Sunday, November 21, 2010

Marine Commandant: Marines are Unique – Dispelling the Myths about Marines

In a 7 Nov 10 Washington Post Federal Page article the new Marine Corps Commandant, Gen Amos, asserted: Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell (DADT) “repeal may have unique consequences for the Marine.” and "There is nothing more intimate … when you talk of infantry, we're talking our young men - laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers. … I don't know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that's what we're looking at. It's unit cohesion, its combat effectiveness." (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/07/AR2010110704923.html).

Then in her 21 Nov 10 Washington Post Outlook section opinion piece: “Why are the Marines the military's biggest backers of 'don't ask, don't tell'?” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/19/AR2010111902930.html?hpid=opinionsbox1) Ms. Tammy S. Schultz, an openly gay woman employed as the director of national security and joint warfare at the U.S. Marine Corps War College, attacks the Commandant’s DADT stance but attempts to reinforce the myth that Marines are “unique” with their warrior ethos.

As a Soldier for 30 years going from enlisted man living in a squad bay to squad leader as a sergeant and commanding units from 2LT (earning a Combat Infantryman Badge) to COL, I fully concur with Gen Amos’ reticence to abandon DADT. Having commanded four companies, been a combat battalion XO and commanding a divisional combat battalion, I know from first hand experience that there is nothing more disruptive in a barracks than an openly gay Soldier. It’s a fact, “men don’t like to take showers with men that like to take showers with mem!”

What I reject is there is anything “unique” about a Marine Infantryman. Since World War II, the Maine Corps has become another, abet smaller, ground army and their performance has been identical to that of regular Army Infantry units in every conflict. In his definitive account of the Korean War, The Forgotten War, the author Clay Blair proves this beyond any doubt for Korea and for all their hype, the 8th Air Force alone in WWII sustained more KIA (27,000) than the entire Marine Corps.

Just to set the record straight about our present conflicts, let’s consider who is doing a disproportionate share of the fighting and dying in Afghanistan. Every service member’s life is precious so I wouldn't diminish the death of a single one but as of 21 Nov 2010, reported US losses in Operation Enduring Freedom have totaled 1399; 985 Soldiers, 279 Marines, 66 Sailors and 69 Airmen. For the week ending 20 Nov, the Pentagon released the names of 18 service members killed in combat zones,16 Soldiers, one Marine and one Airman.

Lest anyone thinks the Marines are devoting their attention to Iraq, let’s dispel that myth also. There are very few Marines left there. Since the first Operation Iraqi Freedom causality in Mar 2003, we have suffered 4429 losses; 3244 Soldiers, 1028 Marine, 102 Sailors, 54 Airmen and one Coast Guardsmen. In the past year only one Marine has died in Iraq while 65 Soldiers have been killed there.

Although Soldiers have sustained a disproportionate share of the losses in both our current conflicts, the Marines have successfully garnered a disproportionate share of the press coverage so that most citizens erroneously believe it’s the Marine Corps that’s been leading the charge in these wars. In truth, it’s been Soldiers doing the disproportionate share of the fighting and dying for this country in these two wars. Don’t get me wrong, I am delighted to see that within the past year the Marines have decided to rejoin the fight in Afghanistan after having been "missing in action" for the past several years and we Soldiers welcome their help – finally.

As a footnote: as of 17 Nov 2010, there are 33 combat battlaions in Afghanistan, 25 of them are Army Battalions while 8 are Marine Corps. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/afghanistan-pakistan/afghanistan-deployment-map.html )