Monday, January 26, 2009

They do the training differently these days

I just read the Stand-to article about the train up of the 56th Division for their deployment to Iraq. The thing that strikes me as the single most significant difference from the old school method is the significant active component support to the training effort. Gone for the moment are the days in which the Active Component did little to assist the training needs of a reserve component unit. Here we see the complete effort as it should always be to provide resources (Funding, scheduling, trainers, knowledge and training areas) for efficient training.

First Army prepares the 56th SBCT for Combat -What is it?

The 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), Pennsylvania Army National Guard, is the Army’s only reserve-component Stryker Brigade. It was mobilized in September 2008 to conduct full-spectrum operations in Iraq. Currently, Reserve units can only be mobilized up to 12 months, making the 56th maximized at their training time with the assistance of First Army at multiple sites across the country, including Camp Shelby, Miss., and the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, La.
How did the Army prepare the 56th?

The complexity and scope of the training required by the 56th was beyond the capability of any single training support brigade. The 56th was assisted by a "team of teams" of active, reserve and civilian organizations assembled by First Army and led by the 157th Infantry Brigade. The 157th is one of First Army's 16 training support brigades (TSBs) that trains and validates Army National Guard and reserve units for deployment. To successfully prepare them for their historic mission, the training team incorporated five brigade-level units, four installations, a division staff and numerous contractors.

A critical element of this effort was the partnership and support provided by the 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash., who provided numerous combat counterparts from battalion commanders and command sergeants major to squad leaders. These Soldiers and leaders recently returned from Iraq and had current combat experience that reinforced the expertise unique to First Army units which was established specifically for the 56th - the 1-307th Training Support Battalion (Stryker). The 1-307th, located in Pennsylvania, has been providing assistance since the 56th was reorganized in 2004.

The 157th received additional augmentation from many other TSBs, particularly the 177th Armored Brigade, Camp Shelby, Miss., and the 72nd Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Dix, N.J., and the First Army Division East staff. Other support came from 15 different agencies for intelligence specific training; the 4th Brigade, 75th Training Division that supported a progressive series of staff training exercises; and numerous contractors with expertise in the cutting-edge technology available to all of the Army's Stryker brigades.
Why is this important to the Army?

Such combined training teams routinely assembled by First Army ensures every reserve-component unit, such as the 56th, has the essential skills and procedures needed to successfully conduct operations on today's complex battlefield.

First Army has evolved to participating in Reserve Component Training as a credible training team member instead of spectator…I applaud the improvement.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gay members in the Military

Read the piece in Newsweek titled Don’t Ask Too Fast
In that article it discusses the President –elect’s stated goal to allow openly Gay men and women into the Military Ranks. In the article I found interesting the passage

In the next year, Mullen might have to ask troops to do something many will find even more uncomfortable: welcome openly gay men and women into their ranks. Such was the promise made by President-elect Obama in the 2008 campaign—gay-rights groups will hold him to it. To many civilians, the shift might seem natural. American attitudes toward homosexuality have evolved since 1993, the year Congress mandated that gays could serve so long as they hid their sexual orientation. The law, known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, predates "Will & Grace," and for most Americans, even the Internet. A 2008 Washington Post–ABC News poll put public support for gays serving openly at 75 percent.

But the military has its own culture, more insular and more conservative than the broader population's. In a survey of active-duty service members released last week, 58 percent said they oppose any change in the military's policy toward gays. Up to 23 percent of troops might not re-enlist if the law is repealed, according to a Military Times poll. Mullen will have to act as kind of cultural mediator between his new boss and the old institution he has managed for more than a year. That will mean advising Obama on what changes the military can (and cannot) withstand and then obliging troops to accept them.

In my mind, most military members really don’t care what sexual orientation, gender, religion or background you have any more than we want to know what is the color of your underwear. What is important is your ability to do your job in context of the overall mission. Military people are aware that Gay men and women already serve with distinction…its not going to really change things if a gay man or women does not hide that fact in the future if they can perform as part of the team completing the mission (and they can). Don’t ask, Don’t tell did not prevent Gay members from serving, it became an exit strategy for some (gay or not) and a rallying call for others (most of whom do not serve). The answer to the issue is probably to drop Don’t Ask, Don’t tell and allow members from throughout the community to serve with Honor and without unnecessary scrutiny into sexual orientation.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2009 - the year of the NCO

Happy New Year to all – 2009 – the Year of the Non Commissioned Officer

The news about what the Army has done for this year

In October 2008, Secretary of the Army Pete Geren announced that 2009 would be designated as "the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer."

In noting his gratitude and support for noncommissioned officers (NCO), Secretary Geren remarked that NCOs have provided invaluable service and continually proven their dedication and willingness to sacrifice. With our nation at war for seven years in Afghanistan and then Iraq, and the security environment more ambiguous than ever, our military is stretched thin and out of balance. We have a plan to restore balance by 2011 and to set the conditions for the future-- the NCO Corps is the key enabler to attain those objectives. The Year of the NCO is a time to enhance the education, fitness, leadership and pride in service of our NCOs through programs that sustain and grow our NCO Corps, to recognize their leadership, commitment and courage, and to inform key audiences about the responsibilities and quality of service of our NCOs.

I certainly don’t have the credentials of the Secretary of the Army, but I echo his sentiment with regard to the capabilities, contribution and commitment of the NCO Corp. I was privileged to serve with many within the NCO ranks over the span of my career. Starting with SSG Ward – my first Platoon Sergeant in 7th Cavalry in 1982. That guy tolerated me as a newly minted butter bar and taught me the best methods, gave guidance and advise that served me throughout my career.

Many other great NCOs worked (tolerated or endured) with me – more than I could ever thank here…a few names that really stand out – SFC Jan Quinlan, CSM Ron Lamb, MSG Joe Federinic, MSG Ed Mutter, MSG Jack Mutter, CSM Maynard, SFC Chris Coffin (killed in Iraq) because of longer associations or their infinite patience when I was essentially learning a new job. All of these and many others were certainly key enablers to achieving the mission in their organizations. Most were never adequately recognized for their sacrifice and commitment leaving the praise to fall on me for their efforts.

I Think its great that 2009 is the year of the NCO and in my smaller way, I thought I would echo the sentiment to some great NCOs that made the difference in my career.