Each branch of the United States military has its own set of morals and values that each member of its ranks is imbued with through rigorous repetitive training and counseling. These themes are supposed to be a form of characteristic guidance that offer the opportunity to grow and develop, not only as a troop, but as a leader of troops and as a human being. I was introduced to the Army’s Core Values in April of 2004. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage stand firm and steadfast in my heart as I strive to conduct myself in a way that speaks volumes in testament to the discipline and refinement that my military experience has bestowed upon me. I was offered the life chance of being assigned to a unit that prided itself in setting the best medical standard possible. Lives literally depended on it. The newly assigned incoming troops were a mix of combat medics, ancillary medical services, and logistical support. That is what my unit consisted of as one of the Army’s few Area Support Medical Companies. The old heads in command were nothing short of icons. Instructors, jumpers, flight medics, doctors, scientists, combat hardened sergeants and officers came together for a time with a common objective to accomplish. They were to train and go to war. And that’s exactly what we did.
Throughout my time in the military, during each phase of training and operation, my relationships with fellow Soldiers tended to become stronger than friendship but not quite family. Now, with that, there are specific people on this planet that I consider a part of my family. I would take a bullet for them and I am confident that they would do the same for me. But generally speaking, those with whom I’ve served have become Battle Buddies, faces, names and experiences that I will always share a common thread with. While in service, these battle buddies are members of our social, professional, and in often time’s personal circles. They are our leaders, our peers, our subordinates, our neighbors and schoolmates, the ones we see at the movies and the grocery stores. They wear the same uniform, share the same pride, and salute the same flag. By all rights, we will fight and die alongside one another.
To say that war is hell is a misrepresentation of the damage that one human can inflict on another. Combat can take lives in a matter of seconds. Some attacks can take years to kill its target or drive it to suicide. With disgust, I have to recognize another traumatizing theme that occurs during peacetime and wartime, within our own military ranks that is leaving devastating scars on a tremendously neglected and discredited population of troops. Military sexual trauma is a rampant disease that has been allowed to linger and infect by way of inflicting crippling physical and psychological injuries, the fraudulent mishandling of reports and testimonies, protective leadership or a leadership that is to blame, accusing the victim of being at fault, the victimization of the perpetrators, and the downright abuse of power. The Invisible War exposes more than just traumatic experiences in the lives of victims, both female and male, who had suffered some form of military sexual trauma. The film takes no restraint in sharing bold and unfiltered interviews, testimonies, media clips, and information from victims and family members who are dealing with the fallout and lack of legal support in the wake of rape and sexual assault. It highlights the dysfunctional coordination between the Veterans Administration and the patient’s medical care, as well as the lackluster impact that campy slogan campaigns can deliver. The statistics for the legal handling of military sexual trauma cases leaves me outraged and flabbergasted at the fact that most violations are left completely disregarded and ignored. The 1991 Tail Hook convention is something out of a snuff film, a repulsive act of assault that, again, leaves me outraged and nauseated. Kaye Whitley and her legal representative were simply a joke. The handling of this topic and the individual sufferers has been absolutely despicable.
This problem has gone on for far too long, surviving by old traditional military values and the enforcement of strict, unspoken exclusionary standards. The “Good ol’ Boys Club” is a real social circle that changes its dynamic with every environment, every mission, and every Soldier. It is the crew, the team, the huddle that you invest with, that you operate with, that you live with. Guidelines and parameters are understood without the need for verbal confirmation while rules and standards are universally upheld. I was a leader that tended to lean toward and expect my troops to subscribe to the “big boy rules”. Don’t do anything stupid, illegal, immoral, unjust, or unsafe and everybody will have a good day. But when that line was crossed, I was a bloodthirsty predator circling lame prey. The military thrives with leaders like mine. However, there are also the fraudulent buddy-f*ckers who wear my uniform, who take advantage of others, and attempt to employ their own methods of “protecting” certain military traditions. On the tamer end of this spectrum, we call some of these troops “Badge Protectors”. They are the instructors and proctors of premier training schools like the Expert Field Medic Badge, Air Assault school, Airborne school, Ranger school, and so forth who unjustly critique and demand performance beyond expectation or magnify and escalate minor discrepancies to the point of identifying failures, rather than highlighting improvements. These troops keep the graduation and accomplishment rates unfairly low for some Soldiers, thus “protecting” the number of badges awarded and keeping the “Good ol’ Boys Club” exclusive.
Female involvement in combat operations and combat related Military Occupational Specialties have always raised questions. This has been the center of media attention with the recent inclusion, repetitive opportunities, and graduation of female Soldiers from the Army’s Ranger School. The United States Army Rangers are the elite fighting forces. There is no room for hesitation, reluctance, doubt, or anything short of deadly perfection. The idea of females in combat raises many controversial themes like their mission capabilities, hygiene in the field, and the primal psychological urge for males to preferentially protect and attend to females in danger. The alternative to amending school standards, to amending combat operations, to amending the unit rosters, the alternative to progressively moving toward a more inclusionary military, has been to simply continue excluding females. In today’s cultural climate, female empowerment is stronger than ever. Movements are geared toward empowering not only females, but every color of sexual uniqueness, gender identity, and human characteristic that fits outside of the traditional norm. The tide of inclusion is rapidly reaching the shores, yet still there are those old school buddy-f*ckers who want to fight the current. For some, the best way to keep females out of their tightly protected ranks is to literally force them out by way of threats, mistreatment, isolation, harassment, assault, and abuse. It is utterly despicable. Rape, sexual assault and any mistreatment have no place in my military and should be dealt accordingly with swift and uncompromising justice to those affected. Each case and report should be approached as its own standalone situation with attention given to the details of current and historic behavior. The offenders need to be prosecuted and punished with no disregard. The track record of CID and the legal investigative process provide the assumption that not only is there a real and present culture of rape in the military, but that it is an offense that harbors little to no punishment on the perpetrator and completely ostracizes the victim. I declare shenanigans and malarkey.
Years ago there was a preventative campaign that I actually found promise in. The slogan revolved around the strong statement “Not in my…” The intention was that each individual troop pride themselves in the Core Values and demonstrated valor in confronting behaviors that are none becoming of a Soldier. Not in my Army. Not in my brigade or battalion. Not in my unit, my platoon, or my squad. Rape, harassment, assault, or any other negative behavior has no place in my vicinity and I will confront and destroy that threat. It boils down to the individuals carrying the burden of improvement to be contagious examples of professionalism, equality, and honor while weeding out and eliminating the factors that deter unit cohesion. I am sickened at the reality that other people who wear my uniform disgrace and discredit the role we hold as professionals, as leaders, and as warriors. In the wake of absolute sadness from this movie, part of me feels the motivation to crush any and all deterrents of the Core Values that I carry with me. And that is the point. If one by one, we all hold, emphasize, and live the positive values that we hold dear, if we stand firm and allow no leniency, if we enforce high moral standards and hammer down with strict and uncompromising punishment, we can eradicate more than just our military’s rape culture.