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After Pensacola Shootings, It’s Time to Put Our Service Members First

The author, a former special operator with SEAL Team Ten, Echo Platoon, shares his blunt assessment of the Florida tragedy — and recommendations for moving forward

The recent shootings at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, that took the lives of three of our sailors and injured eight others is just the latest example of failed military leadership.

The 10-plus members of the Royal Saudi Air Force — pieces of human garbage, in my opinion — who participated in this or had knowledge of these attacks are ultimately to blame, of course.

Related: Naval Ensign Died a Hero — Annapolis Mourns a Tremendous Loss

However, the U.S. military brass is also responsible for a repetition of these occurrences, including those at Ft. Hood, at the Navy Yard, in Chattanooga, at Pearl Harbor and many more.

I wanted to let the dust and emotions settle before sharing my analysis of the awful events of Dec. 6, 2019 in Pensacola.

First and foremost, why can’t someone who is trained to use — and who is issued — tanks, helicopters and rocket launchers in war zones not carry their guns on U.S. soil on military bases? The people who seek to do harm to us bring their guns, so the rules make our service members sitting ducks.

Should U.S. military commanders allow service members to be armed on U.S. bases?

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There is no acceptable answer other than changing policy. U.S. base commanders have been given the ability to allow service members to carry on their base — and to date, to my knowledge, zero have allowed it.

So it would be fair, in my mind, to charge the COs of any base that experiences an attack, at a minimum, of criminal negligence.

Is it not a violation of the Second Amendment that we swore to support and defend? The fact that the local Sheriff’s Department had to respond (in the Pensacola case) to a shooting on a military base should embarrass everyone at the Pentagon.

This debate is over.

Second, there is the discussion of foreign nationals in American military programs. Having been a Navy SEAL myself and worked with a great many military counterparts from foreign nations, I can say definitely that it is not in America’s best interest to let most countries train with us.

Now before the heads of social justice warriors explode, let me tell you why.

The only goal should be for absolute military readiness for American soldiers — full stop.

The inclusion of foreign services is not new, but it has rarely, if ever, benefited the U.S. service members’ educations.

America has the best, most advanced military in the world, hands down. With rare exception, the foreign nationals attending our specialized programs such as the ones in flight training in Pensacola are often unprepared, unable and sometimes unwilling to legitimately complete the programs they attend — but that doesn’t stop much of our ranking brass from pushing them through and graduating them anyway.

This is an undue burden for our soldiers during stressful situations and sometimes life-and-death training. So why do it?

Related: Open Letter from Former SEAL to Navy Command: SEALs Aren’t the Problem — Leadership Is

When I asked this question back in 2010, the answer from SEAL Admiral Edward G. Winters was, “It’s customary for us to partake in training with our counterparts.” Basically he had no idea why, but it’s always been done — so they were going to keep doing it.

The selection of these individuals and their inclusion in U.S.-based military programs is generally done at the discretion of the foreign nation. The U.S. simply provides them a number of open billets or spots.

In many countries, that choice is not made in a meritocracy but rather because of social status. In my BUD/S (SEAL training) class in 2004, among the four foreign service members in our group were two Egyptian officers. I would not have picked these two for my kickball team, let alone for advanced, live fire drills, navigation or other high-risk evolutions, but yet they were there — to stay.

They were Egyptian royalty chosen by their political class — yet they could barely swim, did not even come close to having the needed physical standards, and were not accustomed to training alongside with or taking instruction from enlisted members.

They could not be disciplined by instructors and were not required to complete extra duties or even meet many of the basic standards that would have gotten every other student dropped from the program. So it begs the question again: How does the U.S. military benefit?

From my many discussions over the last week or so with friends who are pilots and have attended flight programs alongside the Saudis, I’ve found their experience with the Egyptians is not much different from mine. Though I’ve never worked with any Saudi counterparts, I have yet to find anyone from among the almost three dozen pilots I’ve spoken to who can offer a positive account of their experience.

The solution seems simple: Investigate any and all foreign members, determine who knew what and/or participated in what happened, and charge and sentence them — here in America.

I bring this up not to denigrate other services, but to give perspective to those who have not experienced these partnerships.

I’m sure readers are asking: Why do we even allow these partnerships? Because Saudi Arabia buys military equipment from us? Because some lobbyist wants to score a win for their foreign client?

The Department of Defense is in the business of war, not appeasement — not political favors, but putting bullets in bad guys.

We have diplomats for diplomacy, ambassadors for negotiations and aid, and an entire State Department committed to foreign relations.

Let them do their jobs — and let the military do ours.

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meet the author

Carl Higbie was a special operator with SEAL Team Ten, Echo Platoon. He deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He published his first memoir, “Battle on the Homefront,” shortly after his second deployment. He is a regular contributor on Fox News and CNN. Higbie ran for Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District in 2014. He resides in Connecticut.

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