DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
March 29, 1994

ANOTHER KIND OF BRAVERY

Courage is as much a part of soldiering as gunpowder. But having guts isn't just about charging the enemy. It's also about standing tall against wrongdoing and fighting for what's right.

Moral courage is in short: supply in today's armed forces. The Navy's Tailhook scandal and the Air Force's overrun seam with its $1.5-billion C- 17 transport aircraft are proof that courage to fight misconduct is lacking in the top ranks of these two armed sere-ices.

A recent, decision indicates the U.S. Army may be infected with the same disease. Army Gen. J.H. Peay testified recently that he approved a sweeping overhaul of the Army's reserves, putting combat functions in the National Guard and giving the U.S. Army Reserve support missions. Peay admitted this decision was made without a "cost analysis," nor were operational tests conducted -- an exercise in olive-drab stupidity, like buying a fleet of new tanks without asking the contractor for the cost or specs. and not bothering to check whether the tanks will be Army green, Navy blue or shocking pink.

Sources allege Peay locked up a squad of Guard and Reserve brass, twisted arms, privately threatened one general for playing footsie with a fraulein. and in the end, cut a politically expedient deal good for the porkers but bad for the grunts in the foxholes.

Peay, defending his "Look Mom, no homework" decision, said, "There was a general feeling there were efficiencies to be achieved by going this way"

He gave an unprepared sophomore student's quick answer that "$100 million" would be needed to do the deal, while others who did their accounting say this figure could run to a cool $1 billion. Still, $100 million or $1 billion is a hell of a lot of taxpayers' money not to put a pencil to.

Gen. James Mukoyama, a part-time warrior who drills with the U.S. Army Reserves, is ballistic concerning Peay's poorly reasoned plan. He said, "This reorganization will endanger soldiers' lives, degrade readiness and waste taxpayers' money.'

As "Minutemen" have since Paul Revere's famous ride, Mukoyama serves because he's a patriot. The bantamweight two-star general, a much-decorated Vietnam War hero, sounded off at a recent congressional hearing. He called the decision "haphazard" and "nonsensical," and said that "politics should not be allowed to override military considerations."

Mukoyama is right. I've commanded Guard units during war and peace and observed both reserve components in the field, from the end of World War II to Desert Storm. The Guard's a political organization filled at the top with "old boy" appointees. Its function is to be a cash cow for its "home" state, not to fight.

The Reserves, a different breed entirely, are held to the same standards as the Regular Army; top promotions are not made because you know somebody in the governor's mansion, but because you're tactically competent.

Future wars will be fought on a come-as-you-are basis. The whistle will blow and our active and reserve forces will launch, ready or not. They won't have years to hide behind our oceans while getting ready, as they have since 1917. The Guard's major combat ground units, though gallant in WWII, have been dismal since. They're as obsolete as the horse and the saber.

The Guard is filled with well-meaning folk who are remarkably ill prepared for battle, while their top brass know more about attending meetings than war-fighting. The three Guard brigades called up for the Gulf theater were never deployed because they couldn't get their act together. A Regular Army major who trained one said, "They were worse than the Iraqi Army."

On the other hand, the Reserve units put in a stellar performance. Peay should ask his Regular Army Reserve/Guard advisers, past and present, what they think, and prepare for an earful.

Congress should order an accounting of what Peay's changes will cost and pit Reserve and Guard combat units in mock battle to see who's best. Along the way, Mukoyama should receive a medal for displaying rare "above and beyond" moral courage for telling the truth. It might start a trend to stop the corruption at the top that's tarnishing our generals' and admirals' brass.