Thursday, April 05, 2007

Laugh Line of the Day, And a Fisking of Time 
Here's the MSNBC Headline: 12,000 more Guard troops may be going to Iraq

The punchline is in the subhead:
Deployment order planned to lessen ‘surge’s’ strain on stretched-thin Army

Dude...when your part-time units have as many deployments as your full-timers, you won't have part-timers anymore.

That's not the case now, except in a few units like MP companies and Civil Affairs units. But as Guard brigades are sent back for second tours, it begins to become a reality.

But we still have to wait decades after retiring from service to collect our pensions - unlike active component service members, who can collect it immediately upon leaving the service after 20 years.

Time Magazine has a more incompetent and politically charged take, in which they quote Gen. Barry McCaffrey (without noting that he was a Clinton administration official) and somehow manage to write a full feature story on the Army and its readiness without quoting a single active general officer.), they cite the doddering fool Congressman Murtha as a key source (who thinks Okinawa counts as a staging area for an operational reserve for Iraq), that Clinton was "a cold war President" (seriously!!!!) and that it's the Army that decides to spend its money on irrelevant, hi-tech weapons systems (apparently, Congress has nothing to do with spending priorities.)

Here's an example of Time's stupidity:

The lack of guns and armor back home has a boomerang effect: many of the troops training in the U.S. are not familiar with what they'll have to depend on once they arrive in Iraq.

DUH 1: Why would we need armor back home? Are they referring to tanks or body armor? There isn't much tank warfare going on in Iraq, if the former, and tank crews are fighting as infantry. If the latter, well, what's the point in shipping armor back home if we need it in Iraq? What does Time think we should be doing?

DUH 2: Well, one reason they're not familiar with it is because 1.) We have new and better gear and systems now, and 2.) We're equipping units forward with it first. Duh!!!!!!!!!

Should we just never upgrade?

How dumb are these dorks?

The main consequences of a tightly stretched Army is that men and women are being sent into combat with less training, shorter breaks and disintegrating equipment. When those stories get out, they make it harder to retain soldiers and recruit them in the first place. "For us, it's just another series of never-ending deployments, and for many, including me, there is only one answer to that—show me the door out," wrote an officer in a private e-mail to Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey.

One of only two serving officers the story quotes is anonymous and thirdhand via a congressman. Oh. Is Steve Rothman a Democrat, by chance? Why, yes. Yes he is.

Time Magazine can't be bothered with pointing that out, though. But don't you think that information would be useful to the reader in discerning that Rothman might have other interests in cherry-picking his emails for Time?

Why, yes. Yes it would be.

But you won't read it in Time.

You also won't read about Rothman's commitment to victory in Time. But you can read it here on Countercolumn, and on Rothman's own web page:

“Today’s vote is a giant step forward for those of us opposed to keeping our young men and women in the middle of an Iraqi civil war indefinitely. As I have said repeatedly, this bill ends the war in Iraq and that’s why I support it. I wish it called for the immediate withdrawal of our troops, but there are not the votes to accomplish that objective,”

He has the terrorists quaking in their boots, I'm sure.

Today half the Army's 43 combat brigades are deployed overseas, with the remainder recovering from their latest deployment or preparing for the next one.

Dumbasses. "Overseas" also means Korea, Germany, and Italy. Korea's traditionally considered a "hardship tour." The others are plum posts, highly sought after by soldiers wanting to live the Army Good Life.

Oh, and Hawaii is also considered OCONUS.

Those deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than once—170,000 so far—have a 50% increase in acute combat stress over those who have been deployed only once.

Do the math again, Time. It doesn't necessarily mean what you think it means. And conflating Afghanistan with Iraq isn't exactly useful in this context.

The Army's problems were long in the making, and the extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have exposed them for all to see: more than a decade of underfunding for boots on the ground while cold war administrations from Richard Nixon's to Bill Clinton's spent lavishly on the Pentagon's high-tech wizardry. The first Gulf War didn't help. It lasted 100 hours on the ground, was fought mainly from the air and reinforced the impression that grunts matter less than geeks.

Not to anyone who was paying attention, it didn't. The Gulf War illustrated the spectacular failure of air power alone to achieve a decisive result. It was only after the Iraqi Army was threatened with envelopment on the ground that they were forced to withdraw, and only then could they be really pummeled from the Air. Remember, we didn't have a "Highway of Death" until AFTER the tanks crossed the LD.

Oh, and there's Clinton as a Cold War president again. Wow.

No mention of the Clinton administration slashing active Army units by nearly half, though.

Even now, more than four years after invading Iraq, the Pentagon seems to be investing much of its current $606 billion budget in an effort to fight the wrong war. America's potential enemies around the world watched the first Gulf War and learned that the U.S. was unbeatable on a conventional battlefield. But the Defense Department lingered in a cold war hangover. The Air Force continues to buy $330 million fighters, and the Navy $2 billion submarines. (The Army is not free of this tendency. It wants to spend $160 billion on the Future Combat System, a network of 14 ground vehicles and drones of questionable value in the irregular warfare that's likely in the 21st century.)

That's Congress, dumbass. Not the Pentagon. Rumsfeld went down trying to change that, and was paying a heavy political price for it, with calls for his resignation even before 9/11. Crusader Artillery, anyone?

The force was so stretched, he warned Congress at the time, that a 20,000-strong troop surge in Iraq could not be sustained.

Well, no shit. That's why it was called a "surge" in the first place. We deliberately made a decision to commit a level of force that could not be sustained indefinitely. No one was even making the claim that it could. Remember, the choice was between "Go Large, Go Long or Go Home. The "surge" was a tilt toward Go Large.

Over the past two years, the number of troops surveyed who think victory is likely has fallen from 83% to 50%.

The difference: Congress has been taken over by surrender monkeys, while congressional leaders are no longer debating how to achieve victory, but trying to select the most expeditious route to ignominious defeat.

There is nothing at all in Iraq that makes victory less likely than it was two years ago. The difference is in Congress.

True, the Army is making its recruiting targets—but only by accepting less qualified people.

Holy Crap, Time -- what were the standards in the 1970s, when we had a much larger Army? I think you'll find that our standard of recruit holds up very well.

I granted some waivers as a commander recently - things like marijuana convictions more than ten years prior but a solid record since, with evidence of employment and family stability. None of those men ever let me down, and I'm proud of and happy to have all of them. (It's the young geniuses with the clean records that cause me the most headaches!)

The Army has been turning to its sister services for enlistees. About 20,000 "sandbox sailors" from the Navy and airmen from the Air Force are serving as "in lieu of" soldiers—driving trucks and providing security in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dedicating Air Force personnel to Army missions is hurting the Air Force, its leaders have told Congress.

That just sounds like a good idea all around to me.

"The Air Force doesn't guard prisoners. We don't have prisoners," Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne told Congress Feb. 28. "The Army guards prisoners."

Heh. You do now, bitches!!!! :D

The Army is even cannibalizing the other services' officer corps, recruiting 325 so far (in exchange for a $2,500 bonus), with 200 more expected to switch to Army green this year, now that the bonus has been raised to $10,000.

Also a good idea.

To keep soldiers in uniform, the Army is spending money like, well, a drunken sailor. It will pay out close to $1 billion this year and next to attract and keep them in the force.

That's an irresponsible and reckless statement. It implies negligence or progligence. What's the evidence for that? If the market requires the Army to spend 1 billion on personnel retention to meet it's goals, then that's not "spending like a drunken sailor." (The author's been writing for mags too long. Snark is held in higher regard than substance.) It may well even be frugal. Hell, I suspect we're getting a bargain!

It's considering boosting, after one combat tour, the $225 monthly bonus soldiers get for serving in a war zone.

Also a good idea. The Navy's been doing that with Optempo/Sea pay for years. The more time you spend at sea, the higher your payout. If it works there it might make sense in the Army. It might make sense to adjust payouts by MOS or duty station as well. There's no reason people sitting in a Kuwaiti chow hall ought to receive the same Hazardous Duty pay as an infantry private busting down doors in Ramadi, other than inertia and Congressional meddling.

Nearly all soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait receive up to $15,000 for re-enlisting.

For a six-year enlistment and the near certainty of another full combat tour? It's a steal. Uncle Sam should take all he can at that price. That amortizes to just a couple grand and change per year. A no brainer.

To fill the gaps, the Army is promoting green officers more quickly. Captains are advancing to major after 10 years instead of 11; lieutenants can be pinned on as captains after 38 months instead of the usual 42. But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently warned that such fast promotion hurts officers' ability "to master their duties and responsibilities."

News flash to Time: Officers who are on their second Iraq combat tour aren't quite so "green" as you think they are, dorkus.

The Army has also skimped on armor. "You go to war with the Army you have," Rumsfeld famously told a grunt who complained of inadequate armor in 2004, "not the Army you might want." Lieut. General Stephen Speakes, the Army's top planner, recently recalled the shock Army leaders felt when Private Jessica Lynch and the 507th Maintenance Company stumbled into an ambush in Nasiriyah that left 11 of her comrades dead in the war's opening days. "We found to our horror that this was a logistics unit that had no ... [major] weapons, no night vision, none of the modern enablers for war," he said. "And we said, Well, they were never supposed to fight." The Pentagon war plan called for a neat conflict with well-defined front lines that support troops like Lynch could be safely stationed behind.

No, it didn't. That's a ridiculous assertion.

A World War II G.I. wore gear worth $175, in today's dollars. By Vietnam, it cost about $1,500. Today it's about $17,000. Amazingly, the Army had only 32,000 sets of body armor when the Iraq war began. The Army now insists that troops don't go "outside the wire"—leave their heavily defended posts in Iraq—without adequate protection. But that's not what the Pentagon's inspector general reports. Some troops "experienced shortages of force-protection equipment such as up-armored vehicles, electronic countermeasure devices ... weapons and communications equipment," an unclassified summary of a still secret Jan. 25 report says.

Well, we're defining "adequate" upwards rather quickly again, aren't we? The Army procured enough body armor to equip all deployed soldiers by the end of 2003. (My unit was among those deployed without it initially, but we had it by end July 03) Yet we're still hearing about it nearly four years later. Good going, scoop!

Here's a truism: Soldiers will never have enough of something, no matter how well equipped they are.

In short, as Murphy's Laws of Combat state, if you are short of everything except enemy, you are in combat.

The new gear is great. But we were able to accomplish our mission with or without body armor.

I don't mean to minimize readiness problems. They exist. They're serious. Training resources for basic NCOES classes, for example, are grossly inadequate, and great NCOs have to wait literally years to get promoted because of the lack of NCO school slots. That predates Iraq, though.

But gosh, I don't blame Time Magazine for skipping bylines on this one.

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The Army has also skimped on armor. "You go to war with the Army you have," Rumsfeld famously told a grunt who complained of inadequate armor in 2004, "not the Army you might want."

It pisses me off to no end to see these nimrods continually trot out this bs. That quote is so ridiculously taken out of context that anyone who uses it should be banned from journalism forever.

The Army only had 32000 sets of body armor going in?! That can't be right. A flak jacket is basic gear in the Army, right?
Well, the problem is that Army planners are being punished for upgrading equipment.

Yes, flak jackets have been standard issue for years. The old VietNam era flak jackets. They could stop a grenade frag, and were better than nothing. But the newer items are a vast improvement, with the kevlar armor.

The new ones, with the kevlar plates, can stop a 7.62mm round. I've seen it with my own eyes.

The problem: They weren't universally issued in the spring of 2003.

I didn't know they existed until I saw some guys in the Air Force with them at the Mob Station.

If NOBODY had them, no one would be the wiser. But because the Army had begun the process of upgrading shortly before the war, we're paying the political price for it.

But yes, EVERYBODY had the old style flak jackets, if not the new plated vests.

I suspect the number going in was more than 32000, because in April and May of 2003, we were pretty unusual in not having the new vests. Indeed, active duty troops used to gawk at us, saying "You don't have the new ones yet? And you're an INFANTRY unit?"


That was because the Active Army had not been directed to "support" guard units attached to them, but to "sustain" them. Meaning the Active Army told us to look to state officials to upgrade our equipment. The active army was just supposed to feed and house us.

But once we were on Title 10 orders, we didn't exist in the state. We were Federal troops.

It was stupid beyond belief, and THAT is what I was sore at the Army for. Not for not having the best gear right away. Good Armies are constantly upgrading and fielding new gear and some units will eventually have it before others.

I was sore at the Army for treating Guard troops like second class citizens, and putting Guard light infantry out in the streets of Ramadi on patrol without the new vests, while equipping typists in the 82nd Airborne with the latest model protective gear, and then telling the state of Florida it's our problem.
Good article. Thanks. (I am calling you out on "proligence" however!
I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2007/04/re-laugh-line-of-day-and-fisking-of.html
It burned me a little bit to see Iraqi police wearing the IBA before we received it also.
Consul-at-arms ... Were you in the military at that time? Or in foreign service?

Er, both.

I was a long-time Army Reservist called back into active duty when my reserve unit back home was mobilized. At the time, I was serving overseas as an FSO.

I've since transferred to the Retired Reserve, am finishing up an overseas tour as an FSO (again), and getting ready for some major home leave before heading back overseas this summer.

I spent OIF1 in Kuwait and Iraq. Mostly Iraq. And we deployed with flak vests, receiving IBA in late 2003.
Jason, not quite correct on the body armor.

Kevlar body armor was pretty much standard in all divisional units and most of the Nat Guard / Reserve units attached to us in GWI / ODS. (Operation Premature Capitulation? What are we calling it these days?)

It supplanted Vietnam-era flak jackets everywhere I traveled by '94. This is among active duty units. Can't vouch for Nat Guard - you guys are always the last to get the good stuff.
Well, done, Jason. I had many of those same thoughts when I firts read that article. And don't you like how he opens with the Soldier who was killed and didn't have much training, but nowhere does he make any link between the Soldier's training and his death.

BTW -- I thought that the main issue with the armor was the SAPI plates. We had IBA out to almost everyone, but there weren't enough SAPI plates in theater at first. For OIF 2, we were issued IBA before deploying but didn't receive our SAPI plates until we were on the ground in Kuwait where redeploying units left their gear.
Good overall work, but I've got to take exception with the use of the USAF's ILO taskings. It's not just the Security Forces and Transporters (the people who are actually trained for it) that are doing this stuff. People from all AFSCs are being sent to a relatively quick "learn how to be a soldier" training and then shipped out to augment Air Force SF or transporter units.

You can't tell me that it's good sustainable policy to be using your loadmasters, computer security techs, and medical technicians as psuedo-soldiers.
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