Saturday, April 30, 2005

When in command, take command!: Thoughts on mobilization 
The Army Times reports that an Iowa National Guard commander is unhappy with the premobilizaton training that occured at Fort Hood, Texas in 2004.

An Iowa Army National Guard commander has complained that incompetent training and other problems at an Army base in Texas last year shortchanged his unit’s preparations for combat in Iraq, according to a report obtained by The Des Moines Register.
Capt. Aaron Baugher, whose detachment was the first Iowa infantry unit trained at Fort Hood before being deployed to Iraq, wrote in an “after-action report” that the 2004 training “was of very little value and poorly instructed” by soldiers who typically had never served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Baugher’s unit of 58 soldiers, the 194th Long-Range Surveillance Detachment, returned to Iowa in late February after nearly a year in Iraq.

“Having been in Iraq . . . conducting combat operations on a wide spectrum, we can confidently say we did not learn a thing at Fort Hood,” Baugher wrote.

The article goes on to complain about some non-training-related items, like poor amenities for the troops and pay problems.

I've never been to Fort Hood. But I can weigh in with this: It was not Fort Hood's job to train CPT Baugher's soldiers. It was CPT Baugher's.

Part of the problem: A 58-man detachment mobilizing separately is too small. The commander of a detachment this size does not have a dedicated Battalion staff to provide the interface between the post and the command, allowing the commander to put his focus where it needs to be: On training. Had this detachment been mobilized as part of a larger command, the commander could have voiced his concerns to the Battalion staff - which exists to support him - and then gone back to his troops and ensured that the level of training was what he wanted.

Also, as a mere captain acting alone, he did not have the rank it would have required to cut through the mobilization center BULLSHIT and shake the place out of complacency. Mobilization centers are commanded by colonels and LTC's, but they are RUN by Majors. And if training was substandard, this captain was on his own, and had little recourse if a major on the mobilization center staff was providing poor service.

Now, had this detachment mobilized as part of a battalion, or brigade, he would have been able to go directly to a lieutenant colonel to find recourse to his problems. The colonel could have delegated the task to the S-3, another major, who could have a heart-to-heart with the mobilization center advisor. ("Look, Jim...I've got a problem" is a totally different conversation than "Look, sir, I've got a problem.)

Meanwhile, the Operations Sergeant Major and the Battalion command sergeant major could have been doing all kinds of troubleshooting behind the scenes, discussing instructors and instructor preparation class by class.

If that didn't work, the battalion commander could have gone in and said, "Look, this battalion has only one commander, and it's not you. And THIS is the training concept I am going to implement in this battalion/brigade. Period. Now, here is the support we require from you."

And if that doesn't work, a phone call from Brigade commander to post commander can work wonders.

But this unit, a separate detachment, apparently cut off from the support of the National Guard chain of command and from the Iowa National Guard's state headquarters, seems to have been left out to dry.

Was training substandard? I don't know. I know that sometimes the real basic classes are what soldiers need most. (Especially with a reconnaisance unit that operates in very small teams. Individual and crew-level skills are paramount there, and collective training, even though it's more fun for officers to plan, are simply not as prominent part of the equation as they are for a unit that routinely operates in company sized elements).

This unit should NOT have been deployed with 12-series radios, though. I don't know what the radios they had on hand were, but if they weren't frequency hopping, then sending them into Iraq was a violation of more OPSEC policies than I care to name.

Again, though, had they mobilized with a larger element, the battalion staff could have cross-leveled communications gear and solved the problem quickly. The bottom line: Every unit needs an advocate on site at the mob center: Preferably a Guard officer or SGM who serves with that unit back home, and is plugged into the family support group network and who has the experience and gravitas to go face to face with any active duty officer in the mob center and say "look, I need this fixed."

And where possible, companies should not mobilize alone. Even CSS units, who often operate as separate companies, should be attached to a mobilizing unit and made their responsibility, so that they have access to the support of a battalion or brigade national guard staff. The company commander can always go direct to the mob center as a backup.

Ok, so maybe the Captain could have been more proactive in training his troops. But mob centers and active duty troops who are so lousy they get left behind running mob centers during war, tend to be pretty efficient at discouraging initiative on the part of mobilizing unit leaders. (And that, my dear Army whom I love very much, ought to be addressed!)

Oh, by the way, Fort Hood..it was no secret that these barracks were going to be used by a lot of people in the winter of 2003-2004 as the Army geared up for OIF II.

These soldiers are not kids. They aren't basic trainees who need to learn the value of suffering. Many of these soldiers were experienced professionals who know what the Army living standard is and how the Army treats its active duty soldiers. You know, like these mobilized guardsmen. And they know when the active component is sticking a thumb in soldiers' eyes.

We had two years to plan this. Was putting some frigging heat in the barracks just too much to ask????

Splash, out


Interesting story. Sometimes, you can tell at the time that certain training is worthless -- I've been to college and have had those kinds of classes -- and others you take, you get into the situation and only then you realize that the training is worthless. If Capt. Baugher recognized at Ft. Hood that the training was worthless, then he might've been able to do something, but the way I read it is that the true uselessness of the training became clear in the field, and if that is the case, then by the time he knew enough to object, he was already in Iraq, when it was already too late.

Then again, I might misunderstand.
It sounds like the unit was definatly hung out to dry. But with the way the army is stretching itself thin these days I'm sure the 194th LRS Det. isn't the first victim of the army's negelt.
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