I retired from service in the spring of 1967 with the rank of E-8. I get a very nice retirement check every month that enables my wife and me to live a reasonably comfortable life style here in Honolulu. I can even occasionally help one of our offspring when trouble happens. 1967 seems like yesterday to me, but let’s face it, that was almost a lifetime ago, so maybe my opinions about the military are now completely irrelevant. I’ll let you decide.
Let me take you back to my salad days when I was an Army T/5 (Remember those?) and had wangled the company clerk’s job. I didn’t particular like the job but it beat the hell out of being in the field. I don’t know exactly why the following incident sticks in my mind, but it does. I was goofing off in the barrack one afternoon, stretched out on my bunk, when my name came roaring over the bitch-box along with the command to get my ass back to the orderly room NOW! (Do they still have bitch-boxes?) It was our First Sergeant and I could tell he was pissed. He was having some sort of big squabble with the Personnel Office and as I entered the Orderly Room I heard him say to one of the Platoon Sergeants, “For Christ sake they got Majors doing Corporal’s jobs these days! What the fuck is happening to this man’s Army”? Now the First had joined the Army the same year I was born so I thought, “The poor old bastard is living in the past.” You may find I have the same problem here in this diary.
One of the ways I start up a conversation with another retiree I chance to meet in my travels, is to ask the question “How many times did you think about quitting”? The answer is usually, “More times than I can count.” My point being military life is not always a bowl of cherries. Over my years as an NCO I lost many a good subordinates and a few good superiors, to civilian life. Some to the same field we worked in and some to other careers that military life had provided the time, opportunity and sometime even the school, to prepare for. The U, S, Military has made great contributions to training people for good well-paying jobs. In the past we have been a big social plus, other than just our prime purpose of defending the Nation. Good cooks and mechanics were hard to retain. People with administrative skills and training could usually find a good civilian job with no trouble. A rifleman, not so much, but a few I knew got degrees in their off time and the military encouraged and supported them. Some people got real-estate licenses or developed other skills they trained for while in service. How many cops got their start as MP’s? I could go on and on.
I spent a lot of time in Japan during the occupation. Those of you who may have read my diaries about my time in Korea know I was not a big fan of General MacArthur, but do gave him hell of a lot of credit for his brilliant handling of the occupation. I traveled a lot in Japan in those days, from Kyushu to the Northern tip of Honshu, plus a number of years in Tokyo and Kure, near Hiroshima, and some time up by Misawa. Never ran across a single contractor all during that time, not one, and no mercenaries either. We hired a lot of Japanese to help stimulate their economy and it worked. We used Keynesian principals. We occupied Japan with a few understrength Divisions and support troops. We helped rebuilt their self-defense forces. We helped them rebuild their country, their way, not ours. We certainly did not do it ourselves nor did we contract it out.
The population of Japan at the end of WWII was roughly 86 million. That figure is well over the combine populations of Iran and Afghanistan. It seemed to me we had one person on the U.S. payroll for every 4 or 5 citizens of those occupied nations. We often had more contractors in country than we had troops. In Iran and Afghanistan the contractors rip off the U.S. tax payer to the tune of at least 60 billion dollars. (And counting?) (See the Commission on Wartime Contracting Report, April 2011. It’s on the web.)
When that amount of money is stolen in such a short period of time you would think a bunch of it would be recovered. Go ahead, try to find out how much we’ve gotten back, and lots of luck with that. (Send your search engine to SIGAR.)
The Bush Administration privatized the Military and the Wars. In my opinion they weakened the Military by doing so, and by the same token, the United States. I believe Rumsfeld, the Sectary of Defense at the time, the guy who planned and executed the privatization of everything in sight was the worst thing that ever happens to the United States.
Hickam AFB is really a beautiful instillation with flowering trees, tropical plants, and trimmed hedges of bougainvillea, clipped to perfection. For beauty I would say it’s equal to or better than any Federal Property or park in the United States. I pulled a tour there from 59 to 64. The entire base maintenance was done by GI’s back then.
If you travel from the entrance gate, (Which is guarded now by civilians.) to the cantonment area that is the Commissary and BX, you will usually see hordes of civilian workers with leaf blowers, trimmers and people collecting fallen plant debris. (Believe me there’s a lot of that.) I’m sure they all have health insurance and probably pensions. I know this is anecdotal but I have no doubt it’s happening everywhere on every base and every post. Convince me if you can, that privatization is more efficient that a military operation and that it saves us money as well.
I believe in a strong national defense, but waste which I believe is currently rampant, makes us weaker as a military force and as nation. They have contracted out the Mess Sergeant, the Cook, the Supply Sergeant, the Motor Sergeant and the MP’s + KP. What’s next? Move Personal and Finance to India?