For the first time in its history, the U.S. Army is advertising for officers. True, the Army has had all kinds of programs to attract officers: ROTC, West Point, etc. But today those efforts are not bringing in enough leaders of men and women, so the Pentagon has recruited Madison Avenue to create a TV campaign showing camouflaged soldiers, parades and such, complete with patriotic music. Why should we care? Because Texas is red meat for military recruiters, and if we won’t join voluntarily, we may not have a choice. As usual, I shall explain. America has been waging war on two fronts since 2003, and now needs more troops, so the Army is expanding by 22,000 to 547,000. To fill the slots, the Pentagon has tried a number of programs. One is “stop loss,” whereby if you are in the military, you stay in no matter what your enlistment papers say. More than 13,200 military personnel, of needed jobs, are now under stop-loss orders. Another plan is to recruit skilled and legal immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, by offering them the chance to become citizens in as little as six months. Holders of so-called green cards have long been able to enlist, but this new plan opens the door a bit wider, especially for immigrants with skills in medical care, language interpretation and – gulp -- field intelligence analysis. Although the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy is keeping gays out of uniform and discharging those who do tell, the Army has lowered the moral bar for enlistees, now taking people with minor criminal records and smallish drug problems. Army recruiters are under such pressure to fill quotas that it has caused a rash of recruiters’ suicides. Fortunately, there is a phenomenon that is encouraging youths to volunteer for the all-volunteer Army. It’s called “economic recession.” Nothing helps recruiting like a 9.5 percent jobless rate. In addition, generous bonuses are being offered to anyone who will step forward and swear to defend Wall Street bailouts. These programs fill the enlisted ranks, but what about the officers and gentlemen? We have the service academies, and they are doing well. The U.S. Naval Academy had a 50 percent jump in applicants this year, eclipsing both West Point and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which also experienced significant increases. The midshipmen (and women) don’t seem to be afraid of combat. A quarter of the Naval Academy’s graduating class this year entered the Marine Corps. The Army could simply expand West Point, which Forbes magazine just rated as the best college in the country, beating out No. 2 Princeton and No. 3 California Institute of Technology. But producing those future officers is more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student). Besides, three of the last six chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reached the military via the ROTC. The Marines are a bit different, as usual. They have legally commissioned Marine officers, but traditionally they are called “Officers of Marines,” i.e., they earn the honor of leading Marines, a subtle but telling difference. Like any job, there are drawbacks. Author and former Marine William Styron wrote in “Rat Beach” about combat in the South Pacific, “No group among all the services had as high a casualty rate as Marine Corps second lieutenants. This is firmly on the record.” An enlisted combat veteran, E. B. Sledge, wrote in, “With the Old Breed,” about Marines fighting on Okinawa, “…we got numerous replacement lieutenants. They were wounded or killed with such regularity that we rarely knew anything about them . . .” Incidentally, note that the Navy is sitting out these wars unless the unlucky sailor is assigned as a medic to a Marine unit. The Air Force is on hold, as well, thus youngsters looking to the military still have options that don’t include body bags. What the Army needs to do is restore the draft, but this time only for officers – males and females. It’s cheaper than an ad campaign. No student deferments, no married-with-children exemptions, not like we did during Vietnam. This time the officer draft is pure lottery, which ends treating wars as spectator sports for the well connected. In the Princeton class of 1956, when there was a draft, of the 750 men who graduated, 450 served in the military. In 2003, no draft, of Princeton’s 1,000 graduates, three joined the military. In the Civil War, 200 former Harvard students were killed. In World War II the figure was 697 (including one in the German Army). In Vietnam it was 22. Not everyone is for an officer draft, or any other kind. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas says that involuntary servitude was supposed to be abolished by the 13th Amendment. “A military draft could demand your very life, without your consent. This should be unthinkable in a free society.” Rep. Paul forgets his history. Not since the 19th century has America fought a war that lasted longer than a week with an all-volunteer army. Our two current wars have lasted longer than WW II. This brings us to Texas. As John Steinbeck noted in “Travels With Charley,” “Among other tendencies to be noted, Texas is a military nation. The armed forces of the United States are loaded with Texans and often dominated by Texans.” It is no coincidence that Eisenhower, Nimitz and Audie Murphy were Texans, that Texas A&M has more Medal of Honor recipients than any school except West Point and Annapolis. (Today A&M is only behind West Point in the number of Iraq fatalities.) One in every 10 active-duty military personnel is from Texas. During the Vietnam War, Texans made up 5 percent of the nation’s population and took 15 percent of the war’s casualties. So we’ve got a dog in this hunt, or more accurately, a dog tag. Ashby is AWOL at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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