Sunday, July 17, 2016

Figuring Out How to Make the Total Force Work

As ground forces shrink, the Army is again looking at how to maximize the total force policy of making the active, National Guard, and Reserve components work together.

One problem that so far doesn't seem to have harmed the reserves is trying to make the reserves and operational reserve rather than a strategic reserve.

That is, having reserve forces that routinely support active forces on a continuous basis rather than holding reserve units (Guard and Reserve) back for a big war that requires mobilization.

Those in the reserves are there because they want to serve while being a civilian with a civilian career and life. Frequent mobilization as part of an operational reserve threatens that understanding of what being a reservist means.

I thought this would be a problem but it has not proven to be a major issue. And with smaller amounts of forces in combat overseas, that use of our reserves has receded.

If it was up to me, I would cap the size of Guard combat units at brigades and emphasize more battalion task forces and even company teams that could be plugged into active forces more quickly than brigades can be mobilized and readied for service.

So we'd have a mix of brigades that could rotate to active duty to support the active Army and then have separate battalions and companies designed to be plugged into active forces in emergencies to bulk them up. Guard units at the company level are often better than active companies because the Guard units train together for so much longer than the active forces. Battalions can work out okay with some effort. But brigades and divisions simply don't get much of a chance to be proficient at that level with subordinate units scattered across a state--or even across multiple states.

I'd also eliminate the Guard division headquarters. This alone would make me seem like a traitor to the Guard, I suppose, given my Army National Guard background. To keep career paths for general officers in the Guard and Reserve open, I'd rotate them through active units to gain experience so that if mobilization is required and new divisions must be formed they would have the background to be part of "cloning" new division headquarters by pulling cadres out of existing ones and then filling out the two resulting headquarters with new people.

I know that the Guard has long resisted losing their division headquarters. There was some justification when the active force looked down on the Guard. But after 15 years of serving with Guard troops, I'd hope that the Guard has proven itself. If memory serves me, the Guard held the line in Iraq in 2005, providing the bulk of the combat units, as the active Army was reorganizing to brigade combat teams.

So with respect earned, changing the Guard to make it more useful may be seen by both sides of the divide as something to maximize value rather than being an insult to the Guard.

Were I god of reorganization, of course. Which I'm not.