Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Jews in the Service: A Tale of Two Commands 
Well, some stories just speak for themselves.

AP: Missing Army Class for Jewish Holiday Brings Discharge

Refael and Margaret Chaiken were supposed to be seven months into a five-year Army commitment by now, studying to be much-needed interrogators in the war on terrorism. Instead, they are civilians looking for jobs.

The two were discharged after disobeying orders by skipping class so they could attend services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

"They didn't meet the requirements of the course," said Tanja Linton, a spokeswoman at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where the Chaikens were training. "You have to meet the requirements of the course. We really just don't see the story here."

She said the Army acted within its regulation on religious practices, which says it will accommodate religious practices "unless accommodation will have an adverse impact on unit readiness, individual readiness, unit cohesion, morale, discipline, safety, and/or health..."

The legal problems disappeared when they filed a complaint with the Army's Equal Opportunity Department, the couple said. They were simply given a general discharge that mentions "misconduct" as a reason behind their return to civilian life."


So what kind of defanged, pathetic Equal Opportunity Department can we possibly have that would allow this to happen?

Just to add a little illumination to this story—I’ve got two Jewish soldiers in my company. We’re terribly shorthanded, out here in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. We've already taken dozens of wounded, without replacements. But for Yom Kippur, we managed to shake these two guys loose and drive them to Division headquarters. Division freed up an entire helicopter (actually, two helicopters, since no helicopter travels alone around here), and they picked up Jewish soldiers from airstrips all over the Al Anbar province, and even out in Tikrit, and flew them all to Baghdad for Yom Kippur services. They also organized a return trip. That’s two missions that require a lot of coordination ahead of time, and a lot of staff man-hours to plan.

For some reason I can’t remember, our guys missed the flight time. The 82nd Airborne Division Commander, a two-star general, came down over the net and said a helicopter WILL be made available to take our guys to the services, even if it was just for only two soldiers.

We got them out, and they got to attend the services. It was almost five days before we got them back. They were gone so long I started to call them my “M I Oys.”

But getting them to that service was a no-brainer.

So if we were able to do that in combat, I don't think it's unreasonable for Fort Huachuca to bring in an instructor on sunday or in the evenings to help these two soldiers make up instruction missed.

See, that’s the difference between a combat commander who knows that it pays dividends to take care of troops, and a rear-echelon bureaucrat who’d rather stick two soldiers with a general discharge for the rest of their lives rather than admit to an error of judgment.

Here’s how to write your congressman.

Splash, out.


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