A dash of optimism regarding our armed forces

This author was an Army Infantry Drill Sergeant in the 1980s.  While the author was attending Drill Sergeant School at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, the Army changed the physical fitness standards.  Deviating from the time-tested "Conditioning Drills," which included classics like the 4-Count Push-Up, Sit-Ups, the Side-Straddle-Hop (jumping jacks), etc., they adopted a routine they called "Aerobics."

All the students groaned.  "Really?  Aerobics?"  At the time, aerobics was a routine you would watch women in spandex do on TV, including stretching exercises and breathing techniques.  This is how you train professional killers?

Nevertheless, they teach drill sergeants a technique to monitor the physical exhaustion of their troops: you identify the weakest man in the outfit and scrutinize him.  When it appears that he's about to die from exhaustion, you relent, giving everyone relief.

It doesn't matter what you call the regimen.  Call it "Conditioning Drills," "Aerobics," or "Hooked on Phonics"; once you have 200 boys wallowing in puddles of sweat, sucking wind, with their eyeballs rolling back in their sockets, you have improved their physique.  The measurement is the same.

That measurement – push them to the brink of exhaustion – was established generations ago.  That's how it worked in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  It's the same today.  Physiology hasn't changed, and neither have red-blooded American boys.  Your troops of today are of the same stock as the veterans of Normandy and Khe Sanh.  Don't let anyone fool you otherwise.

The past 3 administrations have dispatched our boys to fight in conflicts with their hands tied behind their backs: ridiculous rules of engagement, inadequate support, and nothing but blame when the outcome doesn't fit the narrative.

And yet these boys (they're not boys anymore), on a routine basis, hazard hails of withering small arms fire to kick in doors, lob grenades, and engage enemies in such close quarters that, if they survive, they wear the blood of their adversaries.  Bayonets and machetes.

These are men.

These are tomorrow's leaders today.  Don't let anyone convince you that today's young soldiers and Marines don't match the caliber of previous generations.  Give these valiant young veterans a decade or so to fall back and regroup – to sow their wild oats and acclimate themselves back to civilized society – and they will rock your world.

The unintended consequence of the incompetent micro-managing of today's armed forces has been the smelting, refining, and tempering of the greatest generation of young leaders this country has yet to see.

The best is yet to come.

Mike VanOuse feels privileged to dwell among these heroic young volunteers.