Opinion: The Chief of Staff of the Australian military, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, Chief of Army has written a memo in which he has decided that “what could be termed ‘death’ symbology/iconography” is to be eliminated from their military culture.
SOFREP.com’s Luke Ryan wrote about this earlier this week where the general listed several examples of such iconography, followed by why the symbol negatively represents the Australian Army: “Pirate Skull and Crossbones (maritime outlaws and murderers), the Phantom or Punisher symbols (vigilantes), Spartans (extreme militarism) or the Grim Reaper (bringer of death).” Gen. Campbell believes that these symbols are counter to the ethos embraced by the Australian Army, “employing violence with humility always and compassion whenever possible.”
While the general states that the troops wearing these symbols were never presented in an “ill-intentioned manner” however he states that “it is always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the inclusion of an arrogant hubris and general disregard for the most serious responsibility of our profession: the legitimate and discriminate taking of life.”
Part of what the general is playing to is the endless battle between what the military preaches incessantly to the troops (uniformity) and the small liberties the fighting men take with their instruments of war which builds a bit of esprit de corps and is a small price to pay for a bit of motivation for the troops. Some, like the general, take uniformity to the nth degree and end up pissing off the troops to no end for no good reason.
Rest assured, Special Operations has had its share of uniformity geeks and Special Forces was certainly not immune to it. Thankfully the generation today, while serving overseas hasn’t had to put up with pedantic ravings of certain sergeant majors who couldn’t speak of anything tactically with the adults in the room, so they became the haircut, mustache and belt police. Those of our generation know exactly who I speak of.
With all due respect to our Australian brothers in arms, this general missed the boat entirely. The Australians, like the United States military, has been in this Global War on Terror since the beginning. The vast majority of the men who use those symbols are in the combat arms MOS’ and the very symbol of the Australian Infantry Combat Badge is the bayonet. There is no compassionate way to use a bayonet unless the men who trained me and countless others at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning are totally wrong.
To be honest here, when I first read the headline, I thought it was a joke, a hoax, not unlike the ones we see on certain satirical websites. If the general is worried about the perception of the military and the men who wage war in it among their citizens, let them take their place and put their own lives on the line.
If instead he is, and this is probably more true, worried about having everything look the same and worried about political correctness, then he needs to step back and check himself.
These things aren’t new or related to just the Global War on Terror. A scene from the film “Full Metal Jacket” from the Vietnam era had its own pogue attempts at curbing the men’s small sense of individuality.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you’ve got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: “Born to Kill”, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You write “Born to Kill” on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What’s that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You’d better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you’ll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?
Private Joker: Our side, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Don’t you love your country?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Then how about getting with the program? Why don’t you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Son, all I’ve ever asked of my marines is that they obey my orders as they would the word of God. We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out. It’s a hardball world, son. We’ve gotta keep our heads until this peace craze blows over.
Even back in World War II, the brass knew enough when to leave the men alone. During the earlier years of the war, any bomber pilot that flew and completed 25 combat missions were allowed to go home. That is how stacked the deck was against any crew trying to survive. The Army, even the stick-up-their-ass senior officers knew that the crew painting pin-ups or cartoon characters and such on their aircraft was a small price to pay for men risking their lives over the skies of Europe.
Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame, was in 1943 a reporter for Stars and Stripes, but still the same Andy Rooney. And he flew a couple of combat missions with B-17s over Germany and reported this:
“Grim-faced Luftwaffe pilots, proud of the guts that take them within the suicide circle of a fortress formation, determined to do or die for the Fatherland, must wonder what the hell kind of air force they are up against. They come diving in, teeth clenched, hell-bent for Hitler and along with a hail of lead are greeted by the stupid grin of some absurd comic-book character, or the nude form of a pretty girl painted on the nose of the bomber they are attacking….” The art was “something else, Andy Rooney wrote.”
General Campbell’s own Twitter account showed how ridiculous this ban is by Retweeting an award some Australian cadets had won in a Land Navigation competition at West Point. Included was the USMA Logo, the Spartan helmet. Campbell wants to ban the helmet for being too militaristic.
This is the kind of chickenshit adherence to uniform regulations that pisses the soldiers off to no end. There are certain things that leaders should and must do for their troops.
Ensuring that they have the best equipment and enough supplies to do the job. Give them the best training that they can get to ensure that every one of them returns home alive. And provide them with the best leadership, which starts with a sense of mission that they can. When leaders come up with this, the troops that are supposed to be leading tune them right out and become convinced, and rightfully so, that they don’t have the troops best interest at heart.
Before Special Forces troops deploy on missions, they’d give a briefback to the commander and his staff. When it was the turn of the Command Sergeant Major, (CSM A.) to address any questions, we had one who would ask pertinent questions on mission accomplishment, the logistics of said mission and ensuring that every member of the team knew what his assigned part of the mission was.
We had another (CSM B.) who didn’t ask a single question about the mission, not one. But would tell the Team Sergeant to make sure that SSG so and so, trims his mustache and ask if any of the team members were wearing unauthorized belts or boots.
Which one would you want to follow, or have as your CSM?
In the end, is wearing the symbols of a skull and crossbones, or the Punisher a bit silly? Of course, it is, but as a lover of the Punisher logo, a sticker of it has been on my truck for years. But at the same time, shouldn’t the leaders of the military of each country have more important things to worry about than a logo of a Spartan helmet or the Punisher? You’re damned straight they do.
The Superman “S” is for honor and integrity, much like the shield of Captain America. The symbolism of the Punisher and perhaps Batman is a bit darker. For the lawbreakers or the bad guys, it means that “we’re coming for you and you’ll have nowhere to hide.”
Leave Frank Castle and the Punisher be, and let’s hope the U.S. military isn’t as short-sighted and dumb as this. The men have been at war for 17 years and we should be more concerned with getting them all home safely than if they are wearing a skull face veil or a logo spray painted on their kit.
Photo: SOFREP, Marvel