- The Clinton/Gore administration's policy of forcing political
correctness on the military is causing many of the best to leave and creating
a weak, feminized 'fighting' force.
- A military man who has to tell his wife and family that
he has been fired from the service is not likely to forget the experience.
But having to tell them that he has been selected out by a review board
because his unit had too many white males to suit the Pentagon's affirmative-action
program made Frank Christian furious after a Selective Early Retirement
Board (SERB) decided in July 1992 that his services - and those of 1,031
other lieutenant colonels who are white males - no longer were required
by the U.S. Army. "All of us were hurt and felt something was wrong,
either with us or the way this was done," Christian tells Insight.
Now the U.S. Claims Court has agreed.
- Also in 1992, a board at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas,
selected 610 male colonels for early retirement. No female colonels were
selected out. A class-action lawsuit followed, with 83 of the colonels
contending that the use of affirmative-action policies in their dismissals
violated their right to equal protection. Their case was settled by the
government out of court for $10 million.
- A similar class-action lawsuit, Berkley vs. U.S., was
filed in 1998 to protect the rights of 1,595 other officers. It is still
before the courts.
- Christian says that the practice of getting rid of white
males so that the ratio of female and minority groups will meet politically
correct quotas is not the only reason for falling morale. "We're also
overworking the forces and giving them inappropriate roles. The purpose
of the armed forces is to win wars," he tells Insight.
- Joseph Mehrten Jr., a graduate of West Point, draws on
his personal experience in a way that suggests where it all has gone wrong.
Mehrten complains about what he regards as a failure of loyalty by the
higher command and says this is reflected not only in "the general
frustrations of being unable to keep talented people, but also in not having
the necessary tools to do our jobs." He fulfilled his five-year commitment
to the Army after graduation and then moved as a captain into a reserve
unit - not because he didn't want to serve his country but, to the contrary,
because of the environment in which he was expected to serve.
- "You spend all your time trying to work with your
broken equipment," says Mehrten, "rather than training the skills
that you may need to fight and win a war. That sort of frustration is causing
the talented senior and junior NCOs [noncommissioned officers] to get out,
which compresses things, so you have inexperienced, untrained people being
asked to serve beyond their capabilities."
- The current retention rate for West Pointers such as
Mehrten shows a dramatic drop from the levels experienced under President
Reagan during the early 1980s. But according to Scott Snook of the Office
of Policy, Planning and Analysis at West Point, "If you want to look
at retention rates and compare them from one year to another, you need
to put them into context of what was going on in the world. In general,
the West Point retention rates track along with what the Army's trying
to do," says Snook, citing recent drawdowns within the military.
- The declining retention rate has raised alarm at the
Pentagon. The Army announced in late October that it would begin new initiatives
designed to retain the appropriate number of company-grade officers. The
most recent reports show that of its 15,000 captains the Army has lost
1,725 instead of the expected 1,425.
- "It's something the Army's concerned about,"
says Martha Rudd, a spokeswoman with Army public affairs, who nonetheless
insists the Army is taking steps to contain its losses. For example, it
has announced a string of new incentives to encourage officers to remain
in the service, including the options of earning a master's degree or choice
of locations for deployment.
- But none of that addresses more basic complaints of many
young officers, who say issues such as health care and retirement funds
need to be addressed before the necessary numbers of first-rate men and
women will be willing to invest their lives in an internationalized military
force that some complain is being used for nation-building, social-worker
projects and mob control in troubled backwater countries.
- However, it is the growing mandate for the military to
be politically correct that Mehrten says is the chief cause of declining
morale and unreadiness. He says personnel are being forced to attend classes
to make them sensitive and caring in place of field training, and he thinks
that is likely to get some good people killed.
- "By the time we got down to training days, we had
maybe one day every other month when I could actually train my platoon
on what I knew they needed to know," Mehrten says with a cadence that
is all military. And such policies are leading to increasing frustration
among servicemen. That, in part, is why Christian decided to fight a legal
battle with the military over its affirmative-action practices.
- When the kind of retirement boards that led to Christian's
early dismissal were initiated in 1989, they were given a clear mandate
to promote affirmative action: Don't retire women or minorities at a rate
that could lead to a decline in the politically correct ratios. In other
words, say critics, merit is less important than social work. With the
Cold War ending, the retirement boards were set up to pare down the number
of career officers at a time when the military had more war-fighting personnel
than the politicians were willing to employ. In the case of Christian,
who was in the Army, the boards were given goals and quotas to follow when
deciding who to force into early retirement.
- It was the nature of these goals and quotas that led
Christian to file a class-action lawsuit against the United States in 1997
for discrimination against white male officers - a scenario commonly referred
to as reverse discrimination. His lawsuit followed hard on confirming revelations
in an inspector-general's report, a year of filing Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) forms and getting a law degree to help him navigate the legal
system. Christian found he was one of thousands of servicemen forced into
retirement by these boards based on affirmative-action guidelines.
- Affirmative-action programs have been a fact of life
in the military since the late forties, but never to the extent perpetrated
by the Clinton/Gore administration. And many women and members of minority
groups who have been retained and promoted because of the SERBs aren't
fond of having received rewards based on preferences unrelated to their
merit as officers.
- Christopher Sterbenz, an attorney from Vienna, Va., has
represented many servicemen over the years and has heard their stories
of the demoralizing effects of recent affirmative-action programs. "What
it really did was irk a lot of the combat-arms people who if we are going
to fight a war are the ones who are going to live or die and help decide
whether the war's going to be won. If they're not being promoted because
they don't fit the right political category, it gets a lot of people upset,"
- A former officer in the Army's Judge Advocate General's
Corps (JAG), Sterbenz loves the Army but says its history on affirmative
action has played a big role in the continuing decline of morale. "From
a professional perspective, it would breed discontent if you are going
to do anything other than promote based on who's the best," Sterbenz
tells Insight. And the resultant decline in morale has played a big part
in the overall drop in military readiness, says Frank Gaffney, a senior
Defense Department official under President Reagan who now is president
of the Center for Security Policy. Gaffney says low pay, unreasonable expectations
and lack of recognition also have done severe harm to the readiness of
U.S. fighting forces.
- The Clinton/Gore response to criticism has been to rephrase
the orders given to the boards. With lawsuits mounting against the affirmative-action
programs, for instance, the Pentagon decided in 1999 to change the language
used in advising SERBs about affirmative-action practices. Sterbenz says
Army officials now use language that is more race neutral and have done
away with explicit statements that gave minorities special preference -
not that the Pentagon has dropped its affirmative-action agenda, however.
- According to Sterbenz, the Army now is stacking promotion
and selection boards with minorities and women to get the benefit of mirror
discrimination of the sort against which minorities and women long complained.
- Christian's concern was about loss of opportunity for
career advancement in the military based on demonstrated merit. While he
was extremely disappointed with the actions that led to his forced retirement,
he is an advocate of equal opportunity in the Army. He agrees with the
opening observation of Chief Judge of the U.S. Claims Court Loren A. Smith's
opinion in this lawsuit: "This case, and the constitutional claim
raised in this case, is not about race. The court is called to examine
whether [this] . upholds the promise of justice for individuals of all
- In June, eight years after being forced to retire from
the military, Christian finally got the answer he had been waiting for
when Judge Smith ruled that his forced retirement on the ground that he
was a white male was unconstitutional. A hearing on Jan. 18, 2000, will
decide how many of the white male officers retired along with Christian
will be able to sign onto the suit.
- Satisfying as this victory was to Christian, it has done
little to reduce the institutionalized political correctness that has undermined
the general morale of the military, a condition Elaine Donnelly, president
of Center for Military Readiness in Livonia, Mich., also says is hurting
- "You do have to have trust in leadership and you
have to have high standards. You have to have a sense that what you're
doing is special and extraordinary and that merit matters. You take all
that away and it becomes just another job and the disadvantages outweigh
the advantages," says Donnelly.
- As an active observer of the military, Donnelly remains
concerned about continuing affirmative-action programs and their potential
to destroy morale. Drawing on recent developments within the Navy, Donnelly
cites comments by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, who wants desperately
to put women on submarines, as typical of the problem. Donnelly tells Insight
that such feminization of fighting forces is stripping away morale. While
she sees the efforts of Danzig and others as in keeping with the affirmative-action
philosophy of the commander in chief, she says the future morale of U.S.
fighting forces will continue to be decided at the White House.
- The week before the election, Donnelly put it this way:
"I think a lot of that pressure will abate if Bush is elected; if
Gore is elected I think it will get much worse."
- The Reality as Seen Through the Eyes of a Fighting Man
- The following letter, apparently written by a young Army
officer, has been circulating on the Internet. It is based on a report
of an investigation of the conduct of men of the 82nd Airborne Division
conducted in Kosovo last January and led by Col. John W. Morgan III.
- As a result of the investigation, five enlisted men received
field-grade nonjudicial punishments. One officer was disciplined under
Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and three officers were
given General Officer Memoranda of Reprimand. However, in Morgan's report,
reviewed by Insight, he recommends that Lt. John Serafini be court-martialed.
The facts in the following letter are reported through the eyes of a soldier
deeply troubled about the state of the U.S. military, but they line up
with the details in Morgan's report.
- Insight attempted to speak with Serafini at his brigade
headquarters in North Carolina but he refused comment. The letter is credited
on the Web to Bob Lonsberry, but Army public affairs says it has no idea
who Lonsberry is or whether it is a fictitious name. The report on which
it is based, however, is real.
- When the bosses screw up, somebody has to be hung out
to dry. There is always a scapegoat. This time there are two. Two officers
whose careers will be ruined and an entire division which will get a black
eye. All because the bosses screwed up with an insane peacekeeping philosophy
and because the nation's political leadership is incapable of comprehending
what an army is for.
- Here's what I'm talking about.
- On Monday the chief of staff of the Army released a report
which talked about supposed "excesses" committed by American
peacekeepers in Kosovo. The secretary of defense, William Cohen, immediately
endorsed the report and called for more training or some such nonsense.
It seems that members of the 82nd Airborne Division, deployed in Kosovo,
acted like soldiers, and that has scandalized the secretary and every flag
officer who feels obligated to kiss his fanny.
- Specifically, the problem was the 3rd Battalion of the
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne. It is a unit commanded
in Kosovo by a Lt. Col. Michael Ellerbe. Ellerbe and his troopers were
sent in to keep the Albanians from killing the Serbs. His orders were to
"identify and neutralize" the bad guys. Now, in the language
of Washington, "identify and neutralize" apparently means to
find the killers and, while displaying cultural and political sensitivity,
offer them a fruit basket and a pamphlet.
- But Ellerbe doesn't live in Washington. He lives in Fort
Bragg [N.C.], where "identify and neutralize" usually involves
blowing things up and sending various bad guys to meet Jesus. Fortunately
for the Albanians, Ellerbe's battalion seems to have accomplished most
of its neutralizing via a stern talking to. Which is where John Serafini
- He was a lieutenant with Alpha Company of the 3rd Battalion.
That means he's a young fire-eater just a couple of years out of college
and in command of a platoon of paratroopers in a combat zone. The secretary
of defense wants him court-martialed.
- His offense?
- Well, brace yourself. He, an infantry officer, allegedly
"communicated a threat." Something along the lines of: Don't
screw with me or you're going to have a very bad day.
- Which, if you think about it, seems almost natural for
a guy packing an M16. Some people think the entire purpose of an army is
to "communicate threat."
- Anyway, Lt. Serafini and his men had caught a bad guy
and they were interrogating him. That's what soldiers do. And it seems
that this Albanian guy didn't know that his role in this little drama was
to say, "Yes, sir," over and over again.
- Apparently GI Joe was asking this ragamuffin where his
killer pals were and no answers were forthcoming. So Serafini remembers
that stuff he learned about psychological warfare and decides to try some
of it. He raises an unloaded gun to the head of Mr. Tight Lip the Albanian
and says something to the effect that now would really be a good time to
start talking. And, whoda thunk it, the guy starts blabbing. And the mission
- Score that a win - unless you're some pansy at the Pentagon
intent on castrating Uncle Sam's Army. If that's you, you see this as "excessive"
and "conduct unbecoming an officer." Which is really screwed,
because such a culture of military weakness would have rejected virtually
every successful combat leader this nation has ever had. Sadly, such a
culture of military weakness is ensuring that America's future combat leaders
will be spineless sycophants incapable of doing anything but covering their
- So Lt. Serafini and Col. Ellerbe are twisting in the
wind, hung out to dry, two airborne soldiers "wearing the proudest
patch in the Army" torpedoed by the brass for doing their jobs like
the warriors their country asked them to be. And there was one other thing
that bothered the milquetoasts back at HQ.
- They made special reference to it in their report and
identified it as a sign of what was wrong with the 3rd Battalion and, indeed,
all of the 82nd Airbornes. It was the motto of Alpha Company: "Shoot
'em in the face."
- Apparently that motto - which may date back to D-Day
- doesn't fit in today's politically correct Army. The notion of shooting
the enemies of America in the face is too gruesome and insensitive for
the lip-biter in chief.
- Which is pretty weird, if you think about it, because
isn't killing people kind of what we train soldiers to do? I mean, the
Army is not a social-welfare agency, it's not really just some giant college
fund. It's a unique bunch of people with a very unique job using overwhelming
deadly force to assert and protect the interests of the United States of
- These are people who must stand ready day in and day
out to administer and face death on the orders of fat, impotent men in
Washington. It takes a certain kind of mind-set to do that. A motto like
"Shoot'em in the face" helps establish and bolster that mind-set.
- Besides, it's not all cheerleading. It's good soldiering.
When you're engaging an enemy wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet, isn't
a face shot a tactical necessity? And shouldn't the chief of staff of the
Army know that? And shouldn't America and its civilian leadership realize
that being a soldier is a dirty business? Don't the morons in Washington
know that soldiers aren't cops? Don't they know that whacking these two
officers like this will kill the morale of countless other troopers?
- Don't they know that in recent years the pride has gone
out of the military, stolen from it by spineless bureaucrats and the open
contempt of a civilian leadership which actively avoided military service
itself? I'm sorry this happened to Lt. Serafini and Col. Ellerbe, and I
hope somehow they can hear these words. Not just from me, but from all
of America. And not just to them, but to all of their comrades:
- "Well done. We're proud of you, and grateful."
- Copyright © 2000 News World Communications, Inc.
Site Served by TheHostPros