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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Not Enough Troops meme 
Tech Central Station has more on that here.

we have enough troops in Iraq, but far too few of them are engaged in hunting down our enemies and training our Iraqi allies. Rather than maximizing the number of soldiers in Iraq, we should be focusing on maximizing the effectiveness of the soldiers who are already there.


While our troops who patrol the streets of Iraqi cities are more lethal, suffer fewer casualties, and cause fewer civilian casualties and collateral damage than in wars past, the troops in secure areas are becoming exponentially less efficient, turning our base camps into money pits into which our tax dollars quickly disappear. Peruse the publications put out by the military Public Affairs Offices in Iraq and you will see countless examples of our defense budget and manpower being put to gratuitous waste. A special event for the Soldiers now and then is understandable -- a church service, a visit from a celebrity, perhaps some better-than-normal food. But if you browse through the Anaconda Times or the Scimitar, to name only a couple examples, one will see that it is commonplace to hold tournaments for softball, basketball, and water polo in the summer, and to organize fun runs and competitive runs ranging from a 10-mile run to a marathon in the cooler months. There are education centers where soldiers can take college classes. There are radio stations, restaurants, coffee shops, beauty salons, massage parlors, and even post exchanges that sell lingerie, condoms, cologne, and perfume. On some base camps, most notably Camp Liberty, Camp Victory, and Logistics Support Area Anaconda, civilian attire is nearly as common as the starched military uniforms -- even among the troops -- and the pool, volleyball courts, and basketball courts are packed all day long.


The majority of soldiers, Marines, and airmen in Iraq enjoy a level of comfort that does not logically correspond to a military at war. Contrary to the sacrifices and hardships that most Americans envision our troops to be making, most of our troops are being only slightly inconvenienced by their tour in Iraq. As small units of dedicated Soldiers and Marines take the fight to our enemies, logistical functions are thinly spread amongst tens of thousands of troops on secure base camps.


Doesn't sound quite right to me. It may be that some areas are secure precisely BECAUSE of the presence of U.S. bases nearby. And believe it or not, a 10k fun run is not terribly expensive to organize.

Yes, there is a danger of an army becoming a self-licking ice cream cone. And if a FOB is accomplishing nothing but its own point-blank defense, it's time to shut it down, and commit those resources elsewhere.

I don't agree with this officer's statement that "most soldiers are only slightly inconvenienced" by their deployments. There are a lot of family issues and challenges he doesn't know about. And I think any deployed parent would have a thing or two to say to him, if they knew who he was.

Lastly, if this officer is deployed in Western Iraq, a lot of these FOBs represent the supply chain which supports him in the field - a supply chain which he may not fully understand. But understand this: Trucks cannot drive from Kuwait City to Tall Afar or Mosul or Al Qaim in one haul. They need secure places to stop and rest, to refuel, to STORE fuel (which is a major project in itself!), and to tow themselves to in the event of mechanical trouble or battle damage.

And the entire MSR must be patrolled for ambushes and IEDs daily, whether contact is frequent or not.

This requires men and supplies.

Furthermore, if this officer wants to request a liter of fresh water, a round of .50 cal. ammunition, a resupply of IV bags, morphine, or bandages, I doubt he wants to wait for them to be shipped from Kuwait.

He wants them now, or within 24 hours, or on the next LOGPAC. The only way to ensure that he gets his materiel on the next LOGPAC is to stockpile frequently needed supplies at the FOB.

Sometimes these soldiers don't have much to do with their off-duty time, and sometimes they're working their asses off. If they are - and believe me, they frequently are - this guy doesn't see it.

All he knows is that the stuff shows up on the LOGPAC.

We have terriffic soldiers all the way up and down the chain. I was awestruck by the competence and professionalism of some of the Transportation officers at the port in Kuwait, who were moving entire brigades on clipboards.

Splash, out

Jason

Comments:
I've got mixed feelings about this 'report'. Many of the 'bennies' mentioned don't cost us anything in troop strength (the AAFES and MWR-provided stuff, for instance) and is very good for morale. On the other hand, my firsthand experience is that there were a lot of troops (no, not all, not even most, but a lot) on Anaconda even back in '03 who largely had nothing better to do than to experience the bennies with little time actually doing something for the war effort.

On the another hand, we'd see a lot of combat troops blow in and take advantage of the same bennies and deservedly so. While the remfs got to taste the benefits much more often than the grunts, treadheads, cannoncockers, and sappers out doing the 'hard duty', the REMF business kept the bennies in place so those great soldiers could benefit from them when the opportunity availed itself.

I must agree, though, that some of what I've seen on the mentioned publications shows that there are a lot of staff weanies in Iraq that don't have enough to do to justify their end strength. It doesn't cost a lot to organize a fun-run on the FOB at BIAP, but one has to wonder why so many staff weanies have the time to not only partake, but to design elaborate costumes in which to dress while partaking (from a Valentines Fun Run story I remember from a while back).

The uniformed manpower that goes into a lot of what I've seen in the name of leisure activity means there ought to be fewer staff weanies whiling away their time collecting combat pay.

P.S. I sometimes felt I was part of that particular problem when I was there, despite my best efforts to employ myself taking care of our troops and their equipment. Call it "vacationers' guilt".
 
It was a few years ago that there was great hue and cry against "just in time" logistics. I would submit that the mission of the army is to be effective, not to be efficient. If every single soldier is gainfully employed 100% of the time then you can bet that when you need surge maintenance, for example, there will be too few people.

We could pull "excess" people out and have everyone justify their existence. How about excess medical personnel? Any ER docs bored and want to go home? You get the point.

If you want to change the army and have everything else fixed and the weapons skills at your unit are perfect, everyone understands the culture and your IED training is a go, and you want to start criticizing the size of some of the big staffs at Anaconda and BIAP, feel free. But unless your first name is General you are wasting your time.

And if some of this excess MWR is the difference between a young VOLUNTEER reenlisting or not, when HE DOESENT HAVE TO and there is NO DRAFT I say, where's the checkbook? Because if you look at some of the enlistment/reenlistment issues that periodically come and go it is very hard to start picking on the boys and girls downrange and say they got it too good.

Spot on Jason. Nice job as usual.
 
okay, i say upfront that i don't have any military experience to draw on; everything i 'know' comes from you guys who do it. but a few things occur to me to say, just from my civilian perspective:
first they argue there aren't enough troops, and then they argue that there must be too many. can't have it both ways. better too many than too few. and if you have 'too many', you gotta occupy them when there's no battle to send them into. second- if M.A.S.H. is anywhere close to how it gets 'over there', getting silly with costumes and fun runs and tournaments is human nature for comic releif, preserving sanity, giving an outlet for the stress, missing your life in america, being cooped up with the same faces for a year unable to get out, and provides some of the creativity, initiative and freethinking that makes americans the envy of the world. as for those 'malls' spoken of, the guys get paid, and is it so shocking that they might want something to spend their money on after they've earned it? they send home gifts to wives and kids they can't be home with to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and 'just because'. it keeps them connected back home, from their own hearts, and delights their loved ones to get it. it makes memories.
and heaven forbid they should fill their time with taking classes, no, we can't have that, now, can we? what a scandalous idea, bettering yourself and continuing to add to your lifetime store of skill and knowledge when you see the opportunity! who do they think they are? americans?! college-age americans?!
oh yeah, that's right--they ARE.
If the variety and latitude makes jaws drop, all the better. It just shows magnificently what a free people do with their lives when you give them open choice. Let em gape: " Wow....If the SOLDIERS from america can be like that, what must the PEOPLE be like??!!" "You mean, these American guys I'm seeing are here because they VOLUNTEERED to come over? nobody forced them?! They aren't REQUIRED to serve? They WANTED to do this? And they get all this!?
Man, I wanna go to America!"

I wouldn't begrudge them anything they asked for or get to have. Heh--in a way, you gotta nod to the IED planting and suiciding insurgents--they make it all justified. if they stopped trying to kill soldiers, why, suddenly just anybody could come over. It wouldn't be special anymore. There'd be no danger, no risk, no ultimate sacrifice, no need for courage or nerve or steel.
So in the black humor of war, let's all take a moment to thank the terrorists for what they do. they make it all called for.

of course, if they 'got that', it would drive them even crazier than they already are. One might hope it would ultimately drive them to quit and just go home and give up.
Then we could, too.
Because we would all rather be doing these things back home, I'm sure.
Anybody disagree?
 
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