Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

AF general to Ricks: Who you calling a REMF?

I’m having a rough week with the Air Force, which is one of our military services. Here is a note from Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap. As he says, he is a longtime friend — I’ve known him since he was a pup. But, expressing his personal views, he strongly disagrees with my comment ...

577049_091112_ricksAirForce12.jpg
577049_091112_ricksAirForce12.jpg
Army Capt. Joe Kosek, assistant professor of Army Science for Notre Dame’s ROTC program and his sister Capt. Wendy Kosek were among alumni recognized during a ceremony at half-time of the Notre Dame, Washington State football game held at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Capt. Wendy Kosek is currently recovering from injuries sustained wile in the AOR and holds an under graduate and law degree from Notre Dame University. (U.S. Air Force by Steve Thurow)

I'm having a rough week with the Air Force, which is one of our military services.

Here is a note from Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap. As he says, he is a longtime friend -- I've known him since he was a pup. But, expressing his personal views, he strongly disagrees with my comment yesterday about a smackdown between a PoW and a JAG:

I’m having a rough week with the Air Force, which is one of our military services.

Here is a note from Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap. As he says, he is a longtime friend — I’ve known him since he was a pup. But, expressing his personal views, he strongly disagrees with my comment yesterday about a smackdown between a PoW and a JAG:

You know I am a huge fan of yours, but I must say I’m saddened by your blog “Before you shoot your mouth off.” Allow me to share some personal views.

I am not defending the former Army JAG (Mr. Kenniff), but it is a mistake to paint all JAGs as “REMFs.”  The reason isn’t hard to discern: re-establishing the rule of law has taken center stage as a key element of our counterinsurgency strategy, and that mission causes JAGs and paralegals to frequently find themselves in extremely dangerous places.  

Regardless, I don’t think anyone serving in harms’ way in Iraq (or Afghanistan) should be mocked based upon mistaken assumptions about their career field or the duties they perform. 

I have enormous respect for Shoshana Johnson for her service, and especially for the courage she showed as a POW.  And I don’t think her career field should matter. She was a food service specialist with a vehicle maintenance company. By the definition your blog seems to use, does that make her a REMF? 

Actually, I don’t believe that in today’s wars there really are rear areas or, for that matter, REMFs as that term was originally conceived. 

I don’t know Kenniff but I do respect that he spent a year in Iraq (as I also respect the month or so that Johnson spent there).  I don’t know anything about Kenniff’s service, but can you imagine anyone who spent a year in Iraq who did not come under at least indirect fire on more than one occasion? I can’t. 

More to the point: I recently had the honor of awarding the Purple Heart to one of our young JAG officers who had her knee blown apart by an IED in Iraq (another JAG was also injured in the same attack, albeit less seriously). She also suffered a number of other lacerations, including a serious cut on her face. (As an aside, her mother told me she gave up pursuing a modeling career in New York to become lawyer). 

She showed enormous courage both at the time of the attack and subsequently. I was in the AOR that day, and spoke to her shortly after she arrived at the evac hospital at Balad. Despite her injuries, all she wanted to do is give me a MISREP (mission report), and tell me about the courage of others.

Her Veterans Day message (published in an internal JAG Corps online service) is attached. An earlier news report is found here.

People may think she is a REMF, but her particular duties required her to go outside the wire frequently. (Moreover, as I say, she is not the only JAG or paralegal wearing a Purple Heart.)

She has spent months in rehabilitation, and has many more to go.  Surgeons saved her leg, and she is very determined to walk again.  We are all praying for her. 

Tom, she was doing what her country asked her to do, and as a result she spent her 27th birthday in a hospital bed at Brooks Army Medical Center. (Cruelly, while in surgery there for her wounds, her money and her bank card were stolen from her hospital room.) And, unlike Shoshana Johnson, she doesn’t have a book deal or Larry King appearances lined up. 

She does, however, have a wheelchair. She may be a “REMF” to your readers, but she is a hero to me.

Your friend and fan,

Charlie Dunlap

 Steve Thurow/ U.S. Air Force

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.