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John Livingston

Perspective and Context

I was asked last week to present my thoughts about a group of former military service members who came out against Donald Trump because of some disparaging remarks he made about military service in Viet Nam 50 years ago.

The point of my words was that what is most important is not what a bunch of selected retirees think about Mr. Trump, but what our current military thinks of him and what they think of former Democratic Presidents Obama and Biden. I wanted to present my experience and perspective and my firsthand knowledge about politics within the military

My remarks follow:

There is no question that both President Obama and President Biden have lost the respect of the majority of our sailors, airmen and troops as they have seen woke programs significantly impact their operational readiness. Many Senior career minded political officers have seen their way “to promotion and pay” and advancement by taking the woke train. Their own careers taking priority over the mission and troop morale. The strength of our military is today in the hands of the senior enlisted men and women who remain loyal their oath and to themselves.

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My military service was from 1973 until 1988. I came to Boise in 1988 after serving 12 years on active duty as a military physician and surgeon. and then I was called up to Desert Storm. Starting in 1998 until 2023 I taught for a week a month—9 months a year at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio at The Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute. I taught young surgeons trauma surgery and medicine. Ninety percent of our students were US military, but we had some civilians and about 8% of our students came from foreign military services. On several occasions Arab and Israeli students were lab partners and in one case they became friends and became practice partners after their military service. It was senior enlisted personnel that ran our course not officers.

In my entire career I was only in harm’s way one time—by mistake and because of my own bad judgement. I was never on “the tip of the spear”. I have no claim on any valor. I did have the honor and privilege of taking care of hundreds of soldiers and marines whose job it was to be in harm’s way. Having an 18-year-old Lance Corporal look up at me from a gurney prior to going to surgery and say “thank you sir” is absolutely the most humbling experience one could imagine—are you kidding me, He’s thanking me. He just put his own life on the line—for me and my family?!

The really good officers get out early and go to work for United, Raytheon, Delta, BOEING or Lockheed. The bad ones stay in and if they are lucky and politically correct enough make O-6 or O-7 and then take a fancy Board job at BOING, Lockheed or Electric Boat—not all because there are still a very few honorable men in the Senior Officer Corps, but they almost all get rifted by their 2nd tour at the Pentagon—even special forces Admirals and Generals in all branches of our services.

It is the Sr. enlisted that today run our military. Roughly speaking 60% of those kids come from rural areas and 30% come from the inner city. Almost none come from the suburbs or “upper urban areas”. The officer corps is very different, and it is the officer corps that is tainted and has been primarily responsible for the demise of our military over the past 20 years. An almost universal concern for career advancement and little concern for the troops is ubiquitous in the higher echelons of our military.

Active “rifting” of politically incorrect officers and Sr. enlisted has
decimated the technical ranks of all branches. Moral was at an all-time low during the Obama years. Now it is worse. We have currently 12 carrier groups on “ready status”. Only 5 have met their REFTRA—readiness training requirements, the others are therefore non-deployable except in emergency situations

Only 35% of our Jets in the Navy and a similar number in the Air Force are currently in operational ready status, Reenlistments are at an all- time low. Retention in both the officer corps and enlisted ranks is at an all-time low. Only 50% of potential recruits are trainable because they are in such, bad physical shape, or they can’t pass a drug test

These numbers that were low under Obama and Biden were much better under Trump—like him or not our military loved him especially senior enlisted and even more senior enlisted who were minorities.

It is my opinion that both Trump and Biden “dodged the draft”—asthma and flat feet—are you kidding me! We could certainly do better either way don’t you think? I mean Teddy Roosevelt had both childhood asthma and flat feet and he fought honorably with the ROUGH RIDERS.

I never criticize anyone’s service. I never criticize someone for not
serving. I am a firm believer in the volunteer military, but I do believe that if like during the Roman Republic it was a requirement to serve in the military for the solons in government it would be helpful. Understanding of military service and the hardships on families—9-12-month deployments have nothing in common with civilian work experiences, for example, Congress would be more concerned with the operational readiness of our service members and their equipment, than they are with “sensitivity training sessions”.

Neither Biden nor Trump served. That doesn’t disqualify them from being President. Neither does being a convicted felon or a being a fugitive from the King like our Founding Fathers were for 5 years—all of them.

To put all this in perspective especially this week when we remember “D-Day” with reverence, please enjoy this:

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3 replies on “Perspective and Context”

I am a retired E7 that volunteered for the USA in 1967. The politics, over performance was happening before I left, so I can fully imagine what it must be like today. Thank you for this article and your support of our troops.

Good article John. I agree with you. The politicization of the military is simply not sustainable.

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