Sunday, July 10, 2016

Baxter Black: 21st century citizen soldiers

The term “citizen soldier” applies to an army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers, like Vietnam War enlistees and draftees that served their 2 years and were released to go back to their previous life. It also applies to the National Guard.

There is another group of citizens that I think deserve a similar recognition. The many thousands of citizens who work for the private contractors in the Mideast fighting the War on Terror. Granted, they get paid more but they receive no medals for bravery, not much recognition for their service, no Veteran’s benefits, yet they are indispensable to any victory we might achieve.

The reason they are needed is because America’s armed forces have shrunk to their smallest number in modern history. Less than 1 percent of our population volunteers to serve. In our small church, in our small town, we always seem to have a handful of young men working "overseas" for private contractors. Some have a military background and some don’t.

The most prominent description of the service offered by private contractors is “providing security.” Which, of course, is what military soldiers do. These unsung citizen soldiers are used by our government to fill the "soldier gap." Their contributions range from combat in the field, transport, construction, high technology, personnel, command and control and training U.S. and allied military soldiers.

At this stage of the War on Terror, the use of UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, drones to us civilians) has become critical. Young men from my little town, my little church, sign up with the private contractors, go to training school and then ship off to the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq. Back home we recognize them for their service.

We pray for them. We help their wives and children to endure. And we wait.

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