Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Webb amendment

Update-Welcome to all of you clicking over from the Mudville Gazette.

Freshmen Senator Jim Webb has been making headlines with his bill on 'dwell time' for the US military. In short, it would limit active duty units to one year deployed for every one year at home. Guard and reserve units would be limited to one year deployed for every 3 years at home. Sounds great, right? Who could be against it?

Well, me, for one.

When I got back from Kosovo in fall 2004, we were told that there were no deployments in the pipeline for my unit for at least 2 years. About 3 months later, we were told that the unit was deploying to Iraq in late 2005. Along with many other soldiers in my unit, I volunteered for Iraq even though regulations said I didn't have to go. Why did we volunteer? Many of us felt obligated to the younger soldiers that we were training. It's hard to train a man to go to war that you will not lead him in. Many of us felt a sense of duty. Still others wanted the benefits that come with combat, including pay, tax free bonuses and college money.

But under the Webb bill, none of us that went to Kosovo would have been able to volunteer. We would have been barred by federal law from being deployed to Iraq.

Whenever people ask me about how long we were deployed (22 months), I think of the men in WWII who mobilized after December 7th, 1941 and were gone for 3 or 4 years. I think of my enlistment contract that says I will serve on active duty until 6 months after the war is done. Well the war is far from over. No one in WWII advocated for limited tours for Guard or active duty. You served until the military didn't need you anymore. This was the same generation that would thrill to hear 'ask not what you can your country do for you, but what can you do for your country?".

The Webb bill attempts to legislate what we all want; less hardship for the US military. But it forgets that the US military itself has the best indicator of hardship-the retention rate. When morale suffers in the military, the reenlistment rate drops, and the military responds as needed. Congressional legislation is not needed to keep the military intact. The Webb bill would unnecessarily restrict service members from serving overseas, and thus is a back door anti-draft. Sen Webb, having himself served, likely knows this and wants only to limit the US military's ability to fight the war.

Cross posted at True North.

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