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Unconventional Warriors

While it seems everyone and their cousin is trying to make historical comparisons between the War On Terror and previous conflicts (myself included), there are many ways that it is unique in human history. For example, two stories struck me this week.

First up, we have a little news on just how the military's raising of the maximum age of new enlistees is working out. A lot of war opponents have cited it as evidence of how unpopular the war is, as they have to accept more and more people who it would normally not do so.

But as this story indicates, that's not the economic factors at work. It's not so much a problem of demand, but supply. The military doesn't seem to be actively recruiting older enlistees, but rather is simply accepting those who seek them out and want to serve.

In retrospect, it shouldn't have been seen as that much of a surprise. In general, the "vital" phase of Americans' lives have been expanding on both ends. Children are physically maturing faster and faster, and the aging process has been slowed enough that certain age milestones have been pushed back. Women are having babies later in life, people are living longer and longer, and there is frequent talk of pushing back the retirement age. So the thought that people as old as 42 might not only wish to begin a military career, but actually be physically capable of keeping up with 18-year-olds, should not come as much of a surprise.

On the other hand, though, we see that the other side is also reaching out beyond young men. It seems that women, while making advances in serving in our military, are getting more and more involved in the other side. There are increasing numbers of women terrorists taking a more active role in terrorism and support for terrorism.

While one theme is common among both stories -- groups of people feeling "left out" seeking a chance to play a role in a major conflict -- there is another, far profounder difference. In America, the older new recruits are choosing one way of many possible choices they could make. In the Middle East, the women are finding that this is pretty much the only way they can escape the harshly restricting roles their societies force them into. In America, the opportunity for advancement for the new recruits is pretty much unlimited. In the Middle East, the women's only hope for glory is to give their lives for their cause.

The older recruits are choosing a new way of life. The new female terrorists are choosing a way of death.

While I think that the historical comparisons between the War on Terror and prior conflicts can be very useful in some ways, these two stories should help us remember that in many other ways, it is also unlike any other.


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Comments (13)

When I attended my son's Ba... (Below threshold)

When I attended my son's Basic Training graduation at Fort Benning two weeks ago, there were two guys over 40 in the company.

One of the "over 40" is a doctor that gave up a family practice and he utilized the Army's green to gold program to receive his commission later at Officer Candidate School (OCS) following Basic.

The other over 40 graduate just wanted to serve and start in the enlisted ranks.

Both men looked fit and didn't have that "Francis" , "I finally get to kill somebody" air about them either.

Oh, and the other thing I noticed was the lack of redneck mobiles or ghetto sleds in the family parking area, contrary to the lefty myth.

One of the left's favorite ... (Below threshold)

One of the left's favorite agrument is that if you are for the war, you'd better enlist. So now that the military is raising the age for enlistees to accommodate those wanting to join, the left complains that it is disperation on the part of the military.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

My husband just turned 40 t... (Below threshold)

My husband just turned 40 this year. He has always kept in shape, can drop and do a 100 with the best of them. But for the last few months, he has been working on his running- he always had shin problems, and he insists that if he changes his form, and works up very slowly, he can run again. He has spent hours researching this on the web.

Now I know why- he admitted with the enlistment age at 42, and he wants to throw over a 6-figure job and enlist. He has always wanted to join, but circumstances did not seem to work out. We have 2 kids, mortgage, vehicles, no savings due to some setbacks in the past, and he wants to enlist. He is extremely smart, a great manager, and MBA, and he wants to enlist.

So this post hits a little close to home. Will I support him? Yes. Does he fit Charlie Rangels the-troops-are-stupid-and-have-no-alternatives? No.

My father was thirty-eight ... (Below threshold)

My father was thirty-eight and a half years old when he went ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day... So given six decades of advances in public health, medical treatment, physical fitness knowledge, etc., why shouldn't a healthy and fit 42-year old be able to enlist in the military? Just because a 42 yr old beer-gut couch potato couldn't make the cut doesn't mean that a guy who has kept himself in shape isn't fully capable.

The raising of the age of ... (Below threshold)

The raising of the age of enlistment is simply a device to forestall public acrimony that a draft of the sons would ellicit, by accepting the willing dads. If you think the army and especially the marines like training middle-age recruits to do or die (which in the USMC is highly refined to the point of brain-washing), I have a war in Iran to sell you. The cleaner the slate, the easier is the d. i.'s job to accomplish the task in the 72 days allotted in boot camp (or has that been watered down, too?). I do salute those old men (our "old man" in 1979 was 27) but please don't pin your hopes on a career unless you're a physician, because it's bad for morale to see the a 50-year-old junior NCO failing to recognize a 20-year-old boot louie and getting publicly chewed-out for not saluting. Will all these 40-somethings be drummed-out summarily in a few years. While most probably want to do their part in-theater and then go out, many will wish to re-up and will be refused. The normal 16- 20 yr track might be 4- 6 and big hearts will be broken.

Remember that the US Army h... (Below threshold)

Remember that the US Army has an incredible tooth to tail ration. About 15% of the Army and Marines deployed into Iraq are designated "infantry". That leaves a lot of slots to be filled for the guy who can't hike 20 miles with full pack but has the wisdom that comes with age to handle the snafus back at base.


The cleaner the s... (Below threshold)
The cleaner the slate, the easier is the d. i.'s job to accomplish the task in the 72 days allotted in boot camp

Posted by: bryanD

My gut says not to many older privates are going to nag the D.I.'s with their "based on my experience" shtick. I'm pretty sure what their experience in life has taught them is they know what they are getting into and they will go with the flow of training.

And speaking of brainwashing, I found this letter that illustrates how this can happen. Sorry for the length, but it's worth the read.

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are too.

The Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 5:00 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late.

Tell brother Walt and brother Elmer that all you do in the Marines before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad -- there's warm water.

A Marine Corps breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. But tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit between two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon, when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much.

As Marines we're expected to go on "route" marches, which the Platoon Sargeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice, but awful flat. The Sargeant is like a schoolteacher. He nags some.
The Captain is like the school board. Majors and Colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bullseye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move. And it ain't shooting at you, like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ol' bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. He joined up the same time as me. But I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and weighs near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,
Tammy Gail

As retired Army, I still ca... (Below threshold)

As retired Army, I still can't help it. This is funny.

Army, so easy a caveman can do it.

And I do believe this should count as staying on topic.

One of the "over 40" is ... (Below threshold)
observer 5:

One of the "over 40" is a doctor that gave up a family practice and he utilized the Army's green to gold program to receive his commission later at Officer Candidate School (OCS) following Basic.

Sounds like nonsense to me.

I'm not doubting that some guy told you that, but Medical Corps officers are commissioned directly - they don't go to Basic Training, and OCS is not a commissioning source for Medical Corps officers - they get commissioned directly and then attend a basic officer course at Ft. Sam Houston.

Bullshitters. There's one in every Basic Training platoon.

Also, you can tell Rummy is gone, the generals are allowed to tell the truth about personnel strength:

The Army's top general warned Thursday that his force "will break" without thousands more active duty troops and greater use of the reserves. Noting the strain put on the force by operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terrorism, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said he wants to grow his half-million-member Army beyond the 30,000 troops already added in recent years.

Though he didn't give an exact number, he said it would take significant time and commitment by the nation, noting some 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers could be added per year.


Bullshitters. The... (Below threshold)
Bullshitters. There's one in every Basic Training platoon.

Then count the Battalion Commander in on being a bullshitter since he was the one that recognized him specifically during graduation.

Fort Benning Basic Training is reserved for those going into combat arms. This guy was going to Fort Sam after Basic to be a combat medic, not an ER doctor or hospital staff.

Maybe he wasn't a doctor, but he did get recognition for being 40 and staying the medical field that he was a part of during his civilian life.

There were about 12 total that left for Fort Sam Houston. My son and several others went to Fort Sill to be artillery forward observers. (On to Advanced Individual Training)

Fort Benning Basic is the first step to Combat Medic.

Hey, you said he was "a doc... (Below threshold)
observer 5:

Hey, you said he was "a doctor that gave up a family practice" and was going to OCS. I didn't.

In the military, any medic ... (Below threshold)

In the military, any medic is a "doc." So if the CO is telling you about his "doc" who enlisted, well, then he's probably talking about a paramedic, medical assistant, or similar medical professional who took their civilan job and shoved it. They take a significant cut in pay to join. Its hard to keep these folks in, cause the job is hard and with the civilian paychecks with no deployments dangled about (often with great spousal pressure if one's marriage manages to survive the job) it gets hard to re-up.

Licensed RN, PA, NP, MD or DO's will go in commissioned officers, from 0-2 to O-6 depending upon years since completion of training and level of training. O-6 is rare, but it happens. They get their own version of COT with the chappy's and jags. And the paycheck is usually half to a third of what they were making on the outside. But the job and the payback makes it worth it.

But only crazy dudes and dudettes do things like that. Like me.

But as a footnote, I've hea... (Below threshold)

But as a footnote, I've heard of more than one crazy dude who took the REAL basic, and advanced training. Before COT. Even met one. He became a SOF operator. Snake eaters all.






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