by James G. Shockley, Major, USMC (ret.)
Dear Ken Miller & Gary Marbut,
You are both wrong on what you say about Zinke in regard to his DD-214, and the significance of his being promoted to only a commander in the Navy. As most people on this list know I am a member of the NRA (life member), Montana Shooting Sports, a Republican politician who served in the Montana Legislature for 14 years (with a conservative voting record), and a retired Marine.
It is alleged that somehow only making commander means that Zinke was not a first rate officer and that somehow his DD-214, if all of it were available, would indicate that his service was not honorable, or admirable, or perhaps successful. Gary said that he retired an O-4 (lieutenant/commander); not accurate, but probably a typing error. Zinke retired an O-5 (commander), just read the DD-214 at issue at block 4a; “CDR” means “commander.
I do not know the truth of what the Navy captain alleges about what Zinke did or did not do in the Navy. However, the nonsense about the DD-214 and the attempt to misrepresent the significance of Zinke “only” making commander (lieutenant colonel in the USMC, USA, and USAF) makes me suspect very strongly what the Navy captain (“his friend”) alleges. If I know one part of story is false, or misrepresented, it makes me think that the rest is false, or half-truths. That is clearly the case here.
However, if Gary says Zinke did not think civilians needed to have 50 caliber weapons, I accept that as a fact. It is first hand and Gary understands guns.
I have 4 DD-214s; a person gets one when separating from the service, or changing the character of his service; e.g., regular to reserve, enlisted to officer. In my day almost all DD-214s were ONE page; my last one is two pages due to more complicated periods of service. The additional pages are simply expansions on the information given in the blocks on the form; the additional page is just more room. The newest form is different from mine, but it is still only one page.
There is ABSOLUTELY nothing on the DD-214 that is blacked out that makes any difference to the election and to imply that it is important is not accurate. What is blacked out is required by the privacy laws. The DD-214 provided by the Department of Defense and personal information was blacked out by the Department, not Zinke. For example,
- the number of days of leave on the books when he retired ( block 16);
- social security number (block 3);
- mailing address (block 19a);
- next of kin (block 19b);
- where the member joined (block 7a);
- home of record (block 7b);
- date of birth (block 5);
- insurance information, SGLI (block 10);
- did or did not contribute to post Vietnam education program and whether or not he had a high school education (block 15a & b).
- Block 24 is “character of service” is dishonorable, bad conduct, other than honorable (may have a new name to protect the bad apples), general or honorable.
- Block 25 is “separation authority”, and
- block 26 is “separation code”.
- Block 27 is “reentry code” and
- block 28 is “narrative of reasons for separation”; it probably says “retiring”.
If you have an idea that it is not a good narrative, see his “decorations, medals, badges, citations, and campaign ribbons awarded or authorized” (block 13). Block 29 “is dates of time lost”. I cannot see to what block 30 relates because it is blacked out, but it is not important I am sure. It is below the signature of the authorizing officer and I suspect that blocks 25 to 30 are for some sort of Department administration and the computers.
Normally DD-214s are one page, and when there are more it is to provide information for which there is not enough room in the blocks on the form. Why do you think that there are more pages to the form? I do not see it from the form itself. The “blacked out” blocks relate to personal information not available under the Freedom of Information Act and protected by privacy laws. The things that are blacked out have no relevance to the election and to say otherwise is not accurate.
You make it sound like Zinke is hiding something about his decorations. His decorations and awards are clear to anyone who knows how to read this document. Zinke has 2 bronze stars, but without the combat V (he never said that he had the “V” that I know about). For example, the bronze star might go to a staff officer who only had a few mortar rounds, or rockets, sent his way every now and again. The bronze star with the combat V would be given to an infantry officer who was in actual combat.
Zinke does have a “combat action ribbon” which means he saw combat at some time, but not necessarily for the period that relates to the bronze stars. The criteria for the award are: 1) receiving and returning fire on the same day, or 2) being a SEAL or a reconnaissance Marine (my experience) in combat; no need to take and receive fire because often the mission requires stealth. I think that if you get a purple heart you do not have to return fire on the same day as you were hit, but I am not sure.
Anyone who thinks that most Naval officers get beyond commander (05) is not informed; in fact it is just silly to think so. I am not up on that sort of thing, but a retired Marine colonel, who was very high up in the special ops community and working at the DOD level has provided to me the following info:
As to selection rates:
For Colonel/ Navy Captain they have always remained rather constant. For the Marines over the last three decades, it is about 40% from Lt/Colonel to Colonel. To Brigadier it is about 10-12 % of that remaining number. To Major General it is about 50% of that remaining number. It is not a game where everybody gets a trophy. Suspect the SEAL community runs about the same as a portion of Navy Officer promotions, I would be willing to bet on it.
The first Navy Seal Officer to make Admiral (Rear Admiral–lower Case–one star) was “Irish” Flynn. That occurred in the mid-80s. There after there was second one selected about 1987. SEALs were not promoted to Admiral due to their very small community size in the 70s and 80s. To retire as Commander (05) was a big deal and demonstrated achievement in their community.
On the issue of the percentage of O-5s promoted to O-6 in the USMC at this time, I did get a slightly different figure – 50%, not 40%, from another source. This second Colonel retired a few years ago, was a personnel officer, is more of an expert and more current than my good friend the first Colonel. The second colonel stressed that it is a guess, but an educated one. They are not that far off; I just wanted to be candid. The second colonel had a one page DD-214, and the DD-214 Form, Feb 2000 for Zinke is the same one the colonel had.
As for being a SEAL, it is a big deal without combat. Their basic training is worse than most combat. I was also scuba trained by the Navy. But, it was nothing like the training SEALs receive. Most candidates do not pass the initial training at Coronado, CA, or Little Creek, VA. Almost all officers in any service could not pass the initial training. SEALs have the very toughest training in the armed forces and that includes Ranger School.
I know what I am talking about and it is not second hand information for the most part. I spent 25+ years in the Naval Service and I have combat experience. I do acknowledge that the quote from the Colonel’s email is “2nd hand”. However, it is not a telephone call, or email, to someone I have never met. The Colonel and I have known each other since I was a lance corporal and he was a second lieutenant in 1964 & 65. We were in the same battalion in Okinawa and Vietnam, 3rd ReconBn. I last served with him at my terminal duty station, Camp Lejeune, and we are in email contact on a regular basis. I told him I would not get his name in this mud. He did say our politics was pretty bad and I agree. I emailed him this morning for help on the promotion story. The second Colonel referred to I have only known for maybe 30 years. But, when in Washington (usually once a year) always stay at least one night at the Colonel’s home. These Colonels are my friends and I trust them completely; they have no “dog in this fight”.
I always was a partisan of Zinke; we are friends. I might add we did not always vote together. However, it really bothers me that people with no military service would attack a Naval officer on things they do not understand, particularly when their assertions are categorically wrong.
Ken and Gary – I know you to be honest brokers and that you will forward my response to your original email list; there is no need to retract what you said in good faith. You of course will add rebuttal, if there is any. Gary, I hope to see you, Randy, and Joe at the next MSSA meeting to discuss MSSA’s involvement in the electoral process.
Everyone receiving this email should forward it to those who would be interested. Once again, Zinke did not put me up to this. I just was aggravated by this type of politics. The end does not justify the means and I am ashamed of the party because there are many that do not understand that point of view. This was dropped at the last minute which makes it difficult to respond, no doubt for that very reason.
I suppose Cory Stapleton agrees with my analysis of Zinke’s DD-214. He had 10 years in the Navy as a “surface line” officer, a very responsible job. I think he was a lieutenant (O-3), or lieutenant commander (O-4). If Cory disagrees I would like to know it. I do not have his email; please forward this email for his comment, as I wish you would for Rick Hill. I did copy Captain Bailey, the letter writer.
Everyone receiving this email and knowing Ken and Gary should put his involvement in this mess down to a lack of knowledge, nothing more. Their enthusiasm overwhelmed their judgment. Ken cooperated by providing the DD-214 when I asked. He asked for my comments, although this is probably more than he thought was coming. He also provided the email address of the letter writer, Captain Bailey.
In another email to Ken, I acknowledged that Zinke put his career at issue in the campaign. My position is that only fair comment should be considered. The points that I addressed are not fair comment and are not accurate. There is nothing, nothing, suspect about Zinke’s DD-214, which is in effect simply his “separation papers” from active duty and his retirement. Making commander is a successful Naval career and simply being a SEAL, even an enlisted SEAL, is a big deal, at least to this old Marine. Note my pay grade at retirement, major (04). Those of you who know me might have some small suspicion why I did not think that I would be finally selected for lieutenant colonel (O-5). If Zinke’s had a lot like “friends” like Captain Bailey he should have gone first class and been a Marine officer instead.
James G. Shockley
Major, USMC (ret.)