Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Readiness Follies, Redux 
A Republican lawmaker is concerned that Army units are deploying for combat zones at less than peak readiness.

A memorandum circulated last week on Capitol Hill by a House Armed Services subcommittee chairman is raising concerns that Army units training at home are so short on equipment and personnel that they are unready if needed urgently for Iraq, Afghanistan or potentially any other crisis that may emerge domestically or abroad.

The June 26 document, issued by readiness panel head Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), suggests the Army has already deployed units to Iraq and Afghanistan officially rated at the lowest levels of readiness.

But an Army spokesman said this week that although some units arrive in theater at less than top preparedness, they receive additional equipment and training before undertaking missions. In the Persian Gulf, for example, Army units typically fall in on equipment in Kuwait and undergo weeks of additional training there before moving into Iraq.

"There's not one unit that goes across the berm [into Iraq or Afghanistan] that is not C-1 ready," Lt. Col. Carl Ey, an Army spokesman, told Inside the Pentagon on July 5.

I think the article does a pretty good job of balancing the issues. The fact is, they are both right. Yes, years of war does put a strain on men and materiel. And we are still not quite over the hangover caused by the inadequate mobilization of IRR soldiers in 2003.

That's right, sports fans, we should have mobilized MORE IRR troops in 2003, rather than raid nondeploying units to fill vacancies.

A couple of observations:

LTC Ey is correct - it is routine for deploying units to fall in on equipment and additional training resources in theater. This is particularly true for vehicles, since there's no sense shipping them back and forth between the United States, unless they are National Guard vehicles needed for state missions back home. (For this reason, my own unit, the 1-124th Infantry, Florida Army National Guard, brought back all organic vehicles, minus a couple that were destroyed in combat.)

In addition, units can frequently pick up other more specialized equipment an weapons in theater as well. Ditto for spare parts. Why spread valuable parts all over the US, and waste money shipping them back and forth where they're needed, when you know your top priority units are coming to you in Kuwait, and you can stock your spare parts there.

So it's very easy for a unit to go from a Cat 2 or 3 to a Cat 1 on equipment or maintenance between deploying from the US and actually commencing combat operations in theater. And battalion and brigade S-4s can call ahead and find out exactly what is going to be available in theater.

So there's not a lot of risk there.

It's also true, however, that soldiers need to be able to train with equipment, and equipment that is fully functional at that.

So when a unit has maintenance problems at home due to lack of spare parts, for example, it is disruptive to training Stateside. Same thing for equipment. It is routine in my neck of the Army for units to loan out equipment to deploying units to bring them up to Category 1 standards and make up for their non-mission-capable equipment.

That is as it should be. Nondeploying units should be very generous with their equipment. God knows I wanted it when I was overseas. Freely we were given; freely we should give.

But that does have an effect on training our teams stateside which is difficult to quantify.

Splash, out


As an aside from all that, it's very interesting that almost all active duty bases stateside are having money problems.

They are laying off contractors, way behind on their utility bills and cutting back on everyting that is not mission critical.

I don't thihk that is going to help the re-enlistment rate, if your base housing maintenance suffers along with other services for the troops.

Meanwhile, the Navy is spending money like it's made out of paper, the Air Force is crying because it isn't getting it's full quota of F-22s and will have to wait ten years for a new bomber.

The Marines want more and better equipment, but will have to make do with what they might get in a few years. The Army is getting more of the not so good Strykers and a promise of updated M113s. Both the Marines and Army will recieve a few more of the Buffalos and RG-31s with even a few Cougars thrown in. But all these are in very small numbers.

We are shipping back hundreds of almost junk vehicles instead of selling them to the Iraqis.

It seems [to me] that the Military machine works very little better during wartime than peacetime and guess who still pays for it?

Why us, the taxpayer and our troops in the field.

And we are still shooting the 5.56 (but looks like the .45 is coming back).

Papa Ray
West Texas
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