Signs of a Backbone?

The Office of the Secretary of Defense hasn’t been as silent about the Army’s flaunting of DoD policy as we thought.

Contrary to the “this is a DoD policy” spin that Army spokespeople like to claim, the Department of Defense does not approve of the “Alternative Service (lol) Option.” This was apparent to anyone (other than Army homers) who read the original policy. Now, even those people will have a hard time spinning this:

David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, sent the memo to the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force on April 30 — three days after Campbell was drafted and Army’s program became national news. The subject of the two-paragraph memo is “Policy for Academy and ROTC Graduates Seeking to Participate in Professional Sports Before Completion of the Active Duty Service Obligations.”

The memo “retransmits” the Department of Defense policy issued in August and states it is “a policy that remains in force and may not be supplemented.” It goes on to say that “constructs for ‘active duty’ service should not include arrangements typically unavailable to others in uniform.”

Not to say I told you so, but….

So perhaps the sun is setting on West Point’s folly. Or maybe the Army will just ignore this memo too. I mean, it isn’t like they paid attention to the first one, which was already pretty damn straightforward in its intent. At this point, nothing surprises me. After all, this memo went out two weeks ago. There’s been plenty of talk from the Army about their wonderful policy since then.

It appears that earlier comments from DoD spokespeople about how it’s up to Army to interpret the DoD policy for themselves were really just a face-saving measure, trying to prevent any bad publicity for the Army while working behind the scenes to get them back in line. Now that the story of this second memo is out, the true shady nature of the Army policy is exposed– and it looks a lot different than the peaches and cream picture that they tried to put on it. Hopefully as this story spreads, the Army will be shamed into following the rules. Of course, the real shame is that we’ve even reached that point.

Meanwhile, there has apparently been a flap about the Army policy on Baltimore radio. The interesting thing about this bit isn’t that the author disagrees with the policy, but rather his take on some of the knee-jerk reactions from people who disagree with him:

“Mike”, a listener – now FORMER listener – took great exception with my opinion today. Mike has a military background and went to great lengths today to explain that both Bob and I are wrong on this matter. Never mind that it’s our respective OPINION(s) that the U.S. Army is wrong for allowing Caleb Campbell to play football rather than fulfill his duties in Iraq. Mike says we’re wrong for thinking that way and chastised me for having an opinion on something that I’ve never before experienced – “perhaps you should try crawling through the mud with a rifle (once) before you criticize the manner in which the U.S. Army operates”, he wrote to me in an e-mail.
Well, if we used that theory as a barometer for sports talk radio, WNST wouldn’t exist, since none of us (I think) have ever thrown a pass in the NFL, stepped to the plate in major league baseball or hit a 3-point shot in Division I college basketball – yet we all see fit to comment, praise and criticize some of those situations every single day at 1570. Hell, no one in our listening audience has ever coached in the NFL and last January we had thousands of people claiming the ex-Ravens coach didn’t know what he was doing, right?

I know I touched on it earlier this week, but this guy is dead on. This idea that this is an issue only for military members to discuss is absurd.


13 thoughts on “Signs of a Backbone?

  1. Tim

    Spot on. DoD is giving Army a chance to fall in line. If the Secretary of the Army keeps AS*O after this, he’s giving his boss the big fat middle finger. And I can’t see SECDEF standing for that.

    In any event, it certainly gives the lie to Army’s claims about their policy. Or maybe Mr. Chu is a fool as well – right, Viti?

  2. GoalieLax

    wow – the e-mail from SS re: Army AD sure makes that guy look like a no talent assclown (i can say that, right?)

  3. West Coast Fan

    What did the Army AD mean when he said:

    “All three academies have athletes serving in the World Class Athlete Program.”

  4. West Coast Fan

    Sorry, I should have asked the question:

    What IS the World Class Athlete Program?

    as I had not heard of it before.

    I have since looked it up on Google and know what it is and that Army and Air Force do it but Navy has opted out. Must have been decided by the Secretary of the Navy back when he suspended the Alternative Service Option until further notice.

  5. thebirddog

    The Alternative Service Option is the Army program. The conditions laid out by the DOD policy don’t have a collective name as far as I know.

    I know this is splitting hairs, but saying that the Navy “opted out” is a little misleading. The World Class Athlete Programs aren’t DOD programs that the Navy just chose not to do. They were initiatives undertaken by the Army and Air Force themselves. The Army program started in 1978. I’m not sure about the Air Force.

  6. West Coast Fan

    In any case, it does help put things in proper context. Essentially, Army’s ASO Program gives athletes with pro potential the same chance the WCA Program gives athletes with Olympic potential.

    I noticed Air Force has allowed Chad Hall to try out with the Atlanta Falcons so perhaps their WCA Program will be expanded as well.

    I also read that any Service Academy graduate (including Navy) who receives a Rhodes Scholarship is allowed to go directly to Oxford for two years after which they can apply to separate.

    It seems these programs are an acknowledgement that the Academies attract overachievers and there is a desire to accomodate those rare individuals whose extraordinary success (in academics or athletics) presents opportunities they never imagined they would have at age 18.

  7. thebirddog

    The WCAPs are every bit as ridiculous as the Alternative Service Option. I don’t see that as being a particularly convincing defense of the ASO.

    Do you have a link to that Rhodes Scolar information?

  8. West Coast Fan

    Last November USA Today had a list of the Rhodes Scholarship recepients for 2008. I remembered that one of the 32 honorees was from the Naval Academy. During the Caleb Campbell debate there was a reference to the policy at “In the Bleachers” implying that being drafted into the NFL was Campbell’s “Rhodes Scholarship.” So I went back and looked it up and sure enough John Blaine Moore who will graduate from USNA in June 2008 will enter Oxford in October 2008.

  9. football dad dan

    “I also read that any Service Academy graduate (including Navy) who receives a Rhodes Scholarship is allowed to go directly to Oxford for two years after which they can apply to separate”

    This sounds very bogus to me. I did B&G Officer stuff up until 2006, … and can tell you that no such policy existed that allowed a Naval Officer/Midshipmen to be released from active duty if they obtained an advanced degree/scholarship –> In fact they incurred added service. We had to be well versed on these programs because there were candidates who specifically asked.

  10. thebirddog

    That’s what I was getting at. Every postgraduate opportunity I’ve heard of came at a cost of an additional year of obligation for every year spent studying. Which makes sense, since the Navy wants to see a return on its investment in a more educated officer corps.

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