Originally Posted at http://sheepdog.townhall.com on July 28, 2006
Sailors ranging from E-3 (Seaman/Airman/Fireman) to 0-6 (Captain), can now volunteer to serve in a ground-combat role as an Individual Augmentee. Candidates will undergo an intense "immersion" training session where they will learn basic combat techniques, convoy protection, etc. Then they will ship out to serve in security roles in various Navy installations, as well as to augment the Army and Marines on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I have some mixed feelings about this. First of all, I went through Navy boot camp, and I think it remains a somewhat demanding experience for most young people. However, the weapons training was minimal (I had to qualify with a 9mm pistol ... that was it), and there was no combat training, as such. Rather than combat training, Sailors spend most of boot camp learning how to fight the dangers they will face at sea on a ship: electrical and other kinds of fires as well as how to stop flooding. Every member of a warship's crew is a firefighter of some kind, and everyone is expected to know how to deal with water pouring through a hole in the hull, for example. This is not easy, mind you ... all of it requires teamwork, mental and physical strength, and the ability to endure hours clothed in firefighting gear and breathing through an OBA, often in cramped, smoke-filled corridors or overheated engine rooms. Navy Aviation-types also have to deal with dangers like JP-5 fires (not to mention getting sucked into an aircraft intake or sliced in half when an arresting cable snaps). In other words, it's tough. I'm proud of the training I went through as a Sailor and I'm proud of all the young men and women out there at sea. They might not be getting shot at every day,but the dangers they do face are not insignificant, and they do us all proud.
That said ... ground combat is an entirely different animal. It occurs to me that your average Soldier on the ground in Iraq would be about as happy to see a Sailor fresh from a two-week combat course fumbling with his M-16 and tagging along on patrol, as I would have been to see a Soldier fresh from Iraq fumbling with his firefighting gear and trying to find his battle-station with the 1-MC wailing and multiple Silkworms inbound.