Of course that is 4 months more than you or I have spent in a combat zone…………………and certainly 4 more months than GW.
From an email. Well, no, no bullets were flying, but let me provide a few highlights of my service as a US Navy officer in the same surface warfare officer (SWO) corps as John Kerry:
I patrolled the Persian Gulf in warships both before (USS REEVES (CG-24)) and after (FNS COLBERT (C611)) the USS STARK (FFG-31) was hit with two Exocet missiles fired from an Iraqi F-1 Mirage fighter (both supplied by the French). 37 killed, 21 wounded.
While aboard USS REEVES (CG-24), I also patrolled 12 nautical miles from the USSR military seaport and airbase of Vladivostok for about 2 months. We were alone, asserting our claim that international waters extend to within 12 nautical miles of any territory regardless of claims of territorial waters that extend past that. We were shadowed the whole time by Soviet warships and aircraft with guns pointed our direction.
I was the US SEVENTH FLEET officer of the watch the night the USS VINCENNES (CG-49) shot down the Iranian Airbus (thinking, and reporting to us that they had taken out one of the F-14s the US had supplied the Shaw years earlier). Suddenly, I get a call to the “spook booth” and the intel officer on watch there tells me that the Iranians aren’t looking for an F-14, but for an Airbus. We were the very first to know. I called to inform the Admiral, and hours later, it broke in the media.
I was aboard ship in the Persian Gulf after Iraq invaded Kuwait, during the buildup to the first Gulf War.
All in all, 10 years of service; 2 as a midshipman and 8 as an officer. In all my service, I was never stationed on US soil except for brief training periods.
So, what does that mean? Well, I wasn’t in Vietnam, so I have no firsthand knowledge of Kerry’s service. But I’ve been around servicemen, both enlisted and officers. I know the kind of officer who commands the respect of both his peers and his men. I was one of those and my FITREPS, all heads and shoulders above Kerry’s, prove it. I also know the kind of officer that has the respect of either some officers or some enlisted, but not both. Then there are officers who command the respect of virtually no one.
Kerry has seemingly asked us to focus on his 4 months in Vietnam more than 30 years ago, and not on his 20-year career as a US Senator. So be it. Of course, we’re not going to simply examine what he has to show us. We’re going to examine what others have to show us as well. A good place to start is with those he served. Switftvests.com is a good place to start. You can also see their recently released TV ad. It seems that numbered amongst the very few who knew Kerry in Vietnam and now honor and endorse him are the communist curators of the “war crimes” (read: our “war crimes” against the communist Vietnamese) museum in Saigon.
I knew guys like him in the Navy. I know the kind of guy, very well, that does not have the respect of his fellow officers or men, and I have never witnessed an officer so disrespected amongst fellow officers than Kerry. That says more to me than you can even imagine. Basically, it says that other officers fear that the guy is either going to fuck up, panic, or just be generally incompetent when things get serious, and you can’t trust him with your back.
This is the kind of guy you want to stay far, far away from. I guarantee it.
There’s another aspect to this as well. We used to have a saying: “surface warfare officers eat their young.” Whereas, in the aviation and submarine communities, there’s a great deal of camaraderie that amounts to a helping hand to get started; for some reason, in the SWO community, you’re either in or you’re out, and this determination is made within about 2 weeks of you reporting to your first ship. Once you’re out, you’re fucked and your career as a SWO is over, permanently. The others will make sure you fail and are put off the ship to a desk job on shore ASAP. How do I know this? Because I actively and enthusiastically participated in it. Two guys reported to my first ship the same week as I. I shared a stateroom with one of them and the other was a 4.0 GPA physics grad from some fancy college and cruised through SWO school (we were in the same class in San Diego).
They were both driving desks on land within about a year, and I, along with everyone else, helped make that a reality. No mercy. They were both nice guys, but just didn’t have what it takes to run a division of men and equipment 24/7 at sea, all while enduring a 3-section watch rotation. What’s more, we reveled in and celebrated their failure, and mocked their incompetence at the thing we were good at. I went on to become the single top-ranked junior officer on REEVES, and as an O-3 Lieutentant on departure, went to an O-5 staff duty billet.
The above, that we could revel in the failure of others, is shocking only to those who’ve never shouldered serious responsibility in the military. In my first job, I was the assistant missiles officer, and I oversaw about 20 GMMs (gunners mate-missiles). I also shared responsibility for the maintenance and security of the 8 BTNs we carried (Terrier surface to air missiles with a nuclear warhead).
I don’t expect everyone to understand or accept this, but I’m telling you straight. I have never known a single military officer of any reasonable degree of competence whom I believe would, for one second, consider besmirching the reputation of any genuine military hero who has ever served. Just as equally, I’ve never known an officer of distinction who would grant distinction to another without good reason. The military can be life & death, and as such, we took it very seriously. That’s just the way it was.
Bruce McQuain has up a very good post dealing with a lot of this same thing.