More than a hundred men who were commissioned Marine Corps second lieutenants together a long time ago are gathered at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. We visited the Officer Candidate School on the banks of the Potomac where we spent twelve weeks convincing the Corps that we were good enough to be officers, wondering how we had conquered the fearsome obstacle course, survived the twenty-two-mile hikes with eighty-five-pound field packs, studied late, slept little, and came out of it in the best condition of our lives. We watched some of the current crop of officer candidates meeting the same challengesâ€”but wearing more accomodating fatigue uniforms and boots. We marveled at the young women undergoing the same rigors as the men.
It was 100 degrees with 90 percent humidity today when we went into the boondocks to see the quonset huts where we lived for nine months as we trained to be worthy of the gold bars on our collars. The huts have windows now. In that distant August, they were airless metal half-tubes filled with double rows of bunk beds, perfect for roasting half-baked second lieutenants. We joked about the rough times. We became solemn when we talked about the guys who didnâ€™t come back from Viet Nam.
At dinner tonight, the MC read the posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor citation for one of our number, Colonel Donald Cook. Don assumed senior status after he was captured in Viet Nam, stood up to the captors, gave his own food and medicine to those who were in many cases no hungrier or sicker than he and was punished for his leadership and defiance. He died at Phoc Tuy in 1967 following nearly four years of North Vietnamese captivity.
The speaker after dinner was retired Navy Admiral William J. Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and father of a Marine Corps officer in Iraq. Admiral Crowe praised the Marines for their performance in Iraq. Then he talked about larger questions. He agreed with the Bush administrationâ€™s refusal to peremptorily pull out of Iraq. But he said that the US is reaping the consequences of not pre-planning. Far up the list of consequences, he said, is the cost of US operations in Iraq, five billion dollars a month. He concluded that before going into Iraq, or any such challenging situation, the United States should have a balance of three essential elements:
Â·Sufficient military capability
Â·Carefully conceived diplomacy
Â·Well planned, adequate budgeting
Crowe called for a coordinated plan among all agencies of government, looking ahead to the nation-building he sees as an inevitable responsibility of a superpower in a changing world.
I thought that Rifftides readers would be interested.