The Banty Rooster has a heartwarming e-mail relating an encounter between Donald Rumsfeld and a wounded soldier in Iraq today.
The following idea looks good at first, but turns out to be a nightmare waiting to happen. Via Intel Dump, I found a Washington Post story about the military’s changing attitude toward mandatory medical retirement of the severely wounded and disabled:
In a shift in military culture, the U.S. armed forces have recently announced new efforts to keep seriously wounded or disabled soldiers on active duty. Although there is no clear written policy, the sentiment is being echoed down from the White House.
“When we’re talking about forced discharge, we’re talking about another age and another” military, President Bush told wounded soldiers at Walter Reed last year. “This is a new age, and this is a new [military]. Today, if wounded service members want to remain in uniform and can do the job, the military tries to help them stay.”
Military commanders cite advances in medical technology as the main reason for the shift. Better prosthetics — such as Rozelle’s $7,000 leg — are allowing some of the wounded to regain their fitness and continue to serve. Others say the military’s new attitude toward the disabled is simply mirroring society’s.
In April, the Army formed the Disabled Soldier Support System, or DS3, a resource network available to soldiers who are 30 percent or more disabled — paralysis or the loss of a limb or an eye. The DS3 helps soldiers weigh their options regarding retirement or trying to stay on active duty. The Army estimates that almost 900 of those injured in Iraq are eligible for the program.
My first reaction to the story was “sounds reasonable to me.” Wounded vets deserve thanks and recognition, and it also struck me as a good way to keep motivated and experienced personnel around to pass on knowledge to others.
Then I reconsidered.
At first I came up with lots of hypothetical situations where a combat unit’s logistics effort would be severely hampered by having to account for extra medical supplies, hyper-specialized prostheses, and additional medical staff (or at least more medical training for regular troops already overstretched by training requirements). But let’s set all that aside for now. I’ll be generous and grant that it might be a net “Good Thing™” to let a 100% combat-ready sevicemember get back into the fight if he can completely hold up his end … even if his injury would have meant an automatic medical discharge in days gone by.
I’d rather take aim at another possibility, as suggested by Intel Dump:
I’m glad to see the military adopting an enlightened attitude on this issue, so as to retain some of its wounded warriors who might otherwise be cast aside due to the inflexible application of personnel rules. If a soldier is fit to fight, he or she should be allowed to stay in uniform. Similarly, if a soldier is not fit to fight, but is fit to do some staff job, then he or she should be allowed to stay in that limited capacity, so as to free some other soldier to serve on the front line. We owe these wounded vets a great debt, and I think giving them the opportunity to continue their service is a great way to pay them back
If wounded servicemembers aren’t fit to fight, but are allowed to hold non-combat jobs, I can think of several problems that might result from letting them stay in:
- Non-combat billets would become somewhat harder for able-bodied servicemembers to fill, because the wounded would all be in those selfsame jobs by definition. This would increase the regular troops’ chances of being sent into battle … which would breed resentment and cause morale problems.
- The wounded troops would presumably be drawing a VA pension, making them paid more highly than regular troops at the same rank. Again you’d breed resentment, and could also create an unexpected financial incentive to become “lightly” wounded or disabled. Think of your typical guardhouse lawyer (sea lawyer for us maritime types), and imagine the possibilities for potential malingerers.
- Would all injured troops be eligible to remain on active duty, or only those wounded by enemy action … and why? At the moment, I can’t think of a non-arbitrary way to solve this issue.
- What level of disability would be considered “too disabled”? Do we use a VA disability percentage as a cutoff, say above 50%? Do we instead base the decision on what jobs to keep open to the wounded by looking at which ones can be altered with “reasonable accomodations” (ADA lawyers reading this will shudder)?
- What kind of career development damage could a wounded servicemember suffer if he knows he’ll never need certain skills/knowledge again? An amputee who used to be a Damage Controlman on a frigate isn’t going to work on his shoring and patching/plugging skills under wartime shipboard conditions, so how can he hope to compete with his able-bodied peers for promotion?
- In a related vein, must there be parallel career tracks for every specialty, one for wounded personnel and one for the rest? If so, does the military really want to instantly double its HR headaches and overhead?
These are just ideas I came up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there are plenty more I haven’t thought of.
So it seems my second impression’s the more reliable one. If the wounded cannot recover fully and resume their original combat-ready, deployable status, then the sensible thing to do is to retire them with a big thank you and a pension. Being nice to the wounded ought to take a back seat to keeping our military prepared to kill people and break things in the most effective way possible.
Disclaimer: I’m a medically-retired vet, rated at 100% service connected disability. I wasn’t wounded, just injured in an accident.
UPDATE: Posse Incitatus is on the same page as Intel Dump, but I’m still not convinced.
Alas, the quagmire that is Iraq threatens to swallow arrogant America whole. Woe is us. We’re doomed … doomed, I say!
Happy to hear a Western kufr who’s sorry about his government’s foolish adventure in a sovreign country overseas? Rejoice, noble warriors. Now that you’re here, my dear Yahoo and Google searchers from the Middle East and Europe (yes I noticed the spike), let’s look at what’s going on in Iraq.
First, Margaret Hassan. This British interloper claimed to be an aid worker for a charity, and claimed to be a Muslim. But everyone knows she was really a spy for the Mossad, the evil organization responsible for the September 11th attacks, Yasser Arafat’s poisoning, and itchy wool sweaters (damned jooooooos). Margaret Hassan got what was coming to her. Praise be to Allah, here’s the video.
An American correspondent captured footage of a U.S. Marine shooting someone in a mosque, which is now being broadcast all over the Arab media. What possible reason could there be for shooting a motionless man lying on the ground? Here’s the video of the Marine committing unjustified murder, my Middle Eastern friends. Watch it and seethe.
There’s also news that the U.S. Marine Corps has re-opened its investigation into the disappearance of Wassef Ali Hassoun, the Marine of Lebanese descent who disappeared earlier this year and appeared in a hostage video, only to return to his unit unharmed. Why a renewed investigation? Some of his personal effects, including his passport and identification card, turned up in Fallujah. Maybe he’s a mujahideen in secret? We dhimmis-in-waiting can only hope.
Now, as news finally begins to get past the oppressive John Ashcroft and his Crusaders in the Zionist American Government, we see that the poor residents of Fallujah hate their American oppressors. But then, I’m not surprised, since the mujahideen who ruled Fallujah had made such bold steps toward reestablishing the caliphate. Anybody would be upset to lose such enlightened leaders.
It’s now more clear than ever that America should have trusted the United Nations to administer international relations with Iraq. After all, France has been such a wonderful example of multilateral nuance … we could learn so much from them.
Onward Muslim soldiers! Celebrate your impending victory by watching this raw footage of your jihad’s success.
On the video, as the camera moved into the mosque during the Saturday incident, a Marine can be heard shouting obscenities in the background, yelling that one of the men was only pretending to be dead.
The video then showed a Marine raising his rifle toward a prisoner lying on the floor of the mosque. The video shown by NBC and provided to the network pool was blacked out at that point and did not show the bullet hitting the man. But a rifle shot could be heard.
The blacked out portion of the video tape, provided later to Associated Press Television News and other members of the network pool, showed the bullet striking the man in the upper body, possibly the head. His blood splatters on the wall behind him and his body goes limp.
Sites reported a Marine in the same unit had been killed just a day earlier when he tended to the booby-trapped dead body of an insurgent.
Here’s Sites’ description.
The Marine in question stands accused of violating the rules of engagement, and has been removed from the front pending an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Before we all rush to judgment, let’s calm down a little bit. This is a combat zone we’re talking about, and a very dirty one at that. Keep in mind that our side isn’t the bunch that decapitates hostages, targets civilians, fakes white flags, and lures the opposition in with fake wounded. There could very well be a satisfactory explanation tht mitigates what seems (at first glance) to be a war crime. Give the NCIS time.
Not everything, including this …
… is what it seems.
Winds of Change
Right On Red
Blogs of War
Armies of Liberation
The Shape of Days
Ace of Spades
UPDATE: More on treatment of enemy wounded in Fallujah, courtesy of The Command Post. Also, see cameraman Kevin Sites’ blog.