Buttigieg and the Military Service Check Box

by baldilocks

From last month at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

When Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks about his military service, his opponents fall silent, the media fall in love, and his political prospects soar. Veterans roll their eyes.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Mr. Buttigieg Sunday if President Trump “deserves some credit” for the strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. “No,” the candidate replied, “not until we know whether this was a good decision and how this decision was made.” He questioned whether “it was the right strategic move” and said his own judgment “is informed by the experience of having been on one of those planes headed into a war zone.”

But Mr. Buttigieg’s stint in the Navy isn’t as impressive as he makes it out to be. His 2019 memoir is called “Shortest Way Home,” an apt description of his military service. He entered the military through a little-used shortcut: direct commission in the reserves. The usual route to an officer’s commission includes four years at Annapolis or another military academy or months of intense training at Officer Candidate School. ROTC programs send prospective officers to far-flung summer training programs and require military drills during the academic year. Mr. Buttigieg skipped all that—no obstacle courses, no weapons training, no evaluation of his ability or willingness to lead. Paperwork, a health exam and a background check were all it took to make him a naval officer.

Wow.

Combat veterans have grumbled for decades about the direct-commission route. The politically connected and other luminaries who receive immediate commissions are disparaged as “pomeranian princes.” Former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus became a Naval Reserve officer in 2018 at age 46. Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president, accepted a direct commission but was discharged after one month of service for failing a drug test.

I’ve never understood the need to overestimate the importance of one’s military service or to pretend to understand aspects of it outside of one’s field and be accepted as an expert simply for having served. However, I guess that’s due to the fact that I’m not a politician. (And even though I had four AFSCs during my career, I can’t even tell you that much anymore for two reasons: a great deal of it is classified and I have brain-dumped a lot of information. My hard-drive has its limitations.)

But this guy didn’t even have to go to Officer Training School! Now, I’m told that the military will occasionally use this form of commissioning to fill essential billets which are difficult; physicians and lawyers, for example. But why would the Navy need a paper-pusher wearing O-3 bars?

Answer: to credential this particular person for his planned future as a politician. No need for any real hardship — like being awakened at Oh-Dark-Thirty for exercise. He’s in; he spends some time in Afghanistan behind the wire; and then he’s back to the states with a check mark inside of the military service box.

I don’t see the point in bothering with this sort of thing anymore especially since our last two presidents have had no military service. But, if they must, I’m sure that there are thousands of worthy Democrats who at least have Basic Training/OTS under their belts. Why this one?

I’d give Buttigieg this: at least he didn’t get booted for being a crackhead.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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3 thoughts on “Buttigieg and the Military Service Check Box

  1. I was in the Reserves as a 51 Mike, Orthopaedic Surgeon. Had 2 weeks at Fort Sam, learned a little.
    A friend who went to West Point told me I was doing Army training with all my surgery. Why someone without special needed skills gets to be an officer is above my pay grade.
    All Mayor Pete does is check boxes without actual achievement.

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