View Full Version : Is a Military Personnel Train Wreck Coming?

07-23-04, 07:13 AM

Is a Military Personnel Train Wreck Coming?

By Ralf W. Zimmermann

When I recently spoke out in favor of considering an eventual reinstatement of the draft to counteract a possible long-term troop shortage, I was amazed how many Americans opposed the concept. Many wrote me that our professional military could easily sustain itself, especially given the positive recruiting and reenlistment stats. Quite a few respondents regarded draftees as nothing but troublemakers.

Maybe being overly positive can also lead to naÔvetť. Letís take a look at a few indicators that clearly show things arenít so rosy on the military personnel front.

Isnít it a serious indicator of a personnel crunch when homecomings for recently returned units are cut short? Barely off the planes and with equipment still on ships and trains, even the troopers of our Fort Carson-based 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were recently told to get ready again. A good outfit, the Cav will be ready! But Ö happy campers many troopers are not Ė quite a few will soon dump battle fatigues for civvies.

By official admission, even our best anti-terror troops are beginning to follow the money trail to a better life. Scores of our most physically fit and tactically most savvy troops are becoming civilian contractors for up to $200,000 per year. Because you donít create special operators in a six-week crash-course, the exodus could severely harm our offensive capabilities.

With the news of already worn-out units having to count on multiple combat tours, Army Vice Chief Gen. Richard Cody just announced another downer: The Army will dig into the Individual Ready Reserve, sending alert notices to almost 6,000 personnel. When pestered by lawmakers about musician recalls, Cody admitted, ďThe bands have been busy, tending to services and funerals.Ē

And with the regular forces sliding into the readiness red zone, howís the National Guard faring?

Crappy at best!

Many Guard units are nearing the federal mobilization limit of 24 months on duty, giving birth to rumors of further extensions. Although the SecDef denies any immediate extension plans, the rumors arenít sitting well with Guardsmen and their families. Recent reports reveal a recruiting shortfall of around 5,000 Guard troops, while the quality of recruits is steadily dropping. Only 58 percent of Army Guard recruits are scoring in the higher quality aptitude categories.

Guard reenlistments arenít a success story either, if the 1st Battalion of the 152nd Infantry Regiment from Indiana is an indicator. Over the last two years, only one third of those eligible to reenlist decided it was worth it.

In addition to dwindling personnel numbers, the Guard and Reserve have also suffered increasing numbers of high-age fatalities. While itís admirable to allow good troops to serve beyond the fiftieth birthday, many just canít meet the physical fitness standards for rigorous combat deployments. Sadly, military bureaucrats care more about impressive numbers than troop survival.

Ultimately, it didnít come as a surprise, when I read that the Army just activated 68-year-old psychiatrist John Wicks to serve in Iraq. Man, Iím really proud of the Doc but I canít understand that our country of 285 million citizens is now activating the equivalent of the German World War II Volkssturm (the peopleís storm), including men over 60, to occupy a third world nation of 25 million.

As someone who knows a bit about how our military works, I wasnít shocked that the Pentagon gurus never planned on the mess that followed a relatively swift maneuver victory against Iraq. It was just too simple to envision!

Hereís the bitter reality Ė the truth:

Iraq never turned out to be the liberation of Europe as advertised! But Ö despite widespread misgivings and armchair quarterbacking, we canít abandon our responsibilities. Iraq deserves free elections and a functioning economy before we leave it. To succeed, we must provide adequate security forces long-term. And while stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, our military must be prepared to send capable strike forces to other potential trouble spots.

How do we find enough people to do all that?

Distrusting the Pentagonís personnel magic show to create the illusion of adequate strength figures, I foresee the draft concept slowly creeping into the minds of military planners and politicians.

Why donít they tell the truth Ė yet?

Itís an election year, stupid!

In the absence of substantial international military assistance, and with a dwindling ďcoalition of the willing but incapable,Ē the draft is a definite bailout possibility for late 2005. And it wonít matter who gets elected in November!

Maybe both presidential candidates should be asked some tough questions about how they plan to prevent a military personnel train wreck after 2004.

DefenseWatch Senior Military Correspondent Lt. Col. Ralf W. Zimmermann, USA (Ret.) is a decorated Desert Storm veteran and former tank battalion commander. His recent novel, ďBrotherhood of Iron,Ē deals with the German soldier in World War II. It is directly available from www.iUniverse.com and through most major book dealers. Zimm can be reached at r6zimm@earthlink.net or via his website at www.home.earthlink.net/~r6zimm. © 2004 LandserUSA. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.