Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Equipment, soldiers, and the gummint

The left side of the house is up in arms because some military supervisors are telling folks to get their own gear if they want the latest and bestest military accoutrements. Go read about it at 2millionthweblog. Hat tip to Your Right Hand Thief, for the link.

Anyone who knows anything about the military knows that the junior members spend their hard earned money on equipment. Soldiers have been carrying their own stuff into battle since probably Alexander's time. Places like the US Cavalry Store and Ranger Joe's make a living selling the latest and greatest military equipment.

Military supply chains being what they are, a soldier in the field gets all the gear he needs to survive, and it is my experience that the time span from new gear coming out to being fielded is a heck of a lot quicker than it was just a few years ago.

In my day, soldiers carried their own equipment from the same motivation of the soldiers today. Some gear is cooler than the issue stuff. You want a cool Camelbak Hydration System? The army issues canteens.

It used to be boots. If you wanted to jump out of airplanes, you could risk breaking an ankle with the issue boots, or you could buy a pair of Corcorans from the Cav Store.

You want to carry a knife? The bayonet issued with the M16 was a piece of shit. Better to go get a Randall #1. The Marines got a good knife in their basic issue, a K-Bar, but no self respecting soldier would be found dead with a Marine issue K-Bar, and the retro leather scabbard just wasn't cool at all.

I won't even talk about the issue poncho, or the ubiquitous shelter-half.

This is supposed to be a big issue on the Dems talking points, but young GI's are going to carry their own gear. The government will issue what they need, but some of it just isn't cool enough. You can't stop those guys from buying stuff.

Hell, even Patton carried unissued pistols. He was forever being photographed with a S&W .357 magnum.


oyster said...

You're belittling the issue. Clearly, the important issue is not about optional "cool" stuff, it's that our troops are not being adequately provided for with a defense dept budget that is larger than the combined totals of every other country's defense budget.

The issue is that, according to the article, "Marine Pfc. Jeremy Tod, 19, called home with news that his superiors were urging him and fellow Marines to buy special military equipment, including flak jackets with armor plating, to enhance the prospects of their survival." (My emphasis.)

Michael said...

And, he question again is (minus the profanity here, but I AM very angry about this): Where is the $425 billion dollars going? My tax dollars (and I do pay my fair share of taxes) are partially earmarked for defense. In fact, the lion's share of my tax bill goes to defense spending (I don't pay into Social Security any more). What are they doing with the money?

You'd think conservatives would be questioning this too.

Pawpaw said...

Maybe I didn't make myself clear. Blogging before the second cup of coffee will do that.

I'm not saying don't question defense spending. Hell, question everything.

If he is a PFC, then I question what superior is telling him to buy the stuff? His corporal, his sergeant, his platoon leader, or a higher officer? To a PFC, everyone is superior to him (in rank, probably not in other attributes).

I've lugged around GI flak jackets. They are bulky, hot, uncomfortable. I've also worn modern body armor. It is also bulky, hot and uncomfortable. Were I standing in the sand, I would be wearing both. I would, like millions of GI's before me, purchase, obtain, or barter for the best equipment I could lay my hands on.

Michael said...

Yes, but that wasn't my point. My point was that we've got a defense budget that's beyond the dreams of even King Midas, yet basic equipment isn't allocated. That's just plain wrong.

Defense spending in the US is larger than the total GNP of roughly 170 countries. Equipment costs, in this case, would amount to $618 million dollars for the ENTIRE army (active and reserve), i.e., less than 2 percent of the annual defense budget.

Whether or not soldiers have to barter for boots and knives isn't really the issue--the issue is why the military can't provide basic equipment (this is 2005, after all), and body armor is about as basic as it gets these days.

Again, I'm surprised at how some don't seem to care about this--I thought most folks supported our troops.