No matter what anyone says today, snide bastards some folks can be, there was a time not too long ago when the United States military was the most formidable standing army in history. It wasn't the biggest or the most battle-hardened, but it was the best equipped, most highly trained machine the world had ever known. Did you know that at its apex the United States operated 11 aircraft carriers? That was more than anyone. You know who had the second most? You folks. England. They had 2. Shock and awe, Mr. Tanner. That was the aim of the US military. Of course, shock and awe is expensive. Damned expensive, if you want to get right down to it. After the VA started bilking vets out of their benefits, boys coming home missing legs who couldn't so much as get coverage for an aspirin, public support for the military took a nose dive. That's how crap like Okinawa happened.
You've never heard of it? Yeah, didn't figure you would, being from across the pond. Time was, the US military had 27,000 people living in and around a base in Okinawa, Japan. Well, after the damned Congress started cutting funds left and right, the base started shrinking. It became an auxiliary station, maybe 500 boots and a few civilians, families. The government pulled all of the nukes out of the area due to insufficient security. That's when they started making "paper cuts", ehm, little budget reductions here and there, thinner TP, weaker chow, that sort of thing. Needless to say, morale dropped. Then PFC James Johnson went AWOL.
I love this story. Well, it's damned interesting, pisses me off something fierce, but still, interesting. There was this real son of bitch, or at least that's the way the papers read, Private First Class James Johnson, Jimmy John to his friends. He lodges a few complaints around September the year before the transition, nagging about uncomfortable cots and holes in his socks. By November, he goes missing. The MP, then about 12 guys guarding the commissary, goes looking for him. Yeah, they mount a search for a pissant soldier who was probably already teaching English to businessmen in Tokyo. We used to call that "pissing into the wind". The Army issues Johnson a dishonorable discharge and calls it a day.
Three weeks later, Sgt. Tanya Matheson, Pvt. Ernesto Alvarez and Pvt. Kurt Holmes all go AWOL. Same story. News gets back to the White House and they decide to send Lt. Col. Marcus Graves to clean house. Now, Graves was a real bulldog, a man so famous for busting balls they wouldn't let him within 50 feet of the President's basketball court. He shows up in Okinawa and institutes a mess of new rules, starts handing out disciplinary actions left and right. Within a month of his arrival, 12 more soldiers go AWOL. By the time January rolls around Congress isn't even sending replacement lightbulbs and the Army has lost contact with Lt. Col. Graves. When a recon detachment showed up at the base, they found it abandoned with just two bodies inside. One was Pvt. William Grossman, dead from a gunshot wound to the back. Ten feet behind him was Graves, beaten damn near unrecognizable by a tent pole.
Something like that happened in bases all over the world. It happened until the government started calling them all home, right around the time they were dismantling the expensive stuff. They even tried selling off one of their newly decommissioned air craft carriers to a private citizen. Dumbass drove it out to international waters and saw it sunk when a bunch of pirates tried to take it over. I remember standing there with my CO watching a news report about that last mess with the Congress. I'll never forget what he said to me. He said, "Arthur, the whole thing's turned to shit and we just sold our last shovel."