Public Forum, Pro
Marines are Americans, Too--Our armed forces need to keep prepared so they can do what we pay them to do.
Thursday, February 25, 1999
The broad generalizations made in "Guess Who''s Coming to Dinner" >(CW Jan. 28) were one-sided. First, I agree with Mr. Cohn, Monterey''s deputy city manager, who supports the Marines'' March 13 training exercise in Monterey. This is indeed necessary, and a great opportunity for the community to see firsthand how an attack of this nature could affect them. Should the City Council have been kept informed from the beginning? Probably, but all the necessary bases seem to be covered between Mr. Cohn and the Marine Corps.
Why is the public oblivious to the fact that a biological or chemical terrorist attack could happen here and destroy a population the size of Monterey in a matter of days? I am not trying to be an alarmist by any means, but the fact is that this country is in jeopardy of receiving a biological or chemical attack in the future and we are completely underprepared. Let''s say that it does happen, then what? Whom do you think will be blamed for not being prepared? I can see the media questions fly already: Why didn''t the military know in advance that this was coming? Why weren''t we prepared, etc.? Where do you think the public will seek shelter? Guess who''s coming to dinner at every military post and National Guard Armory in the nation on that night?
Why does the public feel threatened by the military? In my experience, the only mission of the military has been to protect the nation. The men and women of the armed forces are just like everyone else except they work longer hours, for significantly less pay.
I would like to address the environmental concerns. I cannot tell you how many times my husband has come home from a training exercise stating that there was either not enough training or no training at all due to the environmental hazards. Many times, training halted due to a species of bird in danger of becoming extinct, or the level of noise pollution would possibly become too loud, etc. So what did the military do? They either went elsewhere to avoid the damage, or cancelled the training altogether and trained on computer simulators. I do not feel safe or protected sending inexperienced soldiers to any type of military action, only having been trained on a computer or worse yet, not at all. I especially do not feel comfortable sending my husband off to war with them either.
I would also like to point out that the Marines have voluntarily opted to cooperate with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. All necessary precautions are being implemented to avoid any damage.
Why does the public think of the military as gun-toting oafs who are trigger-happy and as dumb as a box of rocks? If you carefully researched every training exercise of this sort for quite some time, I think that you would find that more often than not, the military has chosen to cooperate with the local governments. In addition, this is not a large-scale operation. There are only about 200 Marines involved. A large-scale operation would constitute at least 3,000 to 5,000 people.
As for Mr. Willson, his comment about Col. [Oliver] North simply has no relevance to this exercise. This is real life, not the movie The Siege. This is nothing more than a training exercise, not a plot to overthrow the government. I do not believe that the military in any way is eroding the principle that it not be involved in law enforcement. The Marines are working with local law enforcement, not against it. The military is simply preparing to defuse a potentially hazardous situation as well as train local agencies in the latest nuclear-biological-chemical technologies.
In conclusion, this exercise will not cause any harm to this community but it will strengthen it and prepare it for the future.
Donna Kalloch is a Monterey resident married to a U.S. Army infantry officer studying at the Naval Postgraduate School.