Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Lesson in Fighting a War

I keep stressing that training and readiness are more important than numbers and the latest equipment. Let's examine 3rd Infantry Division's equipment which the troops used to set the Middle East land speed record in 2003 on the way to Baghdad.

In 2003, 3rd Infantry Division--a heavy mechanized division despite the formal name--advanced rapidly after crossing the berm on the Iraq-Kuwait border all the way to the outskirts of Baghdad in record time, sweeping aside sometimes desperate resistance; before plunging into Baghdad itself in a Thunder Run that finally broke Baathist and jihadi (Saddam's Fedayeen) resistance.

The division's troops accomplished this with older equipment.

Remember that the division didn't ship over to Kuwait with its equipment. It used prepositioned equipment left and maintained in the region following the Persian Gulf War of 1991. I didn't know this at the time, but that stored equipment wasn't as modern as the division itself had back in the United States:

Army officials acknowledge that, in decades past, they have allowed weapons prepositioned for combat to become badly outdated. For example, when the Third Infantry Division arrived in Kuwait as the vanguard for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the tanks and fighting vehicles it drew from warehouses were inferior to those it had trained on in the United States.

The division’s soldiers, in the words of one officer, were required to “train downward” to be effective on the older weapons. Mr. Bechtel and other Army officials said plans called for the Army’s warehouses to be refilled with newer weapons.

Indeed, since we had the time, I assumed pre-war that we must have shipped the division's equipment and that we'd have a second heavy division's troops fly over just before the war to draw that stored equipment.

But the point of this post isn't to revisit that error of mine.

The point is that having the latest equipment would have had a marginal effect on the outcome of the march north.

Modern weapons aren't irrelevant, of course. In the hands of good troops led by good leaders, they can achieve tremendous results.

But modern weapons in the hands of poorly trained troops are just so much expensive junk littering a battlefield at the end of a war. Having lower quality troops would have had a far bigger effect on our invasion.

Let's keep our troops trained with well-maintained equipment in sufficient quantities. Yes, it would be nice to have more units rather than fewer. And it would be great to have newer weapons. But don't screw up the foundation of a good--or great--military.