|Tarawa, November 1943|
At the time, the Colonel will readily admit, that was entirely the case. The Marines who trained the Colonel's generation of Marines were veterans of vicious combat in Vietnam, Korea, and, in some cases, World War II.
The Post-Vietnam force was a hollow one, and for the most part it's members were coddled compared to the generations that preceded it.
The Colonel finds himself in the curious position of proclaiming that the generation of Marines that followed his own are far tougher and far better trained.
The Colonel's generation saw limited combat throughout the 80's and 90's. Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, even the first Gulf War were cakewalks in comparison to the wars fought by the generation of Marines who have been in action for the last decade and a half.
Thirty-seven years ago, this month, the Colonel graduated from the Marine Corps' Infantry Officers Course (IOC). In 1978, IOC was a six-week course that "qualified" its graduates for assignment of the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), 0302 (Infantry Officer). All Marine lieutenants, regardless of eventual MOS (aviation, logistics, artillery, armor, etc.) must first graduate from the Basic Officer Course at The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico, Virginia. TBS, in theory, prepares all Marine officers to serve as infantry platoon commanders. In fact, prior to establishment of IOC in 1977, Marine officers assigned the 0302 MOS went straight from TBS to their infantry platoons.
Over the years, IOC has incrementally raised its standards and increased its rigor to the point that today it is arguably one of the physically toughest and most mentally challenging schools in all the world's militaries. Thirty-seven years ago every lieutenant in the Colonel's IOC class finished the course. Today, a not-insignificant percentage fail to even pass the initial evaluation. The Colonel would like to be able to say that they fail because they aren't as tough as the Colonel's generation.
He can't. Not by a long shot.
The Colonel took, and still takes, pride in being as hard as a set of woodpecker lips. There weren't many in better shape, nor as inured to hardship as he was. But, he has serious doubt in his super-confident military mind that he could have passed the initial evaluation for today's IOC. Oh, and the course is now ten weeks long -- each and every day as challenging as the most challenging day in 1978's six-week course .
The Colonel thinks that is a very good thing.
For the past 14 years, young infantry Marines have fought in battles that compare favorably in terms of ferocity and deprivation with any of the most famous battles of our Corps -- Samar, Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, Chosin, Khe Sanh, to name but a few of the many absolutely horrendous fights from which U.S. Marines emerged victorious and the lore of which animate our Corps today. The fight for Fallujah in Iraq a decade ago will go down in history and be held in the same awe as any battle of the Pacific war against Japan.
Those young Marines, volunteers all, deserve the very best battle leadership possible. Their officers should be the most qualified our nation can afford to place at their head. And, we should never stop increasing the quality and ability of those officers. To do otherwise is a treasonous disservice to those young Marines they will lead and to the mothers and fathers who give their children to the Corps' care.
In the current fight, Mom and Dad can rest in the assurance that the officer leading their son into battle is so physically and mentally capable that he will continue to operate and make sound battlefield decisions under the most demanding conditions imaginable (and even conditions far more demanding that most can imagine).
The Colonel credits the superior American political leadership of the 1980's to the world-class military America fields today. Today's U.S. Armed Forces are without peer -- as it should be.
The political leadership 30 years ago set the priority of quality of force and military prowess over political correctness and social engineering.
Today, the reverse is the case.
For the first time in its proud history, our Republic, which used to pride itself on its moral and ethical superiority, will now consciously send women into combat as infantrymen, er... persons.
To quote the current temp help in the Oval Office, "That's not who we are, as Americans."
The Colonel cares not that other nations have women in their infantry formations. Our nation should not be in the business of adopting other nations' practices.
We are better than they are.
Just because the Israelis have women in their infantry units doesn't justify American women serving likewise. The Colonel has trained with the Israelis -- they are good against Arab armies; they wouldn't last a day against most western armies.
No other infantry fighting force on the planet can stand toe-to-toe with American infantry.
End. Of. Discussion.
Our physical fitness and training standards are unmatched.
Of two dozen who have tried over the last couple of years, no woman has even made it through the first grueling week of IOC.
Neither did lots of men.
But, mark the Colonel's words, the physical standards for IOC will be gender-normed before the next year is out.
The result will be an Marine Infantry Officer Course whose standards will be lowered to allow women to pass. The argument, by men and women who have never served in combat, will be that the standards are unreasonably high today.
Oh, and the women who pass the course under lowered standards will step in front of 40 enlisted Marines who know. Not fair for those young ladies -- a brand new infantry second lieutenant has a hard enough job gaining the trust and confidence of his men.
Is that what you want, America? Do you want America's premier force in readiness -- the world's finest combined arms battlefield dominator -- reduced in effectiveness against the enemies of our Republic and the freedoms its Constitution enshrines?
It will be.
Don't say the Colonel didn't warn you.