Sunday, February 10, 2008

Toledo Mayor Kicks Out Marines

NBC24 News reported yesterday that the Mayor of Toledo, Ohio, canceled a Marine urban-warfare training exercise in his town.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner on Friday ordered some 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines from Grand Rapids, Michigan, out of Toledo just before the unit was supposed to start a weekend of urban warfare training downtown.

The mayor’s spokesperson, Brian Schwartz said, “The mayor asked them to leave because they frighten people. He did not want them practicing and drilling in a highly visible area."

Toledo police said they knew about the training and had approved the unit’s use of the Madison Building and the Promenade Park area. The training was scheduled to start Friday afternoon and last until Sunday. Police said the unit’s presence would have a minimal impact on the city. Police issued a press release earlier in the week saying the Marines would be wearing green camouflage uniforms, operate military vehicles, carry rifles, perform foot patrols, and fire blank ammunition during the exercise.

It sounds like a case of lack of clear communication between an anti-military mayor and the police department, who had a change of leadership since the previous time the Marines trained in Toledo.

The comments are what interested me, beyond the story itself. Of course, there were the usual suspects commenting, from "The mayor is stupid!" on one side, to "This is all just a case of getting the citizens ready for the coming martial law by the oppressive government!" on the other (my paraphrases). Two comments made excellent points.

Why Marines Needed Toledo

Several posts (sadly, even from former military) questioned why the Marines could not have trained on a military post. As a former Marine and retired Army Reserve officer, I can explain. First, the Marine Corps Reserve has battalions with companies or even detachments spread across a number of states, so there is a lot of travel involved just to get the entire battalion to train as a unit. In this case, although most of the soldiers came from units in Michigan, Weapons Company of 1/24 is from Toledo, so at least part of the battalion called Toledo home. Second, the Marine Corps has only two major combat unit bases in the USA (Camp Pendleton, CA and Camp Lejeune, NC), three air stations (Cherry Point/New River, Beaufort, and Miramar) and one major training ground training area (Twentynine Palms, CA) and a bombing range in Yuma, AZ, which are all a long ways from Michigan and Ohio. They might be able to use Army facilities, but needless to say, the Army has "first dibs" on those, and even if they were available they're still not within a day's convoy from Michigan. As it is, when units conduct three-day "weekends," the first day is a load-up and travel day, and the final day is travel and put gear away day; this leaves only one full day of training, so it's important to find somewhere close. Finally, urban training is not just about clearing a single building. It's that plus patrolling streets with an eye out for IEDs at ground level and snipers from windows and rooftops of buildings on both sides--see "Black Hawk Down" for an idea of what urban combat is (a senior medic in my unit in Iraq cut his teeth in Somalia in 1993 and was portrayed in the movie). An old school or an old mall is NOT urban warfare training. This whole affair brings to mind a slogan some Marine scrawled on a wall in Iraq: "America is not at war. The Marine Corps* is at war. America is at the mall." Not to mention, the current mayor of Toledo is out to lunch. Can America not make even such a small sacrifice to allow the Marines use of a part of town for a day+ if it saves even one Marine's life? (*along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and even the Coast Guard.)

— Joseph Maguire, Sarnia, Ontario

In the reporting of the battle between mayor and police/military, sometimes the practical military-readiness needs are neglected. It's good that Mr. Maguire provided that background.

Thank the Marines - Don't insult them

It is interesting to note that the two left-wing paranoids who defended the mayor's actions are both from California. No surprise there.

I was told a story today by a major who served a tour of heavy combat in Iraq. In one engagment his armored patrol entered a town, right into a well planned trap. The insurgents opened up on them from the front, sides, windows, doors and rooftops, with automatic weapons fire and RPGs. They immediately blocked the street the patrol entered, thus preventing a withdrawal and reinforcements. So much antiaircraft was set up that resupply was impossible.

As the battle raged the major noticed that one of the two 50-caliber machine guns mounted on vehicles behind him was not firing, so he yelled to a sergeant to go back and check out the gunner, find out if he was dead or wounded and needed a medic, then man the gun himself. What the sergeant found stunned him. The gunner had climbed down off his gun emplacement because he spotted a naked girl of about seven years old standing up against the building next to him, shaking with fright. The gunner took off his protective armor, then his T-shirt, which he put on the little girl like a dress. Then he took his belt and put it around her to pull it in at the waist. Finally he put her in a place of safety and only then put his armor back on and once more manned his machine gun.

That is the type of people we have serving in our military, the best America has to offer...and the mayor of Toledo has shown us that those brave people of character are too good to serve in Toledo. If the people of Toledo want that guy for a mayor, they deserve him. Not a nickel of my money will ever be spent again in Fifth Third Stadium, any bar or restaurant, and if possible, any Ohio gas station. The despicable action by that mayor should not be left to fade away.

— Gary Lillie, Ann Arbor, MI

Mr. Lillie is right. That is the type of people we have serving in our military. Even though many of the commenters suggested that the Marines (or any branch of the military or National Guard) should tell Toledo to take a hike if they were ever in need of protection (eg, after a terrorist attack), the quality of the character of our military is greater than that kind of pettiness. The Marines would still defend Toledo (and Berkeley) if the need ever arose.

I pity small-minded people like Mayor Finkbeiner.

No comments: