Thursday, May 28, 2015

Armies Without Weapons

Not all military units engage in combat.  Chaplains and medics are easy examples. Twenty-two American states have home defense forces, and they generally do not carry weapons, but provide evacuation, sheltering, and other services in times of emergency and disaster.  Two federal agencies have their own unarmed commissioned officer corps with equivalent navy ranks: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Public Health Service. 

EXCEPTIONS
Some chaplains have carried small arms in combat. They stand out as exceptions.  More often, armed assistants accompanied chaplains.  Similarly, modern medics do carry sidearms to defend the wounded and supplies.  However, engaging in offensive combat removes the protection of the rules of war which otherwise cover medics.  If captured by an enemy who respects the Geneva Convention, medics can be held as prisoners of war, but must be allowed to carry out their duties as necessary.  By the Geneva Convention, chaplains who are captured cannot be held and must be repatriated.
 
Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic chaplains.Place de Strasbourg June 2013
(Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc licensed under Creative Commons,Wikimedia Commons). 
 
The Inspector General of the US Department of Defense (DODIG), surveyed 22 state defense forces in 2014.  Nineteen responded to the questionnaire.  Only four states authorize their home guards to bear weapons. The report provided aggregate data only.  Therefore, some ambiguities were unresolved. Evaluation of Department of Defense Interaction with State Defense Forces, Department of Defense Inspector General, April 30, 2014. http://www.dodig.mil/pubs/documents/DODIG-2014-065.pdf

State laws in California, Indiana, Mississippi, and Virginia allow the governor to issue weapons to the state defense force.  “The Code of Virginia states that members of the Virginia State Defense Force shall not be armed with firearms during the performance of training duty or state active duty, except under circumstances and in instances authorized by the Governor." (Virginia § 44.54.12. See also California Military and Veterans Code Section 554.) The Alaska State Defense Force did carry weapons when acting as law enforcement in 2004. However, that changed in 2008. 
Maj. Liendo Alvaro, Texas State Guard Medical Rangers.
In recurring deployments of Operation Lone Star,
the Medical Rangers provide free
clinical care
to populations not well-served by other agencies.
(Soldiers Media Center. Licensed under Creative Commons
Wikimedia Commons.)
 
Here in Texas, the TXSG does provide training for those who want to earn a concealed handgun license (CHL).  However, guard members pay for the training, which is contracted.  The state CHL fee itself is waived for active TXSG members.  Nevertheless, TXSG members are absolutely forbidden from carrying firearms while on duty. That applies to those who are also commissioned (sworn) police and other law enforcement officers.  Whether on state guard active duty or at drills or just visiting on base, weapons must be secured in a locked compartment of the privately-owned vehicle. [24 Feb. 2016. Following the Chattanooga shootings of 16 July 2015, on 17 Dec. 2015, the Adjutant General of the Texas Military Department issued new orders to allow the carrying of concealed firearms. This order applies to the National Guard, the Air National Guard, and the State Guard. It also addresses the new "open carry" law in Texas. No guard member may display any weapon not issued by the appropriate command.]

US FEDERAL SERVICES
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grew out of a survey of the coastline that was authorized by Congress and signed by President Jefferson in 1807.  Seventy years later, its mission was expanded into a geodetic survey of the continent.  In 1917, the corps became commissioned so that surveyors on the battlefield could not be shot as spies.   Today the NOAA maintains strict standards of achievement with an “up or out” policy: If you cannot be promoted, you will be retired. 
“The NOAA Corps today provides a cadre of professionals
trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography,
meteorology, fisheries science, and other related disciplines.
Officers operate ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects,
conduct diving operations,
and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA.”

http://www.noaacorps.noaa.gov
You can view their official recruitment videos for both officers and line mariners on YouTube.  They also have their own marching song, “Forward with NOAA.

 The US Public Health Service Commissioned Officer Corp includes professionals in 16 specialties from physicians, nurses, and dentists to veterinarians, pharmacists, and engineers.
“The Commissioned Corps traces its beginnings
back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service
protecting against the spread of disease from sailors returning
from foreign ports and maintaining the health of immigrants
entering the country.
Currently, Commissioned Corps officers are involved in
health care delivery to ... vulnerable populations,
disease control and prevention, biomedical research,
food and drug regulation,
mental health and drug abuse services,
and response efforts for natural and man-made disasters
as an essential component of
the largest public health program in the world.”  

http://www.usphs.gov/aboutus/history.aspx

NATIONS WITHOUT ARMIES
Several small nations have no armed forces because they maintain special treaties with larger neighbors.   Andorra has treaties with Spain and France. Australia defends Nauru, and the US defends Palau and several other Pacific micro-nations.  However, among those, several have impressively large police forces.  In the Caribbean, a Regional Security System serves Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  Liechtenstein abolished its standing army in 1868.  Costa Rica has had no standing army since 1949. 

Military organization has its strengths.  Every job is defined, regardless of who performs it.  Grade and rank place everyone within a known hierarchy.  Also, military organization is common.  You could pluck someone off the street in Buenos Aires, and insert them in a job in police precinct in Beijing, and they would figure it all out pretty quickly.  So, the military model serves a purpose.  But armies are not necessarily synonymous with warfare.


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