Several years ago, I was invited by a mutual friend to go shooting on the rural property of Retired Army Brigadier General. When I began to write this article, a mutual friend reminded me that the General is an excellent contact for an insider’s view of our Army. I called him, explained that I was writing a series of RED Friday articles for Positive Heartbeat, and asked for an interview. The next day we talked for about half an hour, and what I learned surprised me very much. I’m going to post the General’s thoughts first, and then do a very brief, more usual look at the Army overall.
When we began the interview, I repeated a few standard questions to start things off, but told the General that if he had anything else he wanted to say, that would be welcome too. I expected comments on the effect of the Obama presidency on military morale and readiness, or how the military views Donald Trump’s presidency. But the first thing the General said was, “I want to share something with you that’s close to my heart.”
The General is a deeply committed member of this organization:
“MISSION: READINESS Council for a Strong America
Retired admirals and generals strengthening national security by ensuring kids stay in school, stay fit, and stay out of trouble … The 750 retired admirals, generals, and other top military leaders who are members of Mission: Readiness recognize that the strength of our country depends on a strong military. Since 2009, Mission: Readiness has championed evidence-based, bipartisan state and federal public policy solutions that are proven to prepare our youth to be citizen-ready and able to serve their nation in any way they choose.”
Considering their small number, they have very high aspirations. Considering that they are career military men, it is remarkable to me how they have “switched channels” and delved down to the foundational level of what it takes, and will take in the future, to have a strong, prepared military and nation.
This organization was created because these military leaders recognized the implications of two facts the General related:
1. Only 70% of young Americans graduate from high school.
2. Only 30% of those are eligible to serve in the military.
Bottom line: only about 21% of young Americans are eligible to serve in the military.
And that says nothing about how many are willing, let alone eager, to serve in the military. If you saw the old movie “Taps”, you get the picture. “The old breed” is dying out, not because of death (we are talking about young people) but because of the following factors which the General mentioned:
1. It appears that about 54% of all jobs in the future will require at least a 2-year degree. No degree, no job.
2. Obesity – many high schools have dropped physical education classes.
3. Criminal records – the Army does not accept criminals into the ranks.
The General said that one reason for obesity is that parents give in to children on diet. It’s too easy to give them quick meals of junk food, or to not get involved in school lunch programs. Parents themselves are often very busy. They’re not involved with their children’s lives to any great extent. They are (in all areas, IMO) allowing schools to raise their children. That is an extreme danger. There are predators in the school systems (my words) who are overjoyed that parents are in essence abandoning their kids to whatever sharks swim in their waters.
By the time kids get to even junior high, many of them have criminal records. There goes a potential career in the military.
The General made what in my opinion is an accurate but spine-chilling statement: he said that if you start with four- to five-year-olds and teach them good habits, inspire them to do their best at whatever they do, teach them life skills, they will succeed.
The reason that’s spine-chilling to me is that I don’t believe we have that much time. God doesn’t run the same experiment twice and expect different results. He’s not insane. What the General described is nation-building. Here, in America. The foundation has been destroyed, and he’s talking about building the foundation all over again. He is firm in his belief that local communities must get involved. His advice for anyone or any group interested in effecting change is, “Start small and stand firm on what you believe.” And there is no denying that will get results. Just ask the Founding Fathers.
But what about all the Americans older than the 4-to-5 year-olds who don’t believe in or even understand fundamental American political philosophy and social structure? What damage will they do? Can we hang on that long? I asked the General that question. He acknowledged that “things may be out of control”, that he wasn’t sure if there is a chance for America to be revived, but if there is, he reiterated, this is how it has to happen.
He lives this out by being a mentor to children in need, by serving on NC Congressman Mark Walker’s Service Selection Board, and by being a Board member at Alamance County Community College, as well as having been a County Commissioner himself.
He made the observation that many of the young people reviewed by Congressman Walker’s Service Selection Board “have a strong Christian witness”. That fact has both good and frightening implications for the future of a nation which is rapidly becoming overtly hostile to the God of the Bible.
I told the General that I had realized forty-five years too late that responsible citizenship involves far more than voting, and there are other wars than military that citizens need to fight. He agreed.
General, thank you for your military service, your current community service, and your time and your thought-filled responses in our interview.
One of the last comments the General made was, “Now that I’m retired, I can hopefully give back to the community.” That is a par excellence citizen’s response. America is very fortunate to still have citizens who understand the full spectrum of what it means to serve your nation.
For an overall view of Army strength, I am going to draw heavily on The Heritage Foundation, a known, consistently conservative organization which believes in a strong military. I highly recommend their extremely thorough (and lengthy) review of all elements of American military strength. It is my belief that their conservative values include a strong commitment to truth, therefore my heavy reliance on them. The Heritage Foundation provides “the only non-governmental and only annual assessment of U.S. Military Strength“, according to their blurb,
“The U.S. Army is America’s primary land warfare component. Although it addresses all types of operations across the range of ground force employment, its chief value to the nation is its ability to defeat and destroy enemy land forces in battle.”
“Secretary of Defense James Mattis has warned that a decade of combat operations and a lack of reliable and predictable funds have left the U.S. military in ‘a position where we are losing or eroding our competitive edge.’ Fiscal challenges have similarly strained the ability of the Army to meet the national security requirements outlined in the Defense Planning Guidance as it works to balance readiness, modernization, and end strength …”
“Secretary of the Army Mark Esper and Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley have testified that ‘strong support’ from Congress ‘has enabled the Army to halt the decline in our warfighting readiness,’ but despite the inclusion of additional Army end strength in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and increased funding in the omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, issues of inadequate size, readiness, modernization, and high operational tempo remain to be addressed.”
General Milley has testified that the Army is too small and needs to grow to “north of 500,000…in the regular Army” to accomplish the missions outlined in the National Security and Defense Strategies.
Secretary Esper and General Milley have further testified that the Army “can no longer afford to delay modernization without risking overmatch on future battlefields.”
Although the Army’s internal goal is to have 66 percent of its brigade combat teams considered ready at any given time, the number considered ready today is only “in the range of the 50 percent mark.” (This is an improvement over 2017 when only one-third were considered ready.)
Of the 15 of 31 Active BCTs considered “ready,” only eight are considered “fully ready,” which limits options for the President. According to Vice Chief of Staff General Daniel Allyn, the Army considers a unit fully ready if it “needs no additional people, no additional training, and no additional equipment.”
“In fiscal year (FY) 2018, the Army’s authorized active-duty end strength was 483,500, down from 566,000 as recently as FY 2011.”
So, bottom line for us, our Army has been given a temporary reprieve from the manpower and readiness drain that former President Obama caused. And there has been some restoration of what was lost. Whether that is realistically “enough” is a subject for another article. What we know is that the Marxist desire to absolutely cripple our military has not happened, but our leaders need to make certain that we continue to make gains in troop strength and all materials of war.
God bless our Warriors and keep them all safe. Bless the families, teams and friends of those who have given all.
Have a safe and Blessed RED Friday all.