Defending America
David Hackworth
9 June 1998


Things were grim in Korea in 1950. As usual, our regular Army was not prepared for the war at hand, and our troops kept getting their clocks cleaned as retreat followed bloody retreat. Finally, Joe and Moe dug in on the last bit of ground between them and the Sea of Japan, knowing that if the Pusan Perimeter didn't hold, they were in for a long swim at best.

Then a miracle happen. The 1st Marine Division slammed ashore at Inchon. Their daring amphibious invasion cut the Reds in half and showed U.S. Army units that the Communists were not ten feet tall.

The famous 1st Division was not made up of all regular Marine supermen, either. It had a fair mix of citizen soldiers -- Marine reservists -- who had been called up, and sent to the battlefield.

Reservists have played a major role in all our country's big scraps. They were vital in WWII, Korea and Desert Storm. Perhaps significantly, they didn't fight in any big numbers in the only war we ever lost -- Vietnam.

Since Desert Storm our forces have been gelded. The Army has 44 percent fewer battalions, the Navy 40 percent fewer ships and the Air Force half the squadrons they had in 1990.

Yet, under Clinton's Save-the-World policy, the missions laid on these reduced forces have increased over 300 percent. The over-committed regulars have reached the point of such extreme exhaustion that they're virtually replacing themselves on station.

The Pentagon's answer to this over-extension has been to tell the President we're "good to go", salute and call up the reserves rather than standing tall and telling him what he's done to America's armed forces with his Robo Globo Cop madness.

Now the reserve forces are nearly broken trying to pick up the slack for the badly stretched regulars. More reservists have been called up to wade in the ex Yugoslavia swamp than during the entire Vietnam War.

This constant mobilization is tearing up morale and causing a lot of good people to hand in their quit slips. After all, these reservists joined up to defend America, not to be the world's policemen.

Reservists serve three Gods: country, family and full time employer. Families and employers well understand that when the whistle blows they lose their reservists. But they too expect the missions to be about national defense, not repeated call ups to baby sit George Bush and pal's oil wells or hand out propaganda leaflets in Bosnia because jerks in Washington don't understand how to use our military forces.

A lot of bosses and spouses are quietly saying: it's me or the reserves.

America cannot afford to lose our Minute Men punch. Missions in the decades ahead involving antiterrorism, combating weapons of mass destruction and putting down civil strife in our own cities will test them as never before.

To make the Reserves effective we should:

Tell Clinton to stop using our military as if they're Arkansas' governor guards. In six years, he's continually exhausted our armed forces with hair-brained missions that go back to the unqualified people he's put in charge of the Pentagon.

Merge the reserves into one force. Right now the National Guard and Reserve units are about where they were in 1917.They hate each other and cut each others throats while competing for funds, missions and resources. We're spending billions of dollars a year supporting a crippled back-up force that's organized to fight another cold war.

Convert the National Guard tank units into light infantry, police units and anti-bug & germ teams to deal with the most probable future combat scenarios. Since new technology precludes another WWII or even a Desert Storm-type fight, National Guard armored units are a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Lastly, the Pentagon must find out what makes Leatherneck reserve units so good and then clone it on all the other service's reserve forces. Marine reserve units have proven their mettle in every fight -- they were as brilliant in Desert Storm as they were in Korea, while most National Guard combat units were rated unfit for the fight in the desert.

Our reserves must be ready for future wars and not, as the record shows ­ except in the Marines ­ never ready when the bell rings.