Thursday, March 4, 2010
On Ann Marlowe's newish blog (to me at least), she links to an Army Times article on how GEN McChrystal has ordered the closing of a number of "morale" facilities in Afghanistan. It seems that the hardest hit will be fast food restaurants and car dealerships on major camps (the dealerships don't actually have the cars there - you order a car/motorcycle and don't have pay any taxes on them). Ms. Marlowe does not support this order as "young men and women who volunteer to server there deserve some consolations." She goes further state "taking away their little comforts isn't a substitute for a strategy."
I'm sure this order isn't all that popular with a lot of the troops. But most aren't going to care. And here's why. Fast food restaurants and car dealerships are usually on huge camps only - camps that have one or more flag officer commands on it. Camps that house that much maligned but important creature: the Fobbit. Camps that don't usually house trigger-pullers who go on patrol.
In the nearly three years I spent on and operating out of FOBs in Iraq, I never lived on a camp that had these types of establishments. Sure we had a few Iraqi-run knickknack shops that supported the local economy, but we didn't have Burger King, KFC, or a Harley dealership. There were varying reasons for each camp on why this was the case, but it wasn't really a big deal.
I'm supportive of this order (except for the dealerships which I don't really understand unless Joe is spending an inordinate amount of his time and energy buying multiple cars). Big camps with support units or general staffs became the "haves" while the more austere patrol bases and homes of maneuver units became the "have nots." These types of facilities only increased the animosity between the two groups. I also agree with GEN McChrystal that they are distractions (as pointed out by Gulliver on Twitter, he actually said "destracter", but that's another subject). While all camps, large and small, do receive indirect fire, trying to replicate the home-front in a combat zone tricks those that live on a large camp into thinking they are actually at their home stations. It causes them to lose focus on why they are there in the first place, which I think must have an effect on how they perform their duties.
The third reason I agree with this order is purely financial from a tax-payer's perspective. The contractors who run the dining facilities get paid to feed every person on that camp every meal, whether they eat there or not. Soldiers who then go and eat at these fast food places spend their own money on food when the government has already bought them food. And lots of it. It's just not financially reasonable to back your own competition.
There are going to be lots of you that disagree with me and I'm okay with that. I'm not bitter about not having BK down the street from my can or tent - I actually liked mess hall food. But any of you who have spent any time at the food court at Camp Liberty would probably agree with me - especially if you didn't live on Camp Liberty. I feel that removing these distractions will help everyone focus on the fight at hand.