Saturday, December 31, 2011

West Point, University or For Training of Military

Talk about a spirited contest, the Army/ Navy football game. Both sides’ stadiums full. Even the Prez showed up. For American style football, this isn’t much. No powerhouses with the Academies. The military academies and most everybody who cogitates their navels about sports gets why. Really big football prospects aren’t going to the academies, mainly because they have a military commitment of mostly five years waiting for them. Thus ending any desires for a professional sports career.

There was a time that the Academies were competitive. When? We had the draft. Young men figured they were going to serve anyway, why not get a good education? For free no less. Do we think that Milt Friedman and the then SecDef, Melvin Laird, who sold us a bill of goods on ending the draft, thought of those unintended consequences?

I always look at the academies a little differently than most. First of all, this worshipful attitude toward them needs to be put in perspective. These kids’ education is no small thing—a million bucks a pop. And, there’s other stuff, they do get a stipend, maybe a few other bennies. The flip side of the coin is that going to one of the Academies is no cake walk. It is hard: field problems, restrictions, other things that some non academy types like myself don’t even know. I can tell you this though. We don’t need all these separate academies. One is sufficient and certain curriculum could be tailored to individual services. Consolidating the Academies, like so many things in government, could save billions of dollars. Think any congressman would have the “balls” to even suggest such a thing? Don’t hold your breath. We are talking WWlll. The military lobby would be in “hell raising” political posture before you could say, “at ease.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Inception of Community Service

Dear Mr. Edwards:
As a fellow North Carolinian, (Dunn) I applaud your entry into the Presidential sweepstakes. I am often amazed why anyone would be in politics unless it is a "calling" and I think yours is. Unfortunately, for many, it morphs into a career and politics as usual. I hope and pray that your commitment is different.

My basic purpose for writing, doubting you will ever see this but you might, based on a recent Newsweek article. Your desire for the voters to see the real you. "Untucked." I like it. And, the idea of putting your campaign on "youtube" is right on--very creative from my point of view and I sent the link to dozens. I think that the transparency is truly the only way for a democracy and what you're doing is part of it. You have my support, I assure you.

My feeling is that you are saying some good things. I saw you in New Orleans. Right on. However, many are going to say those same sorts of things and what you need is something to get you out ahead of the crowd. Here's your issue in my opinion: UNIVERSAL SERVICE. Congressman Rangel has proposed a draft but it simply won't fly. Too much opposition even if I think it is a good idea. Unfortunately, in my estimation, those who are in opposition to the draft or may even oppose Universal Service, are in NC parlance, "cutting off their nose to spite their face." What "peace" groups or even others in opposition don't get is that If we had a draft/Universal Service, a President would think twice before he sent us to war.

However, all that aside, Universal Service would be good for the country. For the last 12 years or so, I have been promoting the idea that we need Universal Service-- something unifying and what better to do it than requiring those 18-26 to give 18 months to 2 years in service to this great country. My basic theme has been simply that it is immoral to ask such an infinitesimally small number of Americans to fight our wars. Columnist Ben Stein says it this way, "In the old days, the rich, the famous, they all put it aside to fight. Now who fights for us: "Southerners, Hispanics from New Mexico, rural men and women from upstate NY. Small town boys and girls from the Midwest. No children of the powers on Wall Street go off and fight? They 've left the burden of defending an affluent nation to those who enjoy less of its affluence. They don't want to fight for a system that made them rich or a way of life that made them princes of finance."

I would add, and not original with me, "the kids who are in the military today are those whose economic prospects are less than stellar. They are high-school graduates who're not going to college because of costs, many young parents who need a regular paycheck and health care for their families." According to DOD statistics, soldiers come from households earning between $32,000 and $33,500. " (The median American income is $43,300.) It is not that the Volunteer Army is not working. We have a military that is as good as we've ever had. Simply, they are not representative of our country and this is not right nor good for us.

The difficulty, in my opinion, with selling the draft is simply too much opposition to the military, war, etc. Few can argue with universal service. From various reports, we've got lots of activism: students are getting involved in Teach America and there's been a resurgence in the Peace Corp. And, your comments in New Orleans, who came? Many students showed up to help.

Without a draft or any sort of Universal Service, kids by in large don't have any incentive to serve. I talk to parents of kids who are draft eligible with great regularity and simply unless there is an unusual circumstances, they don't think about it. Thinking has changed and more and more parents of eligible kids see the advantage of a Universal Service. Having a choice is the selling point. I have a blog called AllServe and constantly get comments about what a great idea this is.

What would a Universal Service do for America's kids? Lots of things, something like a common interest and experience, something that is nonexistent in our culture. Universal service would make a difference in changing our fractured America--a youth culture built around service. What I am discovering is that many Americans will go for Universal Service if youth is given an option. If they didn't want to choose from a list, let them define their own. American kids are smart and creative, we might be surprised at what they come up with and how willing they are to serve.

This is an issue that is begging for someone like yourself to take up--it is the JFK "ask not what your country can do for you" theme. Universal Service could be phased in over ten years and promoted among our youngsters now. A success story and the way AllServe could work is an organization I've read about: Teach America. I only know what I've read. They are getting top graduates who could be in medical school or Wharton business or wherever--yet choose to do something meaningful before they start their careers. Teach America sends graduates into poor rural and urban schools for two years. For many, it has become a next step after graduation. These kids want to contribute to improving society while keeping their options open. At Yale for instance, Teach America, drew applications from 12% of the graduates, 11% at Dartmouth, and 8% at Harvard. All told a record 17,350 applied in one year.

Are our present kids a post 9-11 generation ready to opt more aggressively for public service? I think so. Many of those volunteering for Teach America don't know what they want to do. The thought is that not knowing what to do, why not take some time to do something meaningful for a couple of years and think about the future. The military is as I've said only one of the options. Universal Service will work.

There's probably some opposition to Universal Service or anything related but what the hell: us North Carolinian know a cause when we see it. Universal Service will fly and I think you are just the one to make it happen.
I'm enclosing my memoirs, just off the press. I know you have more than you can do but in addition to recording my Vietnam experiences, I have included observations that I think would be helpful to a candidate: mini position papers on Iraq. Plus, the subtle thing of the book is for those who have not had military service to "get it" through Gun Totin Chaplain.
God bless you.         
Jerry Autry
Chaplain (COL), USA Ret  Sign out

©2009 Google

Thursday, July 07, 2011


In the mail in 1972, young Americans were still getting draft notices amidst the knowledge that tens of thousands of Americans had been killed. Anti-war protests were rampant. Draft notices were being publically burned and returning soldiers were treated as part of the problem. The military was at a low ebb.

I was drafted the day I got marroed. I was pretty taken aback that the return address was the White House. Jokingly, I was impressed that President Richard Nixon would write to me.

I opened it up and I think it said, "Greetings from the president of the United States." It was a form letter that said my friends and neighbors had selected me to represent them in the Armed Forces and I was hereby ordered to report for active duty. Say What!

With all the views about the draft, an unintended consequence, is that we have a somewhat mercenary military and a total lack of investment in our three wars--only 1% of Americans are making any sacrifice in any way for our involvement. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Memorial Day is about honoring those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. I see 5 seconds on the national news of Boy Scouts putting flags on graves at National Cemeteries. There's even a big controversy because some National Cemetery's Director didn't want the chaplain ending his prayer in the traditional Christian way, "In Jesus name".

But, really what does Memorial Day mean to people? How do you honor someone who has given his/her life in your name. IT CAN'T BE DONE. We can put out flags, have ceremonies, build monuments but that won't do it. Most of the "so called" honoring
is idle chatter or simply out of some half-assed sense of duty. And, of course, the sorry politicians want to have their asses in the limelight but they haven't ever given spit to what it might mean to serve or for their children to serve. And, here they are out there pontificating about honoring sacrifice. I will give the president slack because in our system, he is the Commander-in- Chief but not the other MFers.

Here's the way to really honor those who've given the ultimate. Excluding WWll when the "greatest generation" saved the world, we the people need to rise up and say to our elected leaders, no more Vietnams, Afghanistans, Iraqs. And here is a novel idea but more a pipedream: reinstitude the draft or some form of community service. Politicians and even our president know there is no political repercussion if he commits us to war. With only 1% of Americans traveling back and forth to war, no one, other than these young Americans are sacrificing.

And, these sacrificing young soldiers are where they are mainly because life's circumances have given them few options. This is not to take away from their sacrifices--simply with only 1% actually doing the sacrificing, what do we call the others? Draft dodgers. I don't think so. Who can blame a youngster. If there is no draft and he or she has no compelling reason to serve, why do it? Good question. Let some other kid join up who has less or no options. Memorial Day is a good time to ponder such issues. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011



Dave and all, in my view, the MCA is worthless. Even though Dave, you hold
the titular title of VP, it is as useless as tits on a boar hog (get Clyde
to explain that). I've been a member I think at least two or three times. If
you want to greet and eat, fine but these organizations never live up to
their stated goals or to what their potential is. Chaplains have a chance to
add their voice to maybe a cause but orgs like MCA end up doing mostly
nothing toward any sort of potential good.

We all, I think, are doing good pastoral work since retiring. I've become
involved with the UCSF Cancer Center and in writing, mainly blogs. And, I
know of your good work through 10 chaps. And, all of us, relatively
speaking, enjoyed the chaplaincy and did good work there too. The chaplaincy
was and is unique and is far superior in my view to civilian ministry. The
fact that chaplains have gotten little or no recognition or appreciation for
their hard work then and now is beside the point. We all in our waning years
have to do our own thing.

Because of my nature, I have two crusading causes. Getting out of
Afghanistan and Iraq and the restoration of the draft. Briefly my view of
our wars are they basically have been for nothing. We are not even going to
get cheap oil from Iraq. You can put any spin you want on it but like
Vietnam, wasn't worth a single life. Afghanistan is a "fast train to no
where." If we stay there a hundred years, we can do little. The generals in
particular bear blame for the idiocy of Afghanistan since we have a
president and congress who literally have no military experience and the
generals have way too much sway over decisions. And the SecDef is from Texas
A and M of all things. Here's reality: when Nixon was elected to his first
term on the promise of getting us out of Nam, there were around 17,000 young
American soldiers dead. Nixon lied. By the time he left, there were 58,000
or so who had paid the ultimate price.

On the draft. Until it is restored, presidents can keep sending us to war in
places like Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya because Americans are
uninvolved. Only 1% of Americans have any "skin in the game" in making any
kind of sacrifice and the vast majority of our soldiers come from
environments where they have limited options. They are good soldiers but we
don't have any children from families of doctors, lawyers or Indian Chiefs
in the military, at least as I have observed, read about or those who have
been profiled in various ways. On NBC the other night, a young fearless,
"Hurt Locker" soldier was profiled. By his own admission, he was rudderless,
an alcoholic father, drug addict brother and then he found the Army and was
rescued. Good for him and for us. The larger story, however, is that the
"hurt locker" soldier's background has bece more the rule than the exception
and this simply can't be a good thing overall.

Americans have become comfortable with other peoples' children fighting our
wars. My personal goal is to impact that and here's how I'm attempting to do
it. (I know your eyes are glazing over but this is the important part of
this "running off at the mouth," I'm doing).

And, I didn't come up with this idea but got it from one of the old guys I
hang out with. For the last couple of years, I have regularly been emailing
to the White House website with no response or at best, a "thank you for
your comments." My buddy who is bigtime Democratic donor, (owns pretty much
entire block called 52 Bush in San Fran, I think that is what it's called).
Good guy but erasable as all get out. I have to kick his ass with
regularity; he said, "want a response?" Send money. I sent a sizeable check
to the Democratic National Committee. (Not rich of course but have at this
stage of my life ended up with a fair amount of disposable income).
Immediate response. Sent another nice check. Has it made any difference?
The only thing I know is that I get replies with a promise literally that my
ideas are going to get a hearing. I plan to keep it up until or unless, I
think it doesn't make any difference. What I've rediscovered is that in
addition to money, there's a sense of fulfillment if you don't have anything
personally to gain from your causes. My observation has been that most
people who are financially involved in the political process have some
agenda, i. e., anti-abortion/gay marriage, etc. I don't, not even concerned
if 10 chaps like or not (don't want to come across as arrogant but I'm sure
this does. Is an RET concept if you guys remember. Don Davis and I took a
class at Albert Ellis Institute when we were in Career Course on RET
[Rational Emotive Therapy-now called by other names]. Whatever happened to
Don? Super guy, Presby if I remember correctly); but, for me, have to be
resolute in my convictions. But, come the presidential campaign, if I don't
hear some of my ideas, I'll head off in another direction. Amen and power in
the blood. {{{{{Jerry}}}}}

Jerry's comments are [presently] true, that is why the whole
organization needs some new blood; someone like Jerry and the 10 chaps who
will, for the most part, tell it like it is. One or two people can't do it,
however, several could make an impact. I believe that MCA has potential, but
as is, it simply slides along, not doing a whole lot, ---showing up at
formal occasions, glad handing, giving an invocation, etc. MCA has a chair
with the committee/group (Forget what they call it) that meets with
congressional people (big rollers), however, my sense is that their
participation is very limited. If there were an aggressive visionary type
person that represented MCA at that meeting; waved the Corps flag,
represented the troops,spoke to the issues, etc., MCA would have a positive
impact. MCA also has the potential of serving as an advisor to the Chiefs.
It would take some work but the potential is there.Chiefs could learn a
whole lot from retirees.For Example, (ref. para. 3 & 4) MCA should/could
pass a resolution concerning the draft. (I can already hear it on the
"News", MCA, retired Chaplains recommend the reinstitution of the
Draft.:):). Leadership (congress/Generals, Chiefs, etc. should hear a
statement like para. 5. Another reason I believe MCA's [reality] Voice is
needed is because most active duty & Reserve Component are locked into
saying what is politically correct...The prophetic voice is rarely heard.
That is not a criticism, but I think it is reality...SOOOOOO HERE IS THE
Jerry is right, however, there is potential

10 chaps.: This is a draft of what I am going to send to the Executive Director of MCA. They will be meeting next Monday prior to the conference which begins on Tuesday. My goal is to get it discussed by the Board and then to put in on the floor during the General Membership meeting which will be conducted on Thursday.

I move that MCA recommend through a resolution the reinstitution of the draft.


1) Americans, for the most part are uninvolved in the activities of the Military, to include our “wars”. Only 1% of Americans have any "skin in the game" in making any kind of sacrifice. The vast majority of our soldiers come from environments where they have limited options. They are good “troops”, in fact, excellent. However, as I have observed and read about those who have been profiled in various ways, we have very few children from families of doctors, lawyers, congressmen/women, mayors, professors, Indian Chiefs, and on-and-on. In fact, on a recent NBC profile, a young and fearless, "Hurt Locker" soldier was profiled. By his own admission, he was rudderless, an alcoholic father, drug addict brother. He found the Army and was rescued. That is great!. Good for him and for us. The larger story, however, is that the "hurt locker" soldier's background has become more the rule than the exception and this simply can't be a good thing overall. It is not good for the services, or society. Clauswitz has a lot to say about the importance of getting society and the majority of the population involved in the nations wars. In fact, as I recall from War College Days, he said, don’t go to war unless you have the nation’s support. We are fighting 3 wars, and they hardly get noticed by most people in our nation. In fact, the largest percentage of Americans have become comfortable with other peoples' children fighting our wars….with only 1% of our country involved in the sacrifices of three (3) wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya), plus US “Troops” assisting in keeping the peace throughout the world, most US citizens have very limited understanding and awareness of the service members mission, needs, and sacrifice. Consequently, support is limited at best. We have an “all volunteer military” which is successful in terms of keeping the ranks filled but a dismal failure in terms of shared sacrifice. When Nobel prize winner, Mort Friedman, and then, Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird, teamed up to get rid of the draft and initiate the All Volunteer Force, I am confident that they could not possibly have conceived the eventual shared national sacrifice, lack of support for service members and their families, the significant increase in the breakdown of military families due to an inordinate number of “hardship” tours, the increased suicide rate among service members—--to name a few. In summary, the impact of the All Volunteer Force has been no real shared national sacrifice while service member commitments consistently increase.

2) Serving in the military, or serving the nation, has many positive returns.

a. Patriotism

b. Sense of pride in the nation.

c. Sense of appreciation for the nation. (It is mighty rare that you meet a former service member who isn’t thankful for the privilege he/she had to serve, and for the nation. )

d. Leadership abilities are immeasurably enhanced and refined.

e. Positive Personality traits among military members are enhanced.

f. Sense of ownership toward and for the nation comes about as a result of making a small , sometimes large, sacrifice.

3) Negative aspects of the All Volunteer Force.

a. Over commitment. The commitment and demands exceed the ability of a small military force

b. Increase in breakdown of military families

c. Increase in the number of suicides among military personnel

d. Increase in the number of military personnel suffering from Post-War Traumatic Stress

e. Very little shared national sacrifice, and support.

4) This is a great opportunity for MCA to be on the cutting edge of national policy, a policy that is so very much needed.

Dave, this is terrific. I would not change a thing. There are a couple of repeats but I would leave them in as reinforcement. If MCA had any insight, they could see how this might make a real difference. And, for those who are savvy to the media, the possibilities are endless and could really pull MCA out from being mostly useless to a prominent player on the national scene. Chaplains need a venue. We don't need a theological one but a nation building one because of our value system. The opposition will be enormous but better for all to fight. Politicians for one thing have done nothing along this line, even if they wanted too because they have feared a backlash. To me, it is stupid as those who would be effected don't vote. Regardless of what happened, MCA could be out ahead. I doubt there's much chance now but for the future who knows. As a last thing, the 10 chaps need to come on board. Great job.

I am skeptical that MCA will have the will to agressively pursue such an agenda. That said, what you have proposed, Dave, gives them an opportunity to show their metal. I am afraid Jerry is right. We will see. Bernie.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Recently, a nightly news program profiled a young " hurt locker" type soldier serving in Afghanistan. (Hurt Locker was an Academy Award winner as "best picture" and featured a fearless soldier disarming bombs and blowing up IEDs (Imbedded Explosive Devices). And, here was a real soldier doing his job and saving lives in a real war, not a movie.

What was compelling about this young soldier was the fact that he is somewhat typical of many of our present day soldiers. Not that all of them are "Hurt Locker" types but that they are soldiers who come from backgrounds with limited options. In the case of the one profiled, his Dad was an alcoholic, a drug addict brother, and by his own admission, he was headed for trouble and found an escape into the Army. Good for the Army and good for us. And, he is exactly the type that the military can rescue and use; a kid from a hardscrabble life who has found a home doing the most difficult job in war.

Philosophically, however, there's a deeper story: with only 1% of our country involved in the sacrifices of our two wars, we don't have a clue as to the soldiers fighting our wars. We have an "all volunteer military" which is successful in terms of keeping the ranks filled but a dismal failure in terms of shared sacrifice. When Nobel Prize winner Mort Friedman and then Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird, teamed up to get rid of the draft and into the All Volunteer Force, I can't believe that they could possibly have conceived what the eventual impact would be.

The impact has been no real shared sacrifice but it has also produced our two present wars. The President can send us to war without fear of condemnation or political fallout. After all these years at war, we have no national outcry, no marching in the streets, Vietnam style. And why? Americans have no investment, we're content to let the "Hurt Locker" soldiers fight our wars. I am so tired of hearing the politicians talk about the American people. Bullshit. Most people in this country don't really care. We would be lucky if we had half of our people with any real interest in who is fighting our wars. As a nation, we should be ashamed!

Monday, March 14, 2011


To the editor; the contention of Nathaniel Fink and John Nagl that the long war in Afghanistan is getting shorter (Op-ed, Feb. 21) is not convincing. After sacrificing so much blood and treasure there for almost 10 years, is it not obvious that our mission there has failed and that to remain until 2014 is scandalous? Our mission was to find Osama bin Laden, and we failed. Our mission was to defeat the Taliban, and we failed. Our mission was to curtail the growth and distribution of opium, which strengthens the Taliban, and we failed. The only now, as Mr. Fink and Mr. Nagl indicate, a task force is being appointed "to investigate and expose corruption" in the Afghan government is ludicrous. This corruption has been for many years and has been widely known, while we were assisting it with billions of dollars, better spent on the many pressing needs here at home.

My heart breaks every time I see the names of our valiant troops killed in Afghanistan. Our presence there is not worth the life of one more. If we had had a draft, millions of us would be marching in Washington demanding that we get out now. HDT, Redwood City, CA,