I know a number of graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. Most of them are Vietnam veterans who attended the Academy in the late 50's. I lived there for a time. The news that Army fired its football coach on Sunday because he has failed to beat Navy for 5 straight years, says a little something about the Army, the Wars, and the Army Student Athlete in time of war.
I don't believe that Army's football coach has failed because he didn't try hard enough or because he wasn't good enough. I suspect he ran into a problem that cannot be resolved at the Coach's level. I wonder how much of his failure to win is due to the pool of recruits he can convince to sign up to come play football at the collegiate home of the organization responsible not just for killing star football player turned soldier Pat Tillman, but for spending years lying about it and covering it up. Prospective football players knew just how the Army treated a star athlete and the despicable way they lied about it starting in 2004. The last pre-Tillman cadet player graduated in 2008.
I don't think Army enjoyed much success recruiting star football players to come and play for the Army because they know enough to know that upon graduation from West Point they are going to spend years deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Years away from home, family, civilization, women, a relaxing beer at the end of the day, women, the NFL, football team recruiters, women. The military has been working extra hard to make sure that monastic warriors toe the party line and never drink, fool around, have sex, smoke, party to excess or slip the surly bonds of discipline as cherished and expressed by Top NCOs.
It's not much of a life in the military anymore. If the 10 brainiest people in America sat down with the cruelest petty tyrants in the entire world and thought of ways to make life in the military unattractive and pointless, they could not hope to do better than our military leaders have over the last 13 years. They started out with discouraging behavior they thought was 'inappropriate' such as drinking, going to clubs, drinking, smoking, smooching, sex, drugs, nationalism. Then they outright banned going to clubs, drinking, smoking, smooching, sex, drugs and nationalism. Then they got downright vicious about making life in the military as unpleasant and crappy as they possibly could. It wasn't always so.
There is a whole galaxy of difference between the lifestyle we enjoyed as youngsters and the grim institutional grey prudishness of the military today. Even I can hear it faintly; the tremulous little echos of the nannies who run the military today whispering, "it's bad for you." I wouldn't go to West Point even with the Wars finally winding down. Now the graduates can still enjoy all the institutional shall-nots imposed by, "people who know better than you," and settle down to nothing but garrison duties unrelieved by any chance of getting away to go and kill someone who desperately needs killing.