Have you ever been asked whether you have ever killed someone?
If you are a military veteran, chances are you probably have — and it’s always been awkward. Because honestly, what are you really supposed to say? It’s not a question that most troops want to answer: If it’s a yes, it was likely in combat and just part of your job. If it’s a no, should you feel bad that you weren’t one of the cool kids on your block with a confirmed kill?
From a civilian perspective, most simply don’t know it’s an inappropriate question. In their eyes, troops are taking out bad guys all day long, and they are genuinely curious about how that goes. And for veterans who end up on the receiving end of this question, it’s important to remember this ignorance — and that you were once this clueless too.
So how do vets respond? There are a few ways, ranging from the super-serious to the sarcastic as hell.
1. The super-serious: “That’s not an appropriate question to ask.”
If you want to shut it down right here, you can answer back with this. Because really, it’s hardly ever appropriate to ask that question. No one runs up to World War II vets and asks whether they killed anyone. They are just thanked for their service and left alone, not burdened with potentially rough memories.
2. The serious: “Yes/No, but that’s not something I want to talk about.”
You’ve given the answer to that morbid question, but made it clear that’s all they are going to get. If pressed, you can always revert to explaining that it’s inappropriate.
3. The uncomfortably silent: “Yes/No [pause for dramatic effect]”
If you want to flip the uncomfortableness around on the person asking the question, respond with a simple yes or no and then just look straight back at them, with unblinking eye contact. Talk about awkward.
4. Answering the awkward question with a awkward question: “Have you ever slept with your sister?”
With this one, you can effectively turn the tables and demonstrate just how awkward the question made you. The questioner will likely recoil when asked — similarly to your reaction — and you can then add, “No, huh? Ok let’s talk about something else then.”
5. The True Lies answer: “Yeah, but they were all bad.”
Take a page out of Arnold’s playbook from the film “True Lies.” If you haven’t seen it (what?!), Schwarzenegger plays an international spy but his wife has no clue. When she finds out and starts asking him questions, she gets to the killing question. He tries to soften the blow of this shocking news. I think it went ok.
6. The funny: “You mean today, or in total?”
You could always give an unexpected answer dripping with sarcasm. Go with this one, dramatically saying “not yet,” or give a ridiculous number: Like 67.
“Well my official number if 67, but that’s only confirmed. Pretty sure I’ve gotten a lot more than that.”
So how do you respond? Let us know in the comments.
When I left the military, I thought I had to give up part of who I was. In a way, I did, but I also didn’t realize the importance and value of being a veteran. I thought that leaving the service was closing a chapter and simply starting the next thing – which at the time happened to be my new role as a mom and military spouse. I didn’t see my role of being a veteran carrying any weight. Of course, I knew I was a veteran from my six years of active-duty service, but I didn’t feel welcome enough in the veteran space to even find out what it meant to serve in that role.
Our focus often goes to our new roles. You raise your hand or stand up at various events or ceremonies thanking you for your service, and that is what you think being a veteran is. But being a veteran is not something you were; it is a part of who you are. And for a long time, you can miss out on the community that you are searching for, not knowing what you are looking for. It can feel like you gave up everything about who you were, and somehow because you are no longer in the military, your story and voice don’t matter.
But you are wrong. Not only does your voice matter, but it is also needed. Just like in the male-dominated military, your unique perspective as a woman and as a veteran is important for solving problems, making changes and leaving a legacy. That hasn’t changed because you took your uniform off.
Your story does matter, and you can make a difference for other veterans if you take the first step of getting involved. In the past five years, we have started to see a change in the veteran space. More women veterans are stepping up and using their voice as a powerful tool to not only bring to light the struggles women veterans face but bringing more females into the veteran community and helping to bring change.
These are a handful of the leading organizations making change for women veterans.
Women’s Veterans Interactive
Women’s Veterans Interactive (WVI), created by Ginger Miller, addresses the unique and often unrecognized challenges facing our nation’s two million women veterans as they return to civilian life. WVI focuses on meeting women veterans at their point of need while breaking down barriers leading to homelessness. WVI holds an annual conference focused on Leadership and Diversity in which they bring together women veterans with a wide variety of speakers and topics. The conference ends with an awards dinner recognizing women veterans for the work they do.
Service Women’s Action Network
Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) is the voice of all military women. They are committed to seeing that all servicewomen receive the opportunities, protections, benefits and respect they deserve. SWAN has three areas to guide them: support, connect and advocate. Support through a network of vetted resources, connect by bringing together military women and organizations across the country to amplify the voices of servicewomen and advocate for women by building a national reputation as a force behind the policy change.
Women in Military Service for America Memorial
Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history through exhibits, memorabilia and a cataloged history of the record of over 200,000 women veterans.
Women Veterans Alliance
Women Veterans Alliance (WVA) has the vision to connect over 2 million female veterans for the purpose of sharing our gifts, talents, resources and experiences. Founder Melissa A. Washington is a Navy Veteran who saw a need to bring women veterans to equip, empower and encourage each other. Each year their “Unconference” focuses on one-on-ones, self-care, specialized breakouts and more.
Women of the Military Podcast & The Female Veterans Podcast
Women of the Military Podcast is a place of empowerment and sharing the stories of military women’s past and present with the belief that all stories matter and need to be shared. The podcast allows women to share their stories, and it can bring healing and the ability to let go. So many military women never talk about their experience and feel so alone in their struggles. The podcast brings a dynamic range of stories and experiences to help women not feel so alone. And, if you are looking for more stories of military women, check out The Female Veterans Podcast.
These are just a handful of the many women veteran organizations that have been making an impact and bringing about change to the veteran space. But there is still more work to do. Women often get pulled so far away from the military community that they don’t even realize these resources are available to them. Our voices matter.
I now see why organizations like the Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion were so popular after the previous wars ended. There is something about serving in the military that changes you and builds a bond with people who may not look like you or believe what you do, but they are still your brothers and sisters in arms.
And we need that community.
What are your favorite veteran organizations focused on helping women veterans?
Gen. Mark Milley addresses National Guard leaders in Nashville, Tennessee on Sept. 11, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the National Guard.)
In times of crisis, people naturally look to leaders for guidance. Officials from every branch of the military are responding to the widespread civil discontent in the wake of recent protests and riots, following the death of George Floyd. Across the Armed Forces, leadership has affirmed that our military upholds the Constitution and rights guaranteed to every citizen, urging service members and citizens alike to acknowledge and respect the dignity of every other American.
Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein promised that he, along with Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright would ensure “liberty and justice for all” in the upcoming weeks and have resolved to “[Independently] review our legal system, racial injustice and opportunities for advancement.” Directly reprimanding racism in the Air Force, he further stated that, “I do know there is no room for bigotry, hatred or small mindedness in our Force. Period.”
Likewise, Sergeant Major Troy Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, issued an address June 3 reminding Marines and civilians alike to work toward eliminating the source of racism and closing the growing divide between Americans.
In a previous speech addressing the removal of the Confederate flag from Marine bases, Black stated, “Anything that divides us, anything that threatens team cohesion, must be addressed head-on.” He continued, “There is no place in our Corps for racists – whether their intolerance and prejudice be direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional. Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division – rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself.”
The Army’s address, crafted by Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, as well as Sergeant Major Michael A. Grinston and General James C. McConville, promised to uphold the values it was founded upon: those of the Constitution.
“Just as we reflect the best of America, we reflect its imperfections as well… Every Soldier and Department of the Army Civilian swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution. That includes the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. We will continue to support and defend those rights, and we will continue to protect Americans, whether from enemies of the United States overseas, from COVID-19 at home, or from violence in our communities that threatens to drown out the voices begging us to listen.”
Sergeant Major of the Army Grinston tweeted, on the same day the address was released, that the Army protects the American people and way of life, which includes the right to peacefully protest. He implored followers to, “Stand Tall!”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley also issued a statement on Tuesday, June 2nd, reminding the military that its primary responsibility is to uphold the Constitution, to include the belief that all men and women are born free and equal. Milley promised that the services will preserve peace and public safety and encouraged all Americans to honor the respect and dignity of every citizen.
“We in uniform – all branches, all components and all ranks – remain committed to our national values and principles embedded in the Constitution. The Joint Force – comprised of all races, colors, and creeds – you embody the ideals of our constitution… We will uphold the values of our nation.” The statement closed with a promise and a call to action: “Let’s get better together.”
Additionally, General Milley signed the statement and left a handwritten note. Speaking on behalf of the Joint Force, he reminded troops that, “We all committed our lives to the idea that is America – we will stay true to that oath and the American people.”
The Chief of Naval Operations address compared to Milley’s handwritten message in terms of sentimentality. Recognizing the issues at hand, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday reminded members of the Navy and citizens to consider the dignity and respect guaranteed to us in our American citizenship.
“It’s been a very sad time for our country – a confusing time. And most of us are trying to figure it out and trying to ask ourselves, ‘What can we do?’ First right now, I think we need to listen. We have black Americans in our Navy and in our communities that are in deep pain right now.
In the Navy we talk a lot about treating people with dignity and respect – in fact, we demand it.
But over the past week, after we’ve watched what is going on, we can’t be under any illusions about the fact that racism is alive and well in our country. And I can’t be under any illusions that we don’t have it in our Navy. Racism [can] happen with people who are friendly, generous, and kind. So, when that happens… think about dignity and respect. Think about having a private conversation – an honest conversation in educating them. If we don’t do that, racism, injustice, indignity, and disrespect – it’s going to grow and it’s going to continue.”
The Marine Corps has always been an elite force — and you’d hardly think they’d need to make resolutions for the New Year. The Army, Navy, and Air Force have things they need to work on, of course, but even elite forces have their fair share of problems. Last year, the Marines had a big problem with their Hornets and needed a boneyard bailout. So, what do the Marines need to work on in 2018?
5. Increase the dwell time for troops
According to a Heritage Foundation assessment of American military power, the Marines are shooting for a 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio. That is, one seven-month deployment, followed by 21 months to “dwell.” The problem is that budget caps could push the “D2D” ratio down to 1:1. This wears down gear and the Marines. This is something the Marines need to fix immediately.
4. Get new planes
Some of the mainstays of Marine Corps aviation, like the F/A-18 Hornet, CH-53E Super Stallion, and AV-8B Harrier, are getting older and older. The longer-than-expected development of the F-35 has forced these older planes to soldier on. Marines often operate as Air-Ground Task Forces, meaning they need to get new airframes, whether it’s from accelerating production of the new designs, or re-opening production lines.
3. Keep the Expeditionary Fire Support System
With aging aviation being stretched thin, why would the Marines dump one of their newer fire-support systems? Admittedly, the Expeditionary Fire Support System didn’t have the longest reach. What it did have, however, was portability, meaning it could rapidly deploy from a V-22 Osprey. It also frees up the longer-range systems like the M777 and the HIMARS to hit other targets. This is a very useful system — and the Marines ought to keep it.
2. Get a good replacement for the AAV-7 – the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle
The AAV-7A1 has been around since 1972, when it entered service as the LVTP-7. Let’s put this into context: When Taylor Swift was born, the AAV-7 was old enough to have a driver’s license in all 50 states. The Marines had a good replacement, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, but it was cancelled in 2011. Undoing that cancellation should be a top priority.
1. Add a few more good men (and women)
The Heritage Foundation’s 2018 assessment of American military strength noted that the Marines presently have the equivalent of 24 infantry battalions. But to really handle things, the Marines need at least 30, and possibly as many as 36. More Marines can help meet other resolutions, like increasing the dwell time, but it also can be a deterrent of bad behavior from certain countries and non-state actors.
What resolutions do you think the Marine Corps should make?
The newly minted Secretary of the Navy published a call to action this week, distributing a vision statement to the force that urged performance improvements, implementation of new ideas, and faster execution of goals throughout the organization.
Richard V. Spencer was sworn in as the 76th Secretary of the Navy Aug. 3, days after his confirmation to the post. Spencer, a former Marine aviator and past member of the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board with a long career in financial management spoke during his July confirmation hearing about his plans to shake up the organization, referring multiple times to Spencer Johnson’s business book “Who Moved My Cheese?” to indicate that incentives and thought processes inside the service needed to change.
“There’s a lot of cheese-moving that has to be done,” he said.
In Spencer’s vision statement published Aug. 29, he stated that people, capabilities, and processes were the service’s priorities, and speed and results had to be at the forefront in achieving naval goals.
“We are an integrated Naval force that will provide maritime dominance for the nation,” he wrote.
“To accomplish this in the face of current and emerging challenges, we must renew our sense of urgency and speed of execution throughout the entire organization. Our core values and accountability at the individual and organizational levels will shape our culture and guide our actions.”
A spokesman for Spencer’s office, Lt. Joshua Kelsey, told Military.com Spencer’s actions since taking office also spoke to his priorities.
In a recent trip to Florida to speak to sailors aboard the destroyer The Sullivans, Kelsey said he cut his tour of the ship short because he knew sailors were already in formation and he didn’t want them to wait for him. Spencer also abbreviated his remarks so he could get to the troops’ questions, Kelsey said.
“He’s going around the fleet and getting input from the sailors and Marines; he’s wanting to know what’s on their mind and what problems they see,” he said. “He’s made it a priority to get out and see everyone. Not just to see, but to actually hear from them.”
Recent stops for Spencer have included a visit to Naval Personnel Command in Millington, Tennessee; to Philadelphia to speak at a National Association of Destroyers Veterans event; to Naval Air Stations Mayport and Jacksonville in Florida; to Mobile, Alabama for the christening of the littoral combat ship Charleston; and to San Diego, where he toured Space and Naval War Systems Command and Balboa Naval Medical Center.
In the short time Spencer has held his office, the Navy has been rocked by one of the worst calamities in recent eras: the Aug. 21 collision of the destroyer John S. McCain with a Liberian-flagged tanker, an event that resulted in the deaths of 10 sailors. It came just months after a June collision involving the destroyer Fitzgerald that left seven dead, and the events raised grave questions for the Navy about the state of its surface warfare and pre-deployment training and readiness.
Spencer’s vision statement does not name any specific recent events affecting the Navy, but includes a broader call to excellence in recruiting and retaining top talent, meeting the highest ethical standards, and improving training, modernization, and maintenance to improve readiness and lethality.
“I call upon you to make every effort count and to align your goals with our priorities,” he wrote. “I look forward to making progress alongside you in these areas.”
The US issued a stark warning to Beijing on May 31, 2018, as Chinese militarization of the South China Sea creates a potential flashpoint in a longstanding battle for control of the Pacific.
For years, Beijing has dredged the South China Sea to build artificial islands in waters it claims as its territory.
Six of China’s neighbors also lay claim to conflicting patches of the South China Sea. The body of water is home to natural resources, and trillions of dollars’ worth of trade passes through every year.
On May 31, 2018, the US reminded China of a “historical fact.” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”
“We have a lot of experience, in the Second World War, taking down small islands that are isolated,” McKenzie said. “So that’s a — that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact.”
The US has been the main challenger to China’s maritime claims and in doing so has provoked the bulk of Beijing’s rage, which is often expressed in a kind of doublespeak common for the Chinese Communist Party.
On May 31, 2018, China’s foreign ministry called US claims that Beijing was militarizing the islands “ridiculous” and compared them to “a case of a thief crying ‘stop thief’ to cover their misdeeds.”
But on the same day, the Chinese state media detailed plans to prepare a military response to US interference.
The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, wrote: “Aside from deploying defensive weapons on the Spratly Islands, China should build a powerful deterrence system, including an aerial base and a roving naval force and base.”
“How can anyone argue with a straight face?” Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. “How can anyone say this is not militarization? It’s a patent lie.” She said the ranges and functions of missiles China placed on the islands pointed to a clear military utility.
Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea isn’t just a potential threat to the region. Beijing is already using hard power to force out other countries and assert its dominance.
Most recently, on May 11, 2018, a Philippine navy ship was harassed by two Chinese vessels while trying to resupply Filipino marines in the disputed waters. A helicopter reportedly got dangerously close to the small, rubber Filipino ship and chased it off.
(U.S. Energy Information Administration)
“If the Chinese start blocking supply operations,” the Filipino marines “could starve,” Glaser said.
The Philippines are a longtime US ally. The US has massive military bases there and a duty to protect it.
Glaser said this was the first time the actual Chinese navy had announced involving itself in a patrol of the waters, marking an escalation of conflicts.
Five hundred and forty-eight Department of Veterans Affairs employees have been terminated since President Donald Trump took office, indicating that his campaign pledge to clean up “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States” by relentlessly putting his TV catch phrase “you’re fired” into action was more than just empty rhetoric.
Another 200 VA workers were suspended and 33 demoted, according to data newly published by the department as part of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s commitment to greater transparency. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers, and 25 physicians.
Also disciplined were a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chief of police, and a chief of surgery.
Many housekeeping aides and food service workers — lower-level jobs in which the department has employed felons and convicted sex offenders — were also fired.
Scores of veterans have died waiting for care while VA bureaucrats falsified data to procure monetary bonuses, but fixes have been slow to come by largely because the union that represents VA employees has used its political muscle with Democrats to emphasize job security for government employees.
Former President Barack Obama originally appointed Shulkin as a VA undersecretary. By the end of the Obama administration, however, Shulkin had grown increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union and other groups defending bad employees’ supposed right to a government check even when they hurt veterans.
“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.
In addition to reluctance by managers to vigorously pursue firings, the overturning of firings after the fact by the Merit Systems Protection Board — often with little public acknowledgment — has been a longstanding problem.
Shulkin asked for new legislation that reduces the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in answer, and Trump signed the bill in June.
The published data predates those new powers, and does not note which disciplinary actions were later overturned.
One record shows a “senior leader” being removed January 20, while another record shows a “senior leader” being demoted April 21. Those appear to refer to the same person — disgraced Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin — who returned to work in a lesser job after he appealed to the MSPB.
Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald seemed to have so little grasp on firing employees that in August 2016, he said that he had fired 140,000 employees, a figure that made little sense since that would be nearly half the workforce.
Former Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo.
He said “you can’t fire your way to excellence” and blamed “negative news articles” for a morose culture, rather than the individuals perpetrating the misconduct described in those articles.
Though high-level hospital officials were affected, according to the data covering the first six months of the Trump administration, relatively few disciplinary actions occurred in the central offices where Washington bureaucrats work. Those employ fewer people than the hospitals, but repeated scandals have also shown such employees looking out for one another to preserve each others’ jobs.
There were five firings in the Veterans Health Administration Central Office, including one senior leader. There were also two in the Office of General Counsel, and one in the office of Congressional and Legislative affairs.
The data does not include employees’ names, and does not show which employees were on new-employee probationary status. Employees can be fired much more easily during their first year.
During the Obama administration, McDonald lamented that in the private sector “you cut a deal with the employee and you’re able to buy them out,” but said you cannot do that in government.
Yet VA repeatedly made five and six-figure payments to bad employees to get them to quit after they threatened to gum up the works by appealing disciplinary actions. The department even allowed Hamlin to offer a low-level employee $300,000 to quit after she refused to help management retaliate against a whistleblower who exposed Hamlin’s arrest.
The agency paid more than $5 million in settlements to employees under McDonald, which had the effect of encouraging bad employees to relentlessly appeal and make unsupported charges of discrimination when they were targeted for discipline, in an often-successful attempt to convert punishment into reward.
Shulkin said he “will look to settle with employees only when they clearly have been wronged … and not as a matter of ordinary business.”
This is the third in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The military is like a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other.
We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force and the Marine Corps. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Army (and how they should).
The easiest ways to make fun of the Army
Like the Marine Corps, the Army gets called ‘dumb’ a lot. Since they gave out a lot of waivers for the military entrance test in the early 2000s, this isn’t without merit. Also, soldiers try to defend themselves by pointing out all the tough Army jobs that require a surprising amount of intellect such as Special Forces or Satellite Communications Operator. Coming from most soldiers, this is kind of like a mailroom employee pointing out how smart the computer engineers at Google are.
Soldiers also get ridiculed for the admittedly useless uniform they wore for most of the Global War on Terror. All sorts of reasons were given for why it was secretly brilliant, but two other camouflage patterns outperformed the ACU in the Army’s own tests before it was fielded. Since the Marine Corps had just gotten their own sweet digital camouflage before the ACU was fielded, there were a lot of (quite possibly true) accusations of copy-catting.
Body fat is another area the Army takes a lot of flak. Even though their body fat standards are actually in line with the other services, photos like the one below and an Army motto of “Army Strong” just made the jokes too easy.
Speaking of which, quite a few Army slogans have been duds with service members. “Army of One” worked for recruiting the video game generation, but it supported a lone warrior ideal that is the opposite of how the Army fights. “Be All You Can Be,” was extremely successful and ran for twenty years, but like “Army Strong” it’s perfect for memes with fat soldiers.
Why to actually hate the Army
As the largest ground force in the U.S., the Army has a lot of control over what gear and weapons go to both soldiers and, in a few cases, the Marines. When they choose correctly, all troops from all the branches usually end up with better gear for patrols like these weapon sights that let shooters see enemies through smoke and dust.
This is stupid since soldiers screw this stuff up too. Regularly. And when they crash a truck in the mountains or desert, they can’t even use the excuse that their equipment was primarily designed for fighting amphibious battles.
Then there’s the fact that they operate not only on the ground, but also in the water, the air, and space. Army Airborne units provide contingency response forces for both the European/African theaters and the entire world. That’s before you count the Army Rangers who can break into an enemy country and topple its land forces in hours or days of fierce fighting with little rest.
When it’s time to fight more subtle conflicts, Green Berets can slip into foreign countries and begin training up friendly militias and armies, safeguarding American interests while limiting risk.
Captain Dale Dye is known for his direct support on Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and many more war films. The Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office recently interviewed Dye to learn about his life, both inside and outside of the service. Dye discusses his experiences, insights and lifelong wisdom. Watch the interview here:
A Harvard Institute of Politics poll, conducted in the days following the 2015 Paris attacks, found overwhelming support among American youth for deploying U.S. combat troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria… and even more American youth who would not join the U.S. military to join that fight.
Sixty percent of 18 to 29-year-olds in the United States say they support the idea, with sixty two percent saying they would “definitely not join the fight.”
The Harvard IOP has polled millennials, the largest generation in America today, for fifteen years. This was the third poll conducted in 2015 and the three polls show increased support for the use of U.S. troops, not a real surprise given the timing. In March 2015, the support for ground troops was fifty seven percent and actually dropped nine points to forty eight percent by the end of Summer.
“I’m reminded of the significant degree of distrust that this generation has about all things related to government,” he said. “I believe if young people had a better relationship with government they’d be more open to serving.”
Is mistrust of government really a reason to avoid military service? Are millennials afraid of combat? The real question here seems to be, who does join the military and why?
A Syracuse University study from 2008 looks at the history the three largest racial-ethnic groups in the U.S. military. This study finds the most important predictor of military service is found in family income. Families with lower incomes and socioeconomic status are more likely to join the military. The study cites previous research confirming military service as a means of occupational opportunity and has fewer incentives for upper-class participation.
The Harvard poll did not take socioeconomic status into account but even the poorest among Americans would be unable to join the military. The lowest on the socioeconomic ladder are less likely to finish high school or get a GED, requirements of military service. Extreme poverty also correlates with poor physical health, obesity, and criminal records, all of which would get an applicant denied at the recruiter’s office.
Access to education and economic participation among today’s 18 to 20-year-olds has changed drastically over previous decades. Poverty rates across the board, despite a recent bump since the 2008 economic crisis, show a decline. The reason behind the decline in willingness to join the military may simply be that fewer people need the military to raise their socioeconomic status.
Among those who did join, a 2011 Pew poll found the major reasons for joining included serving the country (90%), education (77%), travel (60%), and civilian job skills (57%). Note that this poll asked those already in uniform. It did not ask civilians with an inclination to serve. That difference is important. For most of us, our perception of ourselves and of military service changes after we earn the uniform, no matter what the reason we enlisted in the first place.
Before World War II, the U.S. armed forces only boasted 180,000 in uniform. During the Vietnam War, 8.7 million troops served in the military between 1965 and 1973, and only 1.8 million of those were drafted. 2.7 million of those in the military fought in Vietnam and only 30% of the combat deaths in the war were draftees. The demographics of troops deployed to Vietnam were close to a reflection of the demographics of the U.S. at the time. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. military received a huge recruitment boost. Males age 16 to 21 were more inclined to serve, their numbers increasing eight percent immediately after the attacks and remaining high until 2005. The last time the Air Force failed to meet its recruiting goal was the last fiscal year before 9/11.
So while the Harvard poll may disturb some and seems to back recent opinions in Chinese media that the U.S. is a “paper tiger,” it’s important to remember that American wars have historically been fought by American youth, whether they liked it or not.
Beginning in early August, the US Marines aboard the USS Wasp have conducted airstrikes against ISIS’ Libyan stronghold of Sirte from the Mediterranean. This has forced the group to retreat to a point where the Marines can now use the big guns: AH-1W SuperCobra attack choppers.
While drones and Harrier jump jets launched from the deck of the USS Wasp helicopter carrier had been attacking ISIS targets in Libya for weeks, the use of the SuperCobra represents a change in tactics.
Because helicopters can hover, loiter, and maneuver easily, they are ideal for seeking out hidden targets in urban areas. ISIS has been forced to retreat as Libyan and US forces drive the group into the “densest, most built-up part” of Sirte, a Defense Department official told The Washington Post. The birthplace of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Sirte is an important port city in the divided nation.
The SuperCobra attack choppers are guided by US Special Forces on the ground in Libya along with other allied and Libyan forces aligned with the Government of National Accord, a UN-backed government that has requested US assistance in riding the country of ISIS.
Sirte’s position in the Mediterranean means it could be a staging point for ISIS looking to mount attacks in Europe. The power vacuum left over from the death of Gaddafi in 2011, as well as internal disagreements in Libya, has caused the country to become a hub of crime and human trafficking.
Though Libya remains divided, the ousting of ISIS can only be a good thing for the country’s stability. A recent statement from US Africom said only a few hundred or so ISIS fighters remained in Libya.
There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who get the appeal of floating fortresses, bristling with guns and missiles and all manner of things awesome – and those who drive Priuses. There is no middle ground. And if there were, most of the ships on this list would turn it into a giant, smoking crater.
Yes, there’s definitely something about a big military ship that takes us back to the most primal part of ourselves. There’s a bit of romance to that part; maybe a bit of the old idealist, who appreciates the aesthetic appeal of naval warfare. Maybe it’s the risk-taker, the gambler who understands that all that lay between sailor and sea is one well-placed shot to the stern. Maybe it’s just the fact that big guns are cool, and ships carry the biggest guns of them all.
But no matter what the appeal, you would have to be of a pretty small group not to find something to love about these cool military surface ships. And if you’re one of those people, please park your Prius on the beach…we’re working up a firing solution… Vote up the coolest military surface ships below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section!