10 February 2012

Army Wife: She's Just Not That Into Us

I hope never to become the type of writer who sees fit only to comment upon the works of others, or who attempts to increase readership by stirring up trouble, passions, and hurt feelings. Instead, I try to keep a tight shot-group, aiming my attentions to fall squarely within these oft-cited parameters:
  • To illuminate ways in which citizen-soldiers past and present—as well as their families—can be remembered, supported, and celebrated.
Since embedding last year with the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT) in Eastern Afghanistan, and bearing witness to its comings and goings, I've been monitoring the actions of units related by lineage, action, and downrange geography:
  • Minnesota's 1-34th BCT (also a "Red Bull" division unit, deployed to Kuwait until later this summer.)
I've also been struggling, alongside my past and present Red Bull buddies, with issues of homecoming and service. I've found myself grappling with topics such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.); citizen-soldier unemployment and homelessness; and, most broadly, whether or not the sacrifices of our soldiers, families, and friends really amount to more than a hill of beans.

Despite my reservations regarding the evils of commenting on the news, three recent stories have provided examples around which to explore these topics:

U.S. Army Reserve Cpl. Jesse Thorsen, 28, who made the mistake of wearing an Army Combat Uniform (A.C.U.) and speaking at a nationally televised political rally in Iowa last month. Thorsen's actions offered an opportunity to reflect upon this dilemma: How does a citizen-soldier appropriately engage a political discourse that is often too-lacking in boots-on-the-ground experiences and insights?

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, 48, who decided to go directly to Congress with his opinions and analysis of conditions in Afghanistan. Davis' decision offered an opportunity to reflect upon this question: What are a soldier's responsibilities to reconcile what he has seen downrange with what political leaders and military generals are telling the public?

To this list, now add Army spouse and blogger "Catie," who, in a relatively short number of words on Feb. 8, managed this week to punch any number of emotional hot buttons regarding the U.S. National Guard. Catie is reportedly a relatively young wife of an active-duty U.S. Army recruiter stationed in Vermont, a state in which, as she observes and complains, there are no federal Army posts. Here's a quick sampling of her insights:
The Guard ACUs are almost exactly the same as [active-duty] Army, and many civilians (and myself) don't understand a lot of the differences in company patches. [...]

The National Guard spouses around here like to refer to themselves as 'Army Wives'. They aren't. They are wives of Guardsmen or "Guard Wife". I am the wife of an active duty, federal soldier. That being said, the Hubs is not a Marine, he is not a Sailor, he is not an Airman. Call a Marine's wife an Army wife and see what happens. They will correct you as quickly as I will correct you. A dog is not a cat, it'll never meow. [...]

He is not a regular army Soldier, you are not an Army wife. It's nothing to be ashamed of. [...]

I'm just trying to point out the blatant differences between a Vermont Guard member, and a United States Soldier. [...]

As I said before, Vermont Guard is a State Militia [...] [Note: This is in a state that has both a National Guard and a State Militia, and that saw the combat deployment of more than 1,500 citizen-soldiers to Afghanistan in 2009-2010.]
To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, "If your blood-pressure is up, having read any of Catie's words, you just might be a National Guard soldier. Or married to one."

This goes beyond good-natured inter-service or Big Army/Small Army rivalry. She doesn't seem to realize that some National Guard personnel—recruiters are one small example—go to work each day in uniform, full-time. She fails to acknowledge that National Guard personnel regularly attend Army drills, schools, and deployments in excess of the old "one weekend a month, two weeks a year" model. She gets a lot of jargon wrong. (Examples: It's an Army "post," not a "base." And there is no such item on an Army uniform as a "company patch.")

Perhaps Catie is purposefully "trolling," and trying to get a rise out of people to increase her readership. (In support of this theory: She notably labelled her post "Stirring the Pot ...") Perhaps she (and her soldier-husband, who defended her post in a now-removed comments section) really are out of step and tune with the U.S. National Guard.

Either way, Catie provides a good example of a continuing bad trend. Even with more than 10 years of repeated combat deployments; even with the cultural and technological transformation of the National Guard into an operational reserve, which at one time bore nearly 50 percent of the Army's combat deployments to Iraq; and despite the continued challenges of addressing the needs of decentralized populations of soldiers, families, wounded warriors, and veterans, some people just aren't that into us:
  • Active-duty soldiers who argue they don't need to salute National Guard officers.
  • Army wives who think there's more to be gained by focusing on differences than by supporting each other—and our soldiers, regardless of the patches we wear.


News update: "Command Apologies for Anti-Guard Comments" at SpouseBUZZ blog.

See also: Recruiting Station Burlington, Vt. command-team response regarding "Army Wife" blog post.


  1. Great blog! I tried to comment on 'Caties' blog the other day after you posted it yesterday, but apparently, she didn't want anymore constructive criticism on her page. Its a shame, someone could have actually taught her something.

  2. Interesting. This blogger appears to believe that being married to 'regular' army gives her a certain status and that it 'burns her biscuits' when us lowly guard wives believe we have equal status. The blog comes off as though her position in life rests solely on her husband being in the army. What is that poor woman going to do when her husband retires from the military? I am the proud wife of a Iowa National Guardsman who was deployed last year and injured while deployed. My husband and all National Guardsmen and their wives deserve much more respect than this woman believes we do. I pity her and her narrow-minded ideals. Too bad she does not understand, as this lowly National Guard wife does, that her behavior is a direct reflection on her husband.

  3. I'll just assume that that "Army Wife" is just a little dumb. As a "Guard" soldier, we not only had to keep our full time jobs when deployed, but hope our familes back home could get by on their own because when I deployed, the state of Calif only had a few full time family support folks for a state who's Guard units were bigger than most countries armies.
    We were told several times "One Army, One fight" but some attitudes of some (not all) reg army folks didn't seem to go along with that idea. At some times in Iraq, I had a mix of Guard and reserve soldiers from several states and ACTIVE duty soldiers I was in charge of. I don't think the reg army would have put a "guard" NCO in charge of reg army soldiers if they didn't think that NCO could do the job.


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