The Strain of Escalation on Our Troops

February 22, 2007
A New York Times story today details Pentagon plans to send National Guard troops back to Iraq next year without standard time between deployments in order to sustain President Bush's plans for escalation in Iraq. The latter part of the article gives specifics on shortcomings regarding training, equipment, and time at home:

National Guard May Undertake Iraq Duty Early

David S. Cloud, New York Times - February 22, 2007

Changing the reservists' schedules means abandoning previous promises that they would get several years between deployments. And the acceleration means that soldiers who usually drill just once a month and for a few weeks in the summer will have to begin intensive preparations right away.

"We're behind the power curve, and we can't piddle around," Maj. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, said in an interview. He added that one-third of his soldiers lacked the M-4 rifles preferred by active-duty soldiers and that there were also shortfalls in night vision goggles and other equipment. If his unit is going to be sent to Iraq next year, he said, "We expect the Army to resource the Guard at the same level as active-duty units."

He also noted that one of the brigade's battalions that could deploy to Iraq next year was now in Afghanistan and was not scheduled to return until April, which would leave its soldiers with just over a year at home before having to leave for Iraq in June 2008. He said discussions were under way with top Army officials about providing necessary equipment and extra compensation for reservists in the Oklahoma Guard's 45th Brigade Combat Team if the unit was sent back to Iraq two years earlier than planned.

Capt. Christopher Heathscott, a spokesman for the Arkansas National Guard, said the state's 39th Brigade Combat Team was 600 rifles short for its 3,500 soldiers and also lacked its full arsenal of mortars and howitzers.

Of particular concern, he said, is the possibility that the prospects of going to Iraq next year could cause some Arkansas reservists not to re-enlist this year. Over the next year roughly one-third of the soldiers in the 39th will have their enlistment contracts expire or be eligible for retirement, Captain Heathscott said.

The article also goes on to discuss the abandonment of rules that limited call-ups of Guard members by the Bush administration in January. This terrible strain on the military precipitated by the war in Iraq was anticipated long before President Bush's escalation plan was even announced:

Lieutenant General David Poythress, the state adjutant general for the Georgia National Guard, 12/17/06:

"There is a danger of breaking the Army, but there is an equivalent danger of breaking the Guard. Guardsmen don't sign up to be full-time soldiers. If that's what they wanted, they'd join the active Army."

General Peter Schoomaker, Chief of Staff United States Army, 12/14/06:

"At this pace, without recurrent access to the reserve components, through remobilization, we will break the active component. Further, because almost all reserve component units have already been either partially or completely mobilized in support of the Global War on Terrorism, current mobilization policies and practices require the Army to rely on individual volunteers from the reserve components. This runs counter to the military necessity of deploying trained, ready, and cohesive units."

Lynn Davis, a senior analyst in the Arroyo Center, a division of the Rand Corp. that does research for the army, 9/22/06:

"The continuing frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. Army so thin that there are few brigades ready to respond to crises elsewhere."

Andrew Krepinevich, retired Army officer and author of a Pentagon report arguing that the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk 'breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment, 1/24/06:

"You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue."

George Joulwan, retired four-star Army general and former NATO commander, 12/5/05:

"And we're fighting in all of Iraq, and we've got deployments in Afghanistan and worldwide. They are stretched thin. Whether they're broken or not, I think I would say if we don't change the way we're doing business, they're in danger of being fractured and broken, and I would agree with that."