God Bless Her Husband–He Will Need It

The Marine Times posted an article yesterday that indicates how warped some parts of our society have become. There was a time in this country when military veterans and people serving in the military were honored. Although that is still the case in many places, it is far from universal.

The article deals with a bride who asked a wedding guest to leave because he is a Marine and wore his dress blues to her wedding.

This is her comment:

“Now, I have nothing against anyone in the military but this was a black tie optional wedding and frankly it felt very out of place and it seemed like he was just trying to show off. My wedding had over 300 guests and nobody else felt the need to wear something to make them stand out.”

I believe Marine dress blues are appropriate in a black tie situation.

Further comments indicate that she was simply jealous of the attention he was getting:

Emanating a “thank you for your service” radius of nearly 50 meters, the Marine — and what the bride perceived to be a “Semper I” aura — finally proved to be too much “mota, mota, gotta lotta” motivation to handle.

“Frankly it just felt like the only reason he wore that was to be in the spotlight and make it about him, which I don’t think you are supposed to do at someone else’s wedding,” she wrote.

“If he wants to wear that to his own wedding then fine, but the whole point of having a dress code at a wedding is so that no one guest will stand out too much.”

My sympathies to the bride’s husband. It seems as if this lady has some growing to do. She comes across as a spoiled brat.

 

A Serious Breach Of Military Etiquette

Today’s Daily Caller posted a picture of President Obama returning the salutes of the Marines on his U.S. Marine Corps helicopter in New York with a coffee cup. That is a serious breach of military etiquette.

The article reports on the picture shown:

“President Obama just landed in New York for #UNGA2014,” says the caption. The salute is “the most important of all military courtesies,” says a manual for Marine Corps officer candidates.

“In some situations, the salute is not appropriate,” says the manual. “In general, do not salute when… carrying articles with both hands or being otherwise so occupied as to make saluting impractical,” says the manual, titled “Customs and Courtesies.”

If the President had a better understanding of what it takes to become a Marine, maybe he would show them a little more respect. The picture in the article makes me want to send President Obama to Marine boot camp on Parris Island so that he would understand the character and quality of the men saluting him. He is a disgrace as the Commander-in-Chief.

The Other Side Of The Story

There has been some outrage about the reduction in force of our military which has caused soldiers in combat to receive pink slips. While that is not really the way to do things, a friend of mine on facebook does a very good job of explaining the background of the situation. This is her post:

A retention board has cut 233 staff sergeants who have been at least twice passed over for promotion and who have served for at least 15 years. (Cpl. Sonia N. Rodriguez/Marine Corps)

Nearly three in 10 Marine staff sergeants considered by the service’s first Staff Sergeant Retention Board held in June were denied further service.

In all, the board considered 798 Marines, said Lt. Col. Rory Quinn, Manpower and Reserve Affairs’ End Strength Retention Optimization Group and Enlisted Assignments section head. Of those, 233 were cut. Another 565, or about 70 percent of those who went before the board, were retained. Those not retained will have their end of active service date changed to Jan. 31, 2015.

The board was limited to screening only E-6s who have been passed for promotion at least twice and have served 15 or more years, ensuring all those cut from the service will be eligible for the Temporary Early retirement Authority program. TERA offers Marines a retirement pension at a reduced rate, based on rank and years of service.

Until late 2013, Marines who made staff sergeant were permitted to remain in uniform through a 20-year retirement, barring any career-ending malfeasance, like a conviction for driving while intoxicated. Amos said those Marines would receive retirements regardless of manpower cuts.

As a result, some Marines considered the switch controversial. But Marine officials say it did not “break faith” with Marines or their families during the drawdown, which will cut the service from a wartime high of 202,000 to 174,000 by the end of 2017.The new policy remains true to Amos’ original remarks, they say, because the boards only considered staff sergeants eligible for TERA, which is still retirement. A similar reversal of policy was made for majors who for years were also permitted to remain in uniform through 20 years, regardless of their competitiveness for promotion.

While TERA isn’t a full 20-year retirement, Marines who opt for the program may still receive thousands of dollars per month for the duration of their retirement, based on rank and years of service.

The reduced pension is calculated by multiplying 2.5 percent of base pay by the number of years served, then subtracting 1 percent for each year under 20 served. So a staff sergeant with 15 years in would get $14,316 per year or about $1,193 per month.

Marines separated by the boards could also in theory opt for Voluntary Separation Pay, which can be offered to any Marine with more than six years of service. Marines who are TERA-eligible, however, are strongly advised to opt for the reduced pension over VSP’s lump-sum payout. While VSP can offer a generous one-time payout which breaks six-figures, Marines will be forgoing tens of thousands of dollars or more over the course of their retirement.

The retention board convened for the first time this year because not enough staff sergeants participated in voluntary force shaping measures like TERA.

“Recent reductions in authorized end strength structure have resulted in excess inventory in many military occupational specialties at the grade of staff sergeant,” according to Marine administrative message 242/14, which announced the board May 19.

As the drawdown got underway, staff sergeants proved one of the most stubbornly overpopulated ranks, in great part because of the practice that allowed them to remain in uniform even if they were not competitive for promotion. While that was great for Marines who made staff sergeant, it caused frustration among younger service members.

The introduction of annual Staff Sergeant Retention Boards may be a tough break for some staff noncommissioned officers, but it will be a breath of fresh air for junior Marines in bottle-necked MOSs. With a shrinking force, junior enlisted Marines in some MOSs became frustrated by extremely slow times to pick up rank. Some were in MOSs that remain closed to promotion over the long term, meaning even the best among them could find themselves hitting up or out limits and pushed out of the service. In recent years, occupations caught in that bureaucratic breach included several in the infantry, such as 0369, which in 2012 was entirely closed to promotion to gunnery sergeant. It has opened a bit since then.

Fewer staff sergeants should help those competing for gunny. Also, clearing the backlog of staff sergeants and creating vacancies for sergeant to move up will have a trickle-down effect that will have a positive influence on career and promotion prospects for corporals and lance corporals, despite a continuous drop in the overall number of Marines.

Whether boards will be held each year is dependent on an analysis of staff sergeant populations in that given year. However, more boards are likely.

“Future analysis will always determine the final answer, but at this point it is reasonable to say that as long as there is a drawdown ongoing, programs like TERA will continue to be offered on the voluntary side and boards like the [Staff Sergeant] Retention Board and Majors Continuation Board will be examined during each annual planning cycle,” Quinn said.

It is definitely tacky to fire people in combat zones, but my friend Pamela, who is a former Marine, tells the other side of the story.

A Well-Deserved Honor

One of my favorite people has been honored by the University of Denver for her dedication to her country and her dedication to academic pursuits.

This is Ky Hunter.

I met Ky shortly after she returned from a year as a combat pilot in Iraq. She is currently doing research on women and revolutions.

The University of Denver Magazine reports:

As a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps, she was one of the first female attack pilots and later served as the corps’ liaison officer to the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, she’s a Sié Fellow at the Josef Korbel School, where her career experiences shape the work she does in and out of the classroom.

Hunter is a master’s candidate in international security who earned her BA from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. After graduating from Georgetown, she spent more than a decade as an officer in the Marine Corps, serving as an AH-1W Super Cobra pilot on multiple deployments in support of Operation Iraqi and Operation Enduring Freedom. “I was an attack pilot. I was the first woman on the east coast,” she says. “It was a trailblazer-type experience. Definitely an experience being the first in something, which is never easy. It’s something that takes grit and determination.”

Congratulations, Ky, for the well-deserved recognition.

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Following The Letter Of The Rule While Missing The Spirit Of The Rule

On Sunday, Yahoo Sports reported the story of Steven Rhodes, a 24-year-old Marine sergeant who just completed his five years in the Marines. After ending his service in the Marines, Steven contacted Middle Tennessee State’s football coaches to ask for a chance to play on the team.

The article continues:

…They happily accepted the 6’ 3”, 240-pound veteran and have been using him as a tight end and defensive lineman during practice.

Great story, right?

Well, it would be, except Rhodes isn’t eligible to play this season because he took part in an intramural league while in the service. He received no money to play in some extremely disorganized games.

“Man, it was like intramurals for us. There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old,” said Rhodes to Adam Sparks of the Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, Tenn.). “The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games.”

Needless to say, the coaches at Middle Tennessee State are appealing the ruling.

The article further reports:

“For a guy to go serve our country, you’d think there would be some compassion and understanding so this guy is not prevented from playing college football,” said Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill. “He’s going to be almost 30 years old when his (eligibility) clock runs out. He needs to be allowed to play right now. Hopefully, they let him.”

Steven Rhodes is being penalized because he spent six years in the Marines. Good grief!

WONDERFUL UPDATE!!!!!

From the Blue Raider Athletics Website:

ATTENTION BLUE RAIDER NATION! Steven Rhodes has been cleared to play this season and for the next 4 years! Thank you for all of your support over the last 36 hours, it’s been a crazy time around here. We look forward to seeing everyone out Aug. 29th for our first game against Western Carolina! BE LOUD. BE PROUD. BE BLUE.

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Welcome Home

Yesterday the Navy Times posted a number of pictures taken at Arlington National Cemetery taken during the burial of Michael Judd. Michael was a Navy Corpsman who was killed in Vietnam.

The article reports:

The 21-year-old Cleveland man was aboard a helicopter that crashed June 30, 1967. He had gone to Vietnam in 1966 and was killed less than two months before he was scheduled to return home.

Judd was with a Marine reconnaissance team when the aircraft was shot down.

Please follow the link above to the article to see the pictures. Welcome Home, Michael.

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Borrowed From A Friend On Facebook

Earlier this week (rightwinggranny.com) I posted an article quoting a government memo requesting all government departments to make the sequester cuts as painful as possible. The picture above was posted by a former Marine and shows how that memo is being carried out.

This is not only an insult to those men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces, it is an insult to every America who cares about our troops.

This is a disgrace. We are talking about using taxpayer money to educate illegal aliens, and we can’t even spend the money to educate our own troops!

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A Word From Someone Who Understands The Issue

Ky Hunter served in the Marine Corps. She was a Cobra pilot during the Iraq War. When I first met her a number of years ago, I asked her how that was possible since as far as I knew women were not in combat. She answered, “I wasn’t in combat, I was a few hundred feet up and a few hundred feet back.” I loved her answer, and I respect her views on the subject. She posted the following on her blog, welcometokylandblogspot.com yesterday:

Those Who Should, Will

Secretary Panetta lifted the ban on women on combat roles.  The Washington Post calls this a “watershed policy change that was informed by women’s valor in Iraq and Afghanistan and that removes the remaining barrier to a fully inclusive military.”
Given my time spent as an AH-1W pilot in the Marine Corps, my phone, email, Facebook, twitter, etc has been bombarded with questions about how I feel about this.  So rather than answer everyone individually, below, I wrap up all question and give my response. 
 
First, a disclaimer.  I am no longer in the Marine Corps.  The views, idea, feeling, rants, offensive comments, off color remarks, or general pissyness are mine and mine alone.  They do not reflect the the views of the Corps, or University of Denver.  So, with that aside, here I go. 
 
Historically, the central question of the women in combat debate has been “are women physically capable of performing the duties required for combat?” This question is quickly and easily answered.  Objectively, women are increasingly proving themselves as physically capable as men.  In both endurance events and tests of strength-to-weight, women are evening the playing field and living up to what has been thought of as “mens standards.”  Women have also proven themselves tactically as capable as men in all objectively measurable fields. 
 
If these objective standards – how fast one can run, how much one can lift, how well one can shoot – were the only indicators of success in combat there would be no argument or debate; those meeting the standard would be inarguably successful.  However, success in combat units is determined by more than just objective abilities, and thus the debate deepens. It is universally accepted that the safety and success of our military units is paramount.  It is for this reason that I believe the debate needs to shift away from “are women capable” of serving to “are women a value added”.   This changes the argument from “can or cannot” to “should or should not”; a question that needs to be addressed top-down rather than bottom-up. 
 
Throughout the last decade-plus of the United States’ involvement in the conflicts encompassing the Global War on Terror, there is no arguing that women have found themselves “in combat situations.”  In these situations, women have shown valor, strength, leadership, fortitude, and upheld the values of honor, courage and commitment.  Many have given the ultimate sacrifice, and each and every one of them deserves a place in history and our hearts as a true hero. 
 
But being “in combat situations” is not the same as being a “combatant.”  Combatants are offensive.  Their mission is to close with and destroy the enemy.  They seek engagement.  Their primary purpose is to assert superiority over an enemy force. 
 
Having the technical and tactical skill to react properly when coming under fire during the performance of primary duties – whether it be an ambushed logistics patrol, FET team patrol, or MP checkpoint attack – provides a foundation of knowledge and experience necessary for the argument supporting a woman’s ability to be in combat.  However, mastery of this baseline alone does not necessarily equate to success of a woman in the role of a combatant. 
 
Successful combat units are a product of the intangible – the fabled esprit de corps – as much as technical and tactical proficiency.  This elusive intangible cannot be “trained in” to a recruit.  It cannot be taught in infantry school.  No amount of extra pushups, remedial weapons training or nights in the field ensure that it exists. 
 
Women are just as capable as men of developing the necessary esprit de corps.  But it cannot be forced.  I hope that in implementing these changes, no arbitrary timelines are put in place.  If it takes 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years or 2 decades for the right women to come into combat roles, so be it.  The US military is an all-volunteer force, and to respect that tradition, combat roles must be volunteer.  Quota systems will only set the work of every woman who has served back, by making light of the sacrifices involved in paving the paths they did.
 
I have the upmost trust that the DoD will set standards appropriately.  And I sincerely hope that the civilian oversight and general population will let this change grow organically and fruitfully, while respecting the grave responsibility for life given to each member of the US military. 
 

I can say from experience that the road for these women will not be easy.  I have chronicled much of my coming to grips with what my experience and service mean.  But I know that I, and all my sisters in arms, are more than capable to serve in all roles necessary for defense of this great nation.  Yet it will not be easy.  And hopefully the public will understand that in such a situation we all must be patient for the women who should emerge to lead our sons and daughters in arms, and not force them in their time.     

Ky, thank you for your service, and thank you for your words of wisdom.

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Bad Decisions Have Consequences

Today’s Washington Free Beacon reports:

Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson “did not permit U.S. Marine guards to carry live ammunition,” according to multiple reports on U.S. Marine Corps blogs spotted by Nightwatch. “She neutralized any U.S. military capability that was dedicated to preserve her life and protect the US Embassy.”

It really is a shame that Americans are not allowed to sue the government. The article reports that if this information is true, Ambassador Patterson failed to do her duty to protect American interests in Egypt. The American Embassy is considered U. S. territory, and Ms. Patterson’s job (and oath of office) is to protect that territory.

The article further reports:

Given that the siege of the Cairo embassy unfolded over many hours, the source wondered if new orders pertaining to the rules of engagement were ever issued.

Ambassador Patterson was in Washington D.C. during the attacks, according to reports.

“I cannot believe that over an eight hour period that nobody … in that chain of command did not ask those questions of their superiors,” the source said. “These protestors did not just appear and within 20 minutes climb the wall.”

A Marine spokesperson at the Pentagon denied the Free Beacon’s report in a statement to Fox News.

Of course he did. I think we need some new security people.

UPDATE:

Special Report on Fox News is reporting that this story is not true. I will post more after I find out who is telling the truth.

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An About Face By The Marines

Marines

Image via Wikipedia

On October 25 I posted an article at rightwinggranny.com about the plan by the Marines to cut tuition assistance to Marines taking college courses. One Marine who is taking courses sent an email stating that he had written his Senators and Representative about the matter. Well, on Wednesday the Marine Corps announced that they had significantly modified their plan.

The Marine Corps Times reported yesterday that an administrative message had been sent out stating that tuition reimbursement levels had been restored to their 2011 levels. The message stated:

“There has been no commensurate increase to tuition assistance funding allocated for FY-12. Therefore, all Marines are encouraged to wisely utilize tuition assistance to maximize Marine Corps financial resources. … Even with prudent utilization measures in place it is likely that FY-12 tuition assistance funds will be exhausted well before the end of FY-12.”

In true government fashion:

Marine Corps spokeswoman Maj. Shawn Haney said the return to the 2011 policy was ordered by the Defense Department, but said the Marine Corps 2012 TA budget is still expected to be only $28 million, or just over half the 2011 budget.

Under some circumstances, this might be okay–sometimes government agencies feel obligated to spend all of the money allocated them so that they will receive more funds the following year. That concept is called baseline budgeting and means that all government budgets increase at a certain amount every year. If the budget for a department stays the same rather than increasing, it is considered a cut. That is why despite Congressional claims of budget cuts, the amount of federal spending never goes down. The information not given in the article is exactly what the amount of the Marine Corps budget for tuition assistance was last year and what the amount of that budget will be this year.

It is interesting to me that as President Obama is making all sorts of promises to college students about their student loans, his administration seeks to curtail spending on tuition assistance on military personnel taking college courses.

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Devaluing Our Military

I understand that the country is in financial crisis. I understand that we need to cut spending. However, we really do need to look at our priorities.

The federal student loan program is out of control. Tuition costs have risen faster than inflation. It is not unusual for a private college to charge $40,000 a year in tuition. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says students and parents took out a record $100 billion last year, and owe more on student loans — more than $1 trillion is outstanding — than credit cards. But if you want to hear howling, suggest to Congress that the government get out of the student loan program. Don’t look for major budget cuts in the area of student loans by the government.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. A website called GIBIll.com reported on October 19th that the Marines are cutting back tuition assistance by 80 percent. This changes the maximum tuition assistance from $4,500 to $875 per year.

The article reports:

Although these changes to the military’s tuition assistance program were anticipated, it’s still unclear how many students will be affected and to what extent, Stephanie Styll, a spokeswoman for University of Maryland University College Asia at Yokota Air Base in mainland Japan, told Stars and Stripes newspaper. Some analysts believe other aid such as Pell Grants and GI Bill benefits can help make up the difference for many Marines.

In addition to the cuts, new eligibility rules are being adopted by the Marine Corps, and include requiring Marines receiving tuition assistance to have at least one year of service. Despite the cuts in tuition assistance, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill remain unaffected.

Does anyone see the irony in this? The Marines are cutting tuition assistance and hoping that government Pell Grants will make up some of the difference. The money will still come from the government, just a different department. Not only will this not be a savings, it is just unfair. Our military is made up entirely of volunteers. Anyone who has volunteered in the last ten years probably knew that he (or she) would be involved in a war either in Iraq or Afghanistan. Military pay is awful. Now we are going to take away some of their benefits. Marines are doing something for their country. Their tuition assistance should not be cut unless the government programs that grant money to students are also cut by the same amount. This is just simply wrong.

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A Hero Who Did What Was Right Rather Than What Was Political

Picture of the medal of honor

Image via Wikipedia

I am writing this article with very mixed emotions. There are and have been a number of people in my family who serve or have served in the military. In my study of history and listening to stories of veterans going back to World War II, I have learned that many things have changed about the way America fights wars. Not all of these changes are good. It is with that in mind that I write this article.

The source of this article is a Wall Street Journal article from September 16. I am not linking to the article because it is a subscribers only article. I am working from the hard copy (some of us still do read real newspapers!).

On September 15, President Obama presented Sgt. Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor. Sgt. Meyer, a Marine, was given the medal for his actions on September 8, 2009. He disobeyed an order to stand firm and went to rescue members of his patrol. In doing this, he saved the lives of 13 Marines and 23 Afghan soldiers.

There are a few aspects of this article that bother me. The article states:

Despite the large Taliban force, U. S. artillery support was denied and helicopter support was late in arriving, as commanders worried they might violate a tactical directive to limit the use of air power when civilians could be injured or killed.

Are the people in charge of our troops so stupid that they believe the Taliban is not aware of this tactical directive and purposely attacks in areas where they know we will not use air power? Would the people in charge of our troops like to meet face to face with the parents and spouses of the people who have been killed as a result of this policy? Diplomacy and war are two separate things–would someone please tell Washington that.

The article further reports:

As the fighting rages, he (Sgt. Meyer) and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez were ordered to remain with a Humvee outside the battle zone.

“We requested a few times and were denied to come in,” Sgt. Meyer said in a statement released by the Marine Corps. “Finally, we knew what we needed to do and decided we were going to go on in on our own.”

Thank God for the courage of those two men. I am sorry that our military leadership would rather sacrifice our soldiers in the name of public relations than actually win the war.

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