Friday, February 23, 2007

Is the Army being torn apart?

Recently House Speaker Pelosi's blog, the Gavel, expands significantly on a NYT story about the extent to which Bush's "surge" in Iraq is straining our military resources. The Gavel notes from her provide sound bite statements from a number of sources including Gen Schoonmaker, Army Guard sources and analysts that portray a concern that Bush may be breaking the Army. The New York Times story details Pentagon plans to send National Guard troops back to Iraq next year with potentially an adjustment to the period of time between deployments. It is inferred that the Bush administration change to Reserve and Guard deployments “abandonment of rules that limited call-ups of Guard members by the Bush administration in January” is a catalyst for destruction.

What is missed is that the policy change for Reserve and Guard deployments is better in many respects for those soldiers. Previous deployments were 18 months long with significant training at a distant military facility followed by a year long tour in Iraq. Ask any Guard or Reserve soldier that has deployed and they will candidly tell you that much of the 6 month period spent in training is wasted with administrative bureaucracy, redundant training events, unimaginative training plans, Active Duty trainer goading and insufficient resources which severely stress the unit even before deployment. Couple this with 6 additional months away from home and it is a great tribute to Guard and Reserve soldiers that they remain in the ranks.

I’m always happy when Congress takes an interest in Guard and Reserve issues. The fact that there is a concern for Guard and Reserve forces is always a good thing, because, frankly the Active Component has not been kind to the Guard and Reserve in the past – however much of that was due to the same congressional organization that is using Reserve and Guard preparation now as another barb to throw at the Bush administration.

The Active Army, Guard and Reserve are coming to a better understanding of capabilities, resources, training needs and equipment needs. No where was I treated as much as an equal than during my year of service as a Reserve Officer assigned to MNSTC-I – an active unit in Iraq. I believe the new leadership of the Army has had to count and come to appreciate the Guard and Reserve and will provide for needs as they arise.

With respect to the force being torn apart… every soldier spends up to 6 years per contract or commission on duty – as this conflict has lasted 4 years – conceivably 2/3rds of the soldiers have had an opportunity to leave in lieu of re-enlistment. All new soldiers today joined a volunteer force where the deployment cycles were already well known and defined. With the exception of 10000 soldiers on stop loss – it is 100% voluntary to serve in the Army… essentially if you wanted to leave in the last 4 years – you could. Its been a recurring theme with some nay-sayers that the Army is stressed and self-destructing… I don’t see that in the numbers…. I don’t hear it when I talk with soldiers…. I didn’t feel it in Iraq… I don’t read it in soldier blogs. I usually see it in articles and posts from defeatist… the press seeking another Bush bashing story… people that purport to know what is best for soldiers that have never served a day in uniform…

If you want to know the truth about the matter – seek an accurate assessment – ask a soldier.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You were more than "an equal" at MNSTC-I, you set the standard.

For those whom are taken in by Stan's self-effacing comments, let me correct the record. I am a 17+ year Regular Army LTC myself, I served in the place as Stan (literally, within feet of him on most days), and I can say without reservation, that he set the standard in our multinational office for professionalism, aplomb, and capability. (Uh, except that time when he threw the desk...other than that though...)

I have never seen a cooler individual, in fact, the hotter it got (either atmospherically or situation-wise) the cooler the man seemed to get. Not a bad quality to have. Particularly when you are, as Stan was, the most travelled man in all of Iraq.

I do disagree, however, with his assessment of the stress on the force. But that is a professional disagreement, not for publication.

Bob Bateman

Now of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.