In October of 2004, the Annenberg Public Policy Center did a survey of the attitudes of military members. One of the questions they asked "What was your primary reason for joining the military?"
Of enlisted personnel who served in Iraq, the highest scored reason was to serve the country, with tuition benefits coming in second at 23%. Of junior enlisted personnel, service was a near second to tuition benefits; 26% as opposed to 29%. Of NCO's, service was by far number one at 37%.
In December of 2003, the Army Times also did such a survey. They found that
•About half described their political views as conservative or very conservative; four in 10 called themselves moderate; and only 7 percent called themselves liberal.
•More than half called themselves Republicans, and just 13 percent said they are Democrats. Recent polls of the general public show the nation evenly split, with Democrats, Republicans and independents making up about a third of the population each.
•Two-thirds said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve. More than 60 percent called the country’s moral standards only fair or poor.
In follow-up interviews, service members repeatedly said the choice to serve, by itself, demonstrates moral quality above most civilians. Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality.
The survey also found that
•Three of four said they would choose to continue their military career if forced to decide today. Those who would stay cited patriotism, pension and job security as top reasons. Experts said the makeup of the poll’s respondents — much older, more experienced and career-oriented than the military as a whole — likely influenced those numbers.
The Annenberg survey cited above asked the question "In your experience, what is the most satisfying thing about military service?" The most popular response was Serving the country, with Camaraderie second and benefits third favored by only 9% of the respondents.
Given that at it's lowest, one quarter joined the military with service as their primary motive, and that most find that the most satisfying thing about the military is the feeling of service to the nation, why is it that when Steven Bochco put together his FX TV show "Over There", which is set in Iraq, not one cast member joined because they wanted to serve?
OK, there was one, but he was depicted as an idiot.
In fact, it seemed to me that the "back story" on each of the characters was straight out of the Vietnam era stock character selection guide for writers; just as if the draft was never eliminated.
The tactical situation was ridiculous: a transportation squad ordered to hold a fighting position for three days? In the real world they would have been replaced by a combat arms unit within hours. No air support available for three days? Again, not a chance. And then there is the fact that the enemy, cozily holed up in a mosque, decides (after three days) to run out of their defensive positions across the desert to be cut down by our grumbling crew of transportation soldiers.
The NCO yells all the time, the LT is stupid, and the Captain is fatherly. And all three hold court at one point in range and exposed to enemy fire. Perhaps they knew that the bad guys were praying at that particular moment because no one shot at them and this outrageous error went unpunished.
The dialog was silly, the plot was silly and about the only thing the show had going for it was excellent production values.
According to the Annenberg survey, when asked "Think about the women you or the person in your household on active duty has served with. Would you say in general they have performed better than the men they served with, worse than the men they served with, or about the same as the men they served with?" 74% responded that they performed as well as men. So why did the women in Bochco's show act like total fools endangering not only themselves, but the squad as well?
There are so many instances of women performing well under fire in Iraq that catering to the old stereotype of women and combat seems almost gratuitous.
Could it be that had Bochco made a show that showed a more realistic and representative view of the US service people today, his Hollywood friends might think he was working for Bush?
But it you think that I'm being too picky, see what other veterans think. Blackfive has a whole bunch who have weighed in and many of these have actually been in Iraq. Check out Jonah's Military Guys as well.
See how wrong I am.