When I was nineteen, I had just graduated from High School. It was during January of 1962. You see my Dad, had just taken us on a trip to England during the Fall of 1961. My grandfather had always wanted us to come back to England. He was dying of cancer of the stomach. It had gone on for 3 long years. The only thing he could keep down was Bovril or Marmite. Both at the time were beef extracts and a beef bullion hot drink. They are now both vegetarian drinks. Mad cow disease was responsible for that. But I got a job in a non-union plant in England as a linotype operator.(I had two months training on the keyboard.) After two weeks my Dad got me an apprenticeship in the Pressroom where he was working. That would not have worked out. I had no mechanical ability to run a press at all. But Dad, after Grandfather died, moved us back to the USA.
For a short time in 1962 I worked as a stock boy in a printing plant. I was layed off in June of that year. So on the advise of a good friend where I had worked, I applied to join the United States Air Force. I took the tests, applied for a security clearance, I was still a British citizen at the time, and they labored to clear me with all 50 of my British cousins!
They didn't clear me until October of that year. Do you remember your history? October was when the Cubian Missile Crisis occurred. So on October 22nd of that year, in the middle of the Cuban Crisis, I joined the U.S. Air Force and was given a very hasty physical. I say hasty because I was technically 4-F. I was fairly smart with electronics. They wanted people like me badly. They ignored the fact that I was blind in one eye from a genetic disease called Lazy Eye. My technical vision in that eye was 20/400. My vision in the other eye is excellent. I was even a natural rifleman. I shot 280 out of a possible 300 in basic training with an M-1 rifle the first time I ever shot such a weapon.
I am explaining this because although I was 4-F, the U.S. Air Force accepted me with open arms(probably because of the Cuban Crisis putting us close to a world war!). So for the next 3 and ½ years I was an enlisted man in the US Air Force. My education had begun . . .
I owe the Air Force a lot. They taught me to never give up, no matter how many times I failed. They taught me never to run away from my problems. Always face them head on. Otherwise, I would never have fought as hard as I did when I finally became an Composing Room Apprentice Printer at the age of 24 going on 25 with an honorable discharge. We were given credit for 4 years. I went to Korea for 13 months and the Air Force felt it was impossible to retrain us for stateside service in under about a year. So they let us go with honorable discharges ½ year early because we served in what is called remote duty. It was very good timing for me. I failed 3 times in 4 years in getting a career field. I stayed as an E2 pay grade for 2 and ½ years. That grade is Airman 3rd Class. That is the rank you get out of basic training.
Looking back on that experience, the Lord God must have had angels watching over me. I am alive. Quite a few of the men I served with and considered close friends, died in Vietnam. We had decent rules of behavior when it came to assignments back then. If you served in a combat zone, you had your choice of assignments when you were done. That meant you could request 3 different bases Stateside and be guaranteed at least a year or two back in the states before being eligible for reassignment overseas. Not quite a rule. But it was honored back then.
I just recently read about a man who was on his 4th tour of duty in the middle east. He wasn't that old. The reason I read about him was he was 2 weeks away from reassignment back to the states when he was killed. There are a lot of people just like him. 4Th tour of duty in a hazardous zone? I think that should never have occurred. It would never have occurred in the Air Force I served in.
My point is we are putting our Professional Armed Forces in harm's way and I believe it is unnecessary. These people risk their lives for us every day of their sometimes short lives. It comes with the territory. We need to respect these people more. We need to be out of places where we have nothing to gain and everything to lose. As an A2C, leaving service, I was kept busy, cleaning toilets. Many others like me did the same thing. They did not even trust me enough to stay out of trouble for a week, while the paper work was done. I had a clean record. My behavior was totally above board.
I want to see the military run more like a business. Part of the overhead of this business is paying for the survivor benefits of men and women who have lost their lives in the performance of their duties to this country. If it were a business, and that business was losing money hand over fist, they would find a way to get around those losses. The best way is to avoid situations that make for those losses to occur.
If we ran the Armed Forces more like a business, then we would not put all that expensive equipment in harm's way casually. We would not be in countries that make it unprofitable for us to be there.
The most important reason to run it like a business is the debt we incur when it is run in a wasteful manner. That debt after 9/11 and a continuous warfare in various places is now staggering.
Generals looks at strategy. They seldom look at expense. The enlisted corp is expendable, though I am sure they would deny this. Billions of dollars worth of equipment is expendable as well.
We have lost wars. We lost Vietnam. The reason is business expenses. We drained this country of 400 billion dollars in 1969 dollars. No business would ever tolerate that kind of loss. The people of this country need to fire the bosses that allow this kind of loss in today's world.
We, as a country, need to fire the people that allow this to occur.
Russia invaded the same place we are right now. They bankrupted the USSR because the people using inexpensive(relatively speaking) weapons from horseback destroyed multi-million dollar advanced helicopters. No business would tolerate that loss. But an army might . . . especially one that considers people expendable expenses. People are undeniably numbers. So give them the benefit of business numbers and spare them being killed for no reason whatsoever in foreign countries.
It is time to look at the world through the eyes of the finest businessmen we have available. It is time to redo our priorities. If something is not profitable, then it has to go. That means an entirely different set of priorities not only in our armed forces, but on every front. We are now losing the war on economics.
(authored by Dave Webb)