Wednesday, September 22, 2004

A 1-178th FA Insider Weighs In 
A reader weighs in on the comments section. Apparently, I was right not to be so hasty in calling for the heads of the 1-178ths leadership on a platter.

I am a retired active duty officer that helped train the logistics battalion that supported the 1-178th. I was assigned with the unit from 1996 to 2001 and deployed with them to NTC on a rotation.

I enjoyed my time with the NG and admire them for their dedication. Unit cohesion at the company / battery level is something I as a company commander would have loved to have had. As AD trainers and advisors we witnessed how difficult it is for a unit to train 38 days a year and become as proficient as an AD unit. Many of the soldiers lived over 100 miles from the unit and it was difficult to get them together as a team except for the weekend drill. Battalion and larger size units only worked as a team at the most 1 time per year. This was due to not only distance between companies / batteries, but also lack of training facilities to handle a large unit.

When the SC Brigade deployed to NTC it was missing some key personnel and many AD advisors were functioning in support positions (no leadership positions). It was also the first time they had deployed as a brigade in a very long time. I served as the Logistics Operation officer (and sometimes XO) for the MSB. 2 of my officers were on the LOG OPS staff of the FSB. NCO's also worked out of the LOG OPS section or assisting the companies they were assigned to train. In just 2 weeks the level of proficiency in the logistics unit was rapidly improving and given another 30 days would probably have been as good as many active duty units.

I mention this because though it was against doctorine it is what was needed to get the job done. It is impossible to bring a NG battalion or larger unit together and give it some training for 30 to 60 days and expect it to function by itself as an AD unit. I believe this blending of experience with the NG would greatly enhance unit readiness.

My take: there is no way on God's green earth that a reserve component battalion can get to a level of proficiency approaching that of an active duty battalion, except in a few very carefully chosen areas. And even then it wouldn't happen at any levels above company.

Mechanized units are at an especially severe handicap, since company armories are often located 100 miles or more from their armored fighting vehicles, and crew-served weapon ranges. Training time is limited. And it's further limited by the fact that many units have to spend all friday night and half of sunday traveling by bus to and from their training areas.

But if reserve component commanders choose their battles carefully, and read the Battle Focus Training manual (the 29th Infantry Brigade, rightly, swears by it. I don't see it emphasized much in the other units I've been in), their soldiers can achieve tremendous proficiency at the crew level.

Reserve component squads and platoons are often together for years. These are the basic building blocks of any combat operation. If the foundation isn't in place at the squad and crew level, you'll never build proficient platoons. You'll never build proficient companies.

Apparently, the foundation is in place for the 1-178th. Or they could not have achieved the level of proficiency they attained during a 3-week NTC rotation (last NTC rotation I was on, you only had about 10 days "in the box.")

This retired officer thinks the unit was just a couple of weeks away from Active Duty standards. That could not have happened without some very capable leadership and staff officers in place, somewhere.

Now, granted--this officer served in the support battalion--not in the 1-178th itself. But you'd be surprised how much loggies know.

If the 1-178th had any serious problems at the NTC, this guy would have heard about them.

Based on what I know now, the 1-178th should deploy.

I think this officer's larger point still stands. Why have Readiness Group officers and NCOs sit around with their thumbs up their behinds when the unit they're advising heads downrange?

Guard units should be commanded by guard officers. But if there's a key billet lying vacant, why not bring the advisor along in that billet?

Now, THERE'S the acid test. Will active duty officers and NCOs be willing to work under a reserve component pay system, promotion system, and policies that lock them into their units and prevent them--like reserve component soldiers--from accepting promotions or school slots elsewhere?

If not, why not?

Splash, out


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