Friday, April 11, 2008

afghan sloths

My roommate and best friend from the Naval Academy is being deployed to Afghanistan. You're probably saying "I didn't realize that the landlocked nation of Afghanistan required a significant Naval presence" but don't worry, the story gets weirder. We'll call my friend Sloth to protect his identity. I realize this doesn't seem very complementary, but as he once pointed out, sloths spend 97% of their lives sleeping, eating, and reproducing, so what's the downside?

More importantly, it closely approximates the life of US Air Force officers, which is important because Sloth did what is known as an inter-service transfer when he graduated from USNA, moving to the Air Force, which made him a pilot and gave him a sequence of expensive machines to drive all over the globe. Years of training and extensive deployments all over the globe has led to this:

An "in lieu of" mission to Afghanistan.

What the hell is "in lieu of mission" you ask?

In lieu of, or ILO, missions are where highly specialized Air Force airmen and officers -- who the Air Force has spent millions of our tax dollars to train as pilots, mechanics, and analysts -- are being sent to Afghanistan and Iraq in lieu of soldiers or marines.

That's right, because the combined might of NATO and the US Military is unable to meet their commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military is pulling Air Force personnel out of their normal tasks and training to do a job they are not properly trained or prepared for -- guarding prisoners, for example. Apparently I'm not the only one who finds this practice ridiculous. Exhibiting a clear, liberal bias, "Air Force Magazine" -- published by the Air Force Association -- just posted an article about it.

Listening to General Petraeus testify, it was clear that the testimony we needed to hear was Secretary of Defense Gates, Army Chief of Staff General Casey, and Secretary Rice. Petraeus is correctly focused on his operational theater while Congress should be focused on the larger picture of how our military and diplomatic power is being deployed -- and the stresses it is under -- around the world. Many false comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq has been made, but one outcome of Vietnam's extended, unpopular, and ineffective application of force was a long period of reduced morale and material readiness of the US military during the 1970's. As we continue into a more complex and uncertain geopolitical future, why aren't our leaders spending more time focused on the big picture of what our military -- and its missions -- will look like during the next decade?

Sloth, of course, is not complaining. He's doing what he has done for nearly 20 years.

He's serving our nation.

I hope the Army does a good job of preparing him and that he comes home safe.


Csven Concord said...

Was tracking down some fellow USN officers this past weekend. Those I could find are retired or civil service, but have to wonder if any of those I couldn't locate are now in the same ... boat.

Thanks for the link to the article.


Nate Combs said...

The Economist has an overview of the manpower (shortfall) situation over there.

The state of NATO
A ray of light in the dark defile
Mar 27th 2008 | BRUSSELS
From The Economist print edition

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