Somewhat in the same vein of Jack’s last post, I’d like to address some of the problems with some of the myths of SOF, and how they’ve affected the rest of the military.
From my own personal experience, I can only really address the Marine Corps, but I’m sure those from other services can provide plenty of examples. The problem isn’t exactly limited.
While a focus on unconventional tactics and strategy in recent years is welcome, especially considering the unconventional nature of the enemies we’ve been facing since the 1960s, some of the way that focus has manifested is worrisome. It has resulted in a stratification and over-specialization that has done some pretty severe damage. The dick-measuring contest has gotten bad enough to warp attitudes throughout the military.
In 2006, my platoon ran through a contact drill range at 29 Palms. The targets were all computer-controlled pop-ups, and registered hits, not only by dropping, but the hits were recorded on the computer. At the end of it, my 25-man platoon had scored more hits than an entire Infantry Company.
That’s not a good thing. There is no reason why a basic infantryman shouldn’t be shooting just as well as a Recon Marine, or a Ranger, or a Special Forces soldier. Marksmanship is marksmanship, and combat marksmanship is the infantryman’s reason for being. But it has become accepted, because they’re “just grunts,” not “spec-ops ninjas.”
Screw that. That’s the attitude of a conscript military, not a professional one. Every Marine, Soldier, Sailor, or Airman should strive to be the absolute best at what he does, regardless of whether he holds a “cool guy” billet or not. It’s not about cool guy points, a perspective that has sadly become lost in the noise of the idolization of SOF.
Does SOF have higher standards? Yes. Is there a reason for those higher standards? Absolutely. But if you look at some of the things basic infantrymen (hell, conscript infantrymen, most of them) did in WWII, compared to today, you’ll see a lot of things that would today be relegated to SOF. Men who, sometimes only weeks before, had been civilians, did what would not be allowed to your basic infantryman today. He’d be told to hold his position and wait for the “ninjas” to come in.
There is nothing magical about SOF. The guys who go into it are not supermen. They just work a little harder to get that capability, to earn that place in the unit. They should be applauded for the effort it took. But to accept mediocrity on one side because the men there haven’t gone that extra step, or in some cases, have not had the opportunity, or to look down on those same men from the other side, is not only devastating to morale. It is actively harmful to the health of the military as an organization.
A great deal has been written about what the higher commands and the politicians are doing to harm the military these days. While most of these complaints are accurate, there is an old saying about getting the beam out of your eye before removing the speck from your brother’s. Attitudes down in the ranks could use some adjustment, as well, and anyone who rants about the bullshit from higher had best examine his own actions and attitudes as well, lest he be a hypocrite and part of the problem.
Image courtesy of Ranger UP