Friday, September 04, 2015

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the Colonel will join a lucky, if long-suffering, small nation of kindred spirits as he and 60,000 of his temporarily closest friends conduct a near-religious rite, replete with pilgrimage pageantry, legionary parades, historical hymns, and rote chants whose roots in antiquity are so deeply buried that the meaning of their words are as obscure as the mud at the bottom of the mighty Mississippi herself.

Tomorrow, on the campus of Ole Miss, the Old and New South, in general, and the Old and New Mississippi, specifically, will cease the culture clash for a few hours, forget the feelings-based fights over the truly inconsequential and hug and holler out what connects them in ways they don't even fully understand and are certain no one else does.

Tomorrow, the Colonel will join at least four live generations, and the ghosts of at least a dozen more, in reverent revelry under the oaks, elms, and magnolias forming the ceiling of one of the most holy cathedrals in the South; a naturally beautiful ten-acre park at the heart of one of America's most beautiful campuses, serene for the most part of any day of any season and frenetic sea of happy humanity on seven Saturdays in the fall.

Tomorrow, the Colonel will join the throng of expectant Rebel revelers pouring from the Grove toward the beckoning stands of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, like parishioners parading from church to coliseum with the roar of the lions in their ears, to roar themselves in throaty, primal support and gleeful, grinning approval of valiant feats of skill and gridiron gladiator victory.

Today, the Colonel will prepare. He's old. The flinty, shriveled cinder which passes for his heart is cold and unstretched by months of inactivity and unready for the voltage the Colonel's Rebels will likely put through it this season.

The Colonel, from long experience, has learned to temper his expectations with regard to his Rebels.

But, this just might be the year.

Gotta get ready.

Are you ready, Rebel Nation?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Knowing Nothing

The populist siren call of ant-immigration is not a new phenomenon in the life of our republic. Donald Trump is but the latest (and, sadly, probably not the last) in a long line of populist demagogues who rally discontented voters by demonizing and fixing blame on the newest members of American society.

Nativist sentiment has manifested itself in political movements several times since the founding of the republic.

A wave of Irish and German Catholic immigrants flooded cities on the Eastern Seaboard in the first half of the 19th Century, straining physical and societal infrastructure. Overcrowding, high unemployment, and the inevitable soaring crime rate -- coupled with anti-Catholicism -- created a toxic brew of resentment and retaliation. 

The resultant sectarian violence would make Northern Ireland's "Troubles" look like a domestic squabble in comparison.

Institutional violence against immigrants in northern cities during this time would make Bull Connor blush.

Unscrupulous, power-hungry politicians climbed into the saddle aboard the wild steed of anti-immigration sentiment in the late 1830's and by 1856 had forged a third-party movement that named a former U.S. President (Millard Fillmore) as its Presidential Nominee.

Fillmore lost, of course. Buchanan won that election.

The party went by many names -- The American Party, The American Republican Party, The Native American Party -- but members were universally referred to as "Know Nothings" because most local chapters began in secret and members denied their early participation with the phrase: "I Know Nothing."

Seriously. The Colonel ain't makin' this stuff up.

And, finding a curious echo in the current Trumpista movement, the vast majority of Know Nothing party membership were middle class with a distinct disdain for politicians. As the movement grew, Northeastern state legislatures, in particular, became majority Know Nothing, the new members by and large possessing no prior political experience.

The Know Nothing movement faded as the country fell inexorably into the gravity well of civil war. By the second year of that war, whole divisions of the Union Army were completely Irish or German immigrants, many stepping off a boat in New York or Boston and right into formations that marched toward Richmond.

And, therein lies a probable solution to our current debate.

Jeb Bush is right, you know. The vast majority of illegal immigration to our country is an act of love. They love our freedom. They love their children. They fear the violence and repression in their native lands.

Oh sure, there is a small, but not insignificant, percentage that have come here as a clear and present threat to the security and welfare of our citizens.

But, security is rarely found on the defense.

Walls don't work.

Qin Shi Huang's Great Wall didn't keep out the Mongols.

Hadrian's Wall failed to secure Britannia for Rome.

No, dear readers, walls and other defensive measures are not the answer.

Offense wins.

You take it from here...

Friday, August 28, 2015

Goofing Off, Generally

Twenty years ago, this month, the Colonel graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.

The class was a collection of U.S. and Allied officers and DoD civilians completing the second phase of Congressionally mandated Joint Professional Military Education (JPME II).

In the early 1980's, Congress passed legislation that reformed the Department of Defense and drove the services to work together in a much more "joint" manner. Interoperability was a mandated goal of the Goldwater–Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.

Goldwater-Nichols codified many of the recommendations of Reagan's Packard Commission that had critically assessed the stove-piped U.S. Military and its warfighting command structure.

Among other things, Goldwater-NIchols established the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs with a Joint Staff that would oversee service procurement and operations of joint combatant commands.

To hold the services' feet to the fire with regard to ensuring that they assigned their best officers to joint duty -- not necessarily considered a plum assignment within any of the services -- Goldwater-Nichols mandated that before any officer in any service could be selected to "flag" rank (brigadier general or rear admiral) that officer had to have completed JPME phases I and II and served in a joint assignment for at least three years (waivers for shortened joint tours granted for officers selected for command tours within their services.

What this meant in practical terms was that as an officer reached the rank of major and lieutenant colonel (lieutenant commander and commander in the Navy) that officer's service began to pay much closer attention to the "tickets" being "punched." By and large, the services' requirement for an officer's selection to flag rank was that the officer successfully completed command tours as a lieutenant colonel and colonel. Under Goldwater--Nichols the services now had to "dual-track" the "ticket punching" of officers on their way to eligibility for selection to flag rank.

The two tracks -- command and joint -- actually began to influence each other.

If an officer got his or her "joint ticket" punched early in his or her career (as a major), the likelihood that he or she would get a command tour as a lieutenant colonel was increased, because the services, taking a long view of their officers' careers, had to ensure that they had a large enough pool of Goldwater-Nichols -qualified colonels (Navy captains) from which to select flag officers.

There is no other way to explain how a mediocre Marine infantry officer by the name of Gregory achieved the rank of Colonel.

After surviving a tour on recruiting as a major, the Colonel was rewarded by assignment as a student at the intermediate level command and staff college of his choice.

The Colonel chose the Air Force's Air Command and Staff College (ACSC).

He could blow smoke up your trouser leg and tell you his choice was a purely professional one designed to broaden his professional military education, but the Colonel will be honest.

ACSC is aboard Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama -- halfway between the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's folks in Panama City, Florida and the Colonel's folks in Columbus, Mississippi.

That, and, seriously, how hard could the Air Force's staff college be?

After three grueling years of recruiting duty, the Colonel was ready for a year of hunting, fishing, and general non-military goofing off.

All of the services' intermediate and senior level schools (command and staff, and war, colleges) were required by Goldwater-Nichols to include introduction of joint education (JPME Phase I) and include officers from the other services on their instructor staffs as well as in their student classes.

As the Colonel (then still a major) completed his year as a student at ACSC, the opportunity to stay on staff as an instructor presented itself -- not due to any particular excellence as a student, mind you. There were two Marine officers (one major and one lieutenant colonel) on the instructor staff and they both had orders to leave at the end of the school year.

The Colonel called his assignment monitor at Headquarters, Marine Corps (HQMC) and volunteered for the job. The monitor said something to the effect of, "You wanna stay in Alabama?!? I had you penciled in for a staff job at HQMC. Wouldn't you much rather live in Northern Virginia?"

The Colonel's druthers most certainly did not include working at HQMC as one of a hundred majors on a staff, and, oh, by the way, commuting in and out of D.C. everyday.

But, one dare not tell his assignment monitor that he would rather not do what the monitor wants him to do.

"Look," the Colonel offered helpfully. "I know you aren't going to find any volunteers to come live here in Alabama." The Colonel pronounced "Alabama" in his best Forrest Gump accent, paused for effect, and concluded his sales pitch with, I'm already here; saves you a PCS move."

The monitor was quiet for a long moment -- he was no doubt doing the calculus of what course of action was going to save him the most staff time. Finally, he said, "Okay, but you need to call the joint duty monitor to get his approval."

"Joint duty monitor?" The Colonel had no idea that the job was actually a joint assignment. No where else in DoD can one go on vacation for three years and get joint duty credit.

The joint duty monitor was an easy sell and the Colonel told the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda later that evening that, "We will probably end up retiring right here in Alabama. I'll make it to lieutenant colonel, take the 20-year retirement, and find a job at Walmart or something to keep you in the standard of living with which you have grown accustomed."

After a year teaching airpower theory -- yeah, that was a hoot -- the Colonel was assigned to the small instructor branch that taught the joint education requirements mandated by Goldwater-Nichols. The Navy commander running the Joint Branch welcomed the Colonel with, "You got your JPME Phase II ticket punched, yet?"

"Huh?"

"You haven't been to the Armed Forces Staff College, yet, have you?"

"Uh, nosir."

"Well, call your monitor and get in the next class -- they're three months long and you should be able to knock it out and be back in time to start the next academic year here."

The Colonel (still a major, but selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel) spent the summer of 1995 in Norfolk, Virginia at the Armed Forces Staff College, where he majored in golf and softball.

One morning, the Colonel was sitting in his seat in his conference group's small classroom -- strategically situated nearest the coffee machine -- when the conference group leader walked in and announced, "Gregory, report to the Commandant's office, ASAP."

On the way to his office, the Colonel rehearsed his excuses for any number of reasons why the school's commandant would call the Colonel onto his carpet.

The Colonel reported in and the commandant smiled broadly and waved a piece of paper at the Colonel, "Congratulations, major, the Marine Corps has selected you for battalion level command!"

"Sir, the major apologizes for his poor showing on the last exam. I'm just a knuckle-dragging infantry Marine, and... Excuse me, sir, did you say I was selected for command?"

Needless to say, there was a bit of a celebration that night at which the Colonel will neither confirm nor deny that prodigious amounts of adult beverages were consumed.

A few months later, the Colonel pinned on the the silver oak leaves of a lieutenant colonel of Marines. A couple of months after that, the Colonel got a call from his assignment monitor, "Congratulations, a battalion just came open and you are the next in line. Report to 3rd Marines for duty this summer."

"Third Marines? That's in Hawaii, ain't it?"

"Yep, pack your board shorts."

Three years later, after successful command of an infantry battalion -- due completely to the excellence of some of the best Marines with whom the Colonel had ever served -- and a year as the executive officer of the regiment, the Colonel was selected for attendance at the Navy War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

While at the Navy War College, the Colonel was selected for promotion to colonel. And, because he had his JPME Phase II and Joint Tour tickets punched, the Colonel was designated a Joint Specialty Officer (JSO) -- another requirement of Goldwater-Nichols.

Designation as a JSO got the Colonel assigned to an insane job running the operations division at US Forces, Korea, in Seoul.

But, that's another story.

Bottom line: the Colonel owes his success to a deep desire to just goof off.