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Frustration! The dictionary states it: To balk or defeat in an endeavor; to induce feelings of insecurity, discouragement, or dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction and discouragement are two of the terms used in the most recent incident of frustration in the military, the one involving General McChrystal.

Should he have been fired? Should he have been “dressed down” and allowed to return to his duty? Those were the decisions that President Obama and the military had to decide. In this day and age, when many people feel that it is their right to be able to speak their mind, and voice their opinion on any subject (I guess that’s what I am doing), they find it alarming that this general was demised for doing so. The military is different that the private sector. It is sustained on the chain of command, and one does not openly condemn their superiors, if they expect to keep their position. General McChrystal knew this.

So, why would such a skilled, well-trained officer, one who is in charge of an entire theater of operations, make such comments, or allow his staff to do so, to a reporter of a paper that has been known to be a critic and opponent of the military? Frustration! Frustrating because he wants to proceed with plans that he thinks would succeed, but is limited by government officials that are not that close to what happens on the battlefront.

Let me give you an example, given me first hand, by one of our “heroes” who has been to Iraq and Afghanistan four different times.

Just this year, the military planned an all-out push to clear a certain town in Afghanistan. They announced this openly, ahead of time. Why would they give the enemy advanced knowledge? It was pretty clever. When the Taliban became aware of this, they proceeded to install several of their “roadside bombs”. Our military had those unmanned drones circling overhead, and they saw where every one of those bombs were placed, ahead of time. Now, here was the plan.

The military has an explosive device, in the shape of a rod. Several of these can be joined together, to extend the rod up to one hundred feet. When armed, this rod can be exploded all at once. Knowing where these roadside explosives were located, one of these rods was constructed and slid down the street in the city to be invaded. It would explode many of the enemies bombs, all at once, while the soldiers remained at a safe distance.

At the last minute, a command came down from the government not to explode this device, as it might harm civilians. So, what happened? A Sapper team of our soldiers had to move down the street and disarm each one of these bombs, personally, expecting any one of them to be detonated from an enemies remote position, all the while, facing the possibility of weapons fire, while they disassemble the device. And, if you have a loved one in the Farmington or Fredericktown National Guard units, you know that, that is what their job is, a Sapper. And, does this anger you to think that your loved one’s life was put in jeopardy, when he could have exploded the enemy’s bombs from a distance?

That answer is yes, and it is the same feeling that this commander, General McChrystal, must have felt, when he saw his men being killed or wounded in operations that are hampered by some government regulation or theory.

Was he wrong to criticize his superiors, including the President? Yes. But, multiply the situation mentioned above, several times, and one can see how, even a general, can become frustrated. And those courageous men and women who continue to follow orders, on the front lines, become frustrated, as well, when they know that there could be a safer way.

But, that’s the way it has been in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the more recent activities. And, I suppose, it is the way it will continue. No, we should never have the military in complete control, but the politics of dealing with our government, and the governments of other countries, certainly bring frustration to the military.

So, we must continue to pray for the safety of those men and women who continue to put their lives on the line, that we might have the freedom to speak our minds, and write articles like this in a public newspaper.

Jack W. Skinner

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