Friday, February 29, 2008

Regular Shredding Keeps the Terrorist Away

One of the members of the Committee on the National Guard and Reserves (CNGR) let slip that the Pentagon had no need for Guard and Reserve units, and that their needs were for combat troops. This, of course, is no news to members of the Guard and Reserves as the Pentagon and it’s predecessors have consistently felt the same and such feeling is endemic and pervasive down to their inner selves. The late Colonel Hackworth, something of an iconoclast, also believed that Regulars should command Guard and Reserve units. He was surprised to note, that that could happen in the Guard if the state Governors would allow it.

Inasmuch as the process of the destruction of Guard and Reserve units has been the policy and practice of the Bush Administration since Field Marshall von Rumsfeld took office, and in defiance of Federal Law and of the Constitution (Second Amendment), illustrates the ancient dictum that standing armies are a standing threat to civil authority, regardless of the nature of the civil authority. This goes back to tribal days when the elected War Chief overthrows the authority of the tribal council of elders. The history of ancient civilizations also is describable in terms of the struggle of the war chief versus the priest hood (aka intelligentsia) over who would dominate the town council, the latter reduced to that of privy council of cronies.

The justification of a take over by the war chief is often found in the inability of the tribal council to defend the tribe against sustained threats. This, however, doesn’t apply to the USofA, as since the creation of the Department of Defense, the war winning record has been abysmal despite being more ready than before DoD. The Pre-DoD record was full of battles lost and wars won, now replaced with battles won and wars lost or called off.

The history of American war since before the United States has been that there are never enough infantry and never enough trucks (be those trucks float, fly or drive). This too the Pentagon missed in their preparation for the Long War, but realized that replacements will be needed to flesh out the 10-30-30 “Whack-A-Mole” rotational war so favored by those in the Wolves Lair by the Potomac. This gave them the opportunity to shred the Guard and Reserves.

Despite the fact that Guard and Reserve units and personnel have demonstrated stellar performance, the CNGR proceeded blindly in their Rumsfeldian quest. We all recall that the first stage of the shredding was the cherry picking and packaging of RC units under flags of convenience particularly leaving out field and flag rank command slots in deploying units. It occurred to no one in the Puzzle Palace that the traditional way to call up RC and militia units was to send Regulars in as fillers and replacements thus preserving the usual stellar cohesion that RC units excel in. Italian units “stiffened” with German officers and NCO’s often performed admirably in North Afrika.

There is, however, a valid defense requirement in what the CNGR member let slip, and that is the need for individual and small team replacements to fill short falls and unanticipated needs in the forces on active service regardless of component. The only components capable of maintaining such a pool are the Reserves as contrasted with the Guard which is unit based, and the Active Components by their year end staffing requirements. The Guard and AC must cannibalize units to provide fillers. And the Army and Air Force Reserves have failed to maintain an adequate system of trained fillers. The IRR system failed, in part for lack of money, and in part due to fear that non-unit affiliation would threaten a major source of income, and make for a less competitive career. Just providing more money didn’t work.

One of the major lunacies of the Rumsfeldian unit shredding schema is that the most valuable RC individual replacements, however contrived, is for experienced and trained troops well past entry level. These troops, for the most part, got their entry level experience on active service and are like Napoleon’s Old Guard, are older. In addition to technical skills, the leadership skills of the mid level manager, officer or enlisted, require practice, a practice gained only in units. Consequently, the need for trained non-coms and officers is best met from persons in units. That’s exactly where the Pentagon got them, but by cannibalizing RC units.

It seems obvious that the best solution to meet the replacement problem is to provide units for individuals to train with, by authorized over-strength (a notion already under way) and the creation of units formed for the purpose of collective training for the individuals. These would be units in training configured along tactical lines but lacking the full complement of hardware necessary for deployment. These units would form command cells to participate in a “war” created by war-game, virtual reality, and/or command post exercise in which individuals would join in a war in progress, a very realistic mode.

Other activities of a unit in training would be ad hoc aggregates to under go selected skills training such as NBC, weapons qualification, patrolling, or the usual array of required training so favored by under-employed higher staffs.

Imagine the UmptyUmpth Fighter Squadron consisting of flight and fight simulators, or the Last/UmptyUmpth combat brigade engaged in a virtual reality enactment of the Battle of Tora Bora in progress. An RC Sergeant in town for business could hop by the local RC center, and participate in an exercise available and for which a training need exists. The record of his/her participation would go into his on-line training folder.

In several years of exercises with the 75th Division, I found that such exercises can be hard to distinguish from the command post environments I found in Vietnam and in the Fulda Gap.

In short, unit shredding is counter-productive to the needs of the Active Components as well as the needs of the RC components. Using the proven effectiveness of modern training technology can present realistic training for RC units be they deployable or not.

The fact that Guard units are experienced in working with civilian authorities makes them, as units, better suited for the Long War than AC units, gives rise to the notion that AC units should be shredded to fill Guard units.

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