Saturday, April 21, 2018
Military News

Everyone loves a parade? Veterans say the troops don’t.

Orders from President Trump to plan a grand military parade showcasing the might of America’s armed forces has set off groans in some military quarters.

The troops, it turns out, hate parades.

"There is not a soldier ever alive who loves a parade," said Rob Schaefer, 52, a retired Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel now living in St. Petersburg. "There is nothing new about that. It goes back to the days of the Roman legions."

The main reason for parade-phobia is the time and effort it requires of troops, who have plenty of other duties and already spend plenty of time on parade.

MORE MILITARY COVERAGE: Troops laud the low-flying ‘Warthog,’ but it’s running out of time and money

Schaefer and other local veterans say the resentment grows for a parade on the scale the president contemplates, a major expense and effort potentially harmful to local people and infrastructure.

"When I was an artillery officer stationed in Germany, every time there was a major movement, we were writing checks for millions of dollars to the Germans for the damage we caused chewing up roads and bridges," said Greg Celestan, 55, a retired Army lieutenant colonel now living in Tampa.

There are even more problems, said retired Army Col. D.J. Reyes, 60, of Tampa: The time, planning, coordination, rehearsal and execution would require "valuable manpower diverted off their operational missions" and major costs for transporting equipment and personnel.

Reyes served as intelligence officer for then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, before Petraeus rose in the ranks, became director of the CIA and left public service in a sex scandal.

The obvious question I ask myself is, ‘who is going to pay for this,?’" Reyes said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "The answer is the American people/taxpayers. We don’t need to create any self-imposed costs onto the taxpayer."

Pentagon officials say they are working on the details of Trump’s request and will present him options.

• • •

Schaefer and Celestan have unique insight on big military parades.

Both men served in Moscow with the Army and observed Russian displays of might in Red Square. Those parades, they said, offered the U.S. military a chance to take note of advancements in Russian arms — revelations not lost on the Kremlin.

"It got to be a little bit of a, ‘We know that you know that we know’ type of thing," Celestan said.

"I remember one May Day parade. We were out there happily taking pictures. It was one chance to get a very close look at some of their newest equipment."

The Russians seemed happy to oblige, he said.

"They were very proud of the fact that they had the equipment and the ability to display it. I see where the president is coming from. I get it."

Schaefer, who was stationed at a Russian nuclear weapons center to ensure treaty compliance, said the Russian parade he observed gave him and other U.S. and allied observers a chance to check for small changes to the big equipment that might signal Russian advancements.

• • •

Beyond the grousing about more work, veterans interviewed questioned Trump’s rationale. He may have been inspired by seeing a Bastille Day display in France, according to some news reports.

If Trump simply wants to honor the military, that’s one thing, said Schaefer, who likened the idea to the popular AirFest at MacDill Air Force Base. The next one is scheduled in May.

"I think most veterans would not mind that," he said, "because it is nice every once in a while to say, ‘Thank you.’"

But Schaefer said showing off just to show off, as the Russians do, "almost feels that if you have the need to demonstrate it, then are you are feeling inadequate."

Copying the French, or anyone else, doesn’t justify the costs, Reyes said.

"If the President wants to send a message to other nations of U.S. might and resolve, I respectfully disagree," he said. "We don’t need to show it by parading our troops and equipment on the streets of Washington D.C.

"Rather, we demonstrate it daily in our own nation and global hot spots."

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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