[May 16, 2019] I’ve heard from many folks in various militaries around the world who put in their time and yet never got “the call.” The call is military-speak for being called for combat duty. That’s what we train for, that’s the purpose of our duty, and we expect that we willed be called to defend our nation at some point in our careers.
There are plenty of organizations that are established with important missions where members are called on to perform an important task. For example, firefighters are called to put out fires. If you belong to a firefighter company, you will be called. Fires are common enough that they drive tasks frequently enough to gain relevant experience.
Being called for a big fire, on the other hand, may never happen. And so it is with the U.S. military. There are plenty of smaller missions, usually labeled contingencies, that have short deployment times and duration; often measured in weeks or a few months. A soldier may deploy without a weapon to some of these.
Before being called to combat today means that a service member will be alerted (sort of like firefighters being alerted by a siren). This alert information is sent to the unit to prepare to be mobilized for combat. But not all service members are ever called upon.
There will always be weak or unscrupulous service members who avoid being called to combat. They “volunteer” for non-deployable units; like training units or senior headquarter-type units. If given a position in a deployable combat unit, they will avoid the call by feigning a medical or some discrediting problem. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen often.
There are also those who serve honorably and with distinction who desire to go into combat but are never called upon. This can be frustrating. They expect that doing the job they’ve been trained for is the ultimate in satisfying their personal goals in life. For example, my first combat deployment ended abruptly when the First Gulf War (1990-1991) ended sooner than expected.
Many in my engineer unit waited at a U.S. airfield, sitting on their rucksacks when the word came down that they would not deploy. Those engineer soldiers were very unhappy, and some decided that at the end of their enlistment, they would quit the army.
Military service members are still valuable assets even when stationed stateside in a war. They are frequently called upon to perform tasks that combat units cannot do due to their current mission. Non-deployable units also provide individual fillers who replace combat losses.
Not getting the call doesn’t make a service member less of a person. However, that will never be their belief.