Lateral military enlistments?

The pattern for enlisting in the military is to sign up in your 20′s, then, if you want to make a career of it, keep rising in the ranks until you retire after 20 or 30 years.  The military only hires people, as it were, at entry level positions.  But what if you could enlist when you are older?  What if you could could come into the service with a rank commensurate with your experience and expertise?  Renee J. Squier proposes this kind of “lateral enlistment.” [Read more...]

At his post 29 years after the war

The Japanese soldier who held out in a Philippine jungle for 29 years after the end of World War II died.  Hiroo Onoda was 91.  Read his story–including why he finally turned himself in– after the jump.

Would you say Lt. Onoda was an example of outrageous stubborness (a vice) or inspirational integrity (a virtue)?  How does this relate to vocation? [Read more...]

Veterans Day

This is Veterans Day, so let us honor those who have served in the military vocations.  You readers who are veterans, thank you for your service.

I’ve read that some veterans, particularly of our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are sick of hearing that.  It is good, though, that they are receiving today almost universal respect, unlike the reception in some quarters of Vietnam vets.  After the jump, some questions and a link to a classic discussion of the military vocation. [Read more...]

Against women in combat

Let’s stipulate that women can engage in combat, that they are just as brave and patriotic as men and they they can kill our nation’s enemies when they need to.  The question is not can they, but should they?  Let me put forth two arguments and then put you onto several more from a column by Kathleen Parker. [Read more...]

Women in the “band of brothers”

Four women in the U. S. Army have filed a lawsuit  in federal court demanding that the military drop its practice of excluding women from combat.  Robert H. Scales, a retired Major General with combat experience, raises a concern that I haven’t heard before:

Infantry and armor soldiers alone do virtually all the intimate killing. Here’s where the issue gets hard for me. Intimate killing is done in small units, normally squads and teams. In these engagements they fight and often die not for country or mission but for each other. We borrow a phrase from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and term this phenomenon the “band of brothers effect.” This is the essential glue in military culture that causes a young man to sacrifice his life willingly so that his buddies might survive. Contemporary history suggests that U.S. infantry units fight equally well when made up of soldiers of different ethnicities, cultures, intelligence and social background. The evidence is also solid that gays make just as good infantrymen as do straight men.

I’ve been studying the band of brothers effect for almost 40 years and have written extensively on the subject. We know that time together allows effective pairings — or “battle buddies,” to use the common Army term. We know that four solid buddy pairings led by a sergeant compose a nine-man, battle-ready squad. The Marine squad is slightly larger. We know from watching Ranger and special forces training that buddy groups form often spontaneously. But the human formula that ensures successful buddy pairings is still a mystery, and that’s the key stumbling block in the debate. Veteran SEALs, special forces, Rangers, tankers and line infantrymen will swear that the deliberate, premeditated and brutal act of intimate killing is a male-only occupation. But no one can prove it with data from empirical tests because no such data exist from the United States. They just know intuitively from battlefield experience that it’s true.

To be sure, women soldiers may be fit, they may be skilled and they may be able to “hang.” Many have proved with their lives that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. But our senior ground-force leaders, as well as generations of former close combat veterans from all of our previous wars, are virtually united on one point: The precious and indefinable band of brothers effect so essential to winning in close combat would be irreparably compromised within mixed-gender infantry squads.

via Not yet time for women to serve in infantry – The Washington Post.

“Intimate killing.”  “Band of brothers.”  “Battle buddies.”  One would think that the intimate two-person bond between “battle buddies” would also be affected by homosexuality.  At any rate, it would seem that we should identify what the different units in our military are for and then determine what arrangements would make them more effective towards that end.

A soldier’s vocation

Browsing on the LCMS website and looking for something else, I came across this interview with Gen. John W. Vessey, whose distinguished military career including not only combat in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, but serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan.  He reflects very perceptively on the doctrine of vocation and gives some interesting stories of practicing the Christian faith in the military.  It turns out, the interview is from the latest Lutheran Witness.  A sampling:

LW: How does your Lutheran faith play a role in your courageous work, both when you were in active duty as well as now in retirement?

GV: I’ve been a lifelong Lutheran, and for that I am thankful. Martin Luther once wrote a pamphlet called Whether Soldiers Too Can Be Saved. I really took that to heart. Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession–which among other things says that Christians may serve in just wars–well, one can certainly take comfort in that too. Christ goes with us wherever we are. The Lutheran Confessions are blessings to us and make us stronger and help us understand the Word of God even more. . . .

LW: How can we, as Lutherans, properly view military service in light of caring for our neighbor and protecting him in his body?

GV: It first starts with Article 16 of the Augsburg Confession: It is not only right to serve but it is a duty for Christians to serve the civil community. As Luther pointed out, we live in the two kingdoms: the kingdom of God on the right and the civil on the left. We are God’s representatives in both places, but we are also fallible and sinful beings in both places, so we need to carry God’s Word with us as we do His work in the community. Being a soldier is not only okay but is even required by civil authorities for the safety of citizens.

For the young people today, I encourage them to consider a bit of service to the nation, whether it is teaching in schools or in the Armed Forces or what have you. It is an important thing, and you can take your Christian beliefs to that service, making both the service and yourself stronger.

LW: Most of us go through our lives in an occupation that does not require us to make life-altering or life-taking decisions in defense of country or self. How does the Christian soldier deal with the inner conflict that may accompany such an occupation?

GV: Prayer.

LW: In the military, is there a struggle of having to compromise or follow orders that burden the conscience?

GV: There are certain things you just don’t compromise on. According to our Lutheran Confessions, we are to obey the orders of civil authorities–until we are ordered to sin. Then God is in charge.

I never allowed my Christian beliefs to be a secret. I sometimes went out of my way to be sure they weren’t a secret! When traveling to places that were enemies to the U.S., I knew that they would bug our living facilities. So I’d do my daily devotions and prayers under the bug so they could hear loud and clear where my beliefs lie. That led to a number of interesting conversations later in life. At one point during my six years of diplomatic work, I was working with former Soviet Union folks. One day I met with the former Chief Historian of the Soviet Armed Forces and he asked to speak to me privately, so we went out in the hall together. He told me that he knew I was a Christian and he wanted to tell me that he himself had been baptized just the day before.

via 10 Minutes With . . . – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Knowing you’re being bugged, so reading the Bible and praying out loud to witness to the spy!  Brilliant!


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