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February 22, 2019
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The Regiment by John Dalmas

The Sharp End (The Hammer's Slammers) by David Drake

Bolo Brigade by Keith Laumer (Creator), William H., Jr. Keith

Discussion Boards on Military Science Fiction

Military Science Fiction and the Army Transformation
Michael K. Robel

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Part IV
Applicable Lessons from Military Science Fiction

Lesson I: These units are long service units that, with one exception, conduct individual replacement operations.

Discussion: People are the most important feature of these units, followed by competent commanders who employ them imaginatively. Weapons and equipment are actually the least important aspect. Long service builds unit cohesion, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Recommendation: Soldiers should serve in the same unit for their entire career, except for required schooling and necessary detached service. Soldiers should stay in a given division, MP Group, Corps Support Group, Artillery Brigade, Transportation Brigade, or other similar sized units their entire careers, and not be transferred routinely. Detached personnel should staff higher headquarters for set periods of time, and then they should be returned to their home organization. Rotate units, not people.

Lesson II: These units train their soldiers for an extended period of time in order to deliver fully trained soldiers to their units.

Discussion: Current training delivers a partially trained soldier. Units then finish the job in order to produce a trained private and or officer. While the Army probably cannot normally spend a year or more to produce a fully trained soldier, soldiers should graduate fully trained in a specified critical skill set.

Recommendation: Extend Basic Combat and Advanced Individual Training so that soldiers are fully trained when they arrive at their unit. In combination with Lesson I, this will decrease turbulence and promote greater unit effectiveness.

Lesson III: Make better use of retired and disabled personnel for recruitment, training, and other non-combat functions.

Discussion: The armed forces make extensive use of contractors to provide select services. Much of this is in service support operations, but the Army is starting to contract retired officers to fill positions such as instructor positions in ROTC and service schools. These contractors wear the uniform and are required to meet height, weight, and other physical fitness standards, as are active duty personnel. In addition as contractors, their pay is abysmal and the combination of retired and contract pay barely enables them to maintain the middle class standard of living they had before retiring.

Recommendation: Staff TDA units (training units, ROTC, Recruiting Command, Service Schools) with retired or disabled personnel, individually contracted with the Army. These volunteers would maintain a military appearance, but not be subject to the same standards as active duty personnel. They should retain their retired pay plus a tax-free stipend that makes up the difference between their retired pay and the “traditional rank” of their current duty position. For example a retired LTC could serve as a instructor in a service school that is currently filled by a Major. He would be paid the difference between a Major’s pay and his LTC retired pay. If for some reason, retired pay were greater than the active duty position pay there would be a stipend such that he would not be working for free. This would free active duty personnel and could actually result in a downsizing of the active army, reducing overhead and personnel costs, while increasing combat effectiveness.

Lesson IV: The units in these stories are seldom employed in units larger than regimental strength.

Discussion: Except for Desert Storm, recent deployments of units are frequently made up of many different units grouped into an ad hoc task organization. In Afghanistan, there were/are mixes of units from the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, and 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Divisions. This approach to task organization destroys unit cohesion, negates the effects of unit training, and increases personnel turbulence. We should deploy brigades and divisions in a manner similar to Carrier Battle Groups or Air Expeditionary Wings. This approach would, when combined with permanent personnel assignments, would substantially increase cohesion, training, and combat effectiveness. (COL Douglas MacGregor also proposes this in “Transforming Under Fire: War, Technology, and the XVIII Airborne Corps,” in a currently unpublished essay as well as the book, Breaking the Phalanx.)

Recommendation: Make self-supporting, permanently task organized brigades the standard Army Deploying unit – each brigade should be organized similarly to an Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Interim Brigade Combat Team, or a more conventional Separate Armor, Infantry, or Mechanized Brigade and subordinated directly to Corps.

Lesson V: Promotion of officers from within.

Discussion: These organizations rely on promoting officers from within. These officers are already trained soldiers, know the unit, and understand first hand the “wastage” that can occur from improperly trained officers. With the exception of Heinlein (a naval officer), the authors examined here are former enlisted men who have witnessed the effects of frequent officer replacement on their units. However, the corporate institution of the Army probably would not permit staffing the officer corps solely from OCS.

Recommendation: Increase the proportion of officers from OCS such that at accession, 33% are from OCS and the rest are from ROTC and USMA.

Lesson VI: A unified picture of the battlefield enables these units to fight as a single organism.

Discussion: This is of course, the point of the Army’s transformation process. Reliance on technology will not, by itself, form effective units, but when combined with highly trained, cohesive unit with long-term associations, will yield superior results. Trained soldiers, confidence in subordinates, and a shared picture of the battlefield will contribute to the end of micro-management of subordinate units. No stacked up command and control helicopters in these stories or obscene pictures of division staff officers in air-conditioned tents watching the progress of a convoy through a town or a UAV shot against a target.

Recommendation: Continue the digitization effort so that all units can share a common picture, but develop a training program so that higher-level commanders have the self-discipline and trust to let their subordinates do their job.

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Discussion Boards on Military Science Fiction

The Latest Comment On This Topic:
From: Yimmy 7/28/2014 7:48:00 PM
In 2004 mike_golf said the American Army in WWII became the largest volunteer army the world has ever seen.

This was in fact the British Indian Army of WWII.

Aimless comment of the night.....
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