Flotsam and Jetsam

I have three items for today and they’re all vaguely related in that they’re about the military but I can’t escape the feeling that they’re more deeply related although I can’t figure out why.

Item 1:  For those of you who like internet smackdowns, our friend Simon has taken Michael Yon to task for his goofy behavior recently and in doing so has incurred his wrath with an email exchange that comes to you straight from the seventh grade:

…Simon — the writings on your website have been dishonest.  You seem like a basically dishonest person…

Item 2:  Tom Ricks had a post in response to Col. Gentile’s argument that the Army is too focused on COIN.  Allow me to draw your attention to this part of a comment by (former?) LTC:

Also we got virtually no COIN training at the MOBSITE … only the training I forced on the unit. Indeed I am entirely self-educated on COIN since 2001 when I realized that I was gonna need it eventually. Actually, I had the help of Tom and a lot of really smart guys on an another internet forum I frequent.

This is a common refrain in my military experience as well. While you’re at home station a lot of training is just not done and it’s rationalized away by saying ‘Oh, don’t worry.  You’ll get all that stuff when you go to your mobilization training site.’  Then, when you get to your mobilization site any training not on the program doesn’t get done and is justified with the argument ‘Oh, don’t worry.  You’ll get that stuff when you acclimatize in country.’

And then, once you arrive in country, everyone looks at you with surprise and says ‘You’re in theater!  You should have gotten all this training at home station or at your mobilization station.  There’s no time for training now.’

While COIN may be official doctrine, I’m not seeing a whole lot of evidence that it’s trickling down to the reserve component level.

Item 3:  Slate has an article about the recent report that the dramatic rise of fat youth is leading to a national security crisis.  The author isn’t buying that.  I want to highlight this paragraph which I take a bit of an issue with:

Yet fat soldiers are sometimes given the boot for reasons that have nothing to do with their abilities in the field. According to military guidelines, even someone who’s fit as a fiddle can be drummed out of camp for having the wrong body dimensions. Consider that a young man who’s 6 feet tall must weigh less than 195 pounds, or have a body fat percentage below 26, in order to serve in the Army. (The other branches offer a bit more leeway: In the Coast Guard, for instance, he can weigh up to 233 pounds.) That’s true even if he excels on the U.S. Army’s Physical Fitness Test. The regulations are very clear on this point: Athletic prowess does not make up for cottage-cheese thighs. In fact, it’s listed as one of the “typical excuses” that fatso soldiers should avoid: “I can pass the APFT, so why lose weight?” When it comes to body fat, the regs declare that too much flab connotes, first of all, “a lack of personal discipline.” Another document suggests that it “detracts from soldierly appearance.” So excess weight isn’t just a health problem—it’s a personality flaw. Oh, and it makes you ugly.

Ok, first off, I think everyone knows soldiers who exceed the height/weight standards because they work out.  So long as they are within their body fat standards no problemo.  I’ve also seen soldiers that ‘pass’ their physical fitness test (and once you hit a certain rank you find it common that people will have ‘professional courtesy’ extended to them – otherwise known as ‘administration PT tests’) who can barely fit in their uniform.  You can ‘poo-poo’ the idea of the need for soldiers to present a ‘soldierly appearance’ but once you’ve seen a soldier (especially a senior ranking one that’s supposed to be a role model for junior soldiers) who looks 9 months pregnant the idea doesn’t seem so silly.  But let’s face it, these are the ends of the extreme.  Usually, you’ve got overweight soldiers who also can’t manage to pass their PT test.  Seems like a bit of a red herring to me…

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