2-325 AIR, 82nd Airborne plays host to Secretary of Defense and Purple Heart recipient Chuck Hagel to demonstrate the effectiveness of their tactical gear.
bout a month ago, my former unit, 2-325 AIR, 82nd Airborne, played host to recently confirmed Secretary of Defense and Purple Heart recipient Chuck Hagel to demonstrate the effectiveness of their tactical gear. During his visit, Secretary Hagel inspected paratroopers, their gear, and asked questions regarding the capabilities of this equipment. These types of visits are seen by military brass as a means of determining the usefulness of equipment currently being fielded and to get information from boots on the ground regarding what improvements or additions can be made. During the visit, Secretary Hagel was updated on new parachute systems being fielded to lessen the weight of a falling paratrooper, which can be upwards of 350 pounds, to a more reasonable number. Again, for those of us who have performed static-line jumps with combat equipment, every pound you lose can make a world of difference. What is more, giving upper-level leadership a sense of what’s happening on the ground can positively affect the way plans are made, from local operations all the way to deployments of specific units. This type of discussion between lower-enlisted personnel and military leaders constitutes a unique opportunity to have an open discussion about tactics and equipment that can find knowledge at all levels. This only happens, however, when the inspection is allowed to perform in its intended way.
"if it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth."
Unfortunately, the actual intent of these top-level inspections is often lost in the wake of lower-level commanders and NCOs not wanting to look bad. For anyone who has been in the U.S. military, I can almost guarantee you’ve gone through some sort of seasonal weapons and equipment inspection. Those of us who have been in these situations know that, much like standardized testing, the purpose of inspections has become to show how good things are instead of showing our weaknesses in order to improve them. This system is born purely out of a general lack of leadership at the command level and is pervasive throughout the military. Leaders who refuse to fight for what their subordinates need to perform simply so they can look good in front of their superiors are not leaders at all. We have a tendency to throw wrenches into the gears then complain when they don’t turn properly. We have spent so much time polishing the brass they don’t know how truly outdated much of our gear and tactics are. It is easy to blame Congress (especially this Congress) for not giving our military the things it needs. It is far more difficult, though, to look at ourselves and our own leadership and demand more. For too long, these promising opportunities to advocate on our own behalf have been wasted by terrified Sergeants Major and Executive Officers who want a good mark on their OER. It’s time to stop showing Congresspersons and Secretaries how shiny the bolt on our M-4 Carbine and its magazines are and start showing them physical and statistical evidence arguing for a new weapons system. The same could be said for outdated protective vests and a litany of other equipment as well. As Carl Sagan says, “if it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.” And, in this case, the price we pay for wasting an opportunity to upgrade equipment, tactical gear, and tactics could cost someone their life.
About Daniel Hollaway
Daniel Hollaway is an Iraq veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne as an Infantry team leader. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Security Management with specific focuses on homeland, border, and port security. He is certified in such fields as CPR/AED, Tactical Handcuffing, the use of chemical agents, TASER, defensive tactics, terrorism awareness, and firearm use. Hollaway is currently pursuing a graduate degree in security and writes on subjects from border policy to information security.