What makes the US military great?

America has the greatest military, but what sets it apart from the other militaries of the world?

What makes the US military great?

Marines and sailors with 81 mm Mortars Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire 81 mm mortars during a joint live fire exercise July 12, 2011. (U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Garry J. Welch/DVIDSHUB)

By Military1 Staff

A question recently posted on Quora asked, "Have you ever been disrespected for your military service?" Check out these answers and keep the discussion going. Add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Jeremy Casanave, U.S. Navy veteran

It’s incredibly badass, but not for the reasons everyone else is talking about. It’s not just the training and equipment, those are amazing. It’s the level of trust and authority given to the enlisted personnel. It’s something practically unheard of just about anywhere else, except maybe the Brits and Aussies (to my knowledge). So taking your hypothetical scenario, old USSR vs the U.S. and providing a story told to me from someone who lived it.

Here’s a story from a retired Air Force Colonel told to me about 10 years ago…

He was working with a nuclear disarmament group in the early 90s shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Essentially, the Americans would go to the Russian bases, and watch them methodically destroy missiles, and the Russians would come to the U.S. and do the same.

When he was in Russia, there was a Specialist (E-4 equivalent) on a torch cutting up the missile. He was supervised by an E-5 or E-6, who was supervised by an E-7, who then had 4 officers dictating everything that would happen while furiously chain smoking. Finally, a General would be overseeing the whole thing, and micromanaging from the catwalk above.

At the end of this, the Americans got a tour of Russian bases and services. They saw Russian tanks, jets, and ships all do their thing. The same pattern was repeated everywhere they went. Officers were micromanaging, and little freedom is given down the chain. Enlisted personnel were little more than button pushers with no real power or influence.

The Russians came to the U.S. and were astonished at how few people we used to accomplish the same tasks. Then they toured the American military facilities.

They saw Army tank formations and drills, and couldn’t believe that every tank wasn’t brimming with Officers.

They went to an Air Force base, and wanted to see who was in charge of the flight line, and were astonished, that not only was the person in charge of the flight line an enlisted person it was also (gasp!) a WOMAN!

Finally, they went to an aircraft carrier and observed flight operations. They were insistent that there had to be officers down there directing the planes, and launching them. “No sir, all the Officers are either on the catwalk, or here in the tower.” They demanded to go down and meet the guy they thought was in charge (if I remember right a Brown or Yellow shirt). They were shocked to find that this person was an E-4 or E-5 (if that).

I remember the Colonel telling me that one Russian General was very quiet on the flight back. After a couple vodkas he confessed, “I had no idea your enlisted people did all of that. If we had known that all those films weren’t just propaganda, the Cold War would have been over decades ago.” There was just no way that the Soviet’s top-down structure could compete with the initiative, training, and trust given at even the lowest ranks of the American military.

I remember as an E-3 (no joke), being asked to provide inputs for tasking the U-2 and Predator overflights in a combat zone. I provided them, they were tasked for the next series of fights. I was shocked that I was even asked this question, much less that they used my inputs!

So I ask you, how badass is it that a military puts that much trust in people who have only been in the military, in many cases less than a year, and still accomplishes its missions every day? Pretty badass I’d say…