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Monday, February 20, 2006

What it takes to keep a driver in the field 
Had a MUTA 5 drill weekend, which means the unit comes in friday and stays through sunday. We went to the field for the first time in way too long, and the unit's rusty. We've had a lot of new people come in, some of them are in leadership positions, and load plans and equipment knowledge just gets rusty. As in, "Hey, sergeant... where's your radio?"

"Oh, we're supposed to have a RADIO?"

I happened to be carrying a radio list with me, so I was able to say, "Yep...and here's the serial number you're supposed to have!"

Not that I'm usually THAT organized. I usually go to the field carrying a pocket version of the primary field manual we're training out of, the collective task training and evaluation outlines (T&EOs) from the ARTEP training manual, a notebook, maybe a map or aerial photograph of the training area, my training schedule and operations order for the drill, and not much else.

A few thoughts on lessons learned on this exercise:

* Drivers' licensing is a constant, gargantuan struggle. Every soldier who gets behind the wheel needs to have almost a full day of instruction on the contents of AR 55-500. That's a day he's not available to do anything else. And that's before he even gets a check ride. In theory, we load as much of this training as possible into AMBER and RED training cycles. But with 10-20 new soldiers every drill, and the natural turnover of the unit, that's just no longer possible. In order to meet the regulation standard, we have to cut bone and muscle out of Green cycle field training to get drivers and vehicles on the road. Which itself is a violation of training doctrine. We're supposed to PROTECT Green Cycle training. But one cannot train convoy operations unless one has licensed drivers.

Then we've got to get every driver through an online defensive driving course. I can't sign off on a license til the soldier goes through the class and gets the certificate.

On active duty, that's no problem. You can send an entire platoon at a time down to the training lab or computer center or library and knock it out and it's done.

But we're a Guard unit. We don't have a base computer lab or computer training facility. We can't do it on drill time. So we have to get the soldier to do it at home on their own time. As if they will. The reality is between work and school commitments and family commitments, taking a three-four hour defensive driving course on their own time, uncompensated in any way, is really the last thing on their minds.

And I knew this would happen. It used to be only drivers under 26 had to take the class. Apparently, the number of accidents went down, because the Army expanded the requirement to the whole Army. (The possibility that the number of accidents went down because the requirement restrained units and forced them to put fewer drivers on the road - mostly over 26 and exempt from the requirement - does not seem to have registered).

What's more, now that distance learning is cheap and easy to do via the Internet, my soldiers are getting slammed with a new "bright idea" online course every few weeks, now. One or two, I don't mind. But when so many people at echelons above the troop level get a bright idea for a new course, the cumulative effect will cripple the units. Unless the requirements are properly resourced, it will soon a problem for the reserve component to execute.

"Stand down the whole unit for a day for safety training."
"Stand down the whole unit and focus recruiting and retentio

Then, in order to drive at night, every driver has to sit through an ADDITIONAL 5-8 hours of classroom training, specifically on driving with night vision goggles. This is a MAJOR drag on reserve component units, because training time is tough to come by as is. (8 hours always seemed crazy to me.)

Not only that, but I can't use the instructors I want to teach the class. Noooo...they have to be CERTIFIED NVG instructors. Which means they have to attend a two day class themselves a five hour drive away. And when one or two of them leave the unit, or get deployed, I'm dead in the water for months until I can get a NEW certified instructor through the course.

The stars are aligned now: I'm stopping collective task training long enough to knock out the classroom phase of training, because who knows when I'll get another chance with a certified instructor?

The danger is that the Army will cripple itself with regulations and requirements - especially in the reserve component. I could very easily fill up every drill weekend taking care of regulations and requirements and never leave the armory. And the unit will look good on paper, and be absolutely hopeless in the field.

That's not what I plan to do. Somewhere I need to balance the requirement. But when I have a training schedule that is supposed to be locked in 90 days out, and then I get a last minute requirement that X number of soldiers must have an online course I've never heard of on operational security completed within 12 days, using facilities I don't have, when we're supposed to go to the field anyway, then we're tying our own shoelaces together before running the race.

And then we wonder why people leave the Army. The answer is that the enemy on the battlefield has nothing to do with it. Al Qaeda and the moojies deserve recruiting and retention awards, because they're doing more than anyone to keep people in. The Army is its own worst enemy.

We need to remember what's important: Shooting, moving, communicating, supporting, planning and troop safety. Nothing else should be getting in our way. And "bright ideas" for additional requirements that don't facilitate those objectives ought to be squashed.

Splash, out

Jason

Comments:
That type of shit is exactly why I left after my initial six was up.

I loved active duty, I loved my deployment. I loved being on AT. I hated drill.

Enduring a four hour unit piss test ordeal 3 times in one year? (Once on a MUTA 5, when we were supposed to be on the road for a 2 hr drive to the rifle range by nine on sat, we didn't leave till 1300...and, oh, weren't those active duty range NCO's happy to see us 4 hrs after our appointed time!)

Pre-mob 'training' - to get our jackets in order for deployment, that we would have 2 weeks to do at the unit before we shipped, plus 2 at a base..


Companies need a full time cadre of 5-7 dedicated training nco's to handle all the nuts and bolts of this stuff, like the nvg training or LALW classes.
 
Why can't the army pay soldiers for online training. If 4 hour of an online course is mandatory. Then I should be paid a MUTA1. Take it out of the 28 days you get for AT each year. I spent 10 months in a new unit. I had 3 claasses in that 10 months. 1 of which I taught. Sad? yes! but I would have been happy to spend 1 weekend a month taking an online course. In a unit that has multiple jobs (hospital) this is more practical. As a Combat Engineer less so.

King
 
Hello whats up.

I like reading your blogs. I keep up on stuff like that when possible, its because of my website that I run.
This is a personal-supported (me) website designed for Soldiers(any military) abroad to be able to communicate with their family members back home, and vice-versa. There are chat programs, blogs, a web forum discussion boards, all a place to meet and have duscussion, or to use as a meeting platform to launch video conferencing or voice over ip programs. Also there are numerous related links layed out in an easy to browse manner. The site depends on your usage, please help support, I was hoping some users might like to take a visit to Soldierlink.com.
I would like to see users using it, it has been up and running for a year now, and i recently did some reconstruction.

Please stop by if you get a chance to spread the word about supporting the troops/military abroad that are missing their family members today and need a good meeting place to get ahold of them as soon as they get online for their "15 minutes" of use.


http://soldierlink.com

Thanks
 
Howdy, I agree with the first commenter, this kind of stuff was what made me elect to go IRR rather than finish my time in the active guard. It was bad enough going from an active duty combat arms unit to an FSB but then it seemed like all we did was play the paper chase game. This was in the early 90s and it sounds as though things have only gone further down hill. It's bad enough that people in leadership positions are expected to donate as much time as they do but to expect it from young EMs is just crazy. I can only imagine the epic amounts of pencil whipping this kind of thing is encouraging.
 
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