Servicemen and women rejoiced when President Donald Trump selected retired Marine Corps General James Mattis for secretary of Defense. Mattis has a reputation as a no-nonsense warrior-scholar. I have yet to hear or read a single story about Mattis where he’s not being awesome.
His latest effort may just ramp up that adoration a bit more:
The training that is the subject of complaints covers everything from alcohol use to active shooters to sexual harassment to stress management.
Addressing the service secretaries and chiefs of the Armed Forces, Mattis has ordered the formation of a new working group to “determine changes to military personnel policies” to “equip more ready and lethal forces.” The working group will include the second in command of each branch of the U.S. military and report to the deputy secretary of defense and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The secretary wants each service to examine its military education to “regain a concentration on the art and science of warfighting” and look into the hours of “mandatory force training that does not directly support core tasks” such as flying jets, jumping out of planes, and hundreds of other U.S. military missions essential to defending the United States and its allies.
One official with knowledge of the discussions surrounding the memo told Fox News, “servicemembers spending too much time on senseless training that is really a waste of time.” One U.S. military officer said there is “too much sexual harassment training” and not enough time spent at places like the shooting range, for example.
To be sure, this senseless training is nothing new. When I served in the early to mid-1990s, these courses existed and we were subjected to them annually. After the first time or two, there’s nothing new in such “training,” but it routinely took us away from our duties and created difficulties within our departments due to reduced manpower.
Yet I served in a support capacity. For those serving in frontline combat roles, I can see how it can be even more frustrating. “I’d really prefer to conduct training that would actually save my life and the lives of my buddies, but no. Instead, I get to go be told yet again which comments toward servicemembers of the opposite sex are appropriate and which aren’t.”
And yes, it really can come down to that.
Every time the military finds an issue, they implement another form of training. The problem is, they never back down from that training and instead keep stacking more. I enlisted right after the Tailhook Scandal, so sexual harassment training wasn’t surprising. However, Tailhook was over 25 years ago, and the training that was created in response to it hasn’t gone away.
Don’t get me wrong, sexual harassment should never be tolerated. It’s wrong on every level. Yet treading the same turf year after year becomes grating, and the training turns into a joke among the people who have to sit through it. It begins to feel like troops are spending more time sitting in classrooms learning coping mechanisms than learning about how to break things and destroy the enemies of our nation.
By looking to quash such burdens, Mattis is solidifying his sainthood among the warriors that keep our country safe.