I have wanted to write about this for a while, and I think it is time. What you are about to read is controversial. It may make some people dislike me, if not hate me. It may make some never read my blog again. If so, I can only say it is a shame that you would let a disagreement with my opinion offend you that much. I have felt this way for a long time and have been very verbal about this for quite a few years, to include an editorial I wrote in the Army Times several years ago.
This article http://www.military.com/news/article/general-defends-15month-tours.html does not necessarily support my opinion, but it is partially there. See here is what Bouhammer thinksâ€¦.
I think that we as a country, government and military need to get off of this notion of a 12 or even 15 month tours and then rotate out. I call this the Vietnam mentality, and it does not serve us well. It may have been needed then, when we had a draft for a highly unpopular war, but it does not fit now. Every war prior to Vietnam was fought with troops that essentially stayed until the job was done. We won all of those wars, hands down. There is controversy and disagreement about the outcome of Vietnam and if we won or lost there. It really depends on who you ask.
Prior to Vietnam (WWI, WWII, Korea, etc), we sent divisions and armies to the war front and they stayed until they were done. Sometimes, they were rotated out in order to spread the honors and lineage or after facing more than their fair share of combat and personnel losses. However, for the most part they stayed. Soldiers were not stop-lossed, they were rotated in and out as their time was done or they joined and got orders for that unit. If a unit had heavy losses, then they put in a request for fillers and they got them from either other units or from the supply of new soldiers joining the Army.
Ever since Vietnam our wars have been short. You can look at Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, etc. and easily see they were short in actual combat time frame. The Global War on Terror which consists of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and smaller actions in many other countries has been going on since our country was attacked in 2001. We have been rotating Division HQs, and Brigade Combat Teams in and out over and over since we first got into Afghanistan and Iraq. Reset, refit, dwell times, and all of that have caused our army to look thin, and even broken in some eyes. Not only Active duty Army, but also Army Reserves and Army National Guard. Not to mention Active and Reserve Marine units too.
All of the problems of trying to rotate people back every 12 months, millions of dollars in costs relating to moving personnel and equipment and not to mention the loss of intellectual knowledge of the battle-space and people in the battle-space can all be avoided if we got off of the Vietnam 12 month and out mindset.
When I was active duty (for almost 10 years) I knew that was my job. I was a soldier full time, 24/7/365. I had nothing else on me schedule. I trained year around, all hours of the day and through holidays and weekends. When you are a soldier, you are a soldier all the time. If Desert Storm combat actually lasted 2 years instead of a few weeks, then I would have expected to stay, not rotate back. So why do we expect that now?
A unit that rotates into a new area of operation spends at least 4-6 weeks getting acquainted with the area, the people, the culture, etc. It typically takes another 6-8 weeks to develop the relationships and hopefully trust of the locals, the local military and police reps, etc. As the unit gets closer to the 12th month (around month 11) all the soldiers can think about is coming home and trying to survive until that last plane or helo ride out. So out of a 12 month tour, about 3 months is not really productive. Not to mention the fact that (based on the tempo over the last few years), that soldier will only be home 12 months and then back again. This disrupts families, schedules, new babies being planned, and lives being planned.
So, based on all of that I propose the following:
1. Deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan the appropriate number of Brigade Combat Teams in order to fulfill mission needs.
2. Do not give them an end date.
3. Try to put in the units that are best fit for the environment (1st Cavalry Div, 3rd Infantry Division, 101st Air Assault Division in Iraq and 10th Mountain Division 173rd Airborne Division in Afghanistan) with all appropriate Division HQs, and BCTs to include any specialty BCTs like Strykers that they may need.
4. End Stop-loss
5. PCS soldiers in and out as normal timeframes call for
6. Keep using National Guard units when needed, but should try to fit them into the MiTT and ETT training missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Also they would be on 12 month rotations as they have full time civilian commitments since they are not full time soldiers.
7. Any Reserve units deployed would be on a 12 month rotation cycle.
8. Deploy and Active Duty Military Police Brigade to Afghanistan for the training of their Police forces.
9. Keep the 82nd Airborne as the Countryâ€™s strategic reserve and to respond to any other threats that may arise or for any surge into GWOT.
10. Keep other units (4th ID, etc.) stateside as dwell units, and in case a surge is needed for short term need.
11. Keep the 25th in the Pacific theatre and focused on operations in Korea if needed, the Philippines, etc.
12. Keep 1st Infantry Division focused on Europe.
With a plan similar to this, we would not have units stretched thin, we would not have Reserve and National Guard units deploying time and time again, we would not have employers unwilling to hire on members of the military in fear of them being deployed. We would not have to worry about stealing troops from Iraq in order to surge forces into Afghanistan.
We would have institutional knowledge that can be built upon, we would have consistency on the battlefield, and we would have enough forces stateside to respond to threats anywhere in the world. We would save millions of dollars in transportation costs in moving units and troops back and forth. And I am sure we would accomplish our military and political goals much faster and thereby winning our battles and the war faster and easier.
This would be tough to enact right now in our current rotation pattern, but not impossible. What it would mean is that expectations would have to be set with soldiers and families. A line in the sand would have to be drawn and the SecDef would just have to say â€œUnits x, y, and z are staying in theatre, and arenâ€™t coming home until the war is overâ€, â€œUnits a, b, and c are coming back stateside (either on time or early) to dwell and be stationed back in the USâ€.
The bottom line is this; we cannot be PC (Politically Correct) about war or deployments. It is a tough job, it is a sucky job and there is nobody I know or ever met that has been to war who likes it. It is a necessary evil for living on this planet, and I am sure always will be as long are more than one person is occupying the same space. I know families want their soldiers home, just as I wanted to be home when I was deployed and just like I want my son home now. However those that sign up now know what they are getting into. Those on active duty especially know what they are getting into. It has been seven years since the attacks of 2001, which means every single person serving today has either enlisted or re-enlisted since then. The days of reserve component weekend warriorâ€™s â€œwill never deployâ€ mentality or the active duty â€œI came in for the college moneyâ€ mentality is long gone. Those that are here today, have either been to war and stayed or know they will soon go to war.
If you agree, spread the word to your Senator, Congressman, and friends. If you donâ€™tâ€¦well then leave a comment to this blog.