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One of the reasons for the decline and fall of the United States is, I believe, that the Draft was abolished. It had its drawbacks, but it also had a couple of advantages: It required that every able-bodied male serve their country for a while and, since a great many people had military experience as a result, the population as a whole had a pretty good idea of what the military was and did.
Today that’s very far from the case. One percent of our population* is fighting our wars, and there is a growing ignorance about the military and a growing alienation from it in our once-great land.
This was brought to light in an article in the December 18 issue of The New York Times about the growing joblessness among vets. In it, a Ms. Rachel Feldstein, who is Associate Director of a San Diego company called New Directions (which specializes in drug rehab and training for veterans) said the following:
“If you train someone to be a sniper, those skills are not necessarily skills that are transferable.”
This took me aback. If Ms. Feldstein is referring to shooting people, she is quite correct; there are only so many SWAT teams around. However, there are few jobs in the services that require such a diverse blend of abilities as that of sniper, and those abilities would make any potential employer slaver.
Let us review:
A sniper must have superior hand-eye coordination.
A sniper must have limitless patience.
A sniper must be able to absorb large amounts of data and use that data, accurately, under extreme stress.
A sniper must be able to plan meticulously (how to get in alive, do the job, and get out alive.)
A sniper must be able to work in close cooperation with other people (a spotter at least, and as many as four other team members).
A sniper has demonstrated that he can work intensely toward a long-term goal (It ain’t easy to graduate from sniper school, either the Marine or Army version.)
A sniper is physically fit and physically brave.
A sniper is capable of intense concentration for long periods of time under adverse conditions.
If the sniper is E-5 or above, he has advanced leadership skills and very likely ability as an instructor.
A sniper is at home with detail work.
Now, some of these are aptitudes rather than skills, but it seems to me that if a person with this package of talents came to me looking for a job, my only question would be, “When can you start?” There is very little someone like this can’t accomplish.
Possibly, because a fair number of citizens has been brainwashed to think that anyone who has anything to do with guns is nuts, and because the psychotic veteran is a staple of popular entertainment, some potential employers would see “Sniper” on a resume and call Security. Sorry to disappoint them, but snipers are no more nuts than anyone else with a combat-arm MOS. As the then-commandant of the Marine Sniper School once told me,
“We weed out the Rambos, the psychos, and the loners. We want All-American boys who go out and do what we tell them and no more.”
In the meanwhile, let’s not condemn Ms. Feldstein. She’s probably doing Good Work. And she is no more ignorant than the rest of the 300-million-plus Americans who will never wear a uniform.
*I’ve read that out of every 10 people who apply to join the military seven fail to qualify because of poor physical condition, lack of education, or criminal records.