HAVE LANDED -- AGAIN
By David H. Hackworth
The first non-Special Ops unit deployed to Afghanistan is the U.S. Marines Corps
-- no big surprise to this old Army doggie.
In World War II's South Pacific, Marines were "the firstus with the mostus"
into the Solomons, and they led the way into Vietnam. In Korea, they landed second,
but unlike the Army units initially deployed there, Gen. Edward Craig's Marine
brigade hit the beach ready to fight. And without their skill, sacrifice and courage,
the beleaguered Eighth Army would've been pushed into the sea during the early
months of the conflict. A similar scenario occurred during the early stages of
Desert Storm, in which Marine units came in ready to fight while the first Army
troops -- the 82nd Airborne Division, with its insufficient anti-tank capability
-- were a potential speed bump waiting to be flattened.
The Corps, which has never lost sight that its primary mission is to fight, remains
superbly trained and disciplined -- true to its time-honored slogan "We don't
promise a rose garden." When, under Clinton, the Army lowered its standards
to Boy Scout summer-camp level in order to increase enlistment, the Corps responded
by making boot training longer and tougher. Now under USMC Commandant James Jones,
that training has gotten even meaner for the young Marine wannabes waiting in
line to join up, as well as for Leathernecks already serving in regular and reserve
Unlike U.S. Army conventional units -- their new slogan, "An Army of One,"
says it all -- the U.S. Marine Corps remains a highly mobile, fierce fighting
team that has never forgotten: "The more sweat on the training field, the
less blood on the battlefield."
The Marines are flexible, agile, ready and deadly, while the Army remains configured
to fight the Soviets -- who disappeared off the Order of Battle charts a decade
ago. For example, right after Sept. 11, the two Army heavy divisions in Germany
-- with their 68-ton tanks that can crush almost every bridge they cross -- deployed
to Poland for war games.
Hello, is there a brain at the top somewhere beneath that snazzy Black Beret being
modeled at most U.S. airports by too many overweight Army National Guard troops?
The Army has eight other regular divisions, all designed to fight 20th-century
wars. Three are heavy -- Tank and Mech Infantry -- and two are light, the storied
82nd Airborne and the elite 101st Airborne (now helicopter), and then there's
the light/heavy 10,000-man 2nd Division that's in Korea backing up a million-man,
superbly fit South Korean Army.
Less the light divisions, our Army's not versatile, deployable, swift or sustainable.
The heavy units require fleets of ships and planes to move them, and it takes
months to get them there -- it took Stormin' Norman six months to ready a force
for Desert Storm. The 101st -- while deadly, as Desert Storm proved -- is also
a slow mover requiring a huge amount of strategic lift -- ships and giant planes
-- to get to the battlefield, not to mention the massive tax-dollar load to outfit
and maintain it.
Sadly, today's Army is like a street fighter with brass knuckles too heavy to
After the Rangers' disaster in Somalia -- where there were no tanks to break through
to relieve them -- and the embarrassment of not being able to fight in the war
in Serbia, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki started forming light brigades strikingly
similar to USMC units. When I asked, "Why the copycating?" an Army officer
said: "It was either copy or go out of business. We'd become redundant because
of long-term lack of boldness and imagination at the top."
The Army costs about $80 billion a year to run. It's time for Congress to do its
duty and stop enjoying the benefits of all the pork this obsolescence and redundancy
provides. If the Army can't change with the times -- as the powerful horse cavalry
generals couldn't just prior to World War II -- then it should fold up its tents
and turn the ground-fighting mission over to the Marines.
The law of nature is simple: survival of the fittest. And in the 21st century,
heartbreaking as it is for me to admit, the forward-based and highly deployable
U.S. Marine Corps is the fittest.
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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
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