Lawmakers rallied on the Capitol steps—even those who’d been calling for a reduced defense budget and a leaner fighting force—sang "God Bless America," and noted how this nation has the greatest military in the world and is willing to employ it. Hours later, their refrain was joined by the Commander-in-Chief.
Meanwhile, on distant waters, a homebound aircraft carrier and her escorts turned around and made ready for war. The carrier information center bustled much as it had episodically during workups and the deployment. The notions of going into harm’s way or dropping bombs in anger were not new to the aviators on board. They had been fighting over Southern Iraq for months. So with very little shift in mind-set, they broke out new target folders and planned new strikes.
Nothing really changed in their world. While the arguments flew in learned circles, across the full scope of political leanings, about what the modern military was and wasn’t, American aviators went about the business of fighting the war between the wars, the one that either resides on page A-14 or isn’t covered because it’s "not news." Without fanfare, the warriors did their nation’s bidding. They critiqued each other’s infrared footage, passed along the lessons learned, and got ready to do it again the next day.
Now the United States understands what its expeditionary forces grew to know over the past decade as they wrestled with threat conditions, force protection, contingency operations, and strikes into hostile lands. The nation’s military, especially units involved with strike warfare, are ready for conflict. A new breed of warrior has emerged from the tip of the spear, tested, resolute, and capable, perhaps more capable than any who have gone before. The U.S. military is ready for the Gray War because it has been fighting (and winning) a war much like it for years. All they need now is the tasking followed by the unconditional and enduring support of the home front. With that we can’t lose. As they release their ordnance you can be sure the strike frequency will crackle with the cry: "Remember the World Trade Center."
Commander Carroll is an F-14 radar intercept officer who teaches ethics and English at the Naval Academy. The Naval Institute Press recently published his book, Punk’s War  , a novel about carrier aviation and patrolling the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq.