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Harold Hutchison / February 20, 2018

Getting the Troops in Shape Is Priority Number One

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to military readiness and preparedness.

When it comes to our national defense, we’re in a world of hurt in a number of areas. Our carrier force has been grossly mismanaged, we’re short on pilots (a situation growing worse and worse), and the Coast Guard is short on the hulls in the water it needs. Those are just a few of the problems.

Fortunately, some of these problems are being addressed. President Donald Trump’s strategy has sent the Islamic State scurrying to find some rock or cave to hide in, and Afghanistan is quieter too, largely because Trump and his team have loosened the rules of engagement. A ludicrous decision by the previous administration to ditch cluster munitions has been reversed. The selection of retired Marine General James Mattis to serve as secretary of defense was an outstanding call. The secretary sets the tone for military policy. Those like Mattis and Donald Rumsfeld can truly inspire the troops, but there is work to be done.

For instance, the Army is revamping its basic training. The good news is that it is now focusing on increased discipline, adding three field exercises to force recruits to demonstrate the skills they need to fight and win on a battlefield. The new training includes more inspections, more emphasis on drill and ceremony, and instilling a greater sense of pride in military history. This is a sign that Mattis is thankfully on this task, and it goes further than that, with the Pentagon taking a “deploy or go” stance.

These broad strokes of good news, though, have some red flags and bad news: Being able to throw a grenade more than 25 meters (roughly 82 feet) is no longer a graduation requirement. That is not the only standard to be changed: Marines will no longer make completing the combat endurance test a requirement to graduate from the Infantry Officer’s Course. Part of this is to accommodate females, and part of it is the reality of recruits in general.

The sad fact is military readiness severely declined for eight years under Barack Obama, who combined foolish defense cuts with a feckless foreign policy. Eliminating basic requirements only continues that dangerous trend. Repeated attacks on a destroyer in 2016 drew a three-Tomahawk strike in response because Obama had no clue about the purpose of a military. The military’s purpose isn’t to be the Left’s petri dish of American society; it’s job is to kill those who threaten the United States and break their stuff.

But, all in all, the changes in Army training represent a huge step in the right direction. Who knows? A return to higher standards could lead to far more eligible recruits.

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