Join us for three Iran-related martinis for you today. First, Jim and Greg are glad to see the likes of Russia and China offering nothing but word salad as no nation commits arms or manpower to Iran in the wake of the Soleimani strike. They also cringe as the Pentagon has to walk back a letter stating the U.S. Army would leave Iraq, only to have Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley explain the letter was just a poorly worded draft that doesn’t accurately express our policy and was never intended to go public. And they unload on California Rep. Ro Khanna for suggesting that Pres. Trump retaliating against Iran could warrant another article of impeachment, with Jim wondering if the Democrats are starting an impeachment of the month club.
The U.S. Army is rescinding its recently announced policy of allowing people with a history of mental illness to get waivers in order to serve in our military, a welcome move but one that should never have been necessary according to a former U.S. Army special forces commander.
Earlier this week, the Army announced it instituted a policy in August that allows waivers to be issued so that potential recruits could circumvent the ban on service members with a history of mental illnesses ranging from bipolar disorder to depression to self-mutilation and alcohol or drug abuse. The Army admitted the move was designed to boost sagging recruiting numbers.
On Wednesday, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said the Army is reversing course. Milley says the policy on waivers was never actually implemented but was being debates with the Army’s leadership.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin, who spent most of his career in special forces, says the Army is making the right call after entertaining a terrible idea.
“I will take the chief of staff of the Army’s word for the fact that it was still being studied but it’s disturbing that we’re even studying this,” said Boykin, who believes the Army’s sudden shift is due more to public relations than because it believes this was a terrible idea.
“I think they were unprepared for the blowback. I’m appalled that in a world that’s so transparent today you’d think you could do something like this and that this is not going to be a major story,” said Boykin.
He says the idea of allowing people with mental illness to serve in combat arms has never been embraced even when manpower was desperately needed.
“We didn’t even do this in Vietnam,” said Boykin, who says the biggest shift in standards was allowing GED recipients to serve rather than insist upon high school graduates.
“This is as low as the Army has ever dropped in terms of a lack of focus on readiness and quality people,” said Boykin. “It’s hard to brag that we have the highest quality people that we’ve ever had in our military – which our Army does regularly – and then look at the fact that we’re bringing people in that have a history of self-mutilation.”
Boykin says combat already takes a great toll on the mental health of our soldiers and that putting people with mental health problems into the fray is a recipe for disaster.
“Combat itself is probably the most stressful thing that a human can do. It;s not just the fear associated with it but it’s the long-term effects of seeing people that you care about die and be wounded in severe ways. That marks you.
“That has an effect on an individual that is different for each individual but ultimately becomes a very emotional thing. To bring people in that are already struggling is just insanity. It makes no sense,” said Boykin.
Boykin says the very top of our military’s chain of command can and must do better.
“I’m disappointed in the leadership of our military. Also, our president needs to step in and say, ‘Stop this nonsense. We’re not going to do this. We’ll do whatever we have to do to recruit a professional Army but we’re not going to do this nonsense,” said Boykin, who adds there is no way recruiters could weed out all the people with mental health issues who might pose a threat to themselves or members of their units.
One reason the military brass did not immediately kill the waivers idea is because they wouldn’t be tasked with dealing with problem recruits or the punishments related to their conduct.
A retired senior non-commissioned officer who served in Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom who prefers to remain anonymous says it’s young officers and enlisted men who would be tasked with diagnosing these issues.
“The lowest level leadership are corporals, SGTs, SSGs, SFCs, lieutenants. All guys 18-24 years old, have no inkling how to spot a potential suicide or mass shooter. They’re also the guys that the command is going to hang out to dry if something happens for being “poor leaders” and not spotting something in time,” the Army veteran said.
He also says there is no protocol for dealing with mental health issues once a person is in the service.
“The low level leadership hasn’t been trained to deal with these people. There is “suicide prevention training” which is a joke, but it’s more oriented towards a normal guy that’s had too many deployments, combat stress or family issues – it’s not tailored at all to somebody that already mentally ill,” he said.
Boykin also also appalled that at the very time when mental health problems tend to be an issue in many mass shooters, yet the Army either decided or was close to deciding to give guns to people with some of those same diagnoses.
Boykin also says this slide in standards is an ongoing symptom of the way the Obama administration treated the military.
“It is a reflection of eight years under a commander-in-chief who paid no attention whatsoever to readiness of our military. That’s why you’re having trouble recruiting,” said Boykin.
“It’s because moms and dads during those eight years, when their son or their daughter had to give up their faith for example, or had to come in a military that was being used for social experiments, people got turned off to coming into the military,” said Boykin.
He says parents will have the same reaction to the Army considering allowing to people with a history of mental illness to take up arms.
Boykin urges the military to make all decisions based on one simple criteria.
“No decision regarding our military should be made until the question has been asked, ‘How does this impact the readiness?’ Is it a positive? If it’s a positive, it’s OK to do it. Is it a negative, it’s not alright to do it. If it’s neutral, then it could go either way. In this case, you have to know that this is a negative,” said Boykin.
But what if recruitment numbers aren’t met? Boykin says there are more important things.
“I’d rather go into combat with ten good men that were reliable that I could trust than a thousand that were questionable,” he said.
Boykin says a laser focus on readiness will make the U.S. military the dominant fighting force it always ought to be.
“We can turn this around. Stop the social experiments. Change the rules of engagement, where men and women can go into combat to win and restore the military budget to where they know that they have the necessary equipment to fight the nation’s wars and be victorious,” said Boykin.
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America breathe a sigh of relief as the U.S. Army announces it will scrap a rule that would allow waivers for people dealing with depression, bipolar disorder or self-mutilation to apply to serve. They also slam Minnesota Sen. Al Franken after one of his colleagues on a 2006 USO tour accuses Franken of a forced kiss and provides a photo of him groping her while she is asleep. And they respond bluntly to a New York Times op-ed from a Christianity Today writer who thinks the Mike Pence policy of a man never being along with a woman other than his wife is a damaging to women’s careers and is actually a “sanctified cousin” to “Weinstein-ian behavior.
The U.S. Army is lifting an ban on recruits with a history of mental illness as a means of boosting recruiting numbers, a unilateral decision that could damage readiness and actually hurt the effort to recruit quality young Americans into serving their country in uniform.
The Army made the decision in August, but is only making it public now as it fears efforts to recruit 80,000 new soldiers by September 2018 may fall short. Americans who deal with bipolar disorder, depression, self-mutilation or drug and alcohol abuse are not eligible to be recruited although the Army insists it will screen such applicants vigorously to ensure they are fit for service.
That’s not good enough for Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly.
“This is not a good sign,” said Donnelly. “At least one expert quoted in the USA Today story said that when you induct people who have psychological problems, it is definitely a red flag. Those psychological problems often get worse in the military. Rates of suicide in the military are much higher than in the civilian world.”
She says one of the recruiting headaches is that a growing number of young people are not physically fit for the military, but she says that shouldn’t trigger a sliding standard on mental health.
“Issues of mental competency also are important. Mental conditions that detract from readiness to deploy, that interfere with unit cohesion, that contribute to stress and controversy within a given unit, these issues also are important,” said Donnelly.
She it’s not the first time the military has gone down this road.
“We have pressures to include transgenders in our military. Gender dysphoria is one of those mental conditions that render a person unqualified for military service. It’s one of many. Now we see the list being edited to include some mental conditions in the same way,” said Donnelly.
Donnelly says the policy decision makes life more difficult for others in the military, starting with the recruiters, who may soon be urged to accept applicants that ought to be rejected.
“I think the pressure will be on to meet the quotas,” said Donnelly.
She also says problem cases who slip through recruiting and training have and could again become major headaches for battlefield commanders.
An in an ironic twist, Donnelly says the effort to relax standards may actually hurt recruiting of the people the military want and need to sign up.
“The military is a very special institution. It requires special young people to join. If you start playing games with standards and making excuses for including people who are not suited for military service, that’s only going to make the problem worse,” said Donnelly.
“We have to be very careful. Not everybody is eligible to serve in the Armed Forces. And if you pretend like it is an equal opportunity employer, then you put everybody’s lives at greater risk,” said Donnelly.
So why is the Trump administration allowing this? In short, it may not have much of a say at all. Donnelly says the Army can change the policy without any input from Congress. Furthermore, she says President Trump’s people still aren’t on the job.
“It was only last week the new Secretary of the Army was confirmed. So this was a decision made by people from the Obama administration, not the Trump administration,” she said.
“The person in charge of personnel matters in the Department of Defense hasn’t even been confirmed yet, the Trump appointee. So this may be an open issue that may be revisited and I hope it will be,” said Donnelly.