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Thread: 'America's Broken Army' NPR Series. Cavguy makes COL Gentile proud ...

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default 'America's Broken Army' NPR Series. Cavguy makes COL Gentile proud ...

    All,

    I just learned an NPR interview the COIN Center gave in October was aired yesterday. In it, a MAJ "Neal" (can't anyone spell my name right?) Smith bemoans the lack of conventional competency in our force.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...oryId=99156039

    Of course it's one quote out of an hour long interview we gave, but it does reflect the need for "balance" in the future between COIN and HIC tasks.

    All Things Considered, January 12, 2009 America has the most battle-hardened Army in the nation's history, but it's an Army that may also be broken. The seven years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on the troops, tanks and trucks, as well as on the Army's leaders.

    .....

    A Debate Over Training

    That switch has sparked a debate inside the Army over what missions it can perform and how it should train its soldiers. The training, lately, is all about counterinsurgency, and some in the Army are wondering if the pendulum has swung too far.

    "Obviously we can't go back to the extreme we were in 2003 where the force knew nothing about counterinsurgency," says Maj. Neal Smith, the operations officer of the Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center. He teaches people how to fight the kind of wars we're in now in Iraq and Afghanistan. "But we also can't go to a force where if a tank division is needed someday no one knows how to move, defend, attack or move to contact anymore."

    But even he worries about what today's soldiers are being taught: how to fight a classic ground war.

    "The risk we run as a force is that we have a generation of officers [who] have spent five to six years [at war] that never have done their conventional competency," Neal Smith says. "And if we were expected on short notice to fulfill that conventional competency, we would struggle very hard to do it as well as we did in 2003 during the attack to Baghdad."

    The problem is there simply isn't enough time to teach people how to fight both conventional and unconventional wars the soldiers are simply at war too much and troops now have only about 12 months between deployments.

    "The reality is we really only have enough time to prepare soldiers for the next mission they're going to face," says Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who runs the Combined Arms Center for the Army. He oversees 18 different schools and training centers, including the National Training Center. "Then as time permits, we'll operate across the whole continuum of intensity of ops."

    The Army says it won't even be able to really begin training for all kinds of warfare until 2010 at the earliest, so for now, the focus is on hearts and minds, not tanks and artillery.
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Way to go, Neel!

    So what did you say for the rest of the hour?

    Tom

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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default I think it went something like this...

    yada yada yada... as Niel exposed his secret crush for Elaine
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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Way to go Kneel

    Darn spell checker

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    Oh, I get it. For the longest time I've been wondering what "knee haul" was!

    So, Cavguy, do you feel the quoting was appropriate? Is there anything you wish they would have included that they didn't?

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    Council Member jkm_101_fso's Avatar
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    "The risk we run as a force is that we have a generation of officers [who] have spent five to six years [at war] that never have done their conventional competency," Neal Smith says. "And if we were expected on short notice to fulfill that conventional competency, we would struggle very hard to do it as well as we did in 2003 during the attack to Baghdad."
    Very accurate.

    I have to somehow sweep the cobwebs out of my head and remember how to do manual gunnery in two months...yikes.

    Along the same lines, did anyone else see that documentary on Nat Geo last night about NTC? It was pretty interesting.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 01-13-2009 at 06:18 PM. Reason: Added link.
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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Good Job Niles

    Good Job Niles!

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Yep listened to it this morn

    Sure to be extremely popular in
    some circles
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    Council Member CR6's Avatar
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    Default Good on ya Pniel

    I sorta cringed when the reporter discussed the focus being "hearts and minds" but it was a decent awareness piece given it ran in less than eight minutes.
    "Law cannot limit what physics makes possible." Humanitarian Apsects of Airpower (papers of Frederick L. Anderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

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    Kneel getting some voice time with the NPR dudes! Check out the big brain!
    "Speak English! said the Eaglet. "I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and what's more, I don't believe you do either!"

    The Eaglet from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Alright! Way to go Nell! Semi-serious question, how much is our training hampered by our unit structures and manning policy?
    Reed
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Wake up, Reed, you spelled Nile

    worng...

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    Council Member Umar Al-Mokhtār's Avatar
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    Default Cavguy...

    perhaps a name change to something easier to spell phonetically, like Sean...
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

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    Default Nelly (not that there is anything wrong with that!!)

    You just go ahead Nelly!!!

    OK, you got me; I owe you one. First chance I get I will state publicly that the Army is loosing its Coin capabilities....NOT!!

    But come on, dont ya' think that we knew just a little, little, tiny, winy bit about counterinsurgency in 2003 instead of as you say the extreme and "knew nothing" about coin?

    Can ya help a fellow coin brother out here?

    gian

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    "The risk we run as a force is that we have a generation of officers [who] have spent five to six years [at war] that never have done their conventional competency," Neal Smith says. "And if we were expected on short notice to fulfill that conventional competency, we would struggle very hard to do it as well as we did in 2003 during the attack to Baghdad."
    I disagree with that. I think the training that we did prior to OIF was pretty weak and the training prior to 9/11 was a complete joke. What I recall doing in training, especially prior to 9/11 but also prior to OIF, was a lot range safety briefs, rodding weapons, absurd weapons handling safety guidelines that have no place in combat or in training for combat, burdensome range safety restrictions (we weren't even allowed to transition from M4 to sidearm), and frankly I thought that NTC was as fake, canned, and safetied to death in 2000 as it was in 2004. Hopefully that has changed for the better.

    When my unit prepared to return to Iraq for OIF III we did the same Table 8 / Table 12 stuff, using that as the foundation for the additional, mission-specific training (additional LFX's (CSS, convoy, etc), more reflexive fire, shoot house live fires, and so on). The Table 8/12 stuff was much better than what we did in preparation for OIF I because the chain of command recognized just how absurd prior safety restrictions were, so they did away with most of them. As a result, we did BETTER conventional training in preparation for OIF III than we did for OIF I. And while I deployed with a different unit for OIF V, I know that this process was repeated because I had to plan it all as the AS3 before I PCS'd.

    Besides, forces are built from the bottom up. The average platoon of infantrymen today is far and away more lethal, competent, and experienced that the average platoon from ten years ago. The improvement in combat readiness among our non-combat MOS's is even more pronounced. Suddenly, they have a reason to actually train for combat. Cross-training is also significantly greater, with Soldiers relying less on mechanics and medics because they don't have time to wait and the mechanics and medics becoming more proficient shooters. And I could go on forever about all of the intangibles.

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    Default Schmedlap

    I agree that we are probably better at some conventional warfighting skills than we were, say, ten years ago, at least at the platoon, battery, and company level. And I know that being in a real shooting war eventually translates to better tactical training back in garrison - more realism, more emphasis on the most valuable skills, less energy expended on needless 'safety' items and other eyewash.

    But...I sense a complacency in your last post that I'm afraid many in the service share. There are a set of staff and command muscles that just don't get exercised anymore, at least so far as I can see. When is the last time anyone maneuvered a brigade in the US Army? Prepared a battalion defense? Conducted a brigade level passage of lines? Provided direct fire support for a division as it attacked? Deployed an AD battalion in direct support of a division? Conducted a brigade breach of an obstacle or an assault river crossing? Conducted SEAD in conjunction with an aviation deep strike? Set up a refueling point for a division as it road marched? Conducted a tactical road march consisting of three or four brigades? Coordinated all of the above as a division staff within the space of three or four days?

    We used to do that all the time...well, two to three times a year, anyway, and still screwed the pooch almost every time. Now, I suspect, there are armor and infantry and aviation brigade commanders who have never done any of these things. Some of these will become our next set of division commanders. They will lead battalion and brigade commanders who may not even suspect they have missed something.

    This is not a value judgment - I also believe that you have to train for the war you are fighting, and there is only so much time to train. But I am not as sanguine as some about how easily we will be able to resurrect our conventional skills when (not if) called upon to do so.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Doctrine, Context and yet more...

    I think there has to be a differentiation between doing some good training, because you are going to war in a place you know well, against folks you have fought before and the body of skills, drill and forms that you need to maintain an army to be ready for anything that it is likely to be asked to do.

    I submit that the issue is doctrine. There is a pretty good body of best practice that can fairly easily accessed, by anyone prepared to take the risk of doing so.

    Look at any military training problem and you'll usually find some idiotic body of opinion defending some ones empire or skill set.

    Look out for people who believe that it is their job to "deliver training" instead of "teaching people how do things." and then testing them to make sure they can.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Could the 'truth' lie somewhere in between

    Schmedlap and Eden? I place 'truth' in quotes because I fully acknowledge that 'truth' in training is very subjective, subject to interpretation and means different things to different people.

    I think Scmedlap's version of unit training broadly tracks with my experience over almost 30 years of doing and another almost 20 of closely observing and 'overseeing.' I think Eden's comments also track with all that.

    The important thing to me is to acknowledge that we are now training better at the unit level than we ever did -- but we still are not doing that as well as we can or should...

    Eden says:
    "When is the last time anyone maneuvered a brigade in the US Army?... (and much else) ... Coordinated all of the above as a division staff within the space of three or four days?

    We used to do that all the time...well, two to three times a year, anyway, and still screwed the pooch almost every time..."
    I do not dispute that was done nor that it was training but I will point out that it was generally done poorly -- as Eden acknowledges -- and in my observation unrealistically only once or twice a year and with no penalties for failure or error.

    That's a long way of getting to the major point -- how you train is a great deal more important than what you train.

    It is far better for combat forces to do the basics well than to do the exotic or upper levels poorly...

    Added: Wilf said:
    "Look out for people who believe that it is their job to "deliver training" instead of "teaching people how do things." and then testing them to make sure they can."
    YES!!!
    Last edited by Ken White; 01-14-2009 at 05:30 PM. Reason: Addendum

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    There are a set of staff and command muscles that just don't get exercised anymore, at least so far as I can see. When is the last time anyone maneuvered a brigade in the US Army? Prepared a battalion defense? Conducted a brigade level passage of lines? Provided direct fire support for a division as it attacked? Deployed an AD battalion in direct support of a division? Conducted a brigade breach of an obstacle or an assault river crossing? Conducted SEAD in conjunction with an aviation deep strike? Set up a refueling point for a division as it road marched? Conducted a tactical road march consisting of three or four brigades? Coordinated all of the above as a division staff within the space of three or four days?
    Ummm, what is this "Division" you refer too? Read somthing about them in WWII I believe and since when have staff and command weenies had "muscles"?
    Reed
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Hey Ken!

    Didn't we have the "training management sucks" talk last week?
    Example is better than precept.

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