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SWJED
05-02-2007, 09:16 AM
2 May Christian Science Monitor - Key US Army Ranks Begin to Thin (http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0502/p01s01-usmi.html) by Gordon Lubold.


Thousands more mid-level enlisted soldiers are leaving the Army than in each of the past two years, forcing the service to increase its use of pay-to-stay programs and find other ways to keep GIs in the fold.

Four years into the fight in Iraq, the Army continues to be successful in retaining enough soldiers overall "a miracle" to some observers, because the war has lasted so long. But that success masks a growing problem within the ranks: Fewer mid-grade sergeants are opting to stay in the Army as many face yet another deployment to Iraq and, more important, Army officials say, less time at home.

While a reenlistment shortfall in any Army group is cause for concern, many consider the declining rate among mid-grade sergeants to be a sign of potential bigger reenlistment problems for the Army down the line. In addition, the fact that more mid-level soldiers are leaving could have a long-term impact on the Army's ability to grow future leaders...

sullygoarmy
05-02-2007, 02:51 PM
Good article highlighting a growing problem in our military. Most articles fail to mention one of the main reasons soldiers re-enlist, especially in a combatzone: Cold, hard, cash that's tax free.

But now as repeat/extended tours become the norm, how do we keep our mid-level leaders? What we want to avoid is the wholesale depletion of our NCO corps and mid-level officers. Such a depletion has long term effects on the future of our military.

jcustis
05-02-2007, 07:20 PM
But now as repeat/extended tours become the norm, how do we keep our mid-level leaders?

There are several ways. Mind you, I have a more conservative view of why folks are leaving, and it isn't necessarily just extended or repeat tours:

-Don't lower the standards that exist, and in fact raise the bar.
-Don't coddle under-achievers and poor performers. Screw something up bad enough?...you're done. Not reassigned, but done. Don't let the door hit you on the ass.
-Take a serious look at revamping our personnel management practices...and then actually do something about it once the $2 mil study is released. If a guy or gal wants to stay 7, 9, or 10 years in the operating forces, and is pulling his/her weight, good to go.
-Need advisors? Stop cutting into the T/O of deploying units to carve out MITTs, BITTs, etc. Build the pool and keep those folks there.
-Want to deploy with your own commercially procured body armor? Great, just review the comparative testing analysis brochure, sign a hold harmless waiver, and drive on. Big boys rules should be in effect, so don't assume that "Joe don't know".
-Assume a little more operational risk, and tear down every super-FOB out there.

sullygoarmy
05-02-2007, 07:56 PM
J,
I agree with you on most of your points. The personnel management system, and the Army's insistance to still hit certain gates (the artist formely known as branch-qualifiying jobs, now called Key Developmental positions) prevents our leaders for speciailizing in certain fields and puts a real crunch on those MiTT Advisors who do NOT get any KD credit for their time served.

Additionally, I agree we need to build up an "Advisor Corps" of selected officers and NCOs, screened for their abilities to build rapport, adapt to different cultures and to be self-sufficient in a fluid environment: not selected based on their PT scores, last OER/NCOER or just because they haven't been to the sandbox yet (one of the biggest screeners right now). As much as I'd like to see advisors remain in the conventional force once this Iraq/Afghanistan thing ends, you know the budget hatchet wielders will kill the program as soon as the firing stops...per our usual gunshot wound to the foot.

I suspect there are very few mid-level guys getting out because they couldn't wear their very own "second chance" body armor. The 365 days of continuous combat (sorry, extend that to 15 months) and the realization that once you get back home, chances are you'll start another 15 month tour with a year...oh and don't forget all the training requirements, CTC rotations and every other event that takes you away from "home" during your 12 months at "home". I suspect that these stressors are the biggest factors in our mid-level NCOs and officers pulling pitch. But hey, just my $.02 worth.

Rob Thornton
05-03-2007, 01:50 AM
Treat people and their families like you sincerely value them and their families, and I think they (and their families) will demonstrate a great deal of loyalty. Every time you ask more from them, be prepared to demonstrate recipricol loyalty. After all, there are not many folks out there who are willing. Is there a point in every servicemembers life where it may be time to leave - you bet - show them how much you valued their service and leave the door open for the ones you'd like to see back, maybe even reward them upon return with a promotion if they bring something new to the table that increases their value to the organization.

It might be money, it might be allot of things (medical, dental, housing, family services, etc.), but it all comes down to the perception of value in the context of competing factors. This means acknowledging on a number of levels - it starts at the top - from the masters of the purse strings to HRC managers to commanders and CSMs/1SGs. Its to the point where considering the value of each Soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman as an individual needs to be considered. Now we do that to a degree - a commander talks with those in their re-enlistment window - but the commander does not have the authority / resources to offer anything outside what the Unit Re-Up guy has to sell. On another note - we have even less flexibility with officers - and Joe is no dummy - if a good officer is leaving, Joe will wonder why.

We need to overhaul it - we need a HR strategy that lays out what the Force (I'm really talking people here - not platforms and payloads) needs to look like, not a new toy in the Lucky Charms box - that is not a strategy - that is a sugar high with a throw away.

Jimbo
05-03-2007, 03:35 AM
I know they are still debating which demographics/cohorts to focus on for study. The honest answer is to look where the re-up rates are in the next 12 to 18 months when the guys from the 15 month plan come home and hit heir re-up window, especially those that are on their second or third enlisyment. That is where we see what is what, regrettably, we will have to be reactive.

Ender
05-03-2007, 03:50 AM
There are several ways. Mind you, I have a more conservative view of why folks are leaving, and it isn't necessarily just extended or repeat tours:

-Don't lower the standards that exist, and in fact raise the bar.
-Don't coddle under-achievers and poor performers. Screw something up bad enough?...you're done. Not reassigned, but done. Don't let the door hit you on the ass.
-Take a serious look at revamping our personnel management practices...and then actually do something about it once the $2 mil study is released. If a guy or gal wants to stay 7, 9, or 10 years in the operating forces, and is pulling his/her weight, good to go.
-Need advisors? Stop cutting into the T/O of deploying units to carve out MITTs, BITTs, etc. Build the pool and keep those folks there.
-Want to deploy with your own commercially procured body armor? Great, just review the comparative testing analysis brochure, sign a hold harmless waiver, and drive on. Big boys rules should be in effect, so don't assume that "Joe don't know".
-Assume a little more operational risk, and tear down every super-FOB out there.

Amen to this! I particularly agree with the first two and last two points. All four resonate a big boy theme with me and imply a level of proactive accountability.

A question: How viable would it be to move out of the FOB's and into the villages and towns? I know there have been some moves in this direction since I was in Iraq but do not have details other than what is on here. We occupied quite a few static locations and I have to admit it was much easier to insert teams from the "inside in" than the "outside in" and am sure that we had a better sense of the AO than if we had ducked into Camp Fallujah every 12 hours.

Ender
05-03-2007, 04:13 AM
I suspect there are very few mid-level guys getting out because they couldn't wear their very own "second chance" body armor.

I suspect you are correct but am reminded of a quote from Patton:

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

It is one thing to send me on a mission and tell me what you want me to do, where you want me to go, who you want me to talk with and what you want me to tell them. No problem, Sergeant up. Tell me exactly how you want me to do all these things and then make me EXTREMELY physically uncomfortable while I am doing so and I will at the very least not perform as well and at worst will balk.

The armor isn't the issue but it does not help one bit. I spent over $3,000 on gear for my platoon, my team and my person. Almost every penny of it went to good use and the bulk of the gear I bought made me safer, more effective and more comfortable. In essence it made me a "better Marine" (dangerous ground here... hear me out...) or more accurately helped me perform my tasks easier because I was able to be MORE of me MORE often.

I don't think anyone is getting out because they can't wear their Dragonskin but I do think a large number are getting out because they are being asked to fight blind, (crappy eye pro) chafed, overheated and overloaded (50lb body armor that is made from the equivalent of polyester and sandpaper). I know there is a time to suck it up and am fully aware that I am complaining about being "uncomfortable" but seriously when your only hopes for the week are dodging IED's and sniper rounds what else do we have besides comfort? Lower enlisted guys are like babies... when they start crying there is usually a reason that can be solved by either checking their diapers, filling their bellies, putting them to bed or letting them cry it out. This one instance where I would listen to their cries and check their pants, their complaints may be based off of "substance."

jonSlack
05-03-2007, 04:21 AM
Need advisors? Stop cutting into the T/O of deploying units to carve out MITTs, BITTs, etc. Build the pool and keep those folks there.


I agree with you on most of your points. The personnel management system, and the Army's insistance to still hit certain gates (the artist formely known as branch-qualifiying jobs, now called Key Developmental positions) prevents our leaders for speciailizing in certain fields and puts a real crunch on those MiTT Advisors who do NOT get any KD credit for their time served.


Has there been talk about creating a MiTT/FID branch or functional area?

120mm
05-03-2007, 04:35 AM
J,
I suspect there are very few mid-level guys getting out because they couldn't wear their very own "second chance" body armor. The 365 days of continuous combat (sorry, extend that to 15 months) and the realization that once you get back home, chances are you'll start another 15 month tour with a year...oh and don't forget all the training requirements, CTC rotations and every other event that takes you away from "home" during your 12 months at "home". I suspect that these stressors are the biggest factors in our mid-level NCOs and officers pulling pitch. But hey, just my $.02 worth.

Just want to second "Ender"s point. It's not the body armor, it's being treated like a professional. Don't tell me what I can or cannot wear to fight in. A better example would be the Under Armor ban. Personally owned Under Armor was banned for wear because it wasn't fire proof. So you can no longer wear it under your plastic helmet, your plastic uniform, your plastic body armor, or your plastic boots. And obtw, the Army is rolling out Under Armor as the new underwear for the "soldier of the future" display that is travelling around military bases.:mad:

Not only treat soldiers like "big boys" but find some grown-ups to be in charge, too.

sullygoarmy
05-03-2007, 02:16 PM
Has there been talk about creating a MiTT/FID branch or functional area?

Jon,
The latest rumors we hear involve creating an Advisor Identifier...something that goes on your records which says you have advisor experience and can be used again in the future. It doesn't pull you from your basic track (armor, infantry, aviation, etc) but serves as a marker for the records guys to track and find people of an advisor gig comes up again.

Personally, I'm all for an Advisor Functional Area. I believe the Foreign Area Officers fit a specific bill: area specific, more political than working with foreign security forces. My concept would be to create an advisor selection process, develop an Advisor Functional area and have the promotion "gates" fit the jobs of an advisor. You can train advisor skills, generic rapport building skills, conduct "Robin Sage" like training events, etc. Once you have a block of trained advisors, the cultural training and language can be an in-depth "isolation" type train up to get them ready for a specific mission. However, if you pick the right people, they will adapt regardless of the culture or initial language barriers.

What do you do with the Advisor Functional Area guys in peace time? Have them work with foreign militaries under FID! This keeps their advisor skills sharp, rotate them in and out of FID missions and get civilian (anthropolgy, psychology, history,etc) schooling. We could also rotate them through some inter-agency jobs to get a better understanding of how (or how it doesn't...ask Jimbo) the process works. Rotate them into police schools, police training, border patrol, customs jobs, etc. All the missions we are asking our transistion teams to do know, without the benefit of years of training...only about 60 days worth. Then back into the advisor mode. We can implement this training at CTCs, work the advisors in with standard BCT rotations, and keep a cadre of well trained advisors ready to go for the next time we have to help rebuild foreign security forces.

I'll agree with you guys that its not about the gear, but about how we treat our soldiers. When you expect guys to perform difficult missions with sub-standard equipment, when you tell them we now have to screen e-mails back home to momma and the kids, and when you continue to treat combat vets like children, you push hard on the morale and spirit of the force....now where is my dragon skin armor!

Ender
05-03-2007, 02:26 PM
Well said Sully!

Tom Odom
05-03-2007, 04:01 PM
Jon,
The latest rumors we hear involve creating an Advisor Identifier...something that goes on your records which says you have advisor experience and can be used again in the future. It doesn't pull you from your basic track (armor, infantry, aviation, etc) but serves as a marker for the records guys to track and find people of an advisor gig comes up again.

Personally, I'm all for an Advisor Functional Area. I believe the Foreign Area Officers fit a specific bill: area specific, more political than working with foreign security forces. My concept would be to create an advisor selection process, develop an Advisor Functional area and have the promotion "gates" fit the jobs of an advisor. You can train advisor skills, generic rapport building skills, conduct "Robin Sage" like training events, etc. Once you have a block of trained advisors, the cultural training and language can be an in-depth "isolation" type train up to get them ready for a specific mission. However, if you pick the right people, they will adapt regardless of the culture or initial language barriers.

What do you do with the Advisor Functional Area guys in peace time? Have them work with foreign militaries under FID! This keeps their advisor skills sharp, rotate them in and out of FID missions and get civilian (anthropolgy, psychology, history,etc) schooling. We could also rotate them through some inter-agency jobs to get a better understanding of how (or how it doesn't...ask Jimbo) the process works. Rotate them into police schools, police training, border patrol, customs jobs, etc. All the missions we are asking our transistion teams to do know, without the benefit of years of training...only about 60 days worth. Then back into the advisor mode. We can implement this training at CTCs, work the advisors in with standard BCT rotations, and keep a cadre of well trained advisors ready to go for the next time we have to help rebuild foreign security forces.

I have been a party to some of those discussions and I agree. The key is use them and then reward them, something the FAO functional area has struggled with since we started. Personally as a DATT I would have loved to have a pool of advisor-qualified personnel to assist in what we were doing in Rwanda. That need I believe has multiplied exponentially with operational demands and it is a need that is long term.

Tom

jcustis
05-03-2007, 10:19 PM
Sully,

Evenn though I'm on the outside looking in, I think there would be a lot of brakes applied by the SF community, because FID is one of its staples, right. Even if they may have swung to the direct action end of things of late, its still another ricebowl that would require some superb leadership to push through.

The Marine Corps is headed this way with its Foreign Military Training Unit (FMTU), but the teams are still standing up and finding their way (even the selection standards are morphing), which is fraught with uncertainty because FMTU is subordinate to MARSOC.

Two thumbs up though about a standard rotation of personnel between OCONUS deploys, stateside training, and (for lack of a better phrase) lengthy LE "ride-alongs", even if only as an observer.

This would take greater end-strength, so hopefully those personnel numbers we need can be grown IAW the models out there, and the standards can remain high.

PhilR
05-04-2007, 03:25 AM
The Marine Corps is headed this way with its Foreign Military Training Unit (FMTU), but the teams are still standing up and finding their way (even the selection standards are morphing), which is fraught with uncertainty because FMTU is subordinate to MARSOC.



MSOCs and FMTU may be Marines, but they are SOCOM forces. I doubt that they will operate in direct support of, or with, other USMC forces. There may be bleed over in skills/knowledge when FMTU Marines go back to USMC operating forces, but FMTU will be built and trained to fulfill SOCOM missions. That is good for SOCOM and generally good for the nation, but, bottom-line, it is force structure that the Marine Corps no longer owns.
We are already seeing MSOCs separated from the MEUs they have trained with and the FMTU getting missions when the in-theater USMC forces have no idea they are coming (and in-theater Marine forces have already built relationships--the foreign military sees USMC digital cammies and assumes we are working together). In the Pacific, Marines are already doing a great number of foreign training events (of course we always couch them as exercises or subject matter exchanges so we don't break any laws).
The skills we are working with partner nations on are generally basic skills that any MOS-competent Marine can handle. I'm not up on all of FMTU's capabilities, but I wonder if it extends to helicopter mechanics, artillery, or even JTF-level fighting (teaching foreign commanders and staffs how to do campaign planning and joint operations with their forces is a big deal).
This is not just a USMC-thing. FID is much more than squads and platoons. It is campaigns and larger operations. All of this expertise does not reside in SOCOM, nor does it need to. To do FID, we should be tasking the elements that make sense from the whole range of our forces.

Granite_State
05-04-2007, 02:33 PM
Jon,
The latest rumors we hear involve creating an Advisor Identifier...something that goes on your records which says you have advisor experience and can be used again in the future. It doesn't pull you from your basic track (armor, infantry, aviation, etc) but serves as a marker for the records guys to track and find people of an advisor gig comes up again.

Personally, I'm all for an Advisor Functional Area. I believe the Foreign Area Officers fit a specific bill: area specific, more political than working with foreign security forces. My concept would be to create an advisor selection process, develop an Advisor Functional area and have the promotion "gates" fit the jobs of an advisor. You can train advisor skills, generic rapport building skills, conduct "Robin Sage" like training events, etc. Once you have a block of trained advisors, the cultural training and language can be an in-depth "isolation" type train up to get them ready for a specific mission. However, if you pick the right people, they will adapt regardless of the culture or initial language barriers.

What do you do with the Advisor Functional Area guys in peace time? Have them work with foreign militaries under FID! This keeps their advisor skills sharp, rotate them in and out of FID missions and get civilian (anthropolgy, psychology, history,etc) schooling. We could also rotate them through some inter-agency jobs to get a better understanding of how (or how it doesn't...ask Jimbo) the process works. Rotate them into police schools, police training, border patrol, customs jobs, etc. All the missions we are asking our transistion teams to do know, without the benefit of years of training...only about 60 days worth. Then back into the advisor mode. We can implement this training at CTCs, work the advisors in with standard BCT rotations, and keep a cadre of well trained advisors ready to go for the next time we have to help rebuild foreign security forces.


Sounds like a great proposal, especially the inter-agency rotation. Any guess on what kind of numbers of officers and NCOs we'd be talking about?

Tom Odom
05-04-2007, 03:22 PM
Evenn though I'm on the outside looking in, I think there would be a lot of brakes applied by the SF community, because FID is one of its staples, right. Even if they may have swung to the direct action end of things of late, its still another ricebowl that would require some superb leadership to push through.

That maybe but I have seen no evidence so far. Rather to the contrary, a number of SF folks given "Big Thumbs Up" because this bowl of rice is too big for them to do more than nibble at along the edge.

Tom

sullygoarmy
05-04-2007, 06:55 PM
Good point Tom. The SF community didn't want to touch the Iraqi advisor mission with a 10 foot pole. Its one thing to be training indig forces in a guerilla type mission. Its a whole nother ball game to try and recreate a functioning army with all its rank, structure, logistics, systems, etc. If I were SF, I wouldn't want that mission either! Hence the reason you see a big shift in SF guys over to DA missions. Some SF units worked with the more "special" Iraqi units but that was only for a limited time. When you are talking about standing up an 11 division army, there is not enough special operators in the entire force to do that...its a tall order.

Personally, I'd love to have enough SF to be the trainers, advisors and mentors for every SFA mission out there. That would keep tankers like myself back on the big boys. However, the reality shows and history proves that when trying to build large scale armies, you need to dip into the conventional force to do it. Rather than recreate the wheel over and over again (KMAG in Korea, CORDS in Vietnam, etc) why not train up some of our active conventional force to be advisors? If you want to build up either indig guerrillas or SF units, use the SF teams. For a conventional army with all its systems and support elements, you'll need we non-special folks.

Phil, additionally there are alot of activities going on the GWOT which do not fit into a conventional FID definition. FID doesn't involve working with border units, customs folks, police units, etc. We are pushing the term Security Force Assistance which our approved definition is: "All actions taken in concert with partner nations to generate, employ, sustain and transition the security forces of those nations in support of theater or regional security cooperation effots, plans, campaigns and operations."

FID is defined as: Participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. The focus of all U.S. FID efforts is to support the HN’s program of internal defense and development (IDAD). IDAD is ideally a preemptive strategy; however, if an insurgency, illicit drug, terrorist, or other threat develops, IDAD becomes an active strategy to combat that threat.

SFA differs from FID in that FID only deals with internal threats. SFA deals with internal and external threats as they are often connected, and SFA focuses on the same security forces that deal with both types of threats. SA (Security Assistance) while a part of FID, could also be focused exclusively at external threats.

That's just a bit from our SFA Planners Guide that we are working on here at JCISFA. In terms of numbers, we have somewhere in the ballpark of 5K working the advisor piece in Iraq. Using that as a guesstimate planning factor, I'd look at building up an Advisor Corps consisting of about 2000 Officers and 3000 NCOs. We don't need to limit it to the Army as well. Everyone knows there are Marines, Air Force and (gulp) even some Navy TTs out there alone and unafraid doing their best to train our newfound friends. 5000 personnel out of DOD is a fairly small investment for some long term advisor skills and experience. Like we see over and over again, this stuff ain't new to the U.S. Military!

Stan
05-04-2007, 07:16 PM
Sully,
You hit on some very good if not old and sore points (with me anyway). These soldiers were all around us, in some real inhospitable places, not being promoted, remotely recognized and worse, not being used where they would be most helpful. It's no wonder why most of 'them' following the 20 mark got out. Sadly, few would recognize those needs/talents til they were gone.


Additionally, I agree we need to build up an "Advisor Corps" of selected officers and NCOs, screened for their abilities to build rapport, adapt to different cultures and to be self-sufficient in a fluid environment.


why not train up some of our active conventional force to be advisors? If you want to build up either indig guerrillas or SF units, use the SF teams. For a conventional army with all its systems and support elements, you'll need we non-special folks.

Well said !

jcustis
05-04-2007, 10:34 PM
MSOCs and FMTU may be Marines, but they are SOCOM forces. I doubt that they will operate in direct support of, or with, other USMC forces. There may be bleed over in skills/knowledge when FMTU Marines go back to USMC operating forces, but FMTU will be built and trained to fulfill SOCOM missions. That is good for SOCOM and generally good for the nation, but, bottom-line, it is force structure that the Marine Corps no longer owns.

An excellent point I had actually meant to add.