Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I Confess I'm Flummoxed


The number of Americans eligible to serve in the military is dramatically shrinking, leaving the Army at its smallest size in over 75 years and forcing units to rely on unstable and unprepared servicemen. That puts both our military troops and the country at risk.

Our Army is shrinking because it has been told to get smaller--not because the Army couldn't recruit enough soldiers. I'm not sure what this author even means.

And there is this:

In 2008, when I was an infantry company commander in charge of over 140 soldiers in Baghdad, I saw firsthand how the declining number of volunteers is hurting the military. Thirty-six of my men were forced to deploy even though their terms of service were up, a controversial military policy known as “stop loss” or the “back door draft.” To meet the bare minimum number of soldiers, my unit took men who were medically unfit to fight. I had soldiers that could not leave our compound because they were medically prohibited from wearing their body armor or classified as mentally unfit. I had soldiers taking anti-depression, sleeping, anxiety and other drugs. I had a mentally unstable private viciously attack his sergeant, causing lifelong damage, and multiple other problem soldiers that detracted from the combat performance of my unit. This was symptomatic throughout the Army.

I have no doubt that his personal experience in 2008--when recruiting was toughest--is accurate. The author had more combat experience before he brushed his teeth the first morning he was in Iraq compared to my reservist REMF service. And I concede we did lower recruiting standards and we did have troops with limitations on duty because of physical and mental wounds from past deployments.

But the author then hints at a draft as a solution for the supposed shortage of quality troops without actually calling for it. I do wish the author would listen to a company commander of an infantry unit in, say, 1970, and consider whether his problems with troops was really as bad as it could get. Heck, you don't even have to talk to a commander in South Vietnam. Talk to one in West Germany.

And don't even get me going on the nonsense of calling "stop-loss" a backdoor draft. That policy was about maintaining unit cohesion of a deploying unit and fully within the enlistment contract of the troops.

Again, perhaps a chat with a company commander in 1969 whose unit churned with people coming and going during a year would be enlightening. Or a couple years later when we were drawing down troops and not units. That policy wrecked our Army--not the war.

Also, I hate to point this out, but the Army of 2008 that suffered from the personnel problems laid out actually did win the surge campaign by defeating al Qaeda in Iraq and supporting the Awakening.

And it beat the pro-Iran Shia Sadrists in hard fighting in Baghdad.

But sure, we could use a bigger Army. I'll stand by the author on that. I'm just not sure what anything the author said before that had anything to with that point.