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).