On Friday, I will attend the solemn ceremony at Northwestern University in which Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps students will take the oath to become members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. As both a faculty member and graduate of Northwestern, I try to attend each year as these outstanding young people commit themselves to a life fraught with potential danger in service to our country. They have earned and deserve our solidarity and support.
Almost 50 years ago, as a Northwestern undergraduate, I was arrested for damaging the NROTC offices during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration. At the time, many of us believed that NROTC contributed to the war effort, and therefore had to be removed from campus.
As a leftist then and now, I have no qualms about admitting to my errors, one of which was a wholesale misunderstanding of the importance of the ROTC program — Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Air Force — on college campuses.
There are undoubtedly many who will dismiss this as a stunt. The U.S. military is consistently one of the most trusted institutions in America. As a career politico, Priebus could certainly use the halo effect of military service going forward. Based on his history, there's little doubt he'll pursue another high office, whether elected or appointed.
There's certainly some level of self-interest involved. For all the bluster vets have about selfless service, almost everyone who's joined had at least some amount of selfishness involved. Whether it's college money, bonus money, learning a skill, or learning self-discipline, everyone joins looking to get something out of it.
Very few, if any, service members are solely doing it out of love of country and expecting nothing in return. Priebus, to the extent he may be doing this for selfish reasons, is not much different than anyone else joining the military — it's just that instead of looking to learn diesel engine repair to get a job at a truck stop, he's building a service history to help his future run for governor or senator.
Just because he's playing at a higher level is no reason to hate on him.
After nearly two decades of grinding low-intensity conflict, the U.S. military is shifting to focus on near-peer competition — and tailoring its physical fitness requirements accordingly.
The Army is currently conducting a two-year assessment and rollout plan scheduled for 2020, with 470,205 soldiers who are currently racing to prepare and train for a dramatically different six-event Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), developed in reaction to both the demands of modern conflict and to the declining health and fitness standards of incoming recruits and soldiers. After all, overweight and physically unfit soldiers degrade readiness, take up time and resources, and burden others.
To meet this lofty goal, the Army must undertake the most significant changes to physical fitness testing since the beginning of the professionalized force in 1973 — one that, unfortunately, it is ill-equipped to tackle for a simple reason: it has no up-to-date training apparatus to support the transition. While the new standard may be important for lethality, the Army must consider innovative ways to prepare both recruits and soldiers to successfully implement this new standard — or else risk a significant impact on readiness as the military enters into strategic competition with China and Russia.