Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Ellen Haring made a number of good points in her recent piece, “That Valor Isn’t Yours To Defend,” published here on Task & Purpose. I would not and could not defend the actions of the Rangers physically assaulting someone just for wearing a uniform he did not earn the privilege to wear. We have to be careful as a society not to overindulge the egos of those in uniform and I am always quick to remind my soldiers that they're not special; the gratitude of society does not give them the right to break the laws they've sworn to defend. And “valor” is probably the wrong word to use when we talk about what’s stolen from veterans and actively serving military members whenever someone wears our uniform without having earned that right.
However, that’s about as far as my opinion overlaps with Haring’s. Valor may be the wrong word to use when describing what is stolen and what is sacrificed, but let’s not get fixated on a single word and beat it down like the straw man that it is. Perhaps respect, reputation, and trust would be more appropriate descriptions of what is stolen or potentially sacrificed every time someone pulls on a uniform they bought at the local Army-Navy store and was not issued during initial entry training or a rapid fielding initiative.
While I am simultaneously humble and leery of the sometimes gushing gratitude of many Americans, the American public is right to respect those who have volunteered to sacrifice their own lives and bodies for the freedom we all enjoy. The American public is right to respect the relatively small percentage of Americans who are physically, mentally, and morally capable of even meeting our basic enlistment requirements when so many cannot.
All professions abhor posers because true professions are self-policing and understand that the actions of one are often attributed to the many. But no other profession has such an easily discernable public image than the military and it’s because of the uniform we wear (while it could be argued that police also have a recognizable uniform, it's also illegal to imitate a police officer). You can’t really imitate a lawyer walking down the street. But everyone knows the uniforms of service members.
The ease of recognition makes our self-policing harder, but more important. Service members take great pride in their uniforms and appearance because we know that when we walk in public wearing the uniform, our appearance and actions represent everyone who legitimately wears that uniform. The same cannot be said for posers, who often have a slovenly appearance, detracting from the professional reputation of the armed services. Simultaneously, any behaviors or actions of those posers while they wear the uniform that do not reflect our values erodes our reputation and the trust the public has in its armed forces.
To write off the attention-seeking behavior of posers as "flattery" is disingenuous and a rather shallow analysis of underlying motivations. I haven’t seen examples lately of posers wearing the uniform while volunteering or conducting some community service. Instead, they’re caught in malls doing Christmas shopping, probably hoping that they’ll either get a discount or maybe someone with an overflowing respect for soldiers will do a good deed for the day and let them cut in line to check out faster. They’re caught in airports, probably hoping that all those stories of soldiers being upgraded to first class or having drinks bought for them at an airport bar are true. They’re caught at sporting events, probably hoping for some sort of special treatment that is sometimes bestowed upon veterans at those venues. They’re caught trying to use the trust and respect given to members of the military to gain access to middle schools to do things that I’d prefer not to speculate about.
The argument that there are no laws that prohibit anyone from claiming to be a doctor, firefighter, or police officer is a straw man. No one’s getting bent out of shape because someone’s merely claiming to be a soldier; they’re getting bent out of shape because they’re wearing a soldier’s uniform. And as it stands, it actually is illegal in many states and municipalities to impersonate police officers, firefighters (and here), and doctors. Some states, to their credit, recognize the inherent trust given to those in uniform and the danger posed by those who recognize and take advantage of it and have included military personnel in the list of people protected by public servant impersonation laws.
The embarrassment of the conduct of the Rangers in question for physically assaulting a poser is valid and their conduct should not be celebrated, but that should not be used as an excuse to exonerate those who wear a uniform they didn’t earn. As service members, we value integrity; it is paramount to our profession, which is probably one of the reasons why witnessing such obvious deficiencies in it just doesn’t sit right with us. Personally, I’m suspicious of anyone who either doesn’t recognize this as a violation of our values or tries to justify it.
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.