Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Coming Crisis

I have long been beating the drum about the dearth of officers in our Army. But I overlooked the enlisted ranks. The Christian Science Monitor (one of the best examples of on-the-ground-reporting anywhere) reports that key enlisted personnel are exiting in alarming numbers, and if the trend continues, the Army faces a coming crisis. (I had an 'Oh, Fuck' moment when I read the article)

In 2005, the Army retained 96% of the mid-grade NCO’s whose enlistments were up. The first-quarter numbers for 2007 are in, and that retention number is down to 84%.

The reason for this decline is simple. I can give that answer in one word: Iraq.

Extended tours, repeated deployments, inadequate dwell time with family and friends between those deployments. It is wearing on the Army – which has born the brunt of fighting Bush’s vanity war.

Let’s just cut the crap – if you don’t have an adequate corps of seasoned Sergeants transmitting Officer’s orders and providing leadership – You don’t have a functioning Army. Lest anyone think otherwise, Sergeants run the Army.

So let’s put the state of the military in perspective:

First of all, readiness is suffering. Remember that during Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana National Guard was unable to mount and adequate response, in part because most of their deep-water vehicles were in Iraq. Desert warfare has taken over – Mountain and amphibious training is not being done. Should the United States have to respond to an imminent threat, the engagement would take more time, cost more lives and money and have a lower chance of success because response / readiness has been undermined by the drain of Iraq.

Secondly, we are suffering a dearth of leadership. The Army is losing command level officers and mid-level Sergeants at a rate that is being felt now and represents a potentially catastrophic crisis of leadership in the future.

In the wake of Vietnam, the military had to be rebuilt, and the Honor Code had to be stitched back together bit by tattered bit. The challenge met by my husband and all of the rest who went in between 1976 and 1985 (the decade after the fall of Saigon) was a cakewalk in comparison to the rebuilding that will by necessity have to take place in the wake of Bush and his Iraq adventure.

In order to make recruitment goals, more and more concessions are being made. People who would not have made it in the door of a recruiting station five years ago are being pursued passionately. They keep loosening the rules so more people can meet the minimum standards for acceptance into service. If you still can’t get in, and you really want to serve, well by golly – we probably have a waiver right here with your name on it! Moral, criminal, physical, we got waivers! (Waivers here! Get your waivers!)

Gotta tell ya – I’m not getting a case of the warm fuzzies over here when I stop to consider all those hinky troops – being led by weak officers and NCO’s…The very thought unleashes horrors in my mind.

They are in the kitchen whipping up a recipe for disaster.

Someone turn off the gas.

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