The New York Times is today runnng an article, that strangely enough, is something we should all want to read as veterans, even though it concerns disloyalty of team mates playing a game to help the other side win. It seems to be a growing problem in American baseball and I believe that it has application to us as American veterans.
To cite the problem succinctly: foreign players in American baseball uniforms are helping "homeboys" from back home get numbers on the board by betraying pitching secrets to players on the field from their home countries. The Dominican Republic’s players are cited specifically. I believe that this problem of "cross loyalties" as it exists in baseball also exists in the U.S. Armed Forces and among veterans and that it is quite dangerous. Walk with me on this path for just a few minutes. I need to share some thoughts.
I spent almost 25 years on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard and retired as a W3 in September 1999. I spent a lot of time on Temporary Additional Duty for various "activities" that could only be described as "sensitive". From 1980-1983 I was an E-6 yeoman assigned to Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, NY , a helicopter unit. While there, I was sent for six weeks to Miami, FL to be a yeoman for the Vice Presidential S.E. United States Drug Task Force which operated out of Miami using DoD resources and personnel to stop drug smuggling. To make a very long story short we initially used Coast Guard personnel who had been born in the Caribbean to communicate in Spanish with each other over secret radio frequencies to catch drug smugglers. But they always seemed to get away. It took us months to realize that the home boys were tipping them off.
We had to use non-native speaking, non Caribbean Coast Guardsmen who spoke Spanish to even things up. They had no cross loyalties and had no problem arresting and convicting guys from home. That was not true of the Caribbean born Coast Guardsmen we were using. It was a hard lesson for us to learn.
Later I was Chief of Personnel for three cleanup seasons on the EXXON VALDEZ oil spill cleanup activity in 89-90-91 as a W2. We had many foreign offers of help, including from the Soviets. A lot of them we turned down because we could not be sure of what the agenda truly was from the "offering" nation. Did they want access to American waters for reasons other than to aid us? We could not take the chance. But many Russian speaking Alaskans (of which there are literally thousands….Alaska was part of the Russian Empire until 1967 remember) wanted the help from the Soviets. It caused problems between the federals and the state government people working the spill. Over 75 agencies, local, state and federal were working that spill one way or another. There was constant tension between these various levels of government. At one point Rear Admiral Ciangalini, the On Scene Commander, was forced to "disinvite" the Alaskans from any meetings for awhile. They were simply causing too much trouble. They had their own agenda. I sat in on a lot of those meetings. They could get quite ugly. There was cross loyalties every where and NOBODY knew where anybody else stood most of the time.
I was a Chief Yeoman aboard USCGC RUSH (WHEC 723) from Oct 1984 until July 1987 and saw some stuff that I was not supposed to see and cannot talk about. But once, on the way from our homeport in Alameda, CA to Kodiak, AK for Operation Brimfrost ’85 we were buzzed by a Canadian P-3 Orion. They were angry and felt that we were in their water’s illegally. The U.S. disputes the Canadian territorial water claim in the Pacific and does this intentionally. Still, it felt odd to be buzzed by a foreign plane that the Americans had manufactured.
Another time our chief’s mess was invited aboard the HMCS GATINEAU by her chief’s mess. She was a Candian corvette that more or less held the same duties as a Coast Guard high endurance cutter. I do not drink and was sober the whole time we were in their mess. Everybody else was pretty much drunk. To make a long story short, one of the Canadians got REALLY drunk and let out some classified information about Canadian weaponry. The point here is that the entire space came to absolute silence when he said what he said. In my naivete I said "I did not know that the Canadians had access to *********". Their chief of the boat looked at me and said, "You still don’t know that." I understood. What was said was never said.
As a Warrant Personnel Administrator I worked for several admirals. I hated the job a lot. I was often called upon to give an opinion relative to the Coast Guard personnel manual and it often ran counter to what that particular admiral wanted to do. I was thrown out of the Admiral’s office by a fist banging admiral more than once, in fact, more than three times. I never made W4. That always bothered me, I must admit.
But the point here is that these guys always knew a whole LOT of stuff about individuals and organizations and nations that could only have come from an in-depth breifing from an American intelligence source. What really bothered me about all this was I could never tell what was of national security interest and what was simply government intrusion into someone’s life. Trust me when I tell you this, your government knows more about you than you would ever possibly imagine. They can find out who your first date was, who your first lover was and how many times you failed the law school entrance exams before the day is over if they want to do so. And they often get that information from your "team mates". They simply start at your unit and interview everyone you have ever talked to…there are no secrets.
The point of this rambling diatribe is that in the end, there is no "us" and "them". Everybody has a price, everyone can be bought, everyone will cross loyalty boundaries given just the right impetus. There are no hard and fast rules for who is "us" and who is "them". Trust me, I have seen this too many times to believe otherwise. Loyalty is a very nice word and a very comforting concept. But I have never actually seen it.