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2024 Election

Local Retired Army General Disputes DeSantis’ ‘Military Woke Rollback’ in CNN Interview

ⓒ AskFlagler

FLAGLER BEACH – Mark Hertling is not a political person. At least not outwardly so. In previous interviews he’s given with local news outlets he’s made it clear he did not wish to become drawn into partisan debates around current hotbed issues. His expertise is broad but well-defined: as a 38-year veteran of the U.S. Army reaching the status of lieutenant general and commanding general of European forces, there are few individuals in existence less qualified to speak about the modern workings of the American military.

Hertling has retired to Flagler Beach in his post-service life, and taken up a role as a recurring CNN contributor. In this phase he has astutely kept his military insight divorced from the partisan back-and-forth that has defined the last few election cycles. But in recent days Hertling has clearly found that this line has been blurred, and the 2024 presidential election is hitting close to home.

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Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida and candidate for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination, has waged a campaign that largely focuses on social causes. He has declared an all-out war against what he calls ‘woke’, which in effect has meant companies or organizations which support LGBTQ+ or racially inclusive causes. DeSantis has overseen government action against Disney and Bud Light for their pro-LGBTQ+ stances in recent months, and has championed legislation which limits the place of what he calls ‘woke’ in classrooms and business spaces.

DeSantis was in the U.S. Navy for over a decade, including stints in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

One recent tenet of DeSantis’ anti-woke campaign has been a proposal that the U.S. military ban transgender individuals from serving in accordance with their declared gender, as well as to roll back diversity and inclusion standards in recruitment by the Pentagon. DeSantis himself is a veteran, having served in the Navy from 2004 to 2010, as well as from 2010 to 2019 in the reserves.

The role of teambuilding and diversity in the military is where DeSantis’ politics and Hertling’s military background meet. It turned out to be the issue for which Hertling would step into the political realm to let his opinions be known.

“I think he’s disconnected from what the military actually does,” Hertling said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. This assertion led into a conversation about what actually defines the term ‘woke’, and what role that definition plays in the armed services.

“I’ve never heard him give a definition [of woke],” Hertling continued. “It’s someone that looks outside their normal field of view. It’s someone that opens their aperture to different viewpoints to try and analyze things in maybe a unique way. To try and not go along with common cultural bias, but find out more things about a particular subject. That’s what the military does. We’re not taught what to think, we’re taught how to think. That’s a very valuable attribute when you’re talking about dealing with not only our allies but our enemies.”

Furthermore, Hertling contrasted his own Florida residency with a common claim DeSantis has made about the state being ‘where woke goes to die’. “I consider myself woke,” Hertling said. “Not only as a soldier but as a now-citizen of Florida. I’m woke and I still live in Florida because I like to investigate things. I like to analyze things. I like to expand my view of not only how our military works, but how our enemies and our allies work as well.”

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Robert Joseph Fortier

    July 30, 2023 at 6:53 am

    Unless I am reading this correctly, it sounds like a Flagler Live article???

  2. Robert Joseph Fortier

    July 30, 2023 at 6:54 am

    I meant to type “incorrectly”. Sorry.

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