Chattanooga: We’ve Been Abandoned, Again.
So let’s discuss a purely fictional situation…
Let’s say there was this guy once. He was a soldier, combat vet, and like many National Guardsmen was a cop in civilian life. He was temporarily on active duty, working on a totally fictional military base.
We’ll call our fictional soldier/cop… “Cris”.
Cris worked on a state-owned base, not a federal base. As a cop, Cris was allowed by law to carry a gun on this base. Of course, Cris always carried his gun. Cris had a lot of training, including training on how to respond to active shooters. When the base decided to make an active shooter response plan, Cris advised the soldiers who wrote it and even addressed a large group of soldiers on the realities of active shooter incidents. Cris was also a senior NCO with two combat deployments. It seemed to make nothing but sense to allow Cris to carry a concealed weapon on base.
Cris had checked the base’s policies and saw that they specifically allowed police officers to carry on base. But Cris kept his weapon hidden and secret from anyone he didn’t know, just as he always did when wearing civilian clothes. In many months working on the base, Cris never had any issues carrying his weapon.
Then one day Cris screwed up. He was in the parking lot loading something into his trunk, inadvertently lifted his uniform top and exposed his weapon to someone. No words were exchanged, and Cris didn’t even know his weapon had been seen. But the other person reported Cris by name and rank to the base command post. And that’s where this totally fictional situation got really stupid.
Soldiers at the command post knew who Cris was. Rather than say, “He’s a cop and he’s within the law and base policy,” they reported Cris to the base’s threat assessment center. Soldiers at the threat assessment center knew Cris too; they interacted with him on a regular basis. Instead of saying, “He’s a cop and he’s within the law and base policy,” they contacted Cris’ major command. Word filtered down, and Cris was called into a Sergeant Major’s office.
The Sergeant Major was new and didn’t know Cris. He informed Cris about the report. Cris responded, “Sergeant Major, I’m a cop.” The Sergeant Major had a brain and immediately responded, “Oh hell, what’s the big deal then?” But he explained he was still required to address the situation with higher. Cris said, “No worries, Sergeant Major,” and waited for the official “carry on” order to come down the chain.
A short time later, Cris was officially advised that even though the law permitted him to carry a weapon, and base policy permitted him to carry, and he had extensive and necessary skills that would be critical in an active shooter incident, the base’s commander didn’t want him to carry. Because allowing soldiers to carry weapons on base isn’t safe. The senior leadership’s plan for defending the base from attack was “disarm anyone willing and able to resist.”
Some might say that barring Cris from carrying on post was stupid. Some might say it was irrational. Some might say, in the event of an active shooter event, it made tragedy more rather than less likely. But none of that mattered. All that mattered was, it made the base leadership feel safer.
This situation – totally fictional, bearing zero resemblance or connection to anyone within writing distance of this computer – taught Cris a very important lesson. Despite the fact that Cris was a longtime cop, was known as a skilled and experienced pistol shooter, had never done anything to suggest he would be a threat to other soldiers, had provided badly-needed perspective and experience to the base’s active shooter plan, had a decades-long history of honorable service and had even been recognized for his actions in combat, he was viewed as a threat simply because he was armed.
That’s not leadership. That’s a sign proclaiming, “It doesn’t matter whether our troops are 18-year old E-1 cooks or 40-year old combat arms officers. We don’t trust them.”
Days ago our military experienced a horrific attack in Tennessee. American troops who braved overseas combat were shot down like defenseless cattle in a slaughterhouse, on our own soil. They died without weapons in their hands. I’m sure they didn’t die unarmed because they chose to be unarmed.
They died because their leaders abandoned them.
Their leaders abandoned them just like they abandoned an unarmed Army recruiter, shot down at his office in Arkansas in 2009. Just like they abandoned thirteen unarmed soldiers, murdered by a terrorist at Fort Hood in 2009. Just like they abandoned three unarmed soldiers, killed by a fellow so-called “soldier”, at Fort Hood in 2014.
Those leaders order troops to carry weapons overseas, and punish them if they fail to carry weapons. They acknowledge that an 18-year old in a combat zone can be trusted to carry a weapon and ammunition every second of every day. Here in America, they remind us to maintain a low profile because of the ISIS threat. They know people here want to kill us, just like people overseas want to kill us.
But when we point out the blindingly obvious – “If our troops are being targeted here in America, we should be allowed to carry weapons” – the answer is, “Hell no. Yes, twenty-two troops have been abandoned to die helplessly in stateside attacks since 2009. Many others have been wounded. The attackers could easily have been taken out within seconds if the victims had been armed. And the threat of attacks is getting worse. So what? You’re too stupid to be armed. Even though you’re trained for combat and maybe even a combat veteran, we’d rather have you run and hide from a murderous coward than allow you to shoot back. Because we don’t trust you.”
I wish I was exaggerating. I wish Cris hadn’t learned his hard fictional lesson about how little regard his fictional leadership had for the abilities and intelligence of its soldiers. I wish senior military leadership was threatening mutiny over this issue, instead of meekly agreeing with our presidential administration’s simplistic and childish “but guns are bad” mentality. I wish someone in power would at least compromise and say something like “only E-6s and above can carry weapons” or “only troops who undergo an additional week of training can carry on post.” I wish our commanders trusted me here the way they supposedly trusted me when I was at war.
But they don’t. They know we’re under attack, and they’ve abandoned us. They expect us to go hand to hand against armed terrorists. And when we do that, and lose, they still won’t change their minds.
We, as our nation’s defenders, have a responsibility to fight back against our leadership’s decision to abandon us. We can’t simply accept a growing list of dead men and women in uniform, murdered while forcibly disarmed on American soil. We can’t look to those slain this week and say, “Sucks to be you. And I hope it’s not me next time.”
As of this writing, six state governors have authorized National Guard troops to carry weapons on at least some state military posts and offices. But our military leaders have remained silent. We swore an oath to defend our nation, and many of us have sacrificed greatly carrying out that oath. Our leadership owes us the right to defend not just our nation, but ourselves.
Petty Officer Randall Smith, Gunny Thomas Sullivan, Lance Corporal Squire Wells, Staff Sergeant David Wyatt and Sergeant Carson Holmquist, rest in peace.
[Mad Duo Note: As noted by
Cris Chris, several governors have authorized the carriage of weapons. The reasons for this reactive, and not proactive, response will be covered in an upcoming op-ed.]
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
Chris Hernandez Mad Duo Chris (seen here on patrol in Afghanistan) may just be the crustiest member of the eeeee-LIGHT writin’ team here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a veteran police officer of two decades who spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags & Dropped Rifles – the Real Truth About Working With the French Army and The Military Within the Military as well as the modern military fiction novels Line in the Valley and Proof of Our Resolve. When he isn’t groaning about a change in the weather and snacking on Osteo Bi-Flex he writes on his own blog, Iron Mike Magazine, Kit Up! and Under the Radar. You can find his author page here on Tactical 16.