Leadership: Reorganized Out Of Existence

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April 23,2008: The U.S. Army has a morale problem with many of its National Guard (reserve) units that have served in Iraq. That's because, after first being sent over, the units do not always get their equipment back, or replaced, when the troops return home. The troops come back after their 12 or 15 month tour is done. Rather than replace equipment left in Iraq, the Army has been "reorganizing" some Guard units that have returned. For example, New York's 1st Battalion, 101st Cavalry (a recon unit) was turned into a much smaller non-combat unit upon returning from Iraq in 2006. This has been happening all over the country, and means that some Guardsmen will not re-enlist, since there aren't slots (for their particular skills) available near them.

The same kind of disruption is taking place with the regulars, but it is less likely to cause people to not re-enlist, or get angry. What the army is doing is carrying out a major reorganization, at the same time it is fighting a war. In addition, the army is increasing its strength by 74,200 soldiers. Most (87 percent) of the new troops will go to the active forces, increasing the size of the active duty forces by 13 percent. This will mean expanding many bases, and a lot of reorganizing. This has been done mainly to placate politicians, as the army did not want the additional troops.

The reorganization has been going on for the last five years. Planning for it has been in the works since the Cold War ended in 1991. At that time, the army had 800,000 troops, and sixteen divisions (55 brigades, including independent brigades). That was cut during the 1990s, to 500,000 troops, ten divisions and 33 brigades. The current reorganization added ten brigades. The addition of 65,000 troops to the active army will increase the number of combat brigades by six, to 49. This will all be completed by 2013. It is largely being paid for with money provided to replace war losses.

The Cold War era weapons and equipment were just about ready for replacement when the Iraq operation began in 2003. While combat action caused thousands of vehicles to be worn out, badly damaged, or destroyed (mainly by roadside bombs), many more were simply worn out by the heavier use everything gets in wartime. The replacement equipment is stuff that has been designed or modified as a result of combat experience. This is much better than gear created during peacetime, when the process drags on forever and all manner of stupid ideas get incorporated (because some general or politician believed in it).

New weapons and equipment (especially satellite based communications and battlefield Internet software) enable the army to get the same amount of combat power per brigade, using fewer combat troops. The army transferred over 40,000 troops from combat-support jobs to the combat brigades. The actual number of infantrymen and tanks didn't change, but the number of communications, maintenance and intelligence support did. For example, increased use of robots, sensors and computerized vidcam surveillance systems makes it possible to do the same amount of work in combat, with fewer troops. A lot of these new ideas, and equipment, is being tested in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of these items work well in combat.

The reservists displaced as a side-effect of all this are victims of long overdue change in America's Cold War era army.

 


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