Grassroots Commentary

The Rusting Sword

William Stoecker · Aug. 24, 2015

The US Army recently announced that two women, both West Point officers, have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School, one of the US military’s physically most demanding courses. Both had to repeat the first, or Benning phase of the course before finally passing all three phases; this is not unusual, as only about half the men who start Ranger School will graduate, and of those who do, about 37 percent have to repeat at least one phase. Of course, the women supposedly demanded that standards not be lowered for them; of course, the Army’s spokespersons claim that the two female officers had to do everything the men did. But it is worth noting that 19 women had been admitted to Ranger School, and all but three failed. As of this writing, one is still trying after being recycled. It is perhaps significant that of 29 women officers who entered the USMC 13 week Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Virginia, every last one of them failed; most simply dropped out, as the course was too tough for them. This course, though physically very, very demanding, is less of an ordeal than Ranger School, where students are on short rations for the entire (almost) nine weeks, and average perhaps four hours of sleep each night.

So is the Army telling the truth (I cannot remember the last time I heard any government official tell the truth about anything)? Did the women meet the same standards as the men? They were given two months of special training to prepare them, a luxury not given to men. And there have been persistent rumors that, in fact, the women were not held quite to the same standards as the men. Already, high-ranking officers are claiming that the physical fitness standards for all the troops are unnecessarily high for this age of automated warfare. Oh, really? We’ve heard that line before. Is that why even our straight-leg (non-airborne, for you non-jumpers) Army infantrymen routinely hump 50 pound and heavier packs for miles up and down hills in Afghanistan? Physical standards at jump school have already been lowered to allow women to pass. I think we can see where this is headed.

If someone suggested that having people do hard physical exercise and carry heavy packs every day (as opposed to rigorous workouts two or three times per week) is counter-productive, as it is really overtraining and leads mainly to injuries, that would make sense. If they suggested the same for the prolonged food and sleep deprivation common at Ranger School, that, too, would make sense. WWII and Korean War ranger training, while extremely rigorous, did not include starvation and prolonged sleep deprivation, and the rangers and paratroopers of that era fought heroically. But to actually lower physical fitness standards is clearly part of our current regime’s desire to blur the line between the sexes; it amounts to a virtual revolt against nature, and promises to weaken and emasculate our military, already damaged by the special privileges given to women and by the influx of sexual perverts. All of this is added to the stress of constant casualties and prolonged deployments in undeclared (and, hence, unconstitutional) wars that never end.

In a bit of seemingly unrelated news, a number of aviation experts have claimed that the F-35 Lightning II fighter, produced by Lockheed Martin, is a costly boondoggle that, in many ways, is inferior to the existing (but admittedly terribly expensive) F-22 Raptor, or even to still older aircraft like the F-15, the F-16, and the Super Hornet version of the FA-18. It has relatively short range, and its speed and rate of climb, and, reportedly, its maneuverability are inferior to some existing designs, including the latest Russian aircraft. There are also claims of poor visibility for pilots, and problems with the radar and the ejection seat. It is stealthy, but can be detected and approximately located by long-wavelength radar, like all large search radars (that doesn’t mean that missile or enemy fighter plane radars could track it, with their shorter wavelengths).

Now, some great aircraft have had initial problems; the WWII era B-29 bomber was initially plagued by engine fires. The P-51 Mustang fighter, with its brilliantly designed aerodynamics, was underpowered until our British allies replaced its American Allison engine with the latest version of their Rolls Royce Merlin engine. The Vietnam era F-111 had all sorts of problems, especially with its terrain-avoidance radar, but eventually became an effective war plane for the USAF (it proved to be too heavy for Navy carriers).

But the F-35’s problems seem to be much deeper. The F-111 was intended to serve both the Navy and the USAF; that proved to be impossible. The F-35 was intended to have three different versions for the Navy, the USAF, and the USMC, but even that proved to be too tall an order. A RAND study found that it would have been cheaper to have designed and built three entirely different planes. It appears that the close relationship between the military and the big aerospace companies is becoming just another example of crony capitalism, prone to inefficiencies and even corruption.

Without denigrating the heroism of most of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan we need to realize that our enemies, even Saddam Hussein, were not exactly tier one. Our ground troops have never been on the receiving end of enemy airpower. We have precision guided munitions, drones, and satellites, yet we have been unable to defeat a rag-tag army of mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Our military is large, expensive, flashy, and superficially impressive. But what about things like training, maintenance, morale, and a large enough inventory of spare parts? There are persistent rumors that, while the upper stories of the edifice are impressive, the foundation is beginning to crumble. Beneath the surface glitter, I feel that the rot has set in, which is inevitable when the leaders at the very top lack competence and honor.

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