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America’s Army is Broken?

The media and liberal blogs are doing their usual anti-military, anti-President Bush, anti-war effort spin on this story. But the fact is, this is not about politics or partisan ideology, this is about what is best for the military to win the war effort and fight it most effectively. When I want to find out what is best for the military, I do not go to the ignorant media journalists to ask their ignorant, biased opinions, I go to the MilBlogs to find out from those who know. Here are a few military members whose opinions, insight and analysis should matter more than the propaganda hit pieces put out by the media.

American Thinker – Response to America’s Broken Down Media

I wanted to forward my thoughts to Ray Robinson regarding his article “America’s Broken-Down Media”

I am honorably discharged, Army veteran. I served with the 3rd ID as an 11X Infantryman during two combat tours in Iraq including the invasion. The dishonesty that the left writes with really bothers me and serves to undermine everybody that has ever served in combat.

I hope the writer of the original Time article understands that he is denigrating and discounting the leadership provided by the NCO’s and Officers that a privileged to lead young soldiers into combat. I survived combat and earned my Sgt’s stripes by following the example of my leaders. Sometimes things happen that are beyond the control of anybody in the chain of command. In the case of PVT Zeimer the only person the left can blame is the President because “if he wasn’t there to begin with this wouldn’t have happened”.

Thanks for having folks like Mr. Robinson on point. It’s amazing what one little “blogger” can do to make an establishment of the American media bedrock such as Time look like a clownish rag straight of the DNC presses.

Brian Marshall

PS: Here’s snippet of a letter that I wrote to my father (a retired history and political science teacher of 32 years) regarding this.

Thought you might be interested in this perspective. There’s a story from Time magazine floating around that describes a soldier that was killed in Iraq after only a few days in the country and they point to is lack of training as a cause for his death. Aside from being absurd the story is also very misleading.

People who don’t know anything about the military and military job specialty training will be led to believe that this kid was put through some grinder and sent to the front lines. I had even less training than this soldier when I went over for the first time. The fact is that there wouldn’t be any privates in the military if every deploying soldier was required to through all of the training offered by the Army. By the time they go done with the training cycle they’d all be Specialist/E4’s!

There’s a reason why the Army has experienced NCO’s. Leadership!! As long as the soldier knows how to use his equipment and follow orders he’ll be fine with good leadership. From the sound of this story it doesn’t sound like there’s a whole lot that could have been done to prevent this. Even if a seasoned Special Forces soldier had been there the same bombs would have killed him. I witnessed what happened to a SF team when they rolled over a bomb on the same route I was on earlier that morning! My Company 1st Sgt. was killed in Iraq and he had 22 years in the Army! Training is critical to success but it can only go so far. wish every guy going over could get a year and a half of combat oriented training but that’s not possible. Check out the source story and a good followup that I found today.

Ray Robison – America’s Broken Down Media

According to Mark Thompson, writer for TIME magazine, America’s army is broken. While it can not be argued that the military can possibly maintain the same state of readiness in war time as it does in peace time, broken has a certain specific ring to it: incapable, demoralized and poorly trained.

Mr. Thompson begins the article, – featured on the Drudge Report – with the story of Private Matthew Zeimer. Brave PVT Zeimer died within hours of his arrival at a Forward Operating Base in Iraq. Thompson describes PVT Zeimer’s training before going on to make the case that the surge cut the young Private’s training short. In Mr. Thompson’s recounting of PVT Zeimer’s tale, he essentially was killed because he had insufficient training.

If Zeimer’s combat career was brief, so was his training. He enlisted last June at age 17, three weeks after graduating from Dawson County High School in eastern Montana. After finishing nine weeks of basic training and additional preparation in infantry tactics in Oklahoma, he arrived at Fort Stewart, Ga., in early December. But Zeimer had missed the intense four-week pre-Iraq training—a taste of what troops will face in combat—that his 1st Brigade comrades got at their home post in October. Instead, Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture. That’s the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals’ household staffs the finer points of table service.

Mr. Thompson finds confirmation from Congressman Murtha:

The truncated training — the rush to get underprepared troops to the war zone — “is absolutely unacceptable,” says Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and opponent of the war who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. A decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam, Murtha is experiencing a sense of déjà vu. “The readiness of the Army’s ground forces is as bad as it was right after Vietnam,”

Sounds like a pretty solid case doesn’t it? But something just didn’t sit right with me. I immediately knew this wasn’t the full story. So I used a journalistic research tool, possibly unavailable to TIME, called Google.

You see, this article makes the brave young Matthew Zeimer sound like an infantry soldier. Infantry soldiers go to the Infantry Training Brigade for 14 weeks of intense training after completing basic training. How can it be he didn’t go? Is the army so bad off infantry soldiers don’t go to Advanced Infantry Training anymore?

In my research, I found this article Soldier’s last days at home memorable at the Billings Gazette. The article tells the story of the brave Private’s short military career as told by his family and friends.

Matthew had come home on leave Nov. 8, after more than five months of basic training

Five months of basic training? What this article means is that he did nine weeks of Basic Training, which every soldier does, and then went for three more months of Advanced Individual Training in which a soldier trains on their MOS (Military Occupational Skill). About.com explains the process well:

Individuals who enlist under the 13X Infantry option attend Field Artillery OSUT (One Station Unit Training), which combines Army Basic Training and Field Artillery AIT (Advanced Individual Training), all in one course.

But most civilians just think of it all as basic training. The point being, this is three more months of a 24 hour a day resident course, tough as nails training that Mr. Thompson has neglected to mention. Three months is a significant amount of training.

And it doesn’t stop there. According to the Billings Gazette:

Staff Sgt. Thad Rule, with the U.S. Army Recruiting Office in Glendive, said Matt joined the Future Soldier Program at the start of his senior year of high school, shortly after he turned 17. He spent nearly 10 months learning some of the basics about the Army, preparing him for his training.

Rule said Matt “wanted to do a combat job” and couldn’t wait to join the Army. To speed things up, he opted to undergo artillery support training rather than going into the infantry, a move that got him into the Army a month earlier.

Not only did PVT Zeimer do three more months of training than Thompson lets on, he spent ten months of training before he even went in the army. While this certainly does not equate to training in an active duty setting, it is a training opportunity that most soldiers don’t get. In real terms, this brave young man was ahead of the training that a typical artillery junior enlisted soldier received when I was an artillery officer in the mid-90s under President Clinton.

Former Spook – It’s Still the Force Structure, Stupid

Interestingly, the Savannah Morning News account describes the missed training as a “dress rehearsal,” and not a formal training course, as Mr. Thompson implies. There is a difference. A formal training program is one that is organized, manned and equipped for a specific purpose, such as basic training or advanced infantry tactics. Completion of these courses are requisites for entering more advanced training, or serving in a combat unit. A “dress rehearsal” (like the one staged by the 3rd ID) is conducted in-house, using personnel, resources and equipment that are normally devoted for other purposes. This type of training is designed for a single purpose — in this case, getting ready for an Iraq deployment — and more importantly, completion of the dress rehearsal was apparently not a requirement for serving in combat. If it had been, the “untrained” personnel would have remained behind at Fort Stewart.

Greyhawk also uncovered this story from Army Times, profiling the soldier who died with Private Zeimer. Specialist Alan McPeek was just days away from completing a 14-month tour in Iraq when the attack occurred. He was teaching Zeimer how to respond to incoming fire when they were killed in action. The veteran training the rookie; it’s a scenario as old as warfare itself.

One final thought on this non-scandal: in the past, the U.S. has sent troops into battle with far less training and rehearsal than Private Zeimer received. During the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, the sudden German counter-attack decimated U.S. tank units (and crews), necessitating a stop-gap replacement program. As outlined in Belton Cooper’s book “Death Traps,” the Army’s solution was to take infantry replacements, just off the boat in Antwerp — and with no prior armor experience — train them on the M-4 Sherman, and send them into combat with only four hours of preparation.

Now that’s what I call an inadequate training program.

Greyhawk at MilBlogs – Training

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway – Untrained Soldier Killed in Iraq?

So, this E&P “EXCLUSIVE” is actually a two-month-old story from a local newspaper. More importantly, the idea that soldiers customarily get a month-long “rehearsal” before deployments and that failure to do so means they’re “untrained” displays a woeful understanding on the military.

Soldiers rotate in and out of units on a constant basis. New soldiers join the program already in progress and their leaders get them up to speed as soon as possible. Young Zeimer had “a few weeks” with his unit at Fort Stewart before deploying to Iraq, which is more than many get.

Units tend to be manned below their authorized strength, for a variety of reasons. When they get deployment orders, it is usual for them to quickly get new soldiers and equipment to get them up to warfighting form. During Desert Storm, several new junior enlisted soldiers and NCOs joined our unit while we were staging in Saudi Arabia, some a few days before the ground war got underway. In Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, green recruits constantly joined units in the midst of combat. That’s how the Army works.

Very little public information is available on Private Zeimer’s death, so we have no way of knowing whether additional training would have helped. Most of the time, though, blue-on-blue incidents are just the fog of war. Training, even the most realistic, is still “just training.” Once the shooting starts for real, young men’s adrenaline gets pumping, they get jumpy, and they make mistakes. Constant training, especially unit training, cuts down those mistakes. It doesn’t eliminate them.

And here are some comments left at Greyhawk’s MilBlogs site:

You can’t learn anything useful about Iraq while stateside, I don’t care what the Army or the media seems to think. You can only learn by doing, and doing over there. For the first three months no one knows what the hell they’re doing. But by month 6 you feel like you were born there. You can see it in the eyes of the hardened vets you’re replacing when you do your standard right-seat rides with them to get familiarized with the mission. Those guys are so nonchalant it’s scary, especially when you’re a combat cherry and nervous as hell. But it doesn’t take long to get that same look in your own eyes. But it does take time, and you can’t shortcut around it.

It’s a truism in all wars: F-ing new guys get dead because F-ing new guys are dumb. They just come that way straight out of the box. Your job as a leader is to “un-F” your new guys as quickly as possible.

But running around in the Georgian woods for a month is not going to help. It’s the same as JRTC in Louisiana. Waste o’ time.

Posted by Buck Sargent at 2102Z

Concur. Training is essential, but the first weeks in country are the real deal.

My last few days in Iraq, our relacements were there. We were inside the wire, but something went boom in the distance for no apparent reason (probably just EOD doing their thing), but the only reason I noticed it was because they responded. Every face in the room was staring at me, eyes wide, kind of waiting for my lead. At first I honestly didn’t know why everyone was looking at me (it was actaully a weird moment), but then I realized on a conscious level that an explosion had just occurred and they we’re expecting me to uhhh, do something.

“You’ll get used to that.” I said.

The guy there before me could tell a similar story.

Posted by Greyhawk at 2256Z

“You can see it in the eyes of the hardened vets you’re replacing when you do your standard right-seat rides with them to get familiarized with the mission.”

Shift-click this.

I expect to see the same next month.

Posted by Greyhawk at 2303Z

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April 11, 2007 , 1:06AM - Posted by | American History, Anti-War Groups, Democrats, Leftist Groups, Liberalism, Media Bias, Military, Military History, US Army

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