Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Alvin Greene plays veteran card to the hilt

You’d have to be either a totally dedicated Democrat – or sadly deluded – if you think Alvin Greene will be able to unseat South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint in the November election.

DeMint is a leading Republican and a skilled politician who probably thought he’d be taking on – and easily besting – another little-known Democrat named Vic Rawl in November. Probably a lot of people in the Democratic Party in South Carolina thought DeMint needed even token opposition, and their man Rawl was the best one for the job of losing.

But then Alvin Greene came along. With no campaign in the primary, he swept aside the opposition and moved onto the American political radar.

Like a lot of candidates nowadays, he claimed the mantle of military “hero.” Some candidates claim military experience when the closest they ever came to the armed forces was vomiting with a few miles of a recruiting office, but Greene did serve in the Air National Guard in South Carolina, the Air Force, the Army National Guard and then the Army. Like most candidates with actual military service, he inflated that service and pointed to a host of “I was there” ribbons as evidence of valor in service to the country.

See his military records, including his DD-214, here. His Social Security number has, of course, been redacted.

Greene may not know much, but he knows that citizens love a well-populated and colorful area over the left breast pocket on a military tunic. Even if they don’t know what all the ribbons mean, it must be evidence of bravery, valor and more in defense of the nation.

Actually, most of the ribbons you see on uniforms are “service” ribbons, a sort of visual resume. Everyone who makes it out of basic training gets the National Defense Service Ribbon and the Global War on Terror Ribbon. Service in the war zones gets you ribbons, staying out of trouble gets you a ribbon and even professional development activities in some branches gets you a ribbon.

Too many reporters are, I think, are unaware that there are ribbons and medals that denote true valor under fire: the Medal of Honor; the Army, Navy and Air Force Crosses; and the Silver Star. Sadly, the Bronze Star has been cheapened because so many people get it. And the Purple Heart, which honors injuries in the service of the nation, is another medal that denotes valor. B.G. Burkett, a Vietnam veteran and businessman who wrote about military fakers, has said it’s the one ribbon no one wants to earn.

Greene’s military performance was pretty substandard, and it makes you wonder just how he managed to jump from the Air National Guard to the Air Force to the Army National Guard to the Army with such poor performance, as well as the disciplinary actions taken against him and the documented evaluations of poor performance and lack of leadership capability. (AP Newsbreak: Records show Greene’s military flops)

Greene said “terrorists” and “communists” got promoted ahead of him, but I think that there were many people in the military who gave him a chance to improve his performance and earn those promotions, but when they realized that he was simply not up to the tasks assigned to him, they passed him along to another command, letting him become someone else’s problem.

The ‘Tom Clancy’ effect
In the 1980s, author Tom Clancy penned novels that showed the U.S. military and intelligence agencies in action, defending the nation against the “evil empire.” The Russians were your typical stereotyped apparatchiks, with “-ov” and “-ovna” appended to their names, thick accents and the intense desire for world domination.

He became a best-selling author and some of his books are genuine thrillers that even I enjoy, like “The Hunt for Red October,” “Patriot Games” and “Red Storm Rising.” That was a popular genre in the Cold War era, and I don’t begrudge Clancy his success with it.

He pictured the American military as it climbed out of the mess of Vietnam as a highly competent force, with dedicated people from E-1 to O-9 and beyond who put the mission first and their own personal and economic advancement a very distant last. The fact that it was an illusion was mostly papered over. The nation was at peace for the most part, and the military fantasies could be taken as just some popular fiction.

The reality, as those of us who were in the military knew, was that there were many people in the military who were not the most competent or the most committed to the mission, Clancy notwithstanding. I was certainly a marginal Marine, at best, and I knew one fellow who decided he wanted out and gained weight like mad until he weighed more than 230 pounds.

Others sought ways out including misconduct and escape. One fellow who was almost a legend in my squadron, VMA-513, had re-enlisted for a bonus (somewhere around $20,000 at the time) and the rank of staff sergeant (E-6). Soon after, he went AWOL and was brought back. He lost a stripe, then went AWOL again. He was brought back again, and lost more rank. When I saw him, he was a private (E-1) on barracks restriction who eventually was taken out of the barracks by the MPs.

In the meantime, he did no work in the shops or offices of our squadron. I had no idea what his job was or anything else. He was the ultimate shitbird.

Others failed to perform adequately and units always had to deal with poor performers, usually by diverting them into details that became permanent jobs, like supply or data entry, to keep them away from the airplanes.

It sounds like Greene was one of those who was diverted into jobs until someone could figure out how to rid their unit of him. He was even rated non-deployable and had a unit leave without him. It would be interesting to see what his Army record says, though the news stories I have seen hint that he was demoted and disciplined in Korea.

The military is made up of a lot of people, most good, but there are a vocal few who insist that it’s all about them and their sexual preference or their dislike of authority. Even in times like these, with the nation at war, ridding the military of those who are not contributing to the mission is a good idea.

Unfortunately, if those who are ejected end up running for public office on the fictional version of their military career, it’s bad for all of us.

Playing the veteran card is a legitimate campaign technique, and I am sure we can expect to see many more people doing so in the future.

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July 26, 2010 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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