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Day 226: Coronavirus and the military response

U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt

Well I got word yesterday that the coronavirus found its way onto an aircraft carrier. For anyone who’s never seen one in person, because the pictures don’t do it justice, these things are huge. Think floating cities with the crew size to match. Inside an aircraft carrier, there are roughly 3,000+ people who work, live, and maintain the ship. The one in question, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt has over 4,000 crew members and those are just the ones that need to be quarantined. This is bad for a lot of reasons. For those of you who haven’t served in the military, I’ll explain.

Aside from the pomp and circumstance that is thrown at the military by the government, they really don’t give a shit about us. To be fair, they treat us better while we are serving than when we get out, but it’s only mildly better. So when the commanding officer of the Roosevelt sent a letter asking for help, this was most likely a desperate last request for aid from the government. Seriously, why do you think he sent a letter instead of making a phone call? The answer is simple, he did, most likely multiple times and they didn’t care. Notice that over a week ago, they already knew three sailors had the virus.

Why the callous attitude? That is simple to explain as well. Military readiness, the fundamental reason we (the military) even exists. We need to be able to rapidly respond to threats around the world in a moments notice. Marines for example are boots on the ground anywhere in the world with less than 24 hours notice. We work quick and we attempt to give off the sense that we are invulnerable to anything and everything thrown at us. In the Marines specifically the attitude is this; if you sprain an ankle, motrin. If you die, extra strength motrin.

So admitting that COVID-19 took out an entire aircraft carrier is not a good look in the eyes of the assholes at the top. They would rather see everyone on that ship die before we admit that there was a problem. Speaking of which I have a great (read: aweful) story about a friend who died from radiation poisoning on an aircraft carrier, I should tell it sometime. There is no problem, there cannot be a problem, and there will never be a problem. The letter was a desperate final attempt to get noticed and it only worked because it “leaked” to the public. People started to notice and when people are watching we will be treated like kings until they stop looking, then we are just dogs of the military.

This whole situation has me depressed, for everyone one instance we hear about, there are a dozen more that are happening in the background that we don’t see. Military living is a perfect environment for COVID-19. It’s close quarters and junior military (at least in the Marine Corps) share rooms if your lucky, whole barracks if you are not. There is not and cannot be social distancing in a military environment and now that service members are getting sick things are going to go from bad to worse.

Military hospitals run on an equilibrium. They have just enough to treat the steady trickle of people that come in. If you had a flood of people, say from COVID-19, there is no way they could handle the influx of cases. This will require outside hospitals to assist and as we are already seeing, they are stretched to the maximum as well. What’s worse is that the leadership is far enough away from the situation that they can just ignore the deaths that will inevitably come, after all what is your emotional connection to a number on a screen? If I type out 10 deaths, does that make you feel anything? How about 10 deaths, 10,000 deaths, 100,000 deaths. Nothing, right? It’s just a number, you don’t see the faces or the families behind that number. All the funerals, the tears, none of it.

That’s the secret to why we are so good at what do. It’s all just a number for the people running the show. The only incentive they have to keep us alive is that training and experience costs time and money. I’m not saying everyone at the top is heartless, just that it’s easier to reach the top when you are and it’s easier to be okay with death when all you see is a number on a screen.

This letter is just a small glimpse into the COVID-19 problem the military will be dealing with soon if they aren’t already. The response will be underwhelming as usual and I guarantee he just ended his career in the Navy. But don’t worry, there was nothing more military could do and they will die a hero’s death… at least that is what they will tell you.

You can read more about the story that inspired this post at Defense One.

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