Peace Time: August 1, 2003

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The U.S. Army identified the two U.S. Army National Guard Enhanced Separate Brigades (or NGESBs) that will be going to Iraq to relieve troops already there. The two brigades are the 30th Infantry Brigade from North Carolina and the 39th Infantry Brigade from Arkansas. The 30th Infantry Brigade will be augmented with an infantry battalion from the 27th Infantry Brigade of New York. The 39th Infantry Brigade will be augmented with an infantry battalion from the 41st Infantry Brigade of Oregon. The two brigades are expected to arrive in Iraq some time between February and April of 2004. The brigades will spend six months in Iraq, and before that will have six months to get ready (lots of training.) Thus the total active duty will be one year. The National Guard Enhanced Separate Brigades  were originally organized so they would be ready for combat within 90 days of activation. 

The NGSESBs have been around since the 1980s, and have always been a source of controversy. The main problem has been the inability of the National Guard to recruit and train a sufficient number of troops to keep the units up to strength and actually ready for combat. The "Enhanced" in NGESB means additional manpower and resources to make sure these brigades are ready to fight. But there never seems to be enough enhancement, or time, to do the required training to meet the army standards (that are applied to active duty combat units). Moreover, the NGESB have a turnover rate of about twenty percent a year, and about twenty percent of the troops turn out to be ineligible for deployment overseas. The army has found that, with a few months of additional training and the transfer of enough people into the NGESB, the unit can be made ready (up to strength and trained well enough) for peacekeeping duty. This has been done a lot in the Balkans during the last ten years. But the active duty generals still insist that the NGESBs would require more than six months to be ready for combat. Some National Guard officers disagree, but many concur that the NGESB concept is impractical. There just isn't enough time for reservists to train up to the standards of the active duty troops. There's just too much to do to accomplish that. Half a century ago it might have been possible, and it definitely worked a nearly a century ago, during the early months of World War I. But no more, because of all the new weapons and equipment troops have to use. This reality has been gradually warping the NGESBs into a more useful form. Peacekeeping, yes. Fighting your way to Baghdad in three weeks, probably not. 

 


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