Who Needs Training?

Disturbing news from the Pentagon:

FORT MONROE, Va. -- The US Army, struggling to cope with stepped-up operations and extended deployments of its soldiers to Iraq, has shortened the duration of several of its bedrock training courses so that troops can return to fighting units on the front lines more quickly, according to senior training officials.

One training course that is considered the "first step" in educating newly minted sergeants -- the noncommissioned officers considered the backbone of Army units -- has been cut in half to 15 days. Meanwhile, an intensive program designed to prepare young officers for advanced leadership has been compressed from eight months to less than five months so that the Army can fill positions in constant demand from commanders in the Middle East.

(...)

"We are doing everything we can without jeopardizing the quality of the training to make it more efficient and compress it," Colonel Joe Gallagher, chief of plans for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, said in an interview earlier this month. "The whole intent is to get the soldier into the unit where he can be used faster. Time will tell if something is missing." MORE

The key phrase is "Time will tell is something is missing." Yes, indeed, time will tell, along with the lives of soldiers who are thrown into dangerous situations without adequate training. This is, you may recall, being done by the administration which promises "the troops" have "everything they need."

I realize the colonel quoted in the story says they aren't jeopardizing the quality of training. They are merely making it "more efficient." If it is really so easy to deliver the same amount of training at the same level of quality in less time, then why wasn't the Army already doing so? Have they been wasting the soldier's time and the taxpayer's money all these years? It has to be one or the other.

The truth is that the Iraq war has stretched the Army to its breaking point. Responsibility for this goes straight to the man in the Oval Office, who decided after 9/11 to take the country to war on the cheap. He knew full well that the force at his disposal was about half the size of the one that performed so magnificently in Gulf War I. Rather than re-build force structure to match the new missions, he decided to make do with what he had.

Was it a matter of money? No, because at the same time he was demanding more and more from the Pentagon he shoveled billions of dollars into all manner of useless domestic programs. Nor was Congress an obstacle. His own party controlled both houses for four years, and even many Democrats were eager to expand the Army. Bush is The Decider, and he decided "no."

So now we have too few soldiers deployed too many places for too many months with too little training. All totally unnecessary. We had no reason to invade Iraq in the first place, but doing it with half the force needed was, and is, a monumental fiasco.

We're going to need this Army for more important things in the coming years. And you know what? It won't be there when we need it because we've broken it trying to pacify Iraq. The soldiers will, always, give everything they have - but I fear a time will come when their everything won't be enough.

Hat tip: Born at the Crest

1 comment:

Donald Douglas said...

Interesting analysis. I do hope that we can complete our win in Iraq, and begin the transition to a post-Bush military.

Have a great weekend!