August 10-11 2008

In Memory...
Larry Smith
Bill 0' Donovan
Harry Green
Julian Mann
Horace Pope
June R Rogers

U.S. soldiers fold their national flag during the handover ceremony of a U.S. military base to Iraqi army in Yusufiya, 20 km (12 miles) south of Baghdad August 5, 2008.
REUTERS/Ibrahim Sultan (IRAQ) REUTERS/Ibrahim Sultan (IRAQ)

ATTRACTING SOLDIERS

by Kelly Thomas



One of the fallacies of the Volunteer Army is that it is successful as an American Institution. Let's face it, few Americans know much about the Institution and participation in it is very minuscule. It is only successful in terms of a mercenary force paid to fight our wars.

I have all kind of examples of how most are out of touch. Here's a recent one. A good buddy, a vet, had not even heard of Stop-Loss(movie review:Stop:Loss), an egregious program fostered upon active army soldiers who have done their duty and are ready to depart the scene, but they can't and suddenly a volunteer Army is no longer voluntary.

Why Stop-Loss? Because it is Cannon fodder so-to-speak-filling the ranks because of shortfalls and the desire to keep experienced soldiers, even against their will. If my friend had never heard of this, those who are disinterested as most Americans, surely haven't.
A US helicopter hovers over the area of a carbomb which exploded in al-Karrada neighborhood in central Baghdad. The White House played down a congressional measure that condemns US President George W. Bush's new Iraq plan and may set the stage for a fierce political clash.(AFP/Ali Yussef)
(AFP/Ali Yussef)
The active Army, fighting two wars is pushed to the limits. Repetitive tours are more the rule than the exception, trouble is everywhere; if not broken, the volunteer force is close, in my view.

The Army is desperate and one of the programs they are experimenting with to attract soldiers is one called The Advantage Fund. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea and I'm for it-giving deserving youngsters who have joined up a helping hand to buy their first home or start a business. This is a latest wrinkle of throwing money at the problem.

Just as an innocuous and idealistic aside, whatever happened to the incentive of patriotism, serving my country, giving back. Forget it. Those ideals have militarily gone the way of brown boots in the Army.

The Advantage Fund is traded for five years in the Army. It is a bonus. Although this is a pilot program, it underscores the severity of desperation in today's military: try anything to get in bodies.

The Advantage Fund has to be attractive, but why it? Other incentives have their limitations as well. When incentives become the sole reason for someone joining up, the recruitment process is somewhat tainted, not from the soldiers' standpoint but from those who dreamed up the idea.

US army soldiers secure the area around the scene of an exploded improvised explosive device in the Wazariya neighborhood in northern Baghdad. Blindfolded, hands tied behind them, and most shot in the head, 22 bodies of kidnapped Shiites have been found as US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq to review worsening security in Baghdad.(AFP/Ali Al Saadi)
(AFP/Ali Al Saadi)
Part of the military is emotion- willing to put oneself in harm's way to fight for the greater good. These soldier emotions will hardly be surfaced by incentives like seed money to buy a house , etc.

We only have to look at the Marines to realize how to make recruiting work. They appeal to "being the best, the elite, the few, the proud while the Army throws money at enticing the hesitant.

This is not to disparage those youngsters who choose the Army way. It is taking a chance and obviously they deem it worth it. Who can blame them, based on their prospects. WHY THEY JOIN is the title of a a terrific article in the NY Review of Books that I recommend to everyone.

Why do they join? Health care, educational benefits, nothing else to do, options limited- There are a multitude of reasons with occasionally some voicing patriotism or invoking 9-11.

Youngsters who join should at least have to be affirmed for joining. The flip side of the coin is that it is pretty pathetic that we have come to offering money for blood and life.

God bless our troops.





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