Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Bank Robbery in Texas, Donald Murrah and David Long

Yale Law School, New York's Columbia University, Dartmouth, and Harvard didn't like the ROTC in the sixties and seventies: and there's no reason to think that these bastions of relevance have changed.

I don't blame them. The ROTC represents a set of values that are quite alien to contemporary American academia. These values can, if embraced, affect how people act in a crisis situation. A case in point:

An Overheated Bank Robber in Texas

June 12, 2008, wasn't exactly a cool day in Fort Worth, Texas. The high was just under 100 °F, the low was 74 and a fraction. (

So, the fellow in a long coat, hat, and a beard, stood out. The gorilla bag1 he was carrying didn't make him any less conspicuous. That description reminded me of the incredible flying imams of Minnesota, who bundled up one hot summer day (no kidding).

The unseasonable attire caught the attention of Donald Murrah and his buddy, David Long. Something was obviously wrong with the picture. Since Mr. Coat was walking into a bank, the odds were that a bank robbery was about to happen. Neither of them were police officers, so they couldn't do anything about the situation.

Except keep an eye on the bank.

The coat, hat, beard and overheated person came back out of the bank, tried to start a Honda, and, failing that, went to a car in the ATM line. That car drove off, so Mr. Coat tried to carjack a van with a woman and two kids inside.

By that time, Murrah and Long were catching up to Mr. Coat, with Murrah in the lead. Murrah flipped Mr. Coat over and relieved him of what looked like a starter pistol. Murrah and Long restrained Mr. Coat until the police showed up. The 'starter pistol' was a 22 caliber revolver.

Murrah is Master Sergeant Donald S. Murrah of the U.S. Army. Long is First Sergeant David M. Long, U.S. Army, retired. Murrah wound up with a medal but, with due respect, I don't think he's all that special.

He simply did what an American NCO would reasonably be expected to do in a situation like that.

On the other hand, all Army sergeants stationed in Korea might not decide that studying Tai Kwon Do was a better use of time that going to bars. Murrah did, though, and earned a black belt.

Cold, Bloodthirsty Soldiers: A Reality Check

Quite a few people seem to think an American soldier, meeting people overseas, "shakes hands and shoots them the next day," as someone put it in a roundtable I attended the other day. Public perception of the American military has improved a bit since the Vietnam era, but some people never seem to have left the seventies.

Part of the military's reputation for being dangerous is quite justified. If you're robbing a bank, one of the last things you'd want would be to have two Army sergeants outside, waiting for you.

The rest of us, in America, really don't have that much to worry about, when it comes to 'those soldiers.' American soldiers are remarkably selective about who they get rough with.

Core Values of the U.S. Army

The United States Army has what it calls "core values." They may sound corny, or old-fashioned, but I think they're also common-sense virtues that any society needs:
  • Loyalty
  • Duty
  • Respect
  • Selfless Service
  • Honor
  • Integrity
  • Personal Courage
There's a pretty good discussion of these core values on the website, and a decent summary in another blogger's post, "Army Core Values In Action" (A Soldier's Mind (February 18, 2009)). That blog post also has a detailed description of what happened last June.

JROTC: It's Not a Recruiting Tool

Master Sergeant Murrah works with the JROTC in Texas. He assured a roundtable recently that JROTC is not a recruiting tool for the Army. He said that JROTC teaches discipline and leadership skills that youngsters can use in adult life.

I think that's true, but I also think that there are far worse things people can do with their lives, than pursue a career in the American military.

Vaguely related posts: Another blogger's view: In the news:
1 "Gorilla bag" - a bag 9 x 13 x 19 inches in size. (Letter from Office of the Commanding General, Department of the Army, Headquarters, United States Army Recruiting Command Dear Future Recruiter:" (pdf))


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know that you've made a mistake in this. Murrah is one of my sergeants in ROTC and IS VVEEERRRRYYYY special. He doesn't sit there and rub his award in people's faces like most would do. He doesn't try to convince us kids into joining the Army either. He's actually helping me fill out college applications that has NOTHING to do with the Army. I'm just gonna put it this way, He's the closest thing to a father to me and I'm sooo proud of him.

Brian H. Gill said...



I've been trying to figure out what you read, that apparently gave the impression that I - disapprove of Murrah??

Maybe the detail of his earning a black belt?

Or possibly the heading, "Cold, Bloodthirsty Soldiers: A Reality Check" - which might seem critical, in isolation from the text which follows.

Since there seems to be some ambiguity in what I was trying to say, let me summarize:

I think Murrah did a good job.

I think American soldiers are, for the most part, fine people.

I approve of Murrah taking action, following the bank robbery in Texas.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.