You may have heard of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous explorer who launched a mission to explore Antarctica over a century ago. I have read that the outcome of his Antarctic mission was deemed both a great failure and one of the greatest human achievements ever. Legend has it that when Shackleton was looking for men, he didn't want any galavanters or dandies, so he ran a very blunt ad that said precisely what was needed.
Shackleton's ad reportedly read: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour (sic) and recognition in event of success." It is listed as one of the top 100 advertisements of all time, and that Shackleton said of it afterward, "that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him."
Why? Why was Shackleton's recruiting ad so successful? And likewise, why was the Army's former "be all you can be" ad campaign so successful? Or how about the Marines with "the few the proud the Marines"? Why is it that young Rangers are required to memorize the Ranger Creed that tells them their "country expects them to move further, faster and to fight harder than any other soldier" and that "though I be the lone survivor, Rangers lead the way!"?
The answer to that is simple: because militaries are designed to fight and to win!
I saw a news report recently about one of our U.S. military service academies that bothered me. In this case, it was the Air Force Academy, but only a few minutes later, I came across one that was equally disturbing about West Point. Both articles were written with firsthand information, and they bothered me greatly.
There is an epic battle raging within our military but not one that addresses foreign adversaries or the defense of democracy. We are watching an insidious progressive effort to recast society, and the Petrie dish for this social experimentation is the U.S. armed forces. Our vaunted military academies are instructing the future leaders of the military on how best to avoid offense in the use of pronouns, how to ensure equitable diversity in their ranks, and to avoid the use of stringent standards that might alienate others less capable of service.
Let me pause here and ask a hypothetical question based on the following hypothetical situation. What if you were being held hostage by terrorists in a foreign land? In the midst of your captivity, you learned that the U.S. Government is working on a rescue plan and that the planning and execution of your rescue will fall to one of two teams. The choice of which team will execute the mission has yet to be determined, but the National Command Authority has authorized a quick reaction force consisting of volunteers with two separate command groups, each of which may handpick the members of their respective strike forces.
The first hypothetical commander issues a call to his subordinate commands to provide volunteers with combat experience. The requirements are clear and selectively designed for only those with expert weapons, communications and medical qualifications. These volunteers have to be skilled in survival, hand-to-hand combat, and hostage rescue with additional skill identifiers for airborne or waterborne insertion and extraction, and two-thirds of the team must be conversant in the language of the area of operations. Team One is formed.
The other commander issues his call specifying that he wants a strike force that is diverse in its makeup with equitable distribution within the team makeup reserved for various genders and ethnicities and LGBTQ+ service members and that at least one member must be transgender. Each volunteer must be vaccinated and boosted and must perform at least a 60% passing score on the new Army Physical Fitness Test. Volunteers should be on record as having merely qualified in the past year with their assigned weapon. Foreign language proficiency is encouraged but is secondary in consideration if finding those with language skills means disturbing the equitable makeup of the team. Further, each member of the diversity team must provide their previous two evaluations indicating that they have complied with the commander's sexual harassment and equal opportunity programs and have signed a waiver acknowledging that they are willing to assume the risks of the mission.
There's your hypothetical scenario. Now let me ask the hypothetical question: if you were the hostage and your life depended on one of these teams getting in to rescue you, which team would you want? The best of the best? Or the diverse of the rest?
I will submit to you that there has never been a successful recruiting campaign for a hazardous mission that solicited the volunteers to join the ranks because it was a safe place where they would learn to be more compliant and sensitive to the needs of others. It is absolutely possible to be a professional who treats others with respect and still gets the gritty jobs done.
In the words of General James Mattis, we need a force that will "be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet."
Every young man or woman who has ever pondered the allure of becoming a Marine, an aviator, a paratrooper, or a Ranger did so with the understanding that it was elite, professional, rugged, hard, dangerous, and deeply satisfying while at the same time knowing full well that the job they were considering was designed to make them the best at leading others, making decisions under extreme pressure, and becoming proficient at killing people and breaking things. If we tell them a life of high energy, high yield, and high risk is theirs, then they will flock to the recruiter's office.
Conversely, any effort to convince young red-blooded men and women today to join our armed forces by telling them that they will be made soft will simply result in them looking elsewhere for the adventure of high expectations.
At no time in the multi-generational service of my family did I ever see, hear, sense or even smell the racism and inequity that we hear so much about now. Yet, young troops, airmen, sailors and Marines are constantly bombarded with allegations that their respective service branches are rampant with sexual harassment, racial extremism and, therefore, in need of sacrificing mission-critical training to attend lessons on diversity, equity and inclusion. This woe-begotten paradigm is absolutely what one former Navy Seal called the wussification of the U.S. military.
We have to turn this around. Military recruiting is sitting at 40-year lows with levels not seen since the end of conscription and the hollow years of the Carter era. If we will tell young Americans that a life of derring-do awaits, they will beat down the door. But if we tell them that we will increase their ability to be more sensitive, more understanding and more compliant, then we will continue to suffer losses in our recruiting efforts.
Returning to my analogy of the hostage rescue and the two handpicked teams, I'd want the best of the best to come to get me if I were the hostage and knew that my life and my freedom were at stake. I would want those who can get in, get out, and get done with the skills to overcome any obstacle. The sensitive team? They can stay home and play tea party.
America needs and deserves the best of the best. It is time to stop perpetrating social justice experiments on our military.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts the conservative news/talk show Rightside Radio Monday-Friday, 2-5 p.m. on multiple channels throughout north Alabama. (WVNN 92.5FM/770AM-Huntsville/Athens; WXJC 101.FM and WYDE 850AM – Birmingham/Cullman) His column appears every Monday in 1819 News.