Peace Time: September 2, 2001


  The U.S. Army's new medium brigades have been criticized as a good idea, but impractical because it is unlikely that the air force would (or could) provide the air transport to get them where they are needed quickly enough. The recent announcement that three reserve and National Guard brigades would be converted to medium brigades tends to indicate that backing for medium brigades is weakening. The reasoning goes like this. The active army has always been reluctant to let reserve (army reserve and National Guard) combat units get involved in any little war that comes along. Their main argument is that these units are not as well trained as active duty units. The National Guard (controlled in peacetime by state governors) protests loudly. But the troops in these units know better. These reserve units only train one weekend a month and two weeks in the Summer. While there are full time civilians technicians available to keep the equipment maintained year round, the troops themselves often have to take their vehicles over a hundred miles to reach a training area. While there is some open land available near their armories for infantry training, they need a lot more ground to work with their armored vehicles. Computer simulators were supposed to address this problem. But according to many reservists, this only makes it worse. While the active duty troops got a combination of real and simulated training, the reserve guys got mostly simulators. The problem is that the simulators don't simulate the use of weapons with complete accuracy. So the reservists began to pick up bad habits from using the simulators too much. New and more realistic simulators are being delivered, but they are a lot more expensive and many reservists won't get to use them, or use them enough. So the reserve medium brigades will not to ready for moving off to some hot spot as medium brigades are intended to do. Of course, there is one likely reason for reserve medium brigades. The army has noted that peacekeeping missions are not very popular with the troops. So it has become customary to replace active army peacekeeper with reservists. This is even less popular with the reservists, who have their lives disrupted for six months or more when they are activated for this sort of thing. Using reserve units like this will be a lot easier if there are some medium brigades in the reserves. And, since most peacekeeping work is simple patrolling and glorified guard duty, the lack of training in the reserves won't hurt much, if at all. Moreover, the reservists are generally older, more mature and more in tune with civilian life. All these factors make for better peacekeepers. And, as active duty officers would point out (unofficially), those six month deployments would give the reservists time to train with their equipment.


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