The Best Defense

Bergdahl and more (I): The Army haunted by recruiting mistakes of last decade

With Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arriving on American soil earlier today, you all might be interested in a conversation I have been following among several current and former Army officers about how recruiting mistakes made during the height of the Iraq war have come back to haunt the Army.

First, from my friend Crispin Burke:

"Looking back at many of the Soldier scandals of the past few years, a common theme is that they should have either never been brought onto active duty, or should have been kicked out of the service a long time ago.  But those were the standards back in 2004-2009 or so.  Cases in point:

Manning -- Outbursts of violence, screaming, punched his female company commander in the face... chain of command warned not to deploy him. 

Hasan -- Poor performance, clear evidence of his political views.  PCSed to Fort Hood.

Morlock  -- Marijuana smoking, went AWOL to avoid a drug test, allowed to deploy.

Bergdahl -- Washed out of Coast Guard Basic Training

Bales -- Multiple arrests due to alcohol-related issues.  Hit-and-Run accident... never kicked out of the service, goes on to murder about a dozen Afghans."

Tom again, now quoting another friend with experience inside Army recruiting:

"I commanded the Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion.

As the battalion commander, most of the waiver requests came to me.  In LA, I did a whole bunch for tattoos, drug use, and gang affiliation.

One applicant came to me for a marijuana waiver.  These were very routine. If we disqualified every kid in LA who ever smoked pot, there would be precious few enlistments.

His application said that he had tried marijuana twice.  In the mandatory interview, I asked him how much he smoked.  'Three times a day.' 'For how long?'  'About two years.'

I disapproved the waiver.  In my mind, it was a fraudulent enlistment because I knew it to contain false information.  This started the clock on 30 days that had to pass before he could resubmit.  I told him to redo the paperwork, be honest about everything in it, and come back.  I stood him in front of the "Integrity" poster from the set of Army Values posters in my battalion headquarters and told him this was the standard to join the Army.

Not an hour later, my brigade commander called to chew me out because I had deviated from the Army requirements for enlistment, which did not include honesty.  He told me that the recruit would learn that in basic training. Oh, and that I had just screwed the recruiter.  (Of course, this was the recruiter who I knew damn well coached him on what to put on his enlistment application.)

A month later, he returned with fresh paperwork.  I granted the waiver. I then called his parents, put them on the speaker phone in my office and congratulated them on having a son who was going to become a Soldier. They were all crying like babies.

This incident contributed to LA Recruiting Battalion being my last assignment in the Army.  But I think I helped a young man turn a corner in his personal life, and hopefully become a good Soldier."

U.S. Army via Getty Images

The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Canadian Mounty Police Dog Mourns His Fallen Handler

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

On June 4, three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were gunned down when a reported madman went on a shooting spree in Mocton, a city in eastern Canada. K-9 handler Dennis Ross was one of the officers killed.

This week a funeral service was held for these officers and Ross's canine partner, Danny, was in attendance. Photos of Danny at the service, like the one above, have been making headlines and pulling heartstrings. One report said that during the service, Danny "whimpered" by the casket and another reported that during the funeral process the dog "jumped up to sniff Ross' RCMP stetson" as a final good-bye.

Danny, the three-year-old German Shepherd, was partnered with Ross in December 2012, though their formal training only began in April 2013. Though they weren't together long, their bond was a strong one. Ross's wife remarked on how close the pair was and said that she felt her husband would want his partner to keep on their work with another handler:

"'Anytime Danny barked at home, it would be to get Dave to open the truck door so they could go to work,' she said. ... 'It wouldn't be fair to Danny to retire him as he loved his work as much as Dave did.'"

Anyone who has had a dog knows that they grieve the loss of humans (and animals) they loved. These photos of Danny call to mind the footage of Hawkeye, the dog belonging to Jon Tumilson, a Navy Seal who "was killed in Afghanistan when his Chinook helicopter was hit by enemy fire on Aug. 6, [2011]." During Tumilson's funeral the dog "wandered over to his owner's flag-draped coffin and lay beside it throughout the service."

A video titled "Danny's Doing Well" posted on June 11, shows Danny chasing a ball in a stream -- just being a young, happy dog.

REUTERS/Mark Blinch