Saturday, April 14, 2007


Citizen soldiers

There was a time when political lefties had a thing about campus ROTC ("rot-cee") as a big, bad government institution, and fierce opposition to ROTC was part and parcel of opposition to the Vietnam War. That association of ideas lingers to this day for many people. And of course, there has been a longstanding academic objection to ROTC, insofar as course credit for things other than phys ed could be garned through gut courses taught by ROTC instructors. (I don't know whether that's still the case.)

That academic rigor issue aside, I have no objection to ROTC as a political matter. In fact, it's probably a beneficial institution, since it builds a citizen-soldier element into an officer corps that would otherwise be entirely drawn from a "professional army" military academy cadre.

The ROTCees at my university happen to finish their gym workouts just around the time I arrive in the morning for my hockey scrimmages. They are suited up in shorts and t-shirts that say "Army" and gray windbreakers and reflector belts looped around their torsos on a shoulder-to-opposite-hip diagonal. It's like a Sam Browne belt, but without the horizantal belt around the waist and in flourescent yellow-green. They look sort of like the safety patrol at the nearby elementary school.

On this gray, drizzly morning, I wish I had my camera to snap a picture of the ROTCees, as they walk out of the gym in packs and in ones, twos or threes, get into their cars, a whole line of cars.

This answers one question and raises another. Now I know why all the street parking in front of the gym is taken up at 7:30 a.m. But why the hell are they driving to the gym?

Increasing our dependence on the very foreign oil they're going to get sent off to fight for.

Increasing the evidence flabbiness of our armed forces, reinforcing the impression I get from time to time with photos from Iraq, showing a t-shirt wearing solider with flab hanging over his belt.

And what are those reflective belts for, anyhow? Shouldn't they be double-timing it to the gym to the cadence of "I don't know but I been told..." or something like that?

Hi Oscar,

The answer to your question is contained in the question itself:

Now I know why all the street parking in front of the gym is taken up at 7:30 a.m. But why the hell are they driving to the gym?

They drive because, at the early hour in which they have to show up at the gym, there is plenty of parking. Also, since it is so early already, they probably don't want to have to allow the extra time it would take to bike or walk.

Given the sacrafices they will make for our country by serving in the military, it hardly seems fair to also expect them to conserve more than civilians do.
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