May 19, 2008

Legitimacy and Uniforms

With the launch of he-who-should-disappear's U.S. Ranger Corps, faux militias have been a popular topic of conversation within the Civil Air Patrol community. Indeed, VA Joe and his regular visitors like to rag on these groups of volunteers almost endlessly. Some veterans there do insinuate that CAP, the USCG Auxiliary and the various SDFs are also false militaries of some kind. Of course, I believe them to be mistaken.

What separates CAP and the others from the likes of the Ranger Corps or the United States Service Command? Government charter is certainly one such requirement. However, I believe it must go further than that. I developed this criteria for a stalled project I was set to do this summer, but instead wound up working for a UAV company. However, the criteria still works. A legitimate volunteer military organization (VMO) needs to meet the following requirements
  • Are chartered by the Federal or State Governments; and are administered by such. These organizations are usually organized under a military department (such as the Air Force) or the State’s National Guard office.
  • Operate in direct support of a parent service. The parent service is the service that the organization is chartered under. For example, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is organized under the Coast Guard, making it the parent service.
  • Are made up mostly of volunteers, with those paid positions ones that are only necessary to maintain the day-to-day operations of the service. These are generally in the administrative field.
  • Operates in a non-combatant role; serving only as a humanitarian organization.
  • Perform missions the parent service cannot feasibly do itself.
These requirements were stitched together from the CAP, CG Auxiliary and the various SDFs out there. Legitimate VMOs will meet all or most of these requirements, with the only one not needing to be satisfied is the final one: "Perform missions the parent service cannot feasibly do itself." Sometimes, the organization can serve simply as a force multiplier for a mission the parent service can do, but needs additional personnel or expertise at a lower cost than bringing on additional parent-service members.

Of course, the most fundamental objection to the faux militias are their use of military style uniforms. Uniforms can be good. They bind an organization together, and create a corporateness that is needed. However, the design of the uniform is what is controversial. If they did not wear military style uniforms, would we be so willing to bash them? Probably not. The United States Homeland Emergency Response Organization (US HERO; catchy acronym, huh?) wears a uniform, but it consists of an orange shirt and black BDU pants. Non-military if there ever was one. Their mission is professed as one of life-saving and disaster support, but I don't hear nearly as much criticism of them as I do the Ranger Corps, Service Command or the Disaster Relief Command. In fact, a quick jaunt around US HERO's website and you'll find frequent training events, and a true commitment to their job. I cannot, in good conscious classify these guys as a faux militia, though perhaps a little renegade.

To be fair, I've been following the Disaster Relief Command for some time now too, and it appears to be cleaning up it's act. At least, online. True it's website is not the best, but it now boasts a Medical Battalion (on paper, at least). Their leadership have also earned the
State Guard Assiociation's Military Emergency Management Specialist badge. (I am, of course, assuming it was earned legitimately.) MEMS is a pretty good program, and I would participate if I had the time. If the DRC would only change their uniforms, I would have half a mind to check them out further. However, they still have a long way to go before I'm willing to attach my good name to them.

Put simply, CAP and our brethren are different for many reasons, not the least of which is government charter and military oversight. Should these people be commended for taking on the burden of saving lives? Only when they show a true desire to do so. With some, I will admit, I am giving the benefit of the doubt. However, I feel that's only fair.

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