The Answer Man

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Q: Should all types of individuals be considered for military recruitment?

A: History will tell you this is a terrible mistake.

Last week the Daily Dunklin Democrat ran a story about Al Sharpton being in an almost battlefield zone of St. Louis where thugs and dope peddlers were taking over the neighborhood.

In this case Sharpton was asking the ravaged people there to take a firmer stand, and for the thugs themselves to realize they were ruining their own lives. You have to wonder where Sharpton has been, because Bill Cosby, and other prominent black men, have been saying this for many years.

The decent people in the neighborhood are naturally irate, and looking for answers. One desperate citizen suggested that instead of sending these people to jail they should be inducted into our armed forces.

History will tell you that this is the last thing we want to do.

Hollywood has frequently used the mistaken idea that mavericks with the street gang mentality make better fighters than disciplined troops.

There is a big box office movie that has run for years entitled "The Dirty Dozen"

In the movie a U.S. Army Officer takes a ragged band of stockade prisoners that included thieves, rapists, and murderers, and with a brief indoctrination makes them capable of over-running a strong Nazi position.

It made a good story, but has little to do with reality. Military history will tell you just the opposite.

During WWII it was difficult enough to train average citizens into disciplined soldiers. The malcontents and recalcitrants were weeded out as psychological misfits, (Section Eights,) or were given dishonorable discharges.

The Civil War had the unusual prospect of some rich northerners buying their way out of military service by paying others to do it for them. This had a great appeal for street gang thugs who would take the money, go into the army for a short period, only to desert, and start the process over again.

Those unable to make a getaway were such poor fighters they were despised by the veteran soldiers. They were often placed in vulnerable positions where they could easily be killed. There were instances where some of these people were strapped to trees and made easy targets for Confederate sharpshooters.

The so-called "gorilla" fighters of that same war were probably given more credit then they actually deserved. The Confederate Army never completely recognized them, because they raised about as much hell in their own backyard as they did against the Yankees. Groups of this type eventually produced such stalwart citizens as the Younger Brothers, and Jesse & Frank James.

The fabled "Gray Ghost" John Singleton Mosby, did operate as special unit of the Confederate Army, but his own "gorilla" tactics were under the strict discipline that been set by Roger's Rangers of the French & Indian Wars.

There is a new book out now entitled "Troubled Water." It tells about the nearest thing to a mutiny the U.S. Navy has ever experienced. It took place aboard the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk.

Because of the need to build up forces, the Navy had relaxed some of the requirements for entry into the service. This was a mistake leading to certain individuals coming in who should never have been there.

Complaining, or "bitching," is just a normal aspect of military service. It starts on day one, and continues to the end. But certain individuals on the Kitty Hawk went far beyond that. Imagining every known affront, they formed in large groups, carrying clubs and knives, and knocking sleeping sailors out of their bunks. Serious injuries were inflicted.

This went on for two days, with the rioters knocking heads, defying orders from superior officers, and boasting they were going to take over the carrier. There were even threats of sabotage to the ship.

It was only the courage of disciplined officers and enlisted men that brought the near mutiny to a close. Unfortunately it cost the Captain of the Kitty Hawk, and his Executive Officer a more ambitious career in the Navy.

It is easy to sympathize with those poor people in that part of St. Louis caught up into the malice of mob control.

The answer is not to send those criminals into the military where they will disrupt as much as contribute. History tells us time and again that rabble resists training, and will not fight as well as disciplined troops.

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