Monday, October 13, 2014

Hey! That’s my FITREP bullet!

Fair warning, the full article is full of excess partisan flackery, but in there is a cautious story for anyone running for office who has worn the uniform. 

Keep close control of yourself when describing what you have done, and more importantly control your staff’s messaging when they mention your service. Make sure they know what they are saying, keep it brief, and keep it technically accurate … or shut up. If you don't you open yourself up to at least a pedantic bother, at worse, a few percentages in your approval nu,mbers.

Now, back to my FITREP bullet;
Peters’ military service record jacket, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the Department of the Navy and provided exclusively to Breitbart News, shows a man who had a broken service record that was substandard, one of his indirect commanding officers, retired Navy Commander Jim Semerad, said in an interview with Breitbart News. 
“Gary was pretty much a warm body in virtually all of the units I saw him assigned to,” Semerad said when reached by phone early Thursday. “He was never selected for anything.”
Who is Gary?
Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) has exaggerated and misrepresented his military service record on the campaign trail for U.S. Senate in Michigan, ...
Remember, no matter how humble your military record is, embrace it. It is still more than 93% of your countrymen, even if you never made it north of “My #1 Promotable.”

Don’t exaggerate or overly polish your record or job, and correct anyone who does. Underpromise and overdeliver, so to speak.
First off, Peters’ claims on his campaign website that he was “an expert pistol and rifle marksman.” Peters echoed those claims in various publications like, a Michigan media source, and in the Detroit Free Press. 
“Peters spokeswoman Haley Morris said Peters was classified an expert marksman with pistol and rifle during his time in the U.S. Navy Reserve,” reported in September 2013. 
“Peters said when he was in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he was qualified as an expert marksman in the M16 rifle and 9mm pistol,” the Detroit Free Press reported in February 2013. 
His record jacket shows that not only is that not true—but Peters actually made up a new, cooler-sounding firearms qualifications level for his campaign. Peters was never an “expert marksman” in either firearm category because there is no such category of qualification. In reality, according to military records, Peters was a “sharpshooter”—a lower military qualification than “expert”—in both M16 rifle and 9 MM pistol.
Really? I’ll give him a "knucklehead not knowing his terminology" pass, but again – really?
“In the case of Michigan Congressman Gary Peters I found his claims about his personal weapons qualifications perplexing,” West told Breitbart News. “First of all professional officers rarely tout weapon qualification badges."
No kidding. From here is becomes even more of an unforced, slightly goofy error.
Perhaps more drastic than his make believe firearms qualifications levels, Peters has claimed that he was a Seabee in the Navy. That’s technically not true. He was never a Seabee in the Navy, says Joseph John—a retired Navy Captain who now runs the group Combat Veterans For Congress. 
“I think about the training that I had as a Seabee — it’s very helpful for me in public service and the U.S. Senate,” Peters told a group of veterans at American Legion Post 426 in Trenton, MI, in early 2014, according to

Peters wasn’t really a Seabee, John says—he was an Assistant Supply Officer who was at one point assigned to the Seabee unit. The Seabees are an elite unit of combat-trained Naval engineers who build bridges, living quarters, airstrips and more in combat zones and harsh environments so U.S. forces can move into a region. Technically, Peters can claim he worked alongside the Seabees—but his officer designator code is one for the Supply Corps, not one for the Civil Engineer Corps of which the Seabees are a part.
“In addition, Congressman Peters' continued claims he was a Seabee--an elite unit of Naval engineers who build bridges and other structures in combat zones for the U.S. military--is a stretch of the truth,” John said. “He worked alongside Seabees, sure, but only as an Assistant Supply Officer. The documents of Peters’ military service show he was a Supply Corps officer with designator ‘3105.’ The three digits ‘310’ indicate he was with the Supply Corps, and the digit ‘5’ indicates he was a Naval Reserve officer. That means he was not a Seabee, or member of the Civil Engineer Corps, which would have meant he would have a ‘5105’ designator.”
OK, that is a bit more of a ligit hit. In a gray are from my perspective yet some will give him a pass – but still, dude?
“One of our missions was to build bridges,” Peters added at that American Legion post in Trenton, pumping his claimed experience in the military as useful for him in Congress. “I like to say: We learned how to build bridges while getting shot at. It’s kind of a metaphor for Washington: people are constantly taking shots but we've got to be able to build bridges, we got to bring people's about being a practical problem solver.” 
Semerad, Peters’ old commanding officer when he served with the Seabees, said he’ll give Peters the claim he’s a Seabee. “If I work as a burger cook at a McDonald’s franchise, am I still an employee of McDonald’s?” he asks rhetorically to make the analogy before answering: “Yes.” 
But Semerad has serious issues with how Peters characterized his role for the unit on the campaign trail. For Peters’ claim that he built bridges, Semerad says that’s not true. Peters never built any bridges, Semerad said, and he certainly never was going to be “getting shot at.” He bought steel, concrete and other supplies from behind a desk in an office somewhere so “the other guys”—the members of the Seabee unit he served alongside—could build bridges.
Perhaps I just don’t get it. His record in the USNR is good and honorable – but when you exaggerate your record or let other do it for you – it is no longer about your record, it is about you.
“His Reserve duty included time in the Persian Gulf during Operation Southern Watch,” his website reads. “After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Gary felt compelled to rejoin the U.S. Navy Reserve and once again serve his country.” 
What he doesn’t say, however, when touting that stint during which he was sent overseas was that he was in Bahrain while other U.S. soldiers—not him—kept control of the region between the two different Gulf Wars after freeing Kuwait in the early 1990s. Peters also had a short stint no longer than two weeks at the US Naval Air Base Sigonella in Italy, to be fair. 
Being sent to Bahrain, Semerad says, was not some honorable combat zone that would Peters honestly brag about it on the campaign trail. 
“Bahrain is like Las Vegas,” Semerad said. “When you’re going over to Bahrain, it’s like going to Las Vegas compared to going to Omaha, Nebraska. That’s where everybody goes to have fun. Everybody in the Middle East, that’s where they go to find girls, fast cars and have fun—drink and be merry.”
This is where Semerad crossed the line. All service is honorable – and good and important work is being done in Sigonella and Bahrain. Also, Bahrain is Vegas compared to Jeddah perhaps, but that is about it, and you do get combat pay in Bahrain. Just say’n (full disclosure, I have spent a few months in Bahrain).

I don’t think this story will get much traction. It isn’t “stolen valorish” at all – just someone being unnecessarily grandiose about honorable service, or creating a perception of same.

It doesn’t rise to the level of anything but a lesson to others.

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