July 20, 2004
Don't Dumb Down the Military
Nathaniel Fick joined the USMC after graduating - with honors - from Dartmouth College. After the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, he led infantry platoons into combat in Afghanistan and commanded a special operations reconnaissance platoon in the Iraq war. He earned the Navy Commendation Medal and two Combat Action ribbons and was honorably discharged last November after five years of service.
Here's what he has to say about the draft in a NYT Op-Ed:
I went to war as a believer in the citizen-soldier. My college study of the classics idealized Greeks who put down their plows for swords, returning to their fields at the end of the war. As a Marine officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, however, I learned that the victors on today's battlefields are long-term, professional soldiers. Thus the increasing calls for reinstating the draft - and the bills now before Congress that would do so - are well intentioned but misguided. Imposing a draft on the military I served in would harm it grievously for years.
I led platoons of volunteers. In Afghanistan, my marines slept each night in holes they hacked from the rocky ground. They carried hundred-pound packs in addition to their fears of minefields and ambushes, their homesickness, loneliness and exhaustion. The most junior did it for $964.80 per month. They didn't complain, and I never wrestled with discipline problems. Each and every marine wanted to be there. If anyone hadn't, he would have been a drain on the platoon and a liability in combat.
In Iraq, I commanded a reconnaissance platoon, the Marines' special operations force. Many of my enlisted marines were college-educated; some had been to graduate school. All had volunteered once for the Marines, again for the infantry, and a third time for recon. They were proud to serve as part of an elite unit. Like most demanding professionals, they were their own harshest critics, intolerant of their peers whose performance fell short.
The dumb grunt is an anachronism. He has been replaced by the strategic corporal. Immense firepower and improved technology have pushed decision-making with national consequences down to individual enlisted men. Modern warfare requires that even the most junior infantryman master a wide array of technical and tactical skills.
Honing these skills to reflex, a prerequisite for survival in combat, takes time - a year of formal training and another year of on-the-job experience were generally needed to transform my young marines into competent warriors. The Marine Corps demands four-year active enlistments because it takes that long to train troops and ensure those training dollars are put to use in the field. One- or two-year terms, the longest that would be likely under conscription, would simply not allow for this comprehensive training.
Some supporters of the draft argue that America's wars are being fought primarily by minorities from poor families who enlisted in the economic equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. They insist that the sacrifices of citizenship be shared by all Americans. The sentiment is correct, but the outrage is misplaced. There is no cannon-fodder underclass in the military. In fact, front-line combat troops are a near-perfect reflection of American male society.
There's more. Read the rest here.
Posted by Deb at July 20, 2004 04:44 PM
Semper Fidelis and thank you for your service. Great piece. I served during the first Gulf War and I have to agree with you. I myself came from a "not rich" family and joined the Corps. Some of the smartest people I have met were, and still are Marines (active). I have a great respect for our current military, they (you all) truly are a great combination of the True Americans. I know all the old salts keep saying that "back in my day.." But Today- our young men and women are truly turned into good Marines, Good Warriors, and Great Americans. Too often people look at a 18-19 yr old Marine as a kid, sure he may not have the "life" experience when he first starts out... did any of us? These "kids" learn a lot and are given a lot of responsibility. If the NY Times wants to mock something mock the journalistic world and the uneducated youth it is producing.
A draft is not needed or truly wanted. It keeps getting tossed around like a political football just to upset the "educated youth" and get the sympathy rolling.
God Bless all you guys, Gods speed!
Posted by: KC at July 20, 2004 08:26 PM
Captain Nathaniel Fick is to be congratulated on a fine article based on his experience. It is a well-written account of why an All-Volunteer-Force is essential. And, I speak as a former U.S. Marine infantry/reconnaissance officer myself.
Putting aside election year scare tactics about the possibility of "bring back the draft," should any of your readers be interested in additional reasons why maintaining the current AVF is important, I refer you an article I wrote. It is titled, "Why We Don't Need the Draft Back" and can be found at this site: http://mountvernoninstitute.org/custom2.html
Posted by: Noel Gibeson at September 29, 2004 06:04 AM