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Admiral Ronny Jackson: As Qualified to Head the V.A. as Tom Cruise is to Command the Top Gun School

Dr. Ronny Jackson Briefing

Note: this Post was written before Admiral Jackson withdrew his name from nomination.

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

President Trump foolishly nominated the White House Physician, Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Ronny Jackson to head the Veterans Administration. That nomination is in the process of coming apart as allegations by over 20 current and former military personnel which detail of Admiral Jackson’s abusive leadership, drunken rampages, and careless dispensing of controlled substances including opioids has come to light. If any of those allegations are true he should not only be removed from consideration for the Veterans Administration position but he should be forced out of the service.

But even if none of those allegations are true Admiral Jackson in completely unqualified to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

From a career standpoint Admiral Jackson is an oddity in military medicine. Most officers who rise to the rank of General or Admiral in the Medical Corps, Medical Service Corps, or Nurse Corps earn their rank in a variety of demanding assignments of increasing responsibility after they are promoted to the grade of Major or Lieutenant Commander in their respective services. Most combine clinical, administrative, and command assignments, serve on combat deployments, and spend extra time to do advanced fellowships in their medical field, or obtain degrees in Medical Administration, Business, or subjects like Ethics. Quite a few take the time to earn higher military education at schools like the Naval War College, Army Command and Staff and War College, the Air War College, or Marine command and Staff College.

Their assignments usually encompass commands of clinics, field hospitals, hospitals, major medical centers, and medical regions which cover half of the United States. The men and women who go through this process have to understand the extremely complicated world of the military and civilian medical systems, insurance programs, veterans medical benefits, and Medicare. These are men and women who are exceptional, honed in combat and erudite enough to understand the complexities of the Veterans Administration. Having served two full tours in Naval Medicine as a Chaplain I know a lot of them and could name five Flag Officers from the Medical Corps and the Medical Service Corps, active duty and retired off the top of my head who would be excellent candidates for the position, as well as a number of exceptional Navy Captains. All of them are far more qualified than Admiral Jackson.

Admiral Jackson has never been in charge of anything more than a medical clinic, the White House is his second clinic assignment despite its rather high profile patient base. From all accounts he is an excellent Emergency Medicine physician, he is a qualified Navy Diver, and he has served in a combat setting caring for the wounded during some of the bloodiest times in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province. That being said he has served in the insular and politicized world of the White House for 12 years, during which time he was promoted to Captain and later Rear Admiral. The White House clinic is the largest that he has ever commanded, a mere 70 people. When I was a 25 year old Army Medical Service Corps First Lieutenant I commanded a Medical Company overseas of 110 soldiers, most of them medics.  When I was a 27 year old Captain I served as a personnel officer for the largest Medical training organization in the U.S. Military. Neither qualify me to command a hospital or oversee an agency as vast as the V.A.

I’m sorry, but by any means that is not a career path that should lead to an appointment that would oversee the largest medical system in the nation.

That my friends is reality even if there were no allegations of abusive conduct or careless distribution of controlled medications; allegations detailed by the Inspector General in 2012 which resulted in a recommendation for his relief and reassignment which did not happen. However, Admiral Jackson is white, male, and Hollywood good looking, and exactly the kind of man that the President hyperventilates about, especially when they engage in hyperbole and lies to describe his physical condition. Admiral Jackson is as qualified to head the Veteran’s Administration as Tom Cruise is to Command the Top Gun School.

Admiral Jackson is not qualified for the head of the Veterans Administration or any higher post in Navy Medicine. His nomination should be immediately withdrawn instead of being allowed to become yet another disgusting political spectacle designed to polarize the nation.

If the GOP Congress had any balls, which they don’t but can be purchased at the National’s Shop, they would tell the President right now to drop this nomination like his trousers at a Playboy Club party.

The President set himself and Admiral Jackson up for this and if he has any sense of honor he would end it now and go back to the drawing board to pick a truly qualified person. Like I said I can name five off the top of my head, he can ask me for recommendations if he wants, and if he picked any of them they would make him and the nation proud.

This isn’t about politics. It is about qualifications and character. Admiral Jackson certainly lacks the qualifications, and very likely the character needed to serve in such a responsible position involving the care of millions of veterans. I’m a combat veteran, and all veterans deserve better.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Hollywood and Recruiting Since Vietnam

I have been thinking about how Hollywood occasionally helps military recruiting in the post-Vietnam and all-volunteer era.

Back in World War II Hollywood Moguls signed on to further the war effort with films which were entertaining but also inspiring to those on the home front.  Films like Wake Island, they Were Expendable, Destination Tokyo, The Fighting Sullivans, the Flying Tigers, The Memphis Belle (1943), and Thirty Seconds over Tokyo all helped bolster the war effort.  Stars like Jimmy Stewart served in combat.  These were the high tide of patriotic war films.  In the post war era more films about the war were made until Vietnam made war films a riskier proposition for studios.  With the exception of The Green Berets and a few Second World War themed films such as The Longest Day, In Harms Way, The Battle of the Bulge and Patton war films became much more anti-war and often anti-military.  Such films as Catch 22, M*A*S*H, Go Tell the Spartans, Kelly’s Heroes showed this while films like Platoon, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home showed the dark side of Vietnam.

In the 1970s some films like Midway began the return of film makers to more positive looks at the military. After the election of Ronald Reagan Hollywood began to produce more military themed films.  Some were fully endoresed by the Department of Defense and others not.  Some were designed to make the miltary look good and well, some which were not intended to do so had the opposite effect.

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The most successful of these films dealt with the Navy and Marine Corps, those dealing with the Army and Air Force were not as successful, though the Iron Eagle series with Louis Gossett Jr. had a pretty good run.  Films like Top Gun thrilled young audiences with both the story of Naval Aviators, a great musical score and some really hot and sensual scenes.  The Hunt for Red October was another thriller in which Tom Clancy made the Navy look great.  An Officer and a Gentleman had some of the most memorable Drill Sergeant scenes of any film, with Louis Gossett Jr. in the role of Gunnery Sergeant Foley destroying and rebuilding a class of OCS candidates led by Richard Gere.

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Once again a good story well acted and some great love scenes and musical score made this appeal to the younger generation.  I was across the Puget Sound when this was being filmed having my own ass ripped by an Army Special Forces, Ranger and Vietnam veteran Drill Sergeant.  I could relate to Richard Gere crying “I’m not going to DOR, I’ve got nowhere else to go.” Thank you Sergeant First Class Harry Ball for making me a better person by destroying all preconceptions that I had about myself and rebuilding me.  Judy when she first saw the movie asked if I had a Puget Sound Deb but alas, I did not.  I was too busy cleaning latrines with a toothbrush for any extra-curricular activities even if I was so inclined. Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ridge was a positive portrayal of a Marine taking over a Recon Platoon before going into Grenada.

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A Few Good Men was not supposed to be a film that made the Marines look good.  Director Rob Reiner attempted to get permission of the Marines to film at Guantanamo Bay but was unable to do so because of the script.  The film turned out to be a cult classic among many Marines.  Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Colonel Nathan Jessup became a hit.  The line You ant the Truth, you can’t handle the truth!” followed by the rest of the speech is classic.  The character that Nicholson was based on was a real CO of Gitmo.  He was relieved after about a year into his two year tour.  A former CO of mine who served under that man at another duty station said that officers and enlisted alike lived in fear of him. More recent films such as Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers HBO mini-series brought positive attention to the men of the greatest generation.  Films about Iraq have varied.  Perhaps the best is Taking Chance with Kevin Bacon playing a Marine LtCol. escorting the body of a young Marine killed in action home.

So it is interesting to see how Hollywood sometimes helps and sometimes hurts recruiting.  We’ll have to see what the next batch of war films turn out to be like.

Peace, Steve+

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