SOLDIERS WIN BATTLES, NOT STAFF WEENIES
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
The U.S. Army has 10 active-duty fighting divisions. Almost all are at 100 percent
strength, thanks to Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who cut some of the blubber
from those bringing up the rear in an attempt to build more muscle up at the front.
But while Shinseki has shanghaied thousands of soldiers from depots, schools and
headquarters -- where about 70 percent of Army personnel are dug in -- and shipped
them off to fighting battalions, combat readiness hasn't improved down where the
rubber hits the track. Scores of unit leaders from fighting squads to battalions
say that when they deploy to a hot spot, they're lucky to put two-thirds of the
soldiers they've trained into foxholes.
"Unit manning continues to haunt us," says an infantry captain who asked
that his name not be used. "General Shinseki might have had the best intentions
by flushing out the TDA units -- those outfits that bring up the rear -- to fill
the divisions 100 percent, but the reality is something else. When forced out
from their ROAD -- Retired On Active Duty -- hiding places, most combat-arms soldiers,
permanent profile in hand, report to the battalions where they're useless as they
can't deploy. My 800-man battalion is currently over 100 percent strength, yet
the equivalent of a rifle platoon doesn't man their assigned billets."
The 30 percent or more who are AWOL are somewhere in the division or post area.
You'll find an infantry platoon sergeant working in the division protocol shop
looking after the VIPs, grunts handing out towels at the gym, rifle-squad leaders
keeping the how-great-we-are charts glowing at brigade and division headquarters.
This is an old problem and one that won't go away until the Army takes a hard
look at itself. In Vietnam, my 884-man infantry battalion hit the paddies with
less than 250 soldiers when I first took over. After much arm-twisting, we got
our paddy strength up to 400, about half of our authorized strength. The rest
were on profile -- sick, lame and lazy, on R and R, at school, transferring in
or out or detailed to higher headquarters, reinforcing that already-oversized
Shinseki is right that the solution is to cut the fat -- he just needs to go deeper.
For example, there are so many active-duty military around the D.C. flagpole that
it would take at least one full day at four abreast for this mob of staff weenies
and support troops to pass in review at the Lincoln Memorial. If I were secretary
of defense for just one day, Mr. Rumsfeld wouldn't recognize the Pentagon or the
Washington metro area when he returned to duty 24 hours later. At least three
out of four of the military types in and around the Pentagon would be on their
way to fighting units.
The Army has two other huge make-work headquarters -- TRADOC in Virginia and FORSCOM
in Georgia, each headed by a four-star with all the attendant pomp, ceremony and
sycophants -- that should be merged and then cut by 50 percent. Charts, staff
papers and red tape don't kill enemy soldiers -- trigger-pullers do.
Then there are the Army division headquarters, which are as obsolete as the horse
cavalry. They should be replaced by agile, lean and mean regimental combat teams
as was so brilliantly advocated in the book "Breaking the Phalanx,"
the author of which - Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor - was rewarded for his honest
sounding off about needed reforms by being shuffled off to Fort Nowhere.
Of course, posts and bases must be staffed with the permanent manpower they need
to support the line units. But these essential jobs -- running ranges, doing instruction
and maintenance -- could be well-filled by retired soldiers instead of stripping
the line units of able bodies.
Training and sending combat units into battle without all their players produces
the same results as allowing the Baltimore Ravens to go out with only seven players
against a full-strength New York Giants squad: the kind of slaughter that went
down in North Africa in 1943 and South Korea in the summer of 1950.
The grunts who get to know the enemy on a very personal kill-or-be-killed basis
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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
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