Monday, December 29, 2008

Poll confirms what didn't happen in Hawaii

The new Army Times poll has confirmed what the Marines in Hawaii already knew-the military is less than certain that President elect Obama will be a good commander in chief.

When asked how they feel about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic, according to a Military Times survey.

In follow-up interviews, respondents expressed concerns about Obama’s lack of military service and experience leading men and women in uniform.

Of course, this shouldn't come as a huge surprise since over 70% of the troops planned to vote for McCain.

Morale in the military is a fickle thing. President Bush is enormously respected by those in uniform. President elect Obama will have to start at ground level in earning that respect. And he will have to do it be actually earning respect, not trying to buy loyalty by throwing money at veterans groups and the VA.

Although Captain Ed gives Obama credit for stopping by the Marine chow hall, it is the context that matters. Not only has Obama been using the base gym for the previous three days (which almost certainly means the Marines were not able to use it), but he didn't stay for dinner. I have had my share of dinners or lunches with VIP's, and besides getting a chance to shake hands and say hello, the act of eating the same military food that the soldiers are eating is an important sign. It says to the men that, for whoever brief a time, I will eat the same bad food that you do. Instead, Obama went home to his 9 million dollar rented estate and enjoyed an exponentially better Christmas dinner.

In fairness to the next CIC, he is trying to earn respect from a military that voted 3 to 1 against him, where just over 1 in 10 share his party affiliation, and that overwhelmingly disagrees with his top military priority of pulling out of Iraq quickly, regardless of the outcome. His desire to gain the respect of the military at large may be a wild goose chase. But he can do a few simple things to make it easier-

First, learn how to salute correctly. Bill Clinton was mocked endlessly by the military for his inability to that one small thing.

Second, if he wants to push for an overturn of Don't Ask/Don't Tell, he should let someone else spearhead the charge.

Third, make a quick visit after the inauguration to an active duty Army or Marine base. Then, skip the official tour, and go eat an MRE with some troops in the field. Let the soldiers take their own pictures, and by the next day you will see the pics on facebook and milblogs around the world.

Fourth, resist the urge to shoot hoops with the troops. Get out of your comfort zone and show that you are willing to suffer alongside them. And if you stop by an active duty base for a workout, like in Hawaii, work out with the troops. Ask them to show you a new workout. I mean seriously, no branch of the military spends more time in the gym then the Marines. Ask them to show you how it's done, and they will see that you care what they think.

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