn't seem that way if we didn't constantly harp on it. Men in WWII parachuted all over kingdom come and were lucky to have a weapon and a cricket when they landed. Patton didn't have enough gas to advance his Third Army. But Americans didn't sit around and harp about how broken-down we were. They didn't gripe about how soldiers on the beaches of Normandy didn't have kevlar and uparmored landing crafts. They fought with the Army they had and didn't write four-page articles on how doomed they were.

Anyone with an ounce of perspective knows that war sucks and nothing is ever perfect. There's nothing wrong with striving to do better, but this constant naysaying and tearing down of our military is a bunch of baloney. I'm tired of hearing how crappy our Army is and how awful life is for everyone involved. We don't even know the meaning of the word crappy.

Posted by Sarah at April 6, 2007 12:56 PM | TrackBack

Well said. I get very tired of hearing all the negative things about the army. My husband would probably agree with your husband. It is nice to read your well-written essay expressing how many of us feel. Thanks.

Posted by: Butterfly Wife at April 6, 2007 12:32 PM

Amen, ditto & well said Sarah.

Posted by: tim at April 6, 2007 02:09 PM

Amen. You know, most of the time I am pretty apathetic about the BS I hear or read in the news, but occasionally I will get POed enough to write a letter or a post. But most of the time I am just thinking in terms of sheep, sheep dogs and wolves. Let them bleat. The victors write history...sometimes I would love to go back in time and hear exactly what the naysayers were saying back in the days...however, that doesn't really get recorded often. And sometimes I just want to go Atlas Shrugged on everyone.

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at April 6, 2007 02:10 PM

I can guarantee that if you become a Chinook mechanic, you WILL be working in your field. Ask my son who is a Flight Engineer. *grin*

As for Time... I expect no better from them. It's tiring to hear them bleat like that all the time.

Posted by: Teresa at April 6, 2007 05:33 PM

Sarah wrote:
They fought with the Army they had and didn't write four-page articles on how doomed they were.

Well, they actually wanted to win back then. Nowadays... *sigh*

Though I was amused at the article's use of the "I'd rather be somewhere else" thoughts. I suspect there are plenty of people in any occupation that do that. Why are soldiers having such thoughts "proof" of a "broken" army, again?

(Hah! We can use scare quotes too!) ;)

Posted by: Patrick Chester at April 6, 2007 09:11 PM

Very well written.

Posted by: R1 at April 7, 2007 12:40 AM

I really regard what you say of the military. Of course there are always people who don't like their jobs, and some of those include members of our military.

But Time has again proven its liberal bias. I hope they go under. They did their whole revamping, hoping to rebuild the flagship magazine, but I think they are killing it themselves with their editorializing.

Posted by: Tom at April 7, 2007 10:49 AM

I must have been the wierd one, then. I distinctly remember on several occasions thinking while in the field "gosh, why can't we use the nuclear simulation pyrotechnic instead of using kool aid to pretend we've been hit with nerve gas?"

Proof, PROOF that we were unprepared for anything in 1990! We trained with BLUE POWDER and pretended we'd just been gassed! Oh, the humanity! We were all thinking "what if they used REAL GAS" during the first Gulf War, paralyzed with fear because our training was so poor. How on earth did we survive in that old M113 and ragtop HUMMV? Despair! Woe!

Posted by: Deskmerc at April 7, 2007 04:29 PM