Friday, May 29, 2015

Full Spectrum Returning

During the Iraq War, unjustified worries about the Army "breaking" from the strain of war were often conflated with the real problem of the Army becoming "unbalanced." The Army didn't break and now it is restoring balance.

The Army got imbalanced by the needed focus on fighting counter-insurgency wars in Iraq (and later in Afghanistan after the Iraq War was momentarily won). Tank and artillery units lost their skills at conventional warfare as they were focused on fighting insurgents and terrorists. Infantry lost their big war skills, too, but the change was most dramatic with the big-ticket units.

The Army is still regaining balance:

For more than a decade, troops here have been schooled in counterinsurgency.

"Mission-specific" training, they call it: going house to house, busting down doors, rooting out terror cells, recognizing crude explosives.

Now, after a pair of mission-specific wars, an Army in transition aims to get back to the future.

The training needed to fight full-scale, more conventional battles has suffered, Army leaders contend. So Fort Riley is putting soldiers such as Staff Sgt.Gilbert Monroe back into big tanks and simulating wars on a scale grander than Iraq or Afghanistan.

While we don't want to lose institutional knowledge about counterinsurgency, unless our troops regain their edge in conventional fighting, we could find ourselves eating our words about Iraqi troops' lack of a will to fight should we come up short in the first battle of a conventional war.