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06/09/2017

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timactual

" the strains of “Soldiers,” a rousing modern rock song with lyrics like “This is a perfect day to die” and “With our final breath, we will fight to the death—we are soldiers, we are soldiers.” "

WTF? Is the Army turning into some sort of death cult? What next, make the Army motto "duty is heavier than a mountain; death is lighter than a feather"?

Krag

It can help many get over a paralyzing fear of violent death. You are a Vietnam vet, right? You didn't have cadences in boot camp that spoke of your imminent mortality? "...box me up and ship me home/pin my medal upon my chest/tell my mama I done my best..." I joined the USMC in 1988 and we sang that in boot camp. Its not a death cult, its getting recruits familiarized with death so when it occurs up close the first time they have some de-sensatization training/background to help deal with it.

Krag

That was a great article, thanks for posting it. I can relate to both the father/author, and the son. Some of it was a little too familiar. :)

SFC Dunlap 173d RVN

With a name like Wallace I submit a militaristic if not centuries old military affiliation exists. The father is fortunate to have an Army retiree to walk him (the father) through the parenting end of his son's new life chapter.

timactual

"cadences in boot camp that spoke of your imminent mortality?"

Nope. We were smart enough to figure it out from all the bayonet training, mines and booby trap training, first aid, etc. Not to mention newspapers and television. We didn't need songs glorifying death ("perfect day to die") to impress upon us the possibility of being maimed or killed.

By the way,
"im·mi·nent (ĭm′ə-nənt)
adj.
About to occur; impending:"
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/imminent

Sorry, but I get freaky about words.

timactual

PS

I don't see any need to rub the noses of family, etc. in this death cult, either. I am sure they are already well aware of the unpleasant possibilities. Worrying is, after all, what parents do.

Krag

For someone that is "freaky about words" you sure throw "death cult" around loosely. There is a difference between glorifying martyrdom, which views death as the objective in service of a greater good, and rational recognition of death as a by-product of getting the job done. If the few items in the article disturb you this much, don't look into British military views on the topic.

USMC Steve

Timactual, the US Army needs to start doing a whole lot more of that death - kill stuff. That is what the Army is supposed to do. Not social engineering or experimentation, or all that nonsense that modern soldiers tell me makes them absolutely hate Big Army. If they did that, as we in the Marine Corps do every day, they would be far more effective and professional in their primary mission: inflicting death and destruction on our nations enemies. As to whether or not it discomfits the families who have no actual involvement or understanding of the Army and what it is there for, too bad.

timactual

What would you call "This is a perfect day to die" other than glorifying martyrdom? "Rational recognition" of death does not require hymns or "rousing rock songs". Doctors, nurses, etc. manage to do it daily without all the celebration of it.


" Not social engineering or experimentation, or all that nonsense..."

Where did I support that?

There is a quote attributed to R.E.Lee-"It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it."
I cannot imagine him promoting rubbish like "perfect day to die". Yet the Army of N. Va. managed to do quite well in the inflicting death and destruction department.

I think maybe today's military has grown too fond of it. One reason I have always advocated the draft.

Krag


I find this exchange exceedingly odd, given that you are a combat vet. "Doctors, nurses, etc..." don't face their *own* mortality as a cost of doing business, the soldier and Marine does. Doctors and nurses don't anticipate their coworkers may blow up in front of them in the course of their work day, the soldier and Marine does.

Building up the familiarity with death as a *normal* occurance during war is one of the fundamental charges of basic training programs. The US Army and the USMC do not encourage martyrdom, and to claim otherwise is simply ignorant. They do encourage recognizing death as an element of the environment soldiers and Marines operate in, and the FACT that sometimes good men are put in no-win situations but duty still requires action. In those instances, far better to have infantryman that smile at death and claim "today is a good day to die", than sniveling cowards that lament the unfairness of life as they are slaughtered.

timactual

"far better to have infantryman that smile at death and claim "today is a good day to die", than sniveling cowards that lament the unfairness of life as they are slaughtered"

We managed to do fairly well in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII without too many sniveling cowards. I would hope that today's soldiers could cope just as well without all the adolescent drama, particularly since today's conflicts are a good deal less bloody. And, supposedly, today's soldiers are better educated and more sophisticated than those of yore.

If I ever meet someone who "smiles at death", I am getting as far away as possible from him.

Krag

"We managed to do fairly well in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII without too many sniveling cowards..."

Another ignorant statement. The US military, as a whole, has never been much respected for its infantrymen, even by US wartime generals. The challenge of hardening civilians into effective wartime infantry is an ongoing endeavor and efforts by the USA and USMC to deconstruct societal softening and build rough men to do harm in our name should be supported, not ignorantly riduculed by throwing out loaded terms like "death cult".

RE: "And, supposedly, today's soldiers are better educated and more sophisticated than those of yore."

Those two factors make the job harder, not easier. Higher education makes initial technical training easier and faster, but corresponds to higher levels of PTSD/shell shock/whatever-the-hell you want to call it once in combat. That the meaty part of the curve of US enlistees has more education than in the past only reinforces the need for harsher basic training with more mental and emotional stress to prepare them for combat, and to weed out those incapable of handling it. A facet of that is stripping out the instinctual, and now societially-reinforced desire for self preservation before all else and replacing it, or at least superceding it, with mission accomplishment first. That's a hard job.

If helping teenagers make that transition is eased by some rock music with martial lyrics, then its not "adolescent drama", its reinforcing the message.


timactual

" Higher education makes initial technical training easier and faster, but corresponds to higher levels of PTSD/shell shock/..."

Got a source for that?

"The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. George S. Patton"

Like Patton, I would prefer an emphasis on winning rather than fighting to the death.

There are amazingly realistic prosthetics available that simulate battle casualties. Using them during training is far more effective in familiarizing trainees with the sights and sounds of battle than musical martial melodrama.

ultimaratioregis

@timactual,

No, we did not do "just fine" in the Civil War, WWI and WWII. In each of those wars, particularly the last one, many thousands upon thousands died, and battles were lost, because men were woefully unprepared for the shock of combat. Not just lack of training, but unprepared mentally and physically for what they would experience. And those societies were hardly strangers to hardship.

Today, with our "safe spaces" and "special snowflake" and "he yelled at me!" mentality, what does the buttercup OS3 do when the guy standing watch with him gets blown all over him? Does he have the wherewithal to fall back immediately on his training and secure the watertight hatches and begin trying to control flooding?

Running and marching cadences that refer to the grim fate of the lowly recruit in battle have been around for centuries. In a very real way, it is something that severs the recruit from the person he was before he joined, from his "civilian tendencies", as I have heard it called. Shitty pay, Jody back home, certain death in combat, all bind together recruits with shared sense of misery and sacrifice. Many, for the first time in their lives, actually understand that they BELONG to something. Something in which they have to EARN their respect and status. An increasingly rare thing in today's "everybody gets a trophy" society.

You may poo-poo such ideas, but they are very real. The nascent beginnings of self-confidence and espirit de corps. It is not corny or hackneyed. It is critically important to imbuing a warrior ethos, and yes, some of it is singing about going off to get killed. The "Foreign Legion" or "Spartans at Thermopylae" aspect of military service is incredibly powerful, much as society and even senior officers (in the last administration, at least) try to kill such ideas and values.

“...traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever...”

Krag

RE:
" Higher education makes initial technical training easier and faster, but corresponds to higher levels of PTSD/shell shock/..."

"Got a source for that?"


Can't find a single one. I would swear on a stack of bibles I read a report, from the US Army, that showed US combat veterans (2003 and since) had a higher PTSD rate that tracked with education level at the time of the incident. However, a quick google search comes up with nothing close to that. So I will retract that argument. My apologies.

Krag

I may have given up too soon:

http://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2009/v70n09/v70n0909.aspx#

Showed an increased PTSD risk with higher education levels for Army soldiers with more than one deployment. While meta-studies present a simple picture of - PTSD risk increases with younger age and less education, that seems to be less certain when you look specifically at combat PTSD for the US. You can find a study that showed, for Guard and Reserve veterans in the US, increased age at the time of combat tracked with increased PTSD risk, which was not found in the active component.

timactual

"You may poo-poo such ideas, "

No, I do not. I think they have gone too far with that "perfect day to die" nonsense and the smoke. I, for one, do not want to see the US military with the same attitude as the Imperial Japanese military had. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Krag;

Thanks for the link. I am still skeptical, and it makes me wonder why, but it's hard to argue with that.

timactual

" because men were woefully unprepared for the shock of combat."

I would contend that most of those that died and the battles lost were due more to bad training, equipment, and leadership than any unwillingness to face the enemy. The men on Bataan, for example, certainly showed a willingness to fight under appalling conditions. Perhaps you think they should have fought to the death with their final breath, but I think they did just fine. As did the poorly trained, badly equipped and lightly armed soldiers at Buna in New Guinea, who seemed to withstand the initial shock of combat just fine.

The Japanese also seemed to think that their superior warrior spirit, their theory of "With our final breath, we will fight to the death", would prevail over their enemies. They weren't even able to beat the Chinese.

Krag

RE: . "I, for one, do not want to see the US military with the same attitude as the Imperial Japanese military had. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing."

I don't disagree. At the same time, I can recall reading a quote from a British officer in the CBI theater to the effect of - "...by British Army standards, every Japanese soldier had earned the VC...". That's not nothing.

US society writ large does not produce soldiers that approach the aggressiveness of WWII Japanese infantry nor the soldierly mastery of WWII German infantry. General Mattis' remarks that we can overmatch any foe except in irregular warfare is another indirect statement of our infantry failings - when we can't call on endless fire support to save the day, we find ourselves in a near-draw against hillbillys with AKs.

That is where I see the efforts of basic training and advanced training working against societal "programming" to move the needle of US infantry effectiveness to the right - we are so far away from Japanese death cult mentality that its almost an insult to their corpses to imply it.

ultimaratioregis

@timactual,

Nobody said anyone was unwilling to face the enemy, and you know it. But knowing what to do, and how to put aside fear and horror when you do face the enemy, is more than just "training". My old man, who joined in March of 1942, might have given you some more rather pointed insights.

timactual

"when we can't call on endless fire support to save the day, we find ourselves in a near-draw against hillbillys with AKs."

You think other countries do any better? The Germans, for example, were driven out of Yugoslavia by those "hillbillys".


"how to put aside fear and horror"

I think it is a fair assumption that they did so.

"Nobody said anyone was unwilling to face the enemy,"

Then what is the point of all this fight-to-the-death stuff?

And thanks, but my old man, who joined in '44, already gave me a few insights.

Krag

RE: "You think other countries do any better?"

In this day and age, I honestly have no idea. In the past, without a doubt. At the squad level US infantry now default to a passive "kill by fire" mode - either long range fire with small arms, or fire support. Suppression and maneuver seem to be lost arts. Witness the USMC getting rid of fireteam LMGs as a key indicator - you don't plan on your fireteam rushing anyone if you take away their one organic tool for suppressive fire. Nor can you pull out the team SAWs to set a squad base of fire for a squad rush. The only upside is Recon will now have a whole lot of SAWs from the line companies to play with. :)

But it shows the focus on keeping the infantry in-place and passive, instead of aggressively maneuvering on the enemy and destroying them. Its hard to get good infantry, its even harder when we don't employ them aggressively but instead use them as individual static turrets.


ultimaratioregis

"Then what is the point of all this fight-to-the-death stuff?"

Precisely that. To fight. Men unprepared for battle sometimes run away, but quite rarely. What happens far more often is that they.... do nothing. Freeze. Immobile. And get killed without accomplishing anything.

Post-World War II studies showed that many Army units often had only 10-15% of their personnel actually fire their weapons when in contact. Whereas Marines, and units like Airborne Infantry and Rangers, whose training was some notches higher (and who were imbued to believe themselves elite), had more like 60-70% engaging the enemy. Those aren't just the things of "death cults", but of gaining fire superiority, and freedom of maneuver, and seizing initiative. Precious life-saving commodities in a knock-down fight.

timactual

I learned a long time ago not to say something I didn't really mean. If you really mean fight to the death with your last breath, then you have more work to do. The Military Code of Conduct needs to be redone, since a good part of it deals with how to behave when taken prisoner. Attitudes towards people like John McCain need to be reexamined since they didn't fight to the death.

If you don't really mean it, don't say it. If you don't really expect soldiers to fight to the death, it's called braggadocio--

"Definition of braggadocio
: braggart

2
a : empty boasting"

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/braggadocio

I'm done.

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