Last to Die

806113-1000(Photo Credit dvids)

17 January 2013
[Authored by a Marine Field Grade Officer]

Over the weekend, I received an order from Higher Headquarters to ask for volunteers for 2013 and 2014 deployments to Afghanistan.  Their mission: train and fight with Afghan National Security Forces during the same time that America is leaving Afghanistan.

This is not the first time we have asked for volunteers to deploy.  In the reserve community, we have done this since at least 1995 when I volunteered to deploy during humanitarian operations to deal with the Haitian and Cuban refugee crisis.  During the Global War on Terrorism, we routinely asked reservists to volunteer for deployment.  When I returned to the reserve community after active duty in 2006, I witnessed this practice first hand, this time for combat deployments.

When directed, our job is to augment the active duty force.   But many of our servicemen and women are not actually deploying because they have been recalled to active duty; they have elected to stay at a unit and have volunteered to deploy.  These Marines are usually called “non-obs” or “non obligated” and can, at their convenience, drop to the inactive ready reserve or transfer to another unit.  Once a unit is slated for deployment, there is usually a decision point for these individuals; they must leave the unit or deploy.

It has been my experience that the vast majority of Marines will volunteer to deploy if their unit is activated.  Their professionalism, dedication and patriotism compel them to go into harm’s way with the Marine on their right and left.

When I decided not to deploy to Iraq with my unit because of a serious family illness, I felt like I was abandoning my brothers.  It was my company commander who sat me down and provided sage counsel:  your family is your priority. Our Marines will be OK without you. 

His leadership helped me understand that it was perfectly acceptable to decide not to go.  I was grateful for his honesty.

This past weekend one of my Marines, a young father with a new baby, sought my counsel.  He is a Marine with several combat deployments and he and I had served together in Afghanistan. He had always wanted to deploy with a mentor/training team and was interested in volunteering.   I told him unequivocally that he should not volunteer.

At virtually the same time we were collecting the numerous names of Marines who had volunteered, the following exchange occurred between George Stephanopoulos and the Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass on the Sunday ABC news show “This Week”:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Richard Haass, the president also addressed our overall success in Afghanistan on Friday…Is he right about that and is it sustainable after 2014?

HAASS: The short answer is no. What we started in Afghanistan after 9/11 was a warranted war of necessity. We expanded it over the years, particularly under President Obama in 2009, when we tripled our forces, we decided to go after the Taliban, essentially join Afghanistan's civil war and nation build.

The idea that we're going to be able to leave behind a self-sustaining, capable Afghanistan able to -- or a government that's able to keep control of its territory, we are not going to be able to do it. It was a mistake to try. We are not going to achieve that result. Essentially what we're going to fall back to I would think is what we could have fallen back to years ago, a limited counterterrorism mission with trainers and advisers on the ground. And when we have to, we'll send in special forces or drones to deal with if there are, for example, remnants of al Qaeda to ever come back into the country.

So in other words, Afghanistan is lost.

The ethics of asking for volunteers to wade into the problem that is Afghanistan is simple: asking Marines to volunteer prays on their loyalty and dedication in order to satisfy requirements from HHQ.

It is an abdication of responsibility and leadership to commit to a flawed [course of action] that has no hope of success.  Our leaders are transferring the burden of mission accomplishment to a group of volunteers; dedicated men and women who haven’t been read in on the current friendly situation and have no idea of the enemy’s most probable course of action.  They don’t even have the tools to do a simple METT-T in order to assist them in making an informed decision.

Its one thing if a unit is assigned the mission and Marines are ordered to go, but these volunteers are making a decision to go to combat with people they don’t know at a time when political imperatives overwhelm tactical considerations and our Afghan “friends” are ambushing American Soldiers and Marines.

In the end – those who volunteer will go because they feel that it is their duty as Marines to share the burden of combat.

I have a responsibility to provide my Marines with a frank and honest assessment of the situation; if they want to volunteer, they need to know what they are getting into.

I am not confident that other leaders are doing the same and that is an absolute travesty.

Semper Fidelis.

Comments   

 
+10 # RE: Last to DieScarface 2013-01-17 14:46
Micheal
This rogue administration has managed to cast such a pall over the military because of all of the social experimentation and the muzzi inner circle and the total lack of trust, that good men and women are leaving the service; I believe this was done intentionally.
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+7 # Not much differentBen Simpson 2013-01-17 15:00
How is this different from Iraq? The state is still broken (people get on average 7 hours of electricity per day) and Maliki has control over all the coercive elements of that broken state, he is the new Saddam.

Both of these adventures on the GWOT, OCO or whatever ya want to call it, along with the bombing in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and other will come back to bite us in the ass.
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+12 # Scorpion and the FrogToaster 2013-01-17 15:38
I recall the old tale of the scorpion and the frog. Somehow, politically left or right, this message does not penetrate. The simple truth is that a scorpion can only be a scorpion. (Look to Egypt, Libya and possibly Syria for more examples.)
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+7 # Retired NavyPat 2013-01-17 16:12
Iraq will always be in better shape than Afghanistan unless they revert back to an all out insurgency. Iraq has an educated population where A'stan doesn't and they have oil revenue to pay for things.
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+10 # RE: Last to DieLaura Wilson 2013-01-17 15:33
I am a former Marine. Recently I listened to an audio presentation of Marine MajGen Smedley Butler's "War is a Racket." MajGen Butler is a two time Medal of Honor recipient. I hope that the above Marine has already read "War is a Racket." War is still a racket and the people making the money are not the same people paying with their blood and lives.
Semper Fi!
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+3 # RE: RE: Last to DieVNAF 2013-01-17 16:26
Quoting Laura Wilson:
I am a former Marine. Recently I listened to an audio presentation of Marine MajGen Smedley Butler's "War is a Racket." MajGen Butler is a two time Medal of Honor recipient. I hope that the above Marine has already read "War is a Racket." War is still a racket and the people making the money are not the same people paying with their blood and lives.
Semper Fi!


Be careful what you believe, if the life of Smedley Butler is more closely examined it becomes very clear that what was once a truly heroic USM morphed into a very strange person who believed and spoke out in support of extremely outlandish conspiracies.
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+4 # RE: RE: RE: Last to DiewoodNfish 2013-01-17 19:59
I have not read the book and I am not going to read the book. There is no need. Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex in 1961. Today there is no private shipbuilding industry left in the US. Most of the airplanes we build are military. We are the largest arms exporter in the world.We are the most militaristic nation in the history of the world. And for what? The world still hates us. It has not gained us a thing except to make us targets. And not a single miliary operation since WWII has been anything but a police operation. None of them were about defending our freedom. Only koolaid drinkers believe that bullshit.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Last to Diewill 2013-01-17 20:30
"We are the most militaristic nation in the history of the world."

Hardly.

"And for what? The world still hates us."

True.

"It has not gained us a thing except to make us targets."

We already were.

"And not a single miliary operation since WWII has been anything but a police operation."

Thank congress for that.

"None of them were about defending our freedom. Only koolaid drinkers believe that bullshit.'

Hey, come on. Noriega was a clear and present danger and Granada was poised to invade us.
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+1 # All trueSingadick 2013-01-19 13:56
The US spends more on military than then next 10 countries combined. Equates to "most militaristic", doesn't it?

That the world hates us, partially because of our military interventions, is not reason to increase the military.

They were designated "police actions" because there was no basis for Congress to declare them wars. We were not under attack.

Noriega was a dictatorial drug lord - not a military threat, and our attempt to take him out "surgically" was a farce that caused several 100's of civilian lives. (Much like Iraq) Grenada was poised to invade us? Get real!
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# GrenadaGuest 2013-03-08 04:48
Recall Grenada was a Cuban adventure in which the Island leader was murdered. Had we not intervened militarily, what would make you believe Castro would have stopped there?
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+7 # son in Marine rotcPeter 2013-01-17 15:55
Very disturbing. Having been in during Vietnam, it seems like history is repeating itself. The blue on green killings have not been solved. Is this the Face saving manuever?? I think also, the officer should go bold!
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+2 # Reminscent of Winter SoldierDWAnderson 2013-01-17 15:57
Seems very much like John Kerry's "how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/JohnKerryTestimony.html
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+2 # RE: Reminscent of Winter SoldierCMHatem 2013-01-17 19:12
Quoting DWAnderson:
Seems very much like John Kerry's "how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/JohnKerryTestimony.html

Sir or Ma'am, How does a person ask a service member to be the last person to die for all the right reasons? I can assure you, this would not have been a mistake if our national resolve hadn't withered since 1948. The goal of a war, every war is to make the other side acquiesce. We as a nation have decided that achieving the desired goal by any means isn't fair. We must threaten to win but only so long as it doesn't interfere with Prime Time TV. Under these circumstances, I dont believe we should be asking somebody to be the first or the last to die.
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+1 # RE: Reminscent of Winter Soldierwill 2013-01-17 20:33
Another Kerry bullshit statement. You don't. It just happens.

Quoting DWAnderson:
Seems very much like John Kerry's "how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/JohnKerryTestimony.html
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+1 # Commanding OfficerAnthony Spinler 2013-01-17 18:16
As leaders, we must take care of our personel by giving them perspective. How is losing an American in Afghanistan in 2015 different than losing one in Germany in 1946 or training at Camp wherever on 9/10/2001? What are we living for? The NFL? Your companies 401K? The end don't justify the means; they don't condemn them either. We must serve our best for what is right in faith of a future we might not ever see.
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-1 # Horses and BayonetsDan Daly 2013-01-17 18:56
Quoting Anthony Spinler:
As leaders, we must take care of our personel by giving them perspective. How is losing an American in Afghanistan in 2015 different than losing one in Germany in 1946 or training at Camp wherever on 9/10/2001?


Because after WWII and during peace time training our most senior civilian and military leaders were not lying about the situation on the ground for purely political gain.
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# If you believe that you are nutsKeith 2013-02-02 04:01
The commander of our forces in WW2 ended up being a golf playing President. Politics was the force then that it is nw, they could just hide more because the media was alot less intrusive.
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+2 # Malaisein_awe 2013-01-17 19:07
Expect more of this as the Pentagon's mission capability continues to be weakened.

In January 2012 SecDef Panetta stated the Pentagon will not maintain the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at once. (
http://nation.time.com/2012/01/04/the-two-mrc-strategy-major-regional-contingencies-or-mythical-routine-canards/)

Now with Obama Part II further cuts in our nation's capability and resolve are being baked in.

Like Vietnam after we announced the Vietnamization of the war, the enemy now just needs to calculate how long the US military or public will sustain its war fighting in a conflict then play out the clock. We have shifted from engaging in a conflict with the goal of winning it, to setting a maximum duration along with "well we tried (for a while)" as an acceptable outcome.

Sounds like in general we need to be very careful about what battles we pick and chose in the future.
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# Picking battlesSingadick 2013-01-22 23:33
My Dad taught me to fight where I could have an expectation of winning. The military and political leaders that got us into Afg. seem to have forgotten that -- but then it wasn't their blood in the sand.

We need to 1) pick conflicts that have a direct threat to our security, 2) plan to win decisively, 3) plan to stabilize the situation after the conflict. All three or stay out of it.

We're fighting a flexible enemy that is giving us the same guerilla treatment we gave the British Redcoats. There's no way for us to "win" this -- just like the Brit Redcoats couldn't win against a bunch of farmers taking potshots from behind logs.

And stabilizing Afg according to our system is an impossibility.

We can't win, and can't fix Afg even if we do. We shouldn't be there.
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# RE: Last to Diewill 2013-01-17 20:08
My first shirt told me the same thing when I applied for transfer to Vietnam and actually tore up my request. I figured if he was that serious then that MACV SOG meant he knew something I didn't.
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+6 # former SSGT. VNMichael Eyles 2013-01-17 20:20
It never makes sense to throw good money after bad, and it is beyond reason to throw precious manpower away needlessly. To fight any cause or war without the will to win is lunacy. War is not a game, men get killed and families get torn apart. With PTSD and suicide on the rise something is terribly wrong. Also we are creating a warrior class where 5% of the people fight for the rest who have no clue about military life. Let's restore the draft and spread the misery of war around!
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+8 # Muslim Democracy is an OxymoronHarvey Wysong 2013-01-18 02:13
The sad fact is that there is no possibility that we will ever help form a Muslim government that resembles a Western democracy. Freedom is incompatible with the teachings of Mohammad. The very phrase "Muslim Democracy" is self-contradict ory -- an oxymoron.
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+3 # I call total BSJohn-Capt in ANG 2013-01-18 13:57
I call total BS. USMC FGO who's suddenly turned yellow? 3 years ago Afghans weren't barely doing a thing. I know I was here. Just this week we have an example of the turn around, as a complex attack with multiple SBIEDs and a VBIED failed horribly due to Afghan security response. I know because I'm still here and it happened a very short distance away from my Camp.

Seriously, I regret not deleting the email to this, and will go back to ignoring all dispatch emails.

If a US Marine wants to try to make a difference and is willing to volunteer, it's a sad state of affairs when his leadership betrays him. If this USMC CGO exists, please do not got IRR or stay active. Seperate. Thank you for your service and hope your loss of direction and pessimism is left behind, but I have a feeling it won't.
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+1 # Here tooAnthony Spinler 2013-01-18 18:08
I agree. We can not be leaders by speaking the pessimism of the left and the right creating fear and extinguishing hope.
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-1 # What is your plan for sucess?DanDaly 2013-01-22 21:54
The guy is a coward because he thinks that our military leaders should order people to deploy instead of asking for volunteers?

So in your mind - a guy who has done multiple combat deployments is a piece of sh!t because he's decided that his family is more important than risking his life in a war that his own President and his fellow citizens have given up on?

Yeah right Rambo - we should all just shut up and color.
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# just your average joekaren 2013-02-04 19:19
I agree with you, Afghanistan is lost, so isn't Iraq. We need to cut our losses and bring our troops home and stay out of this new battle France has, I think we should return to "isolationist" status. We answered and did our 9/11 duty and showed the world we are fighters. May we rest in peace. :-|
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# Off topic: Read your history, Don't believe your myth.Guest 2013-02-22 16:30
Quoting Singadick:

... We're fighting a flexible enemy that is giving us the same guerilla treatment we gave the British Redcoats. There's no way for us to "win" this -- just like the Brit Redcoats couldn't win against a bunch of farmers taking potshots from behind logs....

Wars are conducted at many levels. One of the most important is the propaganda front. It is important to make your enemy look bad and yourself look good.

Insurgent forces need outside help and the acquiescence of the locals. These locals must decide who is going to kill them and who might not.

I agree with your sentiment, BUT understand what actually happened. "We" didn't win the American Revolution with farmers taking potshots. We were about to lose. The British generals underestimated us and used methods that aroused opposition.

GW and foreign officers welded our army into a fighting force. After the British defeat at Saratoga in 1777, wily old Ben Franklin finally persuaded the French and Spanish to join us in fighting their enemy - the British. In 1781 the French Navy prevented the escape of the British army from Yorktown, Virginia, and the French army fielded as many troops as the Americans did in that same battle.

http://www.nps.gov/sara/index.htm
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