You Can’t Handle A Draft

The Sunday 3 July 2005 Dallas Moning News ran a collumn from Michelle Cottle. Michelle Cottle is a writer for The New Republic. You may write her at mcottle@tnr.com. I have. Click the title above to see the text that appeared in the DMN.

Message Follows:

“The Army has been compelled to do more than just stretch its recruiting tactics
and quality standards to the limit. Now, rather than a two-year minimum
enlistment, recruits are being offered a shortened stint of only 15 months. This
abbreviated enlistment, experts warn, means an abbreviated training period and
less-prepared troops being shipped off to combat.�

Incorrect. The 15 month term is 15 months of Active-Duty service. The clock on that 15 month period does not begin to run until after the recruit has completed his Initial Entry Training (Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training—Basic is for everyone and AIT is MOS specific). Further, the 15 month enlistment is still an 8 year total commitment, the balance of the time being in one of the Inactive or Reserve duty statuses. The experts you are talking to have not looked into the details on this.

“Of course, these days the Army is increasingly employing its “stop loss”
program, which involuntarily keeps soldiers on active duty beyond their
agreed-upon enlistment period. So it’s entirely possible that these less-trained
soldiers will wind up spending a full two years in the service anyway,
regardless of what their recruiters promised them.�

Inaccurate. Stop Loss only affects soldiers in units that have been placed on alert status for deployment, which ends at either 90 days after redeployment (returning home) or when stood down from alert status. Any soldier on Stop Loss who would have either ended his service or retired will do so, at worst, 90 days after redeployment. The only reason for this policy is to stabilize manpower for deployment purposes. The 90 day period allows for time to handle all administrative actions that deployment and separation require.

“These sorts of shenanigans do not seem to be helping, nor do lowering
recruitment targets and upping the eligible enrollment age for the Army National
Guard and Reserve from 35 to 39.�

Misleading. What is not helping is the continued mischaracterizations of these actions in the popular media. Words like “shenanigans� spring to mind.

“Just recently, the service doubled its signing bonus to $40,000. From a certain
perspective, this could be cheered as recognition of the invaluable service our
recruits are providing their country.�

Misleading. The current base enlistment bonus is $10,000. That is the only amount that anyone enlisting is guaranteed to get. There are other incentives based on MOS selection and successful qualification and duration of active duty commitment that can get a recruit to that $40,000 level, but they are the only ones.

“The less-rosy view is that the Army is dangling increasingly irresistible
bribes in front of cash-strapped young people – intensifying the existing
inequity of a military in which the nonwealthy safeguard the freedoms of the
more privileged, who have the luxury of not volunteering to get their rear ends
blown up. The creation of a mercenary fighting force, many of whose members
signed on because they had few other life options, cannot be what military
professionals have in mind when they sing the praises of an all-volunteer
corps.�

Unsupportable. When you can show that either the bulk of the current force or the bulk of recruits match your description, you can make such statements. Until then this is irresponsible. Most of us are like me. I did want the extra income that my National Guard enlistment brings and the bonus I received not only for enlisting but for re-enlisting were nice, (as are the occasional bonuses I get from my civilian employer which makes me, oddly enough, a professional as opposed to a mercenary) but the bulk of my reasons for joining was the opportunity to serve and return to my community a debt I owed for the opportunities being part of that community had granted me. The skills I have obtained through my association with the Army have contributed significantly to my current success—In fact I would not have the job I have now had I not joined the service first. I joined 10 years ago, after graduating from college. I had two part-time jobs and a degree in history that wasn’t going to change that. Today I am an IT professional at a Fortune 1000 corporation, I own my own home and two cars. Unimaginable to me a decade ago.

As for the practical reasons for opposing a draft; a draft would actually exacerbate the manpower problem. I know that’s counter-intuitive but it’s true. If we allow conscript troops we have to reorganize a force that we are already trying to reorganize. In fact we’ll have to completely scrap the current Transformation steps. Conscripts require greater supervision than volunteers. That means a greater need for NCOs, especially junior NCOs like myself, and officers. When you do this it increases the size of the Team (the smallest element of an army unit), this increases the size of the squad, the platoon, the company and all the way up. We have to buy more trucks and we have to scrap or APCs the Bradleys and Strykers, that were designed to carry a squad each.

But that really isn’t the heavy factor here. The one thing that absolutely will have to change is Basic Training. With crops of recruits arriving at the induction centers who are not self-motivated to be there, motivation must be imposed externally. That was accomplished, when we had conscription, by Drill Sergeants who were allowed to beat the tar out of recruits that did not do as they were told or who overtly challenged the authority of the training structure. We recently had a batch of Drill Sergeants and a Company Commander disciplined for comparatively mild mistreatment of recruits. Perhaps the idea that your sweet boy might have to face a Full Metal Jacket-like R. Lee Ermy type will help you shrink from this as a viable option. I just don’t believe that a society that is shrinking from casualties in Iraq that are far less than the number of killed on our roads here at home could handle this idea.

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