Let Us Talk To The Enlisted Man

by James Glaser
October 1, 2002

Maybe you haven't noticed, but most Americans get their information about war from Generals. News programs hire retired Generals to give their opinions about what is going on in different war zones. Generals retire and are hired by think tanks or corporations that build weapons systems they want to sell to their general's old friends at the Pentagon. Generals are the ones Congress asks to give their thoughts about proposed wars.

Enlisted men and women from the lowly Private to the thirty year Master Gunnery Sergeant could give a different perspective on war. Enlisted personal could tell the American people what war is really like. Enlisted men and women might even give Congress some insight on the ease of operation and the reliability of a weapons system. Paper reports can be written to praise anything. Why not ask those whose life depends on that weapon? Everything is "sanitized" for the Officers and down right sterile for a General. Generals it is true work themselves up to that rank, but all officers get a much different war experience than the men and women that really do the fighting.

Pilots, are officers, who experience most wars from 20,000 feet up in the air. Think about that, 20,000 feet is over three and a half miles up in the air. Those that fly close air support, while loved by all grunts on the ground, can't even see the aftermath of their payload. Breathing oxygen even takes away the smell of death and burning bodies.

Field Grade Officers seldom see any real combat and very few officers of any rank ever have to put their own troops into body bags. By the time a General comes on the scene everything has been "cleaned up." The dead are in bags, the wounded are on their way to hospitals, and even dead enemy are pushed aside. Generals never want to see what their orders have brought to their troops.

Sure Generals are the best to talk to about tactics or the "big picture," but if those in Congress want any idea of what war is really like, they are the last people to talk to. War is their life and career and by having more wars, their jobs have value. Without wars, we don't need as many Generals.

Fewer and fewer members of Congress are Veterans and the majority have no idea of what they are asking young people to do, so what better way than to ask those that have already done this nations bidding. Asking the "troops" what it is really like would give them a truer picture. Enlisted personal are not lobbying for weapons systems nor are they trying to help out old friends that want just one more war.

No one in a combat zone ever asks an officer to go over and cover those dead kids. No one ever asks an officer to comfort kids crying over their dead mom while that child is bleeding to death from his own wounds. No one ever asks officers to hold a pressure bandage on a young American, who is covered with blood, in shock, and only has a few minutes to live.

These are just some of the horrors that enlisted men have to live with in combat and for the rest of their lives. Some junior grade officers do see real combat and many do get killed, but for any of the real icky jobs, they can just delegate it some one else to do.

I do not want to minimize the stress on officers, because of all the responsibility they have for the lives of the troops under them, but if those in Washington, this includes the President and most of his staff want to know what they are asking when they beat the drums of war, they should talk to those that had to actually do the fighting..

America is lucky that ground and air warfare have not been seen on our shores, however that puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to making decisions about attacking another country. Just the experience of September 11th should give us some idea of the hate any attack America makes on another country brings.

People in other countries have the same national pride and the loss of life of their citizens is just as traumatic for them as America's loss in our terrorist attack. Americans have to remember that billions of people in this world have been taught for many years that the United States is a terrorist nation.

If our leaders want to make more informed decisions on our foreign policies and our defense plans then I think it would be prudent to question the largest segment of our defense system, the Enlisted men and women of our Armed Forces.

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