View Full Version : Bolster Infantry Forces

08-10-2006, 07:12 AM
10 August Washington Times commentary - Bolster Infantry Forces (http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20060809-090140-2659r.htm) by MG Robert Scales, US Army (ret.).

... The two images reflect the dilemma that the Israeli military faces in this war. They can fight the enemy on the ground, lose too many soldiers and suffer condemnation at home, or bomb from the air, kill civilians and suffer condemnation from the global community. The American military has been dealing with precisely the same dilemma for more than four years in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At first glance the aerial approach to solving the dilemma seems the lesser of two evils. But the tragic bombing in Qana highlights the increasingly unacceptable human costs of relying on precision killing from the air to achieve what are essentially human objectives inherent in wars such as these.

Plus the aerial solution is very expensive. Since the end of the Gulf War, we have spent almost $1.5 trillion dollars building aircraft, precision bombs, sensors, satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles in an effort to track and kill an ever more elusive and skillful enemy from the air. In spite of the cost, we still look first to solving military challenges with precision killing. It's in our cultural DNA.

Experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Lebanon has taught al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah how to lessen the killing effects of Western weapons by choosing to fight in urban areas, where they can disperse and hide among the innocents. The race between precision-killing technologies and an elusive enemy is a contest that neither Israel nor the United States can win. How many more examples are needed to prove that an insurgent can find ways to adapt faster than we can develop the technologies to find and kill him from the air without harming innocent civilians?

... In this country almost four out of five dead suffered at the hands of the enemy since World War II have been light infantry, a force that comprises less than 4 percent of our military ó to be sure, body armor, night-vision devices and superior supporting fires from aircraft and drones flying overhead have made today's light infantry more effective and have saved lives.

But these are differences in capabilities that a determined enemy can offset with its familiarity with the terrain and affinity with the local population. The bottom line is as simple as it is startling: Except for better training, morale and leadership, Israeli and American light infantry go into battle today with a cumulative advantage not much better than their grandfathers had in Vietnam or during the Six-Day War.

If we are to win the long war against radical Islamism we must fix this problem. During the past half century we have invested pennies on the defense dollar to keep light infantry alive in battle. That's why we know far less about the science of ground warfare than we know about the science of air warfare.

There are many areas that desperately need attention if we are to commit to keeping light infantry alive in battle. Just a few: Put precision small arms in the hands of infantry; give them better networks to connect them to the outside world and to each other; provide even better personal protection from small arms; and most importantly, find a technological breakthrough that will conceal light infantry as it rushes across the last 50 meters, the so-called "deadly zone" where most of them die.

Keeping our soldiers alive should be a national ó not a service ó effort. The Army and Marine Corps are too consumed with fighting today's battles to take on this task alone. If the nation would commit to an expansive long-term program done in a manner similar to the effort that gave us absolute dominance in the air, we might begin to find ways to destroy Hezbollah and its evil clones without losing too many more precious Israeli and American lives.

Tom Odom
08-10-2006, 04:07 PM
On this issue,

MG Scales is on target but I would add looking at the issue of building experience into units. Hopefully we will get there...(I know hope is NOT an technique but it beats giving up).


08-10-2006, 05:55 PM
I absolutely agree that light infantry forces should be our top national priority.

I disagree that we should look for all kinds of new capabilities for infantry forces. I also disagree with the idea that we can turn our infantry into bulletproof knights - walking tanks that can't be hurt by enemy fire.

What we should be working on is reducing the weight, bulk, complexity and cost of the capabilities we do have. We can't make infantry invisible across the last 50 meters. We can't whip up some magical super weapon that will clobber all of the enemy from thousands of feet away. What we can do is lighten the soldier's loads so that they can get across those meters in the shortest possible time. Infantry also lose disproportionately from plain bad judgment. Reducing their physical burden will reduce the number of times an exhausted LCpl or 2nd Lt says "go ahead" without giving it a good hard think first.

We can also train enough infantry that they can decisively win these close engagements. With more infantry, who are less burdened and better trained, we'll stack the deck in our favor.

New organization comes into play, too, I think. But that goes way beyond the scope of this :)

08-10-2006, 06:54 PM
We can also train enough infantry that they can decisively win these close engagements. With more infantry, who are less burdened and better trained, we'll stack the deck in our favor.

Also 'armed' with the capability to operate on all 3 blocks of the 3BW...

08-11-2006, 01:23 PM
It is curious that MG Scales recommendations for improving American light infantry are primarily technological.

Maybe light infantry effectiveness is more a matter of human qualities; training, motivation, organization, imagination, experience etc.

If we were to put the effort into recruiting and retaining light infantry leaders that we put into recruiting and retaining pilots, we would be better served.

SSG Rock
08-15-2006, 09:47 PM
Agree, for years I was told that all the shiny whiz bang high tech weapons are great, but the core of our Army was that Soldier manning it. When did that change? Frankly, I'm getting to the point that I'm sick of hearing about this stuff. Imagine the Army we could have built by now if we invested the same amount of money in training and equipment for our conventional combat arms, SF and SOF units that we have dumped into FCS. And to top it off from the information I've been reading FCS is on life support, and now from lack of funds, so is the rest of the Army, hell I know it, I'm experiencing it myself! The more that Rumsfeld demands the Army transform itself into this high tech robotic Army, the less and less capable it seems that our Soldiers will be in the future for lack of training and equipment because the lions share of the budget is being spent on these high tech gadgets!

I'm sick! Just sick of the inept civilian leadership at the Pentagon! So sue me, Rumsfeld should tender his resignation and leave this to the Army, we were tracking just fine until he came along and upset the apple cart. Now look at us. It's a damn shame!

Steve Blair
08-16-2006, 01:12 PM
Rock, your rant is good but not complete. The Army itself (or at least its higher leadership) was moving down the high-tech road before Rumsfeld came on the scene. It's a problem they've faced in one form or another since the Second World War and accelerated in Vietnam. Why Vietnam (again)? If you look at the track record there, the Army constantly turned to technology for answers instead of techniques (airmobility, ground sensors, night vision gear, etc., etc.). Technology became an end of its own instead of a tool. This, in my view, accelerated through the years of Active Defense and AirLand Battle. Often the answer to an operational problem was determined to lie with a new system or weapons system (the Abrams, which worked, and the Sgt. York, which didn't, are two examples). This tech bleed-over might come from the Air Force, which has traditionally relied on systems instead of personnel. It may also spring from low retention levels many of our current senior leaders experienced in their early days, leading them to want (at least on a subconscious level) systems that could be counted on to be in service for some years instead of people who may or may not decide to stick around.

Rumsfeld is a very handy lightning rod for discussions, but he's really not the main problem. He's more a symptom of the main issue. You have to remember - the civilian leadership comes and goes, but the military higher leadership remains longer and has a much greater impact (look at the behavior of the JCS and higher generals during Vietnam if you want historical examples of this).

And Jones, you've hit on one of my favorite "endless lessons learned." How many times do we have to relearn what a German study concluded in the mid- to -late 1800s (if memory serves): that any combat load over about 40 pounds degrades the ability of infantry to do their job. Or the ever-popular "troops in dry or hot areas of operations should carry more water."

SSG Rock
08-16-2006, 01:58 PM
I spent lastnight regaining my composure.

Steve, it isn't the technology itself that I take issue with, certainly we need new systems and FCS is a great idea. But I don't think we need it in Iraq. So, I don't see the need for this big push, for spending huge sums of money on it right now. I'd rather see the Army address Iraq through training, and educating our Soldiers in counterinsurgency, technology isn't going to help us win the support of the Iraqi people. But Soldiers who understand their culture, are sensitive to their desires and their fears will.

It's frustrating Steve. The CBO has warned of a serious cost overrun in developing FCS and delayed fielding by about two years. FCS just doesn't seem to be the right place to be spending our money. I'd rather see our Soldiers be properly trained and equipped for counterinsurgency ops. We all know that COIN is up close and personal, and we are doing a miserable job in preparing our troops for it. Our DACs at Fort Leavenworth are losing their jobs left and right as money continues to be siphoned away to support the GWOT and while a realize that the GWOT is CSA's top priority as it should be, but I see signs that the Army is beginning to buckle, and it troubles me.

Rumsfeld might be a convenient target, but there is no denying that he has shown himself to be a stubborn, inflexible leader who seems loath to change his mind. This might be a personality flaw, or it might be because he actually beleives that sticking with the current TTP will win the fight (I don't beleive that, I think we need a dramatic change). At any rate, we have been in Iraq for five years. Do you see signs that we have turned the corner? I don't. How long should we wait? Afterall, considering the fact that we were told this would be over in short order, one has to start questioning the leadership at some point. When is the proper time? Personally, I've reached it.

Steve Blair
08-16-2006, 03:52 PM
I do, however, think that there's more than enough blame to go around for the mindset you're seeing right now. Rumsfeld is stubborn and inflexible, but there have also been several failures of higher Army (and other services) leadership to focus on the current situation and what's needed to deal with it.

Vietnam had Westmoreland, we had Franks. Since World War II, the Army has been very reluctant to focus on LIC/MOOTW/whatever your favorite acronym is. Maybe it's because senior leadership saw retention as a problem and focused on technological solutions instead of manpower. Maybe it's because they saw the technology focus work for the Air Force (which it really hasn't in practice, but it did get them large chunks of the defense budget for many years), or maybe it's because the promotion system for officers keeps them moving around so much they never really get a good feel for the problems the troops face. Or (most likely) it's a combination of these factors and a few more.

There's also the institutional denial factor. Since Korea, the Army has shown a very distinct reluctance to prepare for smaller-scale conflicts. This trend accelerated after Vietnam. There are other historical/institutional factors that could play into it, such as the American reliance (before WW 2) on a small standing army to be augmented by draftees in time of trouble. It's a complex question. I see many parallels between the Army's behavior today and its behavior in the early 1960s. Does that mean Iraq is Vietnam? No. But it does indicate that some of the same institutional blindspots and behaviors may still be functioning. McNamara was also stubborn, inflexible, and focused on one way of doing things. Many generals responded to him the same way they are now responding to Rumsfeld.

SSG Rock
08-16-2006, 06:00 PM
You are correct Steve. It isn't just Rumsfeld, but he is in charge so....

I must be fair. Yesterday, what set me off was a report I read that the CBO had warned that the FCS was going to cost alot more than planned and that there would likely be a two year delay in fielding. Just moments ago I read a story on Reuters that stated the Program Manager at Boeing that Army modernization is right on track. http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2006-08-15T230153Z_01_N15438623_RTRIDST_0_ARMS-BOEING.XML&rpc=66&type=qcna

Me confused!

08-17-2006, 11:29 PM
Think about the massive investment in new doctrine and soldier training in the 1970's. In the middle of Vietnam it wasn't possible to take those new concepts and put them into action. It was only in the war's disastrous aftermath that lessons could be learned and programs fixed.

The leadership is fixated on the wrong issues because the military is working for them at this moment. Their replacement will come eventually.

And technology doesn't always develop on schedule, either. Eugene Stoner's AR-10 was a high tech failure in 1957. In 1964 it morphed into the M-16 which is still with us 42 years later. My guess is that the Future Combat System will be quietly shelved, and in a few years a newer (and more modest) set of requirements will come about, the old research dusted off and new systems fielded. Of course, they could still blow billions on it in the meantime that would be better spent training soldiers who are about to be stepping into a lethal and politically charged warzone . . . .

Bill Moore
08-18-2006, 04:24 AM
I donít want to throw the baby out with the bath water, the right technology is important, but in a COIN type fight like weíre engaged in with OIF and OEF people are absolutely critical. I joined the Army in the late 70s and was shocked at the poor training and lack of discipline, but the transformation to rebuild our Army lead by empowered officers and NCOs with vision during Reganís Era convinced me to stay in. It was this Army that we saw perform so splendidly during DESERT STORM. It was the same Army to a large degree that we saw go into OIF (fortunately great conventional war fighters, but unfortunately poorly trained for COIN). We had the quality personnel, so fixing the COIN training shortfall could have been addressed quicker if there was acknowledgement that there was an insurgency sooner. We will save that for a different discussion.

The Army we went into OIF with is in danger of lapsing back into the hollow Army of the late 70s if we donít aggressively hold the line with standards. When the Army started taking hits in the press that they werenít meeting their recruiting goals it appears that the fix was to lower recruiting standards. There is a lot of wisdom associated with the old adage that one rotten apple can spoil the entire bushel. It isnít just one bad soldier; it is an institutional and cultural acceptance of not enforcing standards, not will rapidly spread into all areas of performance. I think most Officers and NCOs are still holding the line, but you can see weak points in the line due to policies coming out of the beltway. The soldiers who fit into the lower standards were referred to as Rumfieldís 10,000, but now that number is greater than 10,000 category IV personnel. We now have more than our fair share of kids who are physical and emotional cupcakes, or have personality problems, or simply are not all there intellectually. Some bean counter in the beltway doesnít see a problem with this and that is a crying shame.

The results will be more prisoner abuse cases, more murder/rape cases, and cases where soldiers canít trust their back to certain squad members. Longer term it will result in the exodus of good soldiers who donít want to be associated with this society if we donít go back to walking our talk, and focus more on the most important battlefield system the soldier.

08-18-2006, 12:28 PM
It is curious that MG Scales recommendations for improving American light infantry are primarily technological.

Maybe light infantry effectiveness is more a matter of human qualities; training, motivation, organization, imagination, experience etc.

If we were to put the effort into recruiting and retaining light infantry leaders that we put into recruiting and retaining pilots, we would be better served.

I could not agree more with your comments. While we could start a healthy debate as to whether the nature and character of war have changed over the past 100 years; the one thing we could all agree on is that the one point of continuity over these 100 years is the human element in warfare. The human dimension has been and will always be the most important element in warfare, yet our infantry forces in no way receive the same attention that our pilots do concerning recruiting, training, and retention.

The Navy pays it submarine force HUGE bonuses to stay in service, so as much as $25,000 a year, but little thought is given to the retention of Infantry Officers with experience and highly developed critical thinking skills.

Steve Blair
08-18-2006, 04:00 PM
I'm starting to fear that we're going to see the Vietnam cycle with the Army (and other services) all over again. Senior leadership that's out of touch with what's needed. Lowering standards to get bodies in the field. A focus on technology (since it's easy) and not personnel needs (which may require major changes in how the force does business). Doctrine that is radically out of touch with what's needed in the field.

In Vietnam we saw dry rot set in within the middle ranks. What I fear is that we'll see the same thing happen again.

08-18-2006, 04:17 PM
I'm starting to fear that we're going to see the Vietnam cycle with the Army (and other services) all over again. Senior leadership that's out of touch with what's needed. Lowering standards to get bodies in the field. A focus on technology (since it's easy) and not personnel needs (which may require major changes in how the force does business). Doctrine that is radically out of touch with what's needed in the field.

In Vietnam we saw dry rot set in within the middle ranks. What I fear is that we'll see the same thing happen again.

When reviewing all of the incidents of abuse and criminal conduct in Iraq, you will notice one common denominator, almost all the individuals came into service after 9/11, with the majority accepted to service during the past several very lean years of recruiting.

SSG Rock
08-18-2006, 04:53 PM
I don't want to turn this into bashing the young generation but, as unfortunate as it is, it is a true statement, our kids have had it pretty good. The Army ought NOT to lower it's standards to fill recruiting goals. I'd rather have quality over quantity. But the quantity mentality has taken hold over the past ten or fifteen years. I once had a Soldier who had nothing to offer the Army, he was a complete waste of time. I carefully mentored him and spent countless extra time and effort on him trying to instill the warrior spirit, trying to turn him around. When I'd finally had enough I approached my SGM and asked for his support in chaptering this kid out of the Army. The SGM refused, even after I had collected a pile of counseling statements, had all the documentation to support my request. The SGM told me my workload would increase, that my other Soldiers would have to pick up his slack and I told him I didn't care, that his failure to pull his load required us to pick up the slack anyway. In short, I'd given this kid plenty of opportunity to straighten himself out, I'd spent alot of extra time personally in that endeavour. The SGM told me that at least he was a "warm body" whom I could task with extra details etc. My SGM refused to support me. So, the Soldier was transferred to another section that was supervised by a MSG, (I was a SSG at the time). The MSG bragged about how he would turn the kid around, that it was just a leadership problem. Well, a year later, he went to the SGM and made the same request I did, to chapter the kid out of the Army and they did. So, thats just one small example of what I call the "warm body" mentality that has infected the Army. And the officer corps has the same mentality. Avoid looking bad on paper at any cost, even if it means chaos within the ranks.

I was disappointed in my SGM for not backing a fellow NCO, he acted as though I didn't know what I was doing. But earlier in my career, as a buck sergeant, if I thought a Soldier needed to be chaptered out of the Army it was a done deal. I got support all the way up the chain of command.

The hand writing is on the wall, I don't know why there is such institutional reticence to take corrective action.

08-18-2006, 10:33 PM
I think the source of the "warm bodies" problem is political pressure from on high to keep the war in Iraq looking good. The media was quick to point out recruiting shortfalls, as well as a lack of retention among troops whose term was expiring. Combined, they give the impression that we're losing the war, the American people don't support the war, professional soldiers think it isn't worth fighting for, etc. It also makes senior leadership look like they are endangering the nation through an involuntary reduction in our armed forces.

Given that impression, it's clear that the orders were given to get recruitment up at any cost. At the White House, the Capitol Building and Versailles on the Potomoc it's more important to look like you're succeeding than to actually succeed.

I'm okay with giving guys a chance that the Army or Marine Corps might have overlooked in the past - but obvious losers shouldn't make it past initial training and into the units.

SSG Rock
08-21-2006, 09:01 PM
The warm body mentality actually began years ago when we pushed troops to divisions and the support/service support units began to experience real shortages.

I don't know if OPTEMPO is having an impact on the combat arms personnel readiness or not for sure. One would think so, since recruiting standards have been degraded recentley.

Steve Blair
08-22-2006, 01:01 PM
I would assume that it is, since it has in the past.

I worked on Fort Riley in the mid- to late-1990s, and saw how the demands of Bosnia and Korea rotations (small deployments by today's standards) cut into the morale and readiness of the 1st ID. That was small stuff compared to what's going on today.

You also go back to sliding training standards, both to raise numbers and to appease social engineers who think that basic training might be too hard or too demanding. Again, what worries me is that you might see a repeat of the Vietnam Army, with forces gutted to meet deployment schedules, low training standards, and a general lack of accountability on the part of senior leaders.

Another impact Vietnam had on the Army (and time will tell if we see this again) was a serious decline in the skill level of NCOs, which are critical for this kind of conflict. Senior NCOs got out to avoid repeat tours, or found reasons to remain in the rear since they felt they'd put their time in on their first and second tours. The result? People promoted too fast, and often without the skills needed to be good NCOs.

In short, I don't really see Iraq as "another Vietnam" in terms of the conflict itself, but I can see it having a "Vietnam effect" on the military in terms of personnel policies and standards.

08-22-2006, 01:54 PM
Don't forget the problems the Army will face recruiting new soldiers even long after this war is over. People will remember stop-loss orders, repeat deployments and reserve call ups for a long time to come.

08-23-2006, 04:03 AM
I see your points. I think the army is not changing from this techno path, becuase it is wanting to develop an army for the wars it knows how to fight or wants to fight. I.E. China, a resurgent Russia, and so on. Thus we are trying to apply the wrong cures to our current operations. However, technology is not bad, but the thechnology must fit the situation and the soilder, not fit a situation and be applyed incorrectly as we are now seeing.

As for your other points about standards of soilders. The problem is not the recruits, but the leadership. I'm tired of hearing the pharse of the officer corp polices its own. The fact is we aren't. To many people with the incorrect abilities are taking command and putting us in a pickle. If we got serious about leadership and setting the standard by putting competent leaders infront of our troops, I belive we could mold any young soilder that comes through the door. Instead, the brass has its head in the sand setting no operational and strategic guidence and it leads to a disunity of command. We need to get on the same page, set the standard, and live by that standard.