The January 19, 2014 edition of the NY Times featured an article entitled “After Years at War, The Army Adapts To Garrison Life” (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/us/after-years-at-war-the-army-adapts-to-garrison-life.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=1).
Unlike some of the topics I’ve posted about over the years, I have had significant experience with the conflict versus garrison mentality.
When I attended ROTC Summer Camp in 1968 the training focus was on getting us cadets ready to be 2 LTs in Viet Nam. Training was rather primitive compared to today’s world of simulations and on-line learning. There was also no such thing as gender equality or even sensitivity. I can still recall the picture up top (photo source: Wikipedia) being used as a training aid for mortar emplacement – don’t even ask.
Fast forward to my first Reserve Command, the 519th ASA Company in 1981 and the emphasis was on paperwork. Paperwork such as the monthly copier report, the Oil Analysis program and what seemed like an incredible sea of endless, meaningless reports.
Training time and resources were minimal and those actually where the days of two weeks a year active duty. Range time was actually something to look forward to since it was an infrequent occurrence.
Bringing this forward to MISO today. Iraq is over (for the moment anyway), the withdrawal from Afghanistan is under way and the budget clashes are ensuing.
Rather than pontificate what the “Big Army” or SOCOM should do – let me offer some ‘old guy’ advice to Group, BN and Company Commanders.
Of course you have to appease your higher echelon masters with accurate and time responses to their requirements, but you also have a responsibility to your troops. As the CDR you are the readiness and morale champion. You need to blend the crap that comes with garrison life with mission critical and combat survival skills realistic training, and you will have to do this under budget constraints.
I found that junior officers and NCOs are far more creative than you might expect. Given that most have been deployed, the know what the job is like under stressful conditions and should be able to come up with some cost-effective, yet creative and challenging training that you can include in your activities.
Unfortunately we never get to pick the when or where of our next conflict. We always seem to train to the last one as they say. However, we know a few things:
1. The next conflicts will likely be in the Middle East, Africa or perhaps Latin America.
2. Target audiences are likely to range from highly sophisticated and technology savvy to illiterate.
3. The political wisdom of when to use the military and more importantly when not and when to disengage continues to elude the executive and judicial branches.
4. Conflicts are very likely to be active MISO first, available reserve MISO next and depending on the extent and need – more reserve MISO.
Hopefully our future conflicts will be minimal, however, we can’t take that chance and it is up to the Troop Leaders to insure that realistic and challenging training is as much a part of tomorrow’s garrison life as painting rocks white was a part of garrison life in the past.