In academia there’s a term which is spoken of in hushed tones: Grade Inflation. It refers to the alleged slow, but steady, increase in grades by students across all sectors and abilities. It appears from some data as well as from anecdotal evidence, that it is becoming significantly more difficult to fail a student. It appears that all that matters is increasing the maximum number of maximum number of students passing each year, in an effort to bolster academic achievement and reflect positively on an institution’s record and rating in league tables.
In many ways the military is approaching their organizational superstructure with the same theory. Units that were once considered unusual, distinctive and élite, are now coming under pressure to justify that separateness which they have cultivated for so long. The US Army Rangers this past year admitted women to their training cadre and after the first wave of candidates had failed, they readmitted trainees (as is permissible under training guidelines for both sexes) and then passed two women.
However some whistleblowers claim that the women attending these courses received favourable treatment, in some occasions for months prior to the commencement of the course itself (Was It Fixed? Army General Told Subordinates: ‘A Woman Will Graduate Ranger School,’ Sources Say, www.people.com ). This would raise the questions about (a) whether or not the school’s tough attitude was ever attainable for the majority of fine soldiers who attend every year anyway, (b) was the school’s ethos cheapened by the behaviour of senior officers who had come under pressure to graduate women and (c) was it even fair to allow the women to enter the course in the first place, knowing that they had received special treatment and that any success which they had would be tainted as ‘fruit of the poisoned tree.’
I’m not for one second suggesting that women (or any ethnic/sexual group) shouldn’t be entitled to enter selection processes, just that the same standard should apply to all. I recently took GREAT umbrage at an article which described how the USAF considered a security force which travels with some of their flight crews, to be an “élite” force. ‘Verbal Judo’ was the straw that broke the camel’s back on that one; being able to speak coherently is now considered a skill. In a past life I guarded escorts and small facilities; I even managed to tell people to go away every now and then too. As a result, I’m off to collect my RANGER tab tomorrow, will I pick one up for you guys too?
This grade inflation of sorts, will bring nothing but hardship for not only the special forces community, but also for the wider military. In the 1920s in Ireland, the British government chose to recruit for and employ a mercenary force of ex-British officers. The Auxiliaries as they were known were employed in Ireland and remain the subject of great controversy and indignation to this day. They were branded a ‘corps d’élite’, yet successive scholarship has yet to find any reason for this. Another good example perhaps of the dilution of the SF concept?
I personally support the idea of an organised, codified, volunteer-only military. I believe that national service has its place, but that it should not replace a well-organised and trained professional military. I believe firmly in equality of rights and responsibilities and that all may serve (regardless of sex, orientation, creed or colour), but that all must measure up. this is the reason the SAS is not 1,000,000 strong, despite what the nameless, faceless internet would have you believe!
I would never have qualified to be in the Special Forces, hence why I did not attempt to join, nor did I claim a title I was probably not rightly entitled to, if the true meaning of the word élite was employed! What I do not support is this dilution of élite to a format whereby anyone who picked up a weapon is considered a warrior. It is unfortunately a fact that as the good book declares, many are called, but few are chosen.
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