Saturday, March 1, 2008

Put the Troop Units where the Troops Live

This last month saw the last F-16’s of the 147th Fighter Wing TXANG leave Ellington Field located close to the Houston Ship Channel which is not only one of the top four ports of the nation, but the home of a couple dozen petrochemical plants. Houston, not only is the world capitol of the energy industry, it is the fourth largest city in the nation. The loss of these fighter aircraft, replaced by a more expensive fighter element from out of state, and unaware of what’s worth defending.

It makes too much sense to place troops in places where something dangerous this ways come for the Pentagon to grasp such subtleties. The stationing of troops stateside to be able to react faster to threats overseas than forces already overseas is a bit of Rumsfeldian quixotry hard to match in the annals of military lunacy.

The stationing of standing troops is typically based on the location of threat(s) first, followed by the location of adequate training facilities, security, and sustainability. To that, RC units need to be based geographically near where the troops live. While a fair number of officers and noncoms travel long distances to attend drill (aka training assemblies, et al) the bulk of a unit needs to live nearby, like less than an hours commute for rapid activation and deployment in emergencies.

The 75th Division (TS) in Houston is commanded by an MG from Chicago. My former stock broker in Hoston, a Navy Commander, used to drill in New Orleans now drills close by in San Antonio. I know other Houstonians that drill in Florida and in San Diego. This testifies as to the professionalism of the troops in the Guard and Reserves. But you can’t rely on long commutes to field large units, and despite the call for funds to support such commutes by the CNGR, those funds will be diverted to pay for TDY for strap hangers to advise the lowly unit commanders on how to save training money.

More fundamentally, one takes advantage of the geographic dispersion of the talents needed to fight and win wars in stationing RC units and activities. Houston is a town full of aviators and aviation mechanics, yet the aviation assets of all services are conspicuous for their absence. This should be the first principle of stationing Guard and Reserve units, that of being close to the talents needed for both state and national needs.

Units that are boat based should be stationed where there are boats and sailors, and other boat handlers even if those boats are really big and carry airplanes. Current combat in built up areas show that urban troops survive much better than rural troops when the bullets start to fly. Historically, rural units have specialized in combat roles which needs to be enhanced by combat units in cities. One never has enough infantry and never enough cargo craft (air, land or sea).

Yet, the BRAC commission specialized in moving units far from where the troops live. This is a process started long before BRAC, which I noted when my intelligence battalion moved from Houston to be closer to the training facility in Austin originally designed to give employment to unemployed reservists in the San Antonio-Austin area. Houston could raise a brigade of linguists in six months to meet all the requirements for critical language and cultural sensitivities. So could New York City, Chicago, LA and the San Francisco Bay area. Those cities should also be home to major units based on water craft and aircraft.

The over-all stationing of units beyond the needs of the states for military units, needs to be based on an overall assessment of mobilization staffing requirements for a full out peer to peer showdown such as was planned before the Pentagon decided not to fight guerilla wars and those they did could be handled 10-30-30. This would work out as additional Guard units that fit traditional Guard proclivities and additional Reserve units to meet the need for critical masses of specialties found geographically.

Of particular note is the requirement for a Green Water and Brown Water “navy”. The US Navy is by default Blue Water and only reacts to the Green and Brown when embarrassed and when career advancement is served thereby. In short, the Coast Guard needs to regain it’s units, and naval small boat units restored (where there is both water and the need).

Of a heretical cant, there is need for water craft under state control to meet the various needs of flood, hurricane and man made disaster handling, and the best way to do this is for the National Guard to get into the Brown and Green Water game. While it is too much to expect that a Navy National Guard to have traction, those same boats and personnel could be assigned to the Army National Guard which is not far from where things are in the Army Reserve units with boats.

Let’s put the troops where the talent is, as well as where the danger is, and fund the training areas to fit.


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