Defending America
David Hackworth
23 December 97


What a bad year the U.S. Army has had! First an epidemic of sex orgies in the barracks, then the Army sergeant major charged as a serial masher and finally Secretary of the Army Toga West accused of hustling burial plots.

Next year might be even worse if the former Army sergeant major's lawyer keeps his vow to use the defense that different spanks for different ranks just ain't right. He plans to name brass hats quietly zippered out for conducting their own sexual maneuvers with subordinates, wheels who've been punished for their dalliances by being allowed to retire with full benefits on a cushy base of four figures a month.

The root cause of all this trouble is bad leaders in the upper ranks, generals going along with bleeding heart politicians who haven't put time in the trenches.

These pols want to make our forces as socially and gender equal as the local supermarket crew rather than protecting what it is - an outfit that kills enemy soldiers.

Secretary West leads this sad parade followed by those house-trained generals who wouldn't complain if Bill Clinton made Janet Reno the chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff merely because she has general in her title.

The army started going downhill when Beltway insider West took over the army and hired warm and fuzzy-type eggheads who know as much about soldiering as I know about modern art . Academic Madeline Morris, for example, pressed him to cut from basic training "masculinist" attitudes such as "dominance, assertiveness, aggressiveness, independence, self-sufficiency, and willingness to take risks."

Since then platoon sergeants in the field say the product out of basic stinks. "They're soft, ill disciplined and candidates for body bags," says one line sergeant.

Drill Sergeants have the task of converting the raw material that moves from the couch to the training centers. They have been the Army's secret weapon for a long time.

But the new brand of kinder-gentler senior leadership that's more into hugging than fighting has made basic training more like summer camp than a tough course geared to prepare youngsters for the cruel test of war.

Only as recently as Desert Storm, the Drill Sergeants turned out tough, resourceful and good-to-go-warriors. They followed and added to the life or death training techniques used in the 1940s which worked so well when we whipped the Germans and Japanese.

Back then basic training's purpose was to develop fighters, not socially sensitive sweethearts. And warrior-leaders like Chesty Puller and George Patton made sure their men got a triple ration of the most macho training possible.

But today's Drill Sergeants are under siege. Their morale is at an all-time low not only from a bad rap caused by a few bums who took advantage of their positions but because of politicians who don't know you can't mix politics with war-fighting.

As one senior Drill Sergeant says, "All this politically correct stuff has sissified our training."

Another Drill Sergeant says "No longer can we get in the face of a Joe. Nor can we use soldier language to make a point and the max punishment we can lay on a trainee is 25 push ups."

"Good Drill Sergeants careers have been ruined," says another sergeant, "because they slipped and said 'damn,' or 'ass.'"

"The commander of the Infantry Training Brigade seems proud that over 50 drill's have been relieved since he took over," says a Fort Benning drill sergeant.

A drill sergeant was relieved for saying to a private on the firing range 'What the hell are you shooting at?' when he was firing wildly.

In another case, a private said his drill sergeant yelled, "Get your ass over here." The sergeant denied saying this, but the private's word was taken over the sergeant's and the sergeant became toast.

No soldier in the army works harder, puts in longer hours under more stressful conditions than the Drill Sergeant, who, after all that's happened this year, is in more danger than a pointman in a minefield.

You can tell a drill sergeant by his/her gaunt, but alert look and Smokey the Bear hat. If you pass one this week, give 'em a Merry Christmas and thank you. They are America's finest and they're now fast becoming an endangered species thanks to political correctness replacing common sense.

The end