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Anti-PC League

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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Officer Perspective

Related to the earlier post about military recruiters...I have a little bit different perspective (although not a different viewpoint), since I am an officer in the Air Force.

The first big difference in recruiting USAF officers vs Army enlisted: it was all me. I had to do more work to get selected for Officer Training School than most enlistees do to get in. I started the process in August of 2003. That's the first time I walked through a recruiter's door and said "I think I'd like to be in the Air Force". I left for OTS in April of 2005.

That said, I think the counter-military tactics are shameful. Yes, Abu Grahib happened. Yes, occasionally bad folks get into the military, do bad things, and then the press coverage is enormous. But in my own experience, as the military brat of a career crew-chief and a newly minted 2nd Lieutenant, I would sooner trust the people of the United States military with my life, family, and property than some members of my own family.

The military does pose some unique challenges. Yes, you will move alot. Yes, you may get stuck with a crappy job right out of basic/OTS/OCS. But in my mind, that pales in comparison to the benefits of rent-free living, free medical coverage, and let's not forget the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance. $400,000 of life insurance for $26/month...let's see you beat that in the civilian world. And another $100,000 for my wife, for just $6 more.

As for getting killed in war: as was previously stated, the current conflict is unique in its low death toll. The death rates from the war are lower than during peacetime. It's amazing how the press can make it seem like such huge numbers of soldiers are dying in the desert, and yet if they reported the same way on car accidents or heart attacks, the numbers would be astronomically higher. You're safer in the desert than at home, at least in this war.

Then there's the ever-present spectre that the democrats love to raise...THE DRAFT! I have a newsflash: there is no draft. There is no pending legislation for a draft. Bush can't start a draft arbitrarily, it requires an act of congress. Bush doesn't want one, congress doesn't want one, the pentagon doesn't want one, and the military sure as hell doesn't want one. I know I don't want to be in command of a bunch of conscripts. The military has worked very hard since Vietnam to become a well-trained, highly professional organization. Draftees reduce the overall level of motivation and professionalism.

Is the military a dangerous profession? Tough question. Undeniably, going into combat carries with it certain inherent risks. But then, so does driving a car. Yes, you may experience dangerous situations in your career. But that doesn't mean the profession as a whole is any more dangerous than some other civilian occupations, such as firefighters, police, security guards, late-night fast food work, etc. In my opinion, it may even be safer. At least the Army gets bulletproof vests and Humvees. Not much a kid working the counter at McD's can do if someone holds the place up.

Oh, sexism and racism in the military? Not from what I've seen. Yes, there are far fewer female officers and far fewer black officers than white males. Why is this? Because there are far fewer females and blacks in the military than there are white males. It's a pure numbers game. The military has a long history of integrating before the United States as a whole. The military was in the process of complete integration before Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. started the civil rights movement.

Maybe you missed it, but I just had a baby girl. I'm glad that she'll have some of the same experiences I did growing up with a military family: the feeling that no matter where you go, you have friends. The feeling that her father is doing something important and worthwhile. The ability to move from the place she was born and see other places, experience new things. I loved being a military brat, and so far I love being active duty even more. As of right now, this moment, I would encourage my daughter to join the Air Force (were she 18, of course). In fact, I highly encourage many of the people I meet to join up. I don't think I've ever had a better job or been more financially stable than I am right now, and its thanks to the military.

All of that said, let's break down the Hazardous to your... part of the objector's website, one by one:
Education: The military provides you with money to go to school, in the form of the GI Bill. You put up $1200, in $100/month installments for one year. When you leave the military, they will give you $40,000 to go to school. You get this money regardless of whether it's actually paying for school or not (for example, in CA, college is free for vets. So as long as you're in college, you get a free check from the government to do whatever you want with). I would have loved to have had that kind of money when I was in school.

Not to mention, if you're going to make a career out of the military, not only is education encouraged, it's practically required. You can't become an officer without a degree, and you're not likely to be a senior NCO without one either. In my case, I'll probably need a Master's degree before I can get promoted to Major (0-4). But the military encourages education and helps to pay for it. If you don't use your benefits, it's not the fault of the military. OH, and let's not forget that education doesn't always equal college. Your military training is also education, and in many fields it's highly sought after in the outside world.

Future: Sure, if all you did was infantry training and never put any thought into your future. But, if you did a little planning before you got out, you'll probably be in pretty good financial shape. You have very little in the way of bills, and a sizable paycheck coming in. If you bank some of it, you'll be fine. And if you use your benefits while you're in, you'll be even better. There's always opportunities, if you look for them. And if you make it a career, then you'll be set for life.

Women and minorities: I think we've covered these already. From a personal perspective, I've never experienced a more diverse setting than my Aviation Pre-flight Indoctrination course, from an instructor and a student standpoint.

Civil Rights: I burst into laughter at this one. The military does order you around sometimes, and there are limits to what you can do. But they don't follow me home and continue to order me around throughout the day. In fact, (and it could be that this is unique to my situation), the military is the EASIEST job I've ever held. I go to class, I go home. I spend less time in class and studying now than I did in college. Before I started class, I went in every morning at 0730, I was home by 0800, and the rest of the day was mine. I know not all jobs are as plush, but I know no one ever followed my dad home with orders, either. And your free speech is limited...you can't talk politics in uniform. That's basically it. You can't use the military as a platform for your views. Out of uniform...say whatever you want.

Health: I think we've covered this as well. I'd just like to add that most Americans would love to have the active duty health plan. I know there's jokes about military medicine, but it's actually very good care for a very low price (free, for us active duty types)

Mental Health: the military doesn't want you to be a callous, unfeeling machine. They want you to have thoughts, feelings, and a good moral compass. I don't know how things used to be, but I was taught that not only MAY I object to orders I find questionable, I'm REQUIRED to raise objections to commands I feel are illegal or unethical. Can killing change people? Sure. But plenty of folks come home from war and they're just fine. Part of the problem is the stigma society as a whole puts on mental health. No one wants to be John Rambo, going beserk and slaughtering a small town PD. And no one wants the "crazy old veteran" label. So people who could use it forgo the excellent mental health help that the military provides (again, for free).

Environment: I don't know what to tell you about this one. You're joining won't make things any worse, you're staying out won't make them any better.

Lives: Another claim that made me snort my Mt. Dew. This was stressed over and over in OTS: we are trained in the MANAGEMENT of violence. Yes, violence is a part of what the military does. But the entire idea of the military is to apply it in such a way as to prevent civilians from feeling the effects. Oh, and basic training is not dehumanizing. Stressful, difficult, exhausting, yes. Dehumanizing, not even a little bit.

That's about all I have to say about it. I'll leave the fact-finding to my partner Dan. But I would like to stress again that the military has been a great friend to me and my family, and I would hope that the anti-military types don't dissuade enthusiastic young recruits from joining.