Photo of a Molon Labe statue owned by LTC Allen West

The Disappearing American Warrior Class

In Front Page, History, Military by Allen West

Well, I am back home in Garland, Texas, after a really special Christmas in southwest Georgia. Thanks, y’all, for the very kind comments and Merry Christmas greetings.

Now, it is off towards the end of 2019, and the start of the year of clear vision, 2020. However, today, I want to share with y’all a concern about our nation, and its defense.

I remember as a young boy driving down to see granddad in Cuthbert, Georgia, there were two ways to get there. I would sometimes ask Dad if we could take the route through Columbus because it went through Ft. Benning. Dad didn’t like that way because of the town of Cusseta was a speed trap, and Dad had a heavy foot. But, those times he did take that route, I enjoyed driving through Ft. Benning and seeing the Army vehicles. If you were lucky, you could look over to the west and see the parachute canopies of the Airborne students. I remember telling Dad that I didn’t think I could do that. Boy howdy, was I wrong!

So yesterday, after stopping by and seeing granddad’s house, Angela, Austen, and I headed up to Ft. Benning, a scenic drive through the southwest Georgia clay hills and pine trees. One of my former cadets from my days back at Kansas State University is one of the Maneuver Warfare Commanding Generals, and I am doggone proud of him He has commanded at every level and to see him wearing that Star, the rank of Brigadier General, is just awesome. Along the way, he has kept in communication and allowed me to be a mentor, humbling. But, as we spoke, we covered an issue that should concern us all. We talked about today’s soldier.

During a briefing with the US Army Recruiting Command, it was revealed that the target group for recruiting is 18-24, and numbers a little over 30 million. But of that nearly 33 million, only 150K meet the eligibility criteria to serve in our military, without some form of waiver. That was stunning to me, and the disqualifying qualities are drug use, education, and obesity.

Yes, I am concerned that we are watching the disappearance of the American Warrior class.

On my desk, there is an alabaster statue of a Spartan warrior. It sits on a cover with those immortal words of Spartan King Leonidas from the 490BC Battle of Thermopylae. Next to the statue, which I purchased in Greece, is the short book by Steven Pressfield, a former US Marine Corps officer, titled, “The Warrior Ethos*.” The book gives the reader a historical and anecdotal understanding of what made the Spartans such feared warriors.

Molon Labe statue on the desk of LTC Allen West

I see American society moving away from the high esteem of military service. No, I am not talking about the NFL Salute to Service program or the “thank you for your service” accolades our men and women receive. I am talking about a culture, a real shift.

Case in point: the drive to legalize marijuana only means that we will see a dwindling number of our young people capable to serve our nation in uniform. Sorry, I do not think anyone wants to trust someone taking drugs to be their battle buddy. No, drug use is not permitted in our Armed Forces, and for good reason.

Perhaps there are those of you who feel that the military is moving towards being more high-tech. That is true, but our education system is not keeping up the pace. Instead, the focus is on indoctrination, and many of these leftist school superintendents are not even allowing High School JROTC programs, especially in our inner cities. These programs are integral, not for recruiting purposes, but for developing young men and women of character, purpose, integrity, and drive. I should know since I am a product of HSJROTC.

However, worst of all is the lack of physical regimen being instituted in our young people. We all know that to be true. The General told me that there is a real drop in males who have participated in sports, as opposed to the females. Yes, I know, it is not a fair comparison, but it is telling that our young men going into our military are not participating in sports competitions. In the Spartan culture, physical training — and, I mean tough training — started early.

We should all be concerned about the expanding “participation trophy” culture, it is not consistent with a warrior culture. Heck, even Ricky Bobby once asserted that “if ya ain’t first you’re last.”

No, I do not agree with instituting the draft. I think that we need to have our best serve in our military. We have to recreate a culture, a society, that regards military service as honorable. It means, as in the Spartan culture, it was the mothers who took honor in the service of the sons, their warriors. It was once upon a time in America when we looked to our past military service members to be our elected officials, and yes, our highest office as well. The reason being was that our nation felt that someone who would sacrifice their life for this nation, could lead this nation. That starts in the home, our communities. My dad’s generation did not want to sit at home and play games when their nation needed them. Instead, they stepped up! Yes, this generation is stepping up, but our society, culture, as a whole is not stepping up. It is lowering the standard and that is not a recipe for success.

There are two groups of people integral to sustaining a society: those that teach it, and those that defend it. We are losing that focus in America. Our military should not emulate society, society should honor the principles, values, and character of our military. Civilian oversight sure, but not a reflection of civilian society. After all, what we ask Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen to do goes above and beyond. We ask them to risk their lives daily.

Think about it this way: we are even losing that free-spirited generation that conquers the open road, motorcycle riders. No, I ain’t riding no electric motorcycle.

Let me close by giving a shout out to my former cadet who is now a Brigadier General. Out of respect, I am not listing his name. But, he is part of a legacy of other black combat arms officers who I have known over these years and are now Full Bird Colonels and General officers Andy Gainey, Don Hursey, and Kareem Montague.

They are American Warriors.

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LTC West is running for Chair of the Republican Party of Texas! To support his efforts, please visit his campaign website!

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* Disclosures