Saturday, January 14, 2006

"You wouldn't think it takes a lot of intelligence..." 
Slate's Kaplan - who normally is better than this - wades into unfamiliar territory and falls flat on his face:

The evidence is overwhelming. Take tank gunners. You wouldn't think intelligence would have much effect on the ability to shoot straight, but apparently it does.

See, this is where having a veteran on staff - better yet, someone with some experience in gunnery - would have kept Kaplan from making an ass of himself.

In reality, gunnery is tough. And good tank gunnery (and Bradley gunnery and .50 cal gunnery and sniper gunnery and mortar gunnery and artillery gunnery and naval gunnery) involves a hell of a lot more involved than simply keeping a little red dot on a target.

Top quality gunnery requires a tremendous mechanical aptitude, an ability to follow complex directions in the huge -10 manual for the M1-tank (so big it comes in two three-inch-thick volumes, plus updates) and a facility with a less-than-user-friendly tank gunnery computer.

The reason a tank gun can hit a speck-sized target at 2500 meters isn't because of what happens on the range. It's because of the maintenance and tank gunnery skills of the crew in the days and weeks and months before the tank even rolls up to the ready line.

Look, I've got a 4-year degree, and standardized test scores put my IQ in the top 3 percent or so of the population. Not that I'm that smart - I just do well at multiple-choice tests.

In fact, I KNOW I'm not that smart - because I've been a tank commander, and passing the Tank Crew Gunnery Skills Test - especially boresighting the main gun within the alloted time - was one of the toughest tasks I've had to do in the army.

But my gunner, SGT Edwards, didn't go to college, as far as I know. He wasn't learned, particularly, but had common sense. More than that, he worked his ass off, and he practically lived in the tank. He could boresight the main gun in his sleep.

The mechanical-spacial aptitude it takes to become a top-notch tanker is on par with any profession - and for Kaplan to even suggest that anybody can do it belies a tremendous amount of intellectual snobbery.

It's as if he thinks being a national writer involves nothing more than typing skills. "You wouldn't think it takes a lot of intelligence to type a national-quality magazine article - but apparently it does."

At any rate, I'll take a Cat III or IV soldier who follows directions, busts his ass, and shows up up on time any day over a Cat I soldier who thinks he's too good for the Army. Hell, I've even had a few Cat V's. I've let some of them go - and some of them turned out to be great soldiers. You just need to know how to use them and employ them in accordance with their capabilities. Some of them will work their hearts out for you, God bless' em.

Oh, and speaking of Cat V, who was the muddlebrain that came up with the "GI Schmo" headline? Is that REALLY the best Slate's editors can do?

What was wrong with "'Special' Forces?" "Dumb and Gunner?" "Very Basic Training?" "Welcome to the Army, Mr. Gump?"

You guys need to hire some better editors.

Maybe you could hire a vet? Jus' sayin,' dude.

Splash, out


"Not that I'm that smart - I just do well at multiple-choice tests."

Ah yes - the Scantron Gene - I have it too!
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