Well, we’ve had a national conversation about over-militarization in police departments. How does everyone feel about the militarization of Miss USA? I’d guess the answer is … Hoo-ah. The Miss USA pageant made history last night by choosing as its winner the first active-duty military member, Army Reserve officer Deshauna Barber. Representing Washington DC, Barber forced Miss Hawaii into retreat, who evaded a direct answer when asked whether she would vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in November. As CBS News reports, that wasn’t the worst of the Q&A flubs either, but Barber’s answer was right on target with the judges:
The newly crowned Miss USA is a 26-year-old Army officer from the District of Columbia who gave perhaps the strongest answer of the night when asked about women in combat.
“As a woman in the United States Army, I think … we are just as tough as men. As a commander of my unit, I’m powerful, I am dedicated,” Deshauna Barber said. “Gender does not limit us in the United States.”
As the winner of Sunday’s 2016 Miss USA competition held at the T-Mobile Arena off the Las Vegas Strip, Barber will go on to compete in the Miss Universe contest.
Coming in second was Miss Hawaii, who punted during the question-and-answer segment when asked who she would vote for among the likely presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton or former pageant owner Donald Trump, a Republican.
Wouldn’t the requisite duties for the Miss USA pageant interfere with a military career? Barber is a reservist, so that’s much less of an issue. Barber says the Pentagon will apparently be flexible when it comes to Barber’s commitment:
Barber is the first-ever military member to win Miss USA. In a press conference following the event, the 26-year-old lieutenant from Northeast DC said she plans to take a break from the Army Reserves and had already discussed with superiors the possibility of going inactive for a couple of years should she win the title. She said she currently serves two days per month.
“My commander should be watching right now,” Barber said. “Two days a month is definitely not active duty. It is an obligation that I signed up for but they are very flexible in the United States Army Reserves.”
Readjusting the commitment of a reserve Army officer seems much less problematic than having an Annapolis graduate spend the next several years in the NFL rather than on active duty. And yet President, er, Defense Secretary Ash Carter gave Navy QB Keenan Reynolds permission to do just that for the Baltimore Ravens last last month:
After being up in the air for the past month, record-setting Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds’s NFL dreams have been solidified.
Reynold’s military commitment was officially deferred Friday, as the former Midshipman received the go-ahead from United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter at the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony. Carter made the announcement during his speech to the graduates, telling Reynolds and his classmates, “Go get ’em,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
Reynolds later released a statement on the announcement through the website of the Baltimore Ravens, the team that selected him in the sixth round of last month’s draft.
“It is a blessing to hear the news from Defense Secretary Carter today,” Reynolds said. “I am truly excited to proudly serve my country while having the ability fulfill my dream of playing for the best organization in the NFL.
“I would like to thank the Navy for allowing me to represent them while taking advantage of this unique opportunity. I would also like to thank [team owner Steve] Bisciotti and the Ravens organization for believing in me and giving me this chance.”
Why allow these young officers a pass from their commitments? The reason is obvious, right? They will become ambassadors for the military in the entertainment industry, walking Be-All-That-You-Can-Be advertisements for recruiters. The military has a fairly popular reputation at the moment — certainly better than when many of us went to high school and college — but finding ways to leverage popular culture to increase that cachet is a smart move. The Pentagon is betting that they will net far more active-duty hours through these waivers than they would have gotten from holding Barber and Reynolds to the letter of their commitments, and they’re almost certainly correct.