Taking McSame to the woodshed

Nitpicker’s Terry Welch puts John McCain in his place:

I’m bothered by John McCain’s response to Barack Obama, who pointed out that Webb’s remodeled G.I. Bill is something McCain should get behind.?

I feel a true disdain for noncommissioned officers in what McCain is saying when he says the bill would encourage “people not to choose to become noncommissioned officers.” Does McCain really believe those who choose to remain in the military and serve as NCOs only do it because they don’t have a chance to go to college? Does he really think money is the only thing that makes a man or woman want to continue to serve? This is a horrible thing to suggest about the NCO corps.

In fact, when you do meet an NCO who has remained in the service for purely financial reasons, you are almost always meeting an inferior NCO. Without a true love of their service, NCOs simply cannot lead well.

In Kandahar a few years back, I ran into a sergeant major I knew from my time in Bosnia and I bought him a cup of coffee. This was a guy everyone respected and (when possible) liked. He led with an easy sense of what soldiers needed to hear to be better, meaning that he rarely had to yell; merely saying he was disappointed in a young corporal was enough. We’d never really talked about ourselves, having a purely professional relationship, but over coffee I learned that he’d come from a dirt-poor family in southern Alabama and had been drafted during Vietnam. I asked him what kept him in and he said (and I paraphrase) that once he’d put the uniform on, he just couldn’t bring himself to take it off.

When I first joined the Navy, I met a chief who I still remember as one of the best leaders I’ve ever known who had joined the Navy with a degree and would be retiring from it with a master’s at least. When one of my fellow classmates asked him why he hadn’t “gone officer” or gotten out, he smiled and said, “Hell, I’m suprised they pay me to do this shit, ’cause I’d do it for free.”

Suggesting that those who choose to become enlisted leaders in the military do so for purely mercenary reasons is not only wrong and disrespectful of NCOs, but enacting policies that keep people in the service for those reasons is detrimental to the military. McCain should know that.

McCain almost surely does know that, but doesn’t want to embarrass President Bush by splitting from his threatened veto of the 21st Century GI Bill (apparently the first-ever veto of legislation providing benefits for veterans).


  1. #1 RBH
    May 23, 2008

    The best NCO (petty officer) I worked for in four years in the Navy had an honors degree in chemistry from M.I.T. He was career enlisted because that’s what he wanted to do.

  2. #2 Joel
    May 23, 2008

    Is anyone aware of a comparison of the Web and Graham, Bur, McCain bills? I know I could look them up on the Library of Congress THOMAS site, and I’ve done it before, it’s just that comparing a couple bills is tedious and I have to work this weekend.

  3. #3 (((Billy)))
    May 24, 2008

    One of my friends from high school joined the Navy at 18. He was accepted into the nuke program and, 24 years later, is still in. He is a master chief, working towards a PhD in nuclear engineering (degrees courtesy of the US Navy and one hell of a brain). In the private sector, he could be making four or five times as much, but he’s not interested. He likes the Navy.

    When I was in the Army (during basic), one of our DIs was a sergeant (E-5) even though he had better than twenty years of military service. He had served with the Marines (two tours) in Vietnam. He had served 5 years in the Navy. He had served three in the Air Force, and was (at the time) on his fourth year in the Army. He would get out of the service, spend time in college, or in a job, and decied the military was where he wanted to be. The GI bill was waiting for him (back when the money could actually pay for a degree), but he wanted to be in the service.

    The NCOs I knew in the military were, almost every one of them (there were one or two who, I suspect, stayed in because they were afraid they couldn’t do anything else (and they were the ones who rarely made it past E-6)), the kind of person who would do very well in college, in business, in government, or in any other path they chose. The good NCOs were (and still are) the ones who serve because they want to serve.

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