Monday, October 10, 2005

[politics] That's gonna leave a mark

A current MSNBC article describes the upcoming (ongoing?) recruitment push being made by, of all groups, the Navy SEALs:
Navy SEAL Mitchell Hall, who won a Bronze Star in 2001 in Afghanistan, hopes to use the upcoming Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii to spread the word about the need for more recruits. The competition will make the 31-year-old chief petty officer a spokesman for the community of self-described quiet professionals and put him in front of the cameras he spent years avoiding. The change in recruiting methods comes amid the Pentagon’s increasing reliance on special operations and the call for a 15 percent increase in SEALs over the next several years. The SEALs have a legendary reputation as an elite, highly skilled fighting force, but it is hard to find candidates with the necessary physical conditioning.
Fifteen percent. This is a small force we're talking about, so a 15% increase is kinda huge. Admittedly, this works out well for the Navy in other ways, too: in order to get those extra SEALs, they're going to have to recruit a lot more sailors because so many SEAL candidates wash out. And guess what? There are no backsies for recruits who fail SEAL training: you're still in the Navy, if you make the cut or not.
Only 25 percent pass entrance exam Every SEAL must finish one of the world’s toughest entrance exams, a six-month training program that typically weeds out three of every four candidates. The Navy also is creating a SEAL rating — a formal job description — that should allow candidates to more quickly begin formal SEAL training. Previously, SEALs — the name stands for Sea, Air, Land — had to attend school to learn traditional jobs held by Navy sailors. Driving the changes is the need to add 400 men by fiscal 2008, bringing the total number of SEALs from 2,600 to about 3,000. Special operations units in the Army and Air Force also are planning to increase their ranks, and U.S. Special Operations Command is offering bonuses of up to $150,000 to keep the most experienced operators from bolting to the more lucrative private sector.
See, though - here's the problem. In Vietnam, we saw Special Ops troops as the answers to all of our problems: move fast and strike hard, "Death From Above", "One Shot, One Kill", and all that, all with plausible denibility. Then guess what? We screwed the pooch. Not only did we use our Special Ops troops (and I'll include CIA paramilitary units here) illegally, we created too many of them. We did what? Yup, we created too many of them. We did what any other government does when it runs out of currency - we made more. Only instead of banknotes, our coin of the real was shadow warriors. And, like every money-printing spree in history, we debased the currency. We lowered standards for admittance, we turned a blind eye to rogues and incompetents and cowboys, because we needed more and more and more and more. And because every now and then we achieved some remarkable successess with these units where our regular troops were falling short, we made even more on top of that. We made more but wound up with less - much less - and it took decades to pay off that bill. Our special forces didn't fully recover from the effects of this binge until the late 1980s. Overall, I would not take this article as a positive sign.

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