Monday, November 19, 2007

Ready to go to War

The Army is going to use all its manpower finally.

Haven’t gone to war? You’re about toArmy IDs 37,000 soldiers who have not gone to war — and could spell relieffor the heavily deployedBy Gina Cavallaro - Staff writerPosted : Monday Nov 19, 2007 9:29:21 ESTSoldiers who haven’t been downrange yet had better hone their warriorskills because the Army wants to see more combat patches in the ranks.The Army has targeted 37,000 active-duty soldiers who have yet to serve acombat tour after more than six years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.Over that period, 59.4 percent of some 515,000 active-duty soldiers havedeployed to the Central Command area of operations at least once, accordingto data compiled by Human Resources Command. Many of them have served threeor four tours — some even more.Another 33.4 percent have not served a war tour but are assigned to unitswith pending deployments; are not in deployable status because they are atbasic training, school or other Army training; have medical or legal issuesthat keep them out of rotation; are serving as instructors, recruiters ordrill sergeants; or are in transit or otherwise on hold.But 7.2 percent, roughly 37,000 active-duty soldiers, have been identifiedby HRC as available for deployment and are facing transfer to operationalunits.Soldiers charged with combing through the rolls at HRC indicated that manytroops yet to deploy have been ready and willing to go, and many havevolunteered but haven’t had the opportunity. But the assignments officersalso acknowledged that some homesteading and deployment-ducking have takenplace.“Certainly in a population of 37,000 you’ll have soldiers who say, ‘I’llavoid this at any cost,’” said Col. Louis Henkel, deputy director of theEnlisted Personnel Management Directorate at HRC.“Does that mean the Army will give them cover? No,” Henkel said.But while some soldiers may not move toward the sound of the guns, ArmyVice Chief of Staff Gen. Dick Cody says he thinks they are in the minority.“This far into the war, I think that is more of a perception than areality,” Cody said, explaining that it has taken this long to get everysoldier an opportunity to go downrange while simultaneously creatingcohesive leadership in deploying units and in units that are being stoodup.“I think you could go to any post, camp or station and you could probablyfind someone who’s been in the Army four years and hasn’t deployed and thatwould be the exception, not the rule. Because when you look into it, thatmay be the best trainer for our medics down at [Brooke Army MedicalCenter],” Cody offered as an example. HRC officials were unable to providea breakdown by major command of soldiers being considered for first-timedeployments.Of the Armywide 7.2 percent being looked at for first deployments, thehighest number without combat tours, 27.1 percent, work in health services,a field in which the need for specialists on the home front makes rotationsless frequent.The next largest group at 7.1 percent is considerably smaller and comprisessoldiers who work in operations support in branches and career managementfields that include space operations, foreign area officers, nuclear andcounterproliferation, signal, telecommunication systems engineering,strategic plans and policy, simulation operations and information systemsmanagement.Soldiers who work in transportation, ordnance quartermaster, logistics,adjutant general, finance, human resources and acquisition make up 4.1percent of the undeployed.And the smallest group of undeployed soldiers, 3.5 percent, is in themaneuver, fires and effects category, which includes all combat-armsspecialties, special operations and public affairs.Many of these targeted soldiers work in places such as the Pentagon,Installation Management Command, HRC and other units in the MilitaryDistrict of Washington.The long haulArmy leaders long have described what they believe will be persistentglobal conflict in which the Army will continue to play a major role.The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued longer than projected,requiring active-duty troops to serve back-to-back deployments andreservists to serve as operational forces.The relentless operations tempo has been the source of wide dissatisfactioninside the ranks and among family members, creating a stiff and ongoingchallenge to recruiting and retaining troops.To help ease the deployment strain, the Army has accelerated by two years,to 2010, its goal of growing active-duty end strength to 547,000, from thecurrent 519,000. Also, the service is putting more money into addressingfamily support issues and looking for places where soldiers who are tiredfrom relentless rotations can sit the game out for a while.The Marine Corps embarked on a similar campaign close to a year ago with aCorps-wide message from the commandant ordering all hands into the fightand specifically targeting 66,000 leathernecks who had not deployed.the Army has not issued any such message. Rather, the hunt for freshwarriors has evolved as repeat deployments have become standard for much ofthe force and others have been reassigned to non-deploying billets beforeit was obvious the operations tempo was not going to slacken any time soon.“Everybody wants to go downrange and be part of this because they know theimportance of this war,” Cody said, adding, “At the same time, there’s ademand to make sure we have the right noncommissioned officer leaders andofficer leaders at our training bases that are training up these young menand women to go to these units.”The need to get combat vets into training bases forced HRC to look deeperinto the ranks for soldiers who could deploy and have not.To help rotate people into those jobs, Gen. William S. Wallace, commanderof Training and Doctrine Command, said he has asked the Army G-1, theTRADOC command sergeant major and HRC to see “where we can accept two-yearassignments in TRADOC and to codify those assignments to the point where wecan start moving people in and out without doing damage to ourorganizational structure in the process.”“I don’t want to create so much turbulence in TRADOC that it becomesinefficient in terms of moving people around, but there is great value, inmy judgment, in having combat veterans wearing the TRADOC patch becausethey bring credibility and they bring life, they bring energy into theorganization,” he said in a recent interview.Wallace said he doesn’t expect it to be a blanket policy across the commandbecause of the turbulence it could cause in training the force.But, where it makes sense, he said, he’d “like to move people in and out ofTRADOC in a more rapid fashion because I need the combat experience, and Ithink our combat veterans in some cases need a break.”Henkel said people who have been in TRADOC billets for six years will “bethe first in the queue.”Some targeted TRADOC positions, Cody noted, won’t be able to move intooperational units until replacements whose deployments have been pushed to15 months can return and get to the assignment.“Obviously when job one is to fill fully trained, best-led units intocombat, with 20 brigades in Iraq, and three brigades in Afghanistan plusanother 4,500 senior leaders on military training teams, just that demandalone has driven us to make sure that we’re balancing this force in termsof getting the right people in the right positions so we have trained andready forces in this fight,” Cody said.

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