I just watched the opening episode of a new military drama series on CBS, “The Code.” About USMC Judge Advocate General trial lawyers. I had to check it out, in part because in those long ago days when I was a lieutenant and later captain in the Air Force, I sat on my share of courts-martial. Never for a capital case, naturally, but for plenty of lesser offenses such as theft, assault and battery, drug use, and (more seriously) desertion and disobedience of orders, i.e., refusal to accept PCS orders to Southeast Asia.
“The Code” (referencing the UCMJ) is in most respects a typical courtroom drama with USMC JAG prosecutors and defense attorneys racing to unearth damning evidence to save an innocent defendant or put away a psychopath. Who doesn’t enjoy this sort of drama? Still, it’s the little things that I notice – in this case, the apparent absence of knowledgeable military consultants. One character on trial in this episode was a US Navy doctor, referred to by rank as a “commander.” And yet, only two stripes on his sleeve! And to cap it off, he and another USN medical officer wore what I am 99 percent certain were Surface Warfare badges on their blouses. Would doctors and other personnel in the USN Medical Corps also be qualified watch-standers? Somehow, I doubt it.
We’ve known, at least since the disastrous CNN “expose” of Operation Tailwind in the late 1990s, that a lot of people in the media are laughably ignorant of military matters. This ignorance spills over into the entertainment industry, which inconveniently finds itself in need of military expertise to satisfy the public hunger for military-themed movies and TV shows. And yet, the yawning divide in America between the few of us who have served and the many who have not seems to be growing ever wider. Why is it that the “showrunner” and screenwriters of “The Code” – who obviously enjoyed plenty of USMC support, judging from the authenticity of the settings, i.e., active military bases and airfields – would not have been able to spare a few dollars to hire a consultant or two, to enhance the show’s realism in small ways? As a retiree I would certainly volunteer myself, and although I was in the Air Force I had enough “purple time” to know the basics of uniform accoutrements in the sister services. I would have been gratified to accept a modest stipend and save these entertainment professionals from embarrassing themselves on network television.
As an aside, let’s be fair-minded enough to offer a compliment to “The Code” in one brief scene: the CENTCOM commanding general speaks briefly with a JAG officer before going into a “mindfulness training” session with his staff. A quick check of the blogosphere shows that this is a real thing, of current interest within the military as well as other work environments. Check out a study documented at Miami University – https://news.miami.edu/stories/2018/11/ensuring-success-in-demanding-roles.html