Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (VI) -- More Professionalism or Patton's Mob

August 23, 1999

Comment: #313

Discussion Thread:  #s 81, 237, 273, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312

Comment #312 was supposed to end the thread on this subject, but the following email from CMDR YYY is too good to ignore.

-----[Begin Email from CMDR YYY]-----

To: Chuck Spinney
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 1999
Subject: Re: #312 - Drill Sergeants vs. Hollywood (V) - More on Professionalism or Patton's Mob


Drill sergeants have always had tough duty. Have they ever been adequately manned? I remember my drill sergeants waking us up and putting us to bed, with rarely a day off. I imagine it's even tougher now with all the scrutiny and molly-coddling.

I wanted to add one more comment that I had omitted the other day. The quote about convincing potential recruits that the Army is no longer like "Saving Private Ryan" is a prime indicator of wrong-headedness.

- Young people can relate to "Pvt. Ryan." I watched the movie twice in theaters. In each case, the audience was totally mute when the movie ended, including the teenagers.


Because the movie presented a powerful message about duty and sacrifice ---- about Americans not much older than themselves-------- their grandfathers ------ fighting and dying on a foreign shore for some higher purpose. When the aged Ryan reflects on his life, he seeks affirmation that the sacrifice was not in vain. This final scene is a euphemism for the generation that was born in the Depression, crushed a global tyranny and evil, and made post-war America what it is today. Ryan ----- speaking for that generation and now in the twilight of his life ---- asks if he made good on that sacrifice. The young people in the audience sense something that is missing in so many of their lives: purpose, community, honor, duty. I believe the youngsters were deeply moved, perhaps longing for the noble virtues portrayed in the film.

Is that all a relic of the past, irrelevant to modern society? I think not.

When the Commanding General of Army Recruiting Command said that "We're not the Army of 'Saving Private Ryan" anymore," my reaction was "Well, you OUGHT to be !!"

We need to attract the kind of young folks who yearn for an institution that embodies the very ideals they find lacking in modern society. Sure, we're not storming fortified beaches and taking huge casualties anymore; we're smarter, more efficient. But the Army ----- and the other services ------ must be a place where those virtues are unabashedly fostered, cultivated. And celebrated, and not just words printed on a card to carry in their wallets.

When a citizen looks upon a soldier (or sailor, Marine, or airman), he/she should see the embodiment of those ideals, and be proud. When that formula is working, recruiting won't be a problem. I'll get off my soapbox now.

-----[End Email from CMDR YYY]-----

And that, dear reader, is why the Secretary of Defense's continuing tolerance of Armed Forces Day posters that celebrate weapons and forget to include people is a metaphor for a larger distortion of values.

Chuck Spinney

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