Why Isn't the Army Broken?

U.S. Army photo

In 2005 and 2007, I predicted doom for the United States Army. Citing a range of indicators, from recruiting and retention problems to disciplinary issues to mental health statistics, I argued the Iraq war was grinding down the all-volunteer force and anticipated we would see a total meltdown by 2007 or 2008, when Army units started on their third tours in Iraq.

Events have proven me wrong. The Army keeps rolling along, albeit weary, bruised and bloody, like Rocky Balboa in the twelfth round of a fight. Why?

A few thoughts:

1. The Professional Military Ethic. We've built a force for which serving is a calling, not a job, and we've inculcated a professional military ethic that prizes selfless service, duty, loyalty, commitment, etc. Leaving the service, particularly in wartime, runs counter to this ethic. The theme is bolstered by the (true or false) rhetoric of senior military and political leaders who characterize the Iraq war as part of a generational, existential struggle on behalf of the nation.

2. Being All They Can Be. Most of the soldiers and Marines now serving joined the military after 9/11. They signed up knowing they would deploy, and wanting to do so. For these troops, multiple deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan are part of the bargain, and they're willing to shoulder that burden. (By contrast, multiple deployments were not part of the social contract for the Army Reserve and National Guard, so we're seeing far more problems there.)

3. Money and Incentives. Money can't buy you love, but it can buy military manpower. The Army has poured money into recruiting and retention programs over the past four years to bring recruits in the order and to keep sergeants and officers from leaving. These incentives have worked. Or, at least, they've worked to keep those in the service who were probably going to stay anyway or who were on the fence. And that's enough, although there continue to be shortages in specialties like aviation, special operations, military police, and intelligence, partly because the military is competing against private industry for the same talent.

4. Churn. The all-volunteer force is structured to accomodate a high-rate of turnover in the enlisted and officer ranks, particularly at the junior levels. Our recruiting, personnel and training systems accept that most recruits or junior officers will not stay past their first enlistment -- or sometimes even make it through that period. Consequently, losing large numbers of these personnel doesn't necessarily break the force, because the whole military is built to accomodate this personnel turnover.

5. The Few and the Proud. Approximately 1.7 million servicemembers have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, along with tens (hundreds?) of thousands of American civilian government employees and contractors. But according to the Army, just 197,000 soldiers have deployed more than once, and only 53,000 have deployed three or more times. I'm told the percentages are comparable for the Marines. Which means that only a fraction of today's troops are actually serving multiple tours and bearing the heaviest burden of the war. There's this other massive part of the force that hasn't deployed yet, or has deployed just once, for whom the strain isn't as acute. That is helping the aggregate health of the force.

What do you think?
Why you think our Army hasn't broken yet under the strain of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Or has it?

By Phillip Carter |  April 13, 2008; 7:35 AM ET  | Category:  Army
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I can't speak for the large mass of the Big Army, it is a very diverse place. But here is my perspective as an Army Military Intelligence officer.

1. MI is a great profession during war time. During peace time, it is terribly boring and uninteresting usually consisting of garrison physical security inspections and phony training exercises.

One motivation to continue is job satisfaction, and I am sure this extends beyond MI. Despite frustration of how the war is progressing (or not progressing), there is always more work to do, and that is something worth sticking around for. The work. The job and most importantly for the soldiers.

2. Here is a brief war story. We had two helicopters collide mid-air. My company 1SG and mortar team was on one of the birds (all survived but hurt). The other aircraft was a total loss. My company was on the ground when it happened and cleaned up the remains in the pouring rain and mud. This was not in Mosul, but was in a training exercise before the war. The decision was made not to end the field problem, but instead, keep the company together in the field because they needed each other to deal with what they just experienced. Their family, friends and neighborhoods couldn't possibly comprehend what the soldiers were dealing with emotionally.

The cliche "band of brothers" may be overused, but there is something to be said for those who go to war and come home alive. Sometimes it is easier to to go back again, with those you've fought and lived with, than to go back to the unknown alone (get out of the Army).

3. I could go on, but I will throw out one more possible reason.

Bottom line, the Army has not broken because the Army is people. And those who I've had the honor and pleasure to serve with in all services are among the finest people I've ever known. Of course people have their limits, and we have to be very aware of what those limits are. Thus far the resiliency of the military as a whole is purely a testament of the will power, dedication and sense of duty of the people involved (not just limited to active service members, but the people include families and civilians who support the military's ever move).

Posted by: bg | April 13, 2008 9:06 AM

To be fair in paragraph 5, "stop loss" personnel that were redeployed should be mentioned. These people wanted to leave but could not. Not quite the all volunteer force they advertise.
I recently heard of a AF C130 reserve unit that lost 13 pilots immediately upon their return from their first deployment.
I think if you look below the paint, the wood is crumbling.

Posted by: D. Brown | April 13, 2008 10:06 AM

The damage to the Army and Marines isn't something immediately evident. The damage from Vietnam wasn't immediately apparent even as last as 1973 - but by 1978 the Army was wrecked, years after the last US combat unit left South Vietnam and years after South Vietnam ceased to exist.

Our all-volunteer professional force is currently incapable of fielding even a single maneuver brigade that could do reasonably well in a force-on-force conventional exercise at the NTC - which is ok, I guess, since the OPFOR to oppose such a maneuver brigade doesn't exist anymore either. But all is well because we will NEVER fight a conventional war like we did in the first Gulf War or in 2003, right?

Our mid to high-intensity ground force capability is incredibly diminished - we just don't train for it anymore. Our low-intensity capability is threatened by morale issues and recruiting/retention issues, but we can massage the numbers and pretend the mid-grade NCOs and captains leaving the service aren't crippling - because they aren't, YET. Five years from now their absence will be critically felt, and the impact will continue for years - but it isn't something immediately evident. Like the budget deficit, we can pretend that they "don't matter" until we find ourselves in deep trouble, and then we can blame whomever is in office THEN.

Posted by: JD | April 13, 2008 11:56 AM


You are right that there will very likely be some delayed effects, although there are some dangers of using the post-Vietnam model as a predictive tool. There are lot of similarities, but also a lot of key differences. The exodus of captains is of course an issue. This next year, the Major promotion board will take "double below the zone" officers, in an attempt to rebuild the field officer ranks (and likely to give a few extra officers an incentive to stay in longer).

The NCO issue is equally troubling, but most specifically in the jobs that are not used heavily in Iraq, such as Field Arty. It will be challenging, but I am yet convinced that we've reached the tipping point where these problems can not be overcome. (but there is hope for FA types, they get lots of practice in Afghanistan, so it is not all lost)

The Army will surely be hurting, but the real question and concern is this: Which will take longer, the rebuilding of the Army's fighting capabilities or an immediate threat that requires those lost skills. We always like to error on the side of caution, but as the world stands today, I think we will be okay (providing we don't try to sustain this Iraq OPTEMPO another 4 years).

Posted by: bg | April 13, 2008 4:07 PM

Probably my biggest long-term concern that anyone with a pulse has a straight shot to the senior ranks. There will undoubtedly be many slugs at the 05 rank who can cause damage or rise even higher. It would be interesting to know how many officers might be staying because know they'll make at least 05 and get a nice retirement after 20.

Posted by: Andy | April 13, 2008 4:46 PM

You all bring up a great point. From my foxhole (as a staff CPT in a heavy BCT), I see enormous difficulties in "firing" sub-par officers, especially Majors in key field-grade billets. Who will replace them? Nobody. My brigade is over 100% fill but the aggregate officer strength is currently 85%. And we are well within the D-90 deployment window...

It's difficult to imagine where we'll be five years from now because we're already facing serious officer retention problems now. I will say that my peers that have decided to stay in are top-notch, there's just not enough of these fine young men and women. The Army will keep rolling along; the question is, how painful the post-Iraq/Afghanistan Army reset process will be on the personnel side.

Posted by: J-Dub | April 13, 2008 7:41 PM

Broken? No. Quality assured? Probably not. We're robbing peter to pay paul by lowering standards across the board to meet numbers requirements. When I get a 35 year old infantry private in my platoon, there's something fishy in denmark. When you can hit Major in nine years with a double below the zone look, theres probably a problem. When the promotion system to get to captain is as automatic as the promotion system to get to PFC, there's probably an issue.

Posted by: LT(P), IN | April 13, 2008 11:55 PM

JD makes a good point in that the effects of the current stress on our Army will not be fully realized for a few more years.

I would add to his analogy of the Post Viet Nam era. The officer and NCO ranks experienced a significant drawdown after Viet Nam. The Army that arose from its own ashes was not short officers and NCOs, but had a surplus to weed through to select those that appeared to be of the best caliber and to involuntarily release the rest. Today's Army does not have that excess to select from. The Army we build following this adventure in Iraq will be built from what's available, and what's available is significantly less in number than what is required to staff the Army. Enforcing high standards will only exacerbate the manning problem. Sec Rumsfeld's "the Army you have" words will come home to roost.

Allowing the enlistment of ever older personnel is a band aid. The people entering next year's 32 to 42 aged cohort are the same people who chose not to enlist when they were 31 to 41 this year. It is the 18 year cohort that is replenished with new candidates annually. And, it is a rare 35 year old who can keep up physically with 18 to 25 year olds.

We have bitten off a policy that is much more than we can chew, and it will be the Army and Marines who will end up choking on it. Bless them for "sucking it up" and continuing to serve. But even dedicated folks can be worn down to where they are no longer effective. That day is approaching.

Posted by: Aviator47 | April 14, 2008 3:57 AM

It might be helpful if you better defined what you mean by broken. The only example which comes quickly to my mind were the French and Russian Armies in 1917. But there experience was totally different from today's army so drawing parallels might be difficult. Look at the outlook of the troops on a basic level. Armies broke in the past when their view of mortality went from possible to probable and when they lost faith in their military leadership. I don't think either has occurred yet.

Posted by: JLP | April 14, 2008 6:31 AM

J-Dub, Andy and LT(P),

You all expressed concerns about "sub-par" officers moving on, I've seen this concern up at the top ranks. The "double below zone" move to Major is actually designed to fix this (which is counter intuitive). The idea is that bringing extra officers into the Major pool will allow the O-5 boards to be more selective and bring the selection rate back to the 60's% instead of the current 90s%.

Posted by: bg | April 14, 2008 7:11 AM

Your theories do not oblige the military to conform to them. The breakdown, one is coming, will occur when the military becomes aware that Bush's need to to walk away from Iraq is far more essential to him than their need to be able to protect this country and to remain alive.

Bush remains in Iraq on a variant of the domino theory. Somehow no one seems to explain how all those insurgents will arrange to get rides to America if our forces leave Iraq. Perhaps Osama will buy them a batch of transporst that move brigades of soldiers and which can evade our air defenses and land in Reagan airport unannounced so as to begin hostilities against a country in which there are more guns than people. Of course all of those insurgents will have credit cards with which to pay for food and lodging each day.

Posted by: Kal Palnicki | April 14, 2008 7:58 AM

Drive on post at Fort Bragg. Hang out in the PX and other places on post. Don't interview anyone and don't tell them who you are; just listen.

Then, go to a couple of the local bars and restaurants and do the same thing.

Take a look at the post in general. Then, tell me the military isn't a functioning shell of what it will need to be to fight a NECCESSARY war.

Posted by: AfghanVet | April 14, 2008 10:49 AM

Remember the Ronald Regan days??

600 ship Navy, including 3 Battleship Task Forces and a 22 Division Army? The planned ability to fight 2.5 wars around the world simultaneously?

Now in today's TO&E math that should equate to a 66+ Brigade Combat Team force not counting CAB and other support units nor Special Operations Forces..

No the US Army is not broken BUT for all practical purposes it is engaged in a long term battle that will take its toll sooner rather then later!

A good indication is the lack of unanimous support of the New GI Bill in Congress; the total realignment of the Army to provide long term support to the OIF (this includes retooling of equipment); the lack of total force dominance in OEF where we should be focused.

General Patraus knows the lessons learned by the French and the US in Dien Bien Phu: [The longest, most furious battle of the French Expeditionary Corps in the Far East ...] My point is that Iraq, from a global force management perspective, should be viewed as a Tactical Theater and not strategic as such the Commander-in-Chief , the Sec Def and the JCS should not let OIF distort our Force Structure the way it has.

The top reenlistment bonus for a Senior Special Forces NCO (18Z) is $150,000 dollars and some enlistment bonus is worth nearly $40,000 over the length of the enlistment! That's alot of money. How long can we afford to sub-contract our Military back to the Military and ultimately the American people in this way??

Over a 4 year enlistment a soldier should not be required to service in a combat zone for more then 12 months without a minimum of 24 continuous months out of theater.

No the Army is not broken but it (we) will be if we continue to be affected by market forces as we compete for manpower!

Posted by: Take one for the Gipper | April 14, 2008 11:15 AM

5. The Few and the Proud.

I am not sure about the rotation numbers for multiple tours provided by the NY Times.

A few weeks ago the Army Times [the Army's Unoffical weekly newspaper] had on its cover something to the affect of: "38,000 Get ready for war!" The story was that there were approx 38,000 troops that have not deployed to OEF nor OIF and there time has come!

If were are rotating at a cycle similar to the the Marines with their 7 month rotations then why do we have units that deploy with less time in the US then in OIF or OEF!

I will check my numbers and get back to you but the burdon will be borne by the middle ranks of NCOs and Officers.

Posted by: Take one of the Gipper | April 14, 2008 11:25 AM

Define "broken" and assign a few metrics that tell you whether or not the Army is broken. While you're at it, take a stab at "victory in Iraq" since the Administration can't define that.

I don't think anybodys' definintion of broken descends as far as mutiny. As for retention, etc. Simpson's Paradox ( wikipedia.org wiki Simpson's_paradox) easily illustrates how the use of force-wide data hides serious problems.

I like the NTC example myself: if the Army's combat brigades cannot perform the mission we have spent 50 years working towards, it's broken for that all right.

If what the country wants is a nation-building force, then most of our training, doctrine, organization, schooling, force structure, and equipment needs to be completely revamped. This is going to take awhile.

Funny, it looks like the Bush administration has redefined our Army's mission without any public debate on the matter. Much the same was done with US doctrine on preventive war. I was stunned when Bush overturned decades of research proving the idiocy of such a doctrine. See Dan Reiter's SSI paper for instance.

Posted by: DanPatrick | April 14, 2008 11:48 AM

"Funny, it looks like the Bush administration has redefined our Army's mission without any public debate on the matter."


OUTSTANDING points. I will take your observation a step further ... through a series of public posturing, spin, jingoistic rhetoric and Orwellian name changes, our uniformed leadership have attempted to redefine the relationship between the soldier and the nation it serves.

All of this "warrior" talk (unheard of 7 years ago) and the constant stateside posturing in desert boots/combat uniforms, reveals a "realignment" that ocurred without debate.

Something needs to be done before it is too late.

Posted by: IRR Soldier .... | April 14, 2008 11:59 AM

The fact that our Army and Marine Corps have not broken under the op tempo strain of OIF/OEF is a testament to their versatility and strength. But this also only means that it has not happened YET. Long term aggregate issues and their cost, with as wide a scope as quality of future field-grade officers to reduced life span of mechanics and avionics are still to be determined. These unmeasured effects will continue to accumulate, likely until crisis or withdrawal from Iraq. A worst case scenario involves both simultaneously. My ire with Bush doesn't lay in the past like many of my fellow war critics. It lies in the present when he fails to speak in candid and honest terms about the war, and in a future that continues to be undermined by our present stubborn course.
Often most personally frustrating is Bush's guise of being a "military President," espousing support for the troops in all his rhetoric dealing with Iraq, while collectively knee capping them in his decisions and policies. The Army and Marine Corps have not broken, but a realistic assessment needs to be made as to how much longer they can withstand their current stress position.

Posted by: Seth M. | April 14, 2008 12:16 PM

The Army, especially, IS broken. For all its continuing to function, at the first point at which the stop loss personell, the held over officers, and the worn out enlisted can honorably exit, they will honorably exit, and the holes will take a generation to refill. The real signs of brokenness can be seen in how poorly we care for the wounded, the physically disabled, and especially the TBI ans PTSD troops.

The fact the car still runs, doesn't mean you haven't already done irreparable damage to the engine, body, suspension, and electrical system.

That the Army still functions at all is no thanks to the Administration or the Congress.

Or the vast American "Support our Troops" ribbon wearers.

This mechanics estimate to rebuild the Army: Replace the half that is totally burned out, Reacquire Presidio of San Francisco and Reestablish Letterman General Hospital, Reacquire Fort Sheridan and its Hospital, reacquire Fitzsimmons General Hospital and the Army Amputee Center that used to be there, Reacquire Valley Forge Hospital, call back into service all PTSD and TBI discharged Troops, use those hospitals to get them properly rehabilitated, at to do that build up the Amry Medical Corps to sufficient strength to do it ALL in service, (No contracting out, either use Army Medics or DOD Civilians who are career oriented)

Then double the size of the Active Army, and bring the support services back up to Veit Nam Era proportions, (again, no more contracting out Quartermaster, Transportation, Logistics, Financial, or Mess Hall functions) Have sufficient trained Corps and Army headquarters Units that should we get into an Iraq or an Afghanistan we have the Headquarters, Engineering, MI, and Rev/Dev forces to do it right, right from the start.


Find me ten Republicans who would sign off on THAT, not to mention having the courage to propose it in Congress.

Hell, find me ONE Republican who would stand up and be counted on that.

The Army IS broken, just not totally destroyed.


Posted by: ceflynline@msn.com | April 14, 2008 2:40 PM

"Take one of the Gipper: A few weeks ago the Army Times [the Army's Unoffical weekly newspaper] had on its cover something to the affect of: "38,000 Get ready for war!" The story was that there were approx 38,000 troops that have not deployed to OEF nor OIF and there time has come!:

That article pointed out that many of those who had never been OEF/OIF deployed were in units that had no particular Mission in IRAQ (Like STRATCOM, and other Communications units, non arabic linguists, Intelligence and Area Specialists who were not Arabian Area Specialists, personell disqualified from OIF/OEF service, and a few, like my son, who got sent to other problem areas, like Korea, and held there because those missions needed experienced people too. Korea just had a limitation of three continuous years in country established so some of those Korean War Veterans (that war is still going on,you see) will get their six months stabilization tours and then they will head for Iraq or Afghanistan. What that article really said is that circumstances in Iraq and Afghanstan were so bad that less than ten percent of the Army had never been there, and much of the Army had been either both places, or had more than one tour in one country or the other.

38K troops out of half a million, a bit more than 7%, is an amazingly LOW proportion of troops not to have been in the Sandbox.

Another sign, by the way, that the Army IS broken.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 14, 2008 2:55 PM


Amen. Wonderful comments that put the "happy talk" of those wishing for a different reality into stark contrast.

Posted by: IRR Soldier... | April 14, 2008 3:01 PM

One thing I think we tend to elide is that I suspect we see this "broken Army" theme with Vietnam glasses. But the Army of 2008 is VERY unlike the Army of 1972.

Consider that for the first time since the Indian Wars we have a long-service force from top to bottom. I suppose you can try and equate the reserve component units with the sort of draftees or volunteer units we sent overseas between 1899 and 1976. It's just exactly this sort of military professional that sustained the Spanish, British and French during their imperial periods. Why shouldn't this work for the U.S., at least in the short term.

I do agree that in the long term this is problematic for two reasons: first, because it IS hard, even on professionals, to fight this sort of Groundhog Day war, but, in the larger sense, there is the moral hazard to the republic. No democracy should be organized around long-term military interference in the domestic business of - which is to say, occupying, policing and controlling - foreign lands. Much as slavery distorted the civic relations between regions and individuals through the first half of the Nineteenth Century, the idea that we should be sending our expeditionary forces out to extract compliance from the dusky heathen has the very strong probability of distorting the civil compact in this country.

Should we be more concerned for the good of the Army, or the good of the Republic?

Posted by: FDChief | April 14, 2008 9:33 PM

"Should we be more concerned for the good of the Army, or the good of the Republic?"

Amen to what FDChief writes here. You know, the good news, if there is any, is that there really isn't a true peer threat on the near horizon. But that's also bad news because it allows politicians with grandiose ideas to meddle in the far corners of the earth. This has been building since the wall fell, thus leaving the forces essentially underemployed, even after the large cuts. Clinton started it. Recall Albright's question to Powell: "What good is this magificent Army of yours if we can't use it"? Bush has accelerated this politicians' game to its logical and absurd conclusion.

What I find a little disturbing is the confluence of two divergent factors. First, the Army will always be able to get sufficient numbers of troops, especially if the economy goes in the dumper and current trends in declining recuritment standards continue. So the manning tables will probably look OK. But then there is the second factor: the megabucks being spent in acquiring high-tech systems such as the Army's FCS pig-in-a-poke. What do you do if you actually do get delivery of these wizard weapons and you don't have troops smart enough to turn them on?

We're spending unprecedented amounts of tax dollars on national defense, both manpower and materiel. ISTM the discordant note is that the expenditures are focused on (1) recruiting large numbers of people less capable of dealing with advanced weaponry than those who went before; and, (2) on fielding advanced systems that earlier generations of soldiers would have given their eyeteeth for.

And then there are Medicare, Social Security and other governmental commitments. Look for defense expenditures to fall off the cliff in the next few years. Then you'll really see a "broken," or "hollow" Army. It's inevitable. Something's got to give when such amounts of national treasure are expended on wars of choice. Read up on the Army of the 1930s.

Posted by: Publius | April 14, 2008 10:00 PM

I'm curious how many of the 38,000 are holed-up in the Pentagon; albiet, they do wear their ACUs and desert boots and call themselves warriors.

Posted by: LTC Cooper, Ret | April 15, 2008 8:02 AM

The USA is not at war. Only our military, especially our Army is at war. More specifically our "legacy" military families who generation after generation send their sons and daughters to serve. They are the ones making any sacrifice.

Posted by: Steven | April 15, 2008 8:44 AM

Thanks to all the thoughtful comments here. This reads a lot more soberly than the ooh-rah propaganda you read on some of the mil-blogs that seem joined at the hip to the administration.

Posted by: Drew | April 15, 2008 8:45 AM

The US Army is a wonderful organization that has been used and "abused" in the current war of choice. It is broken although the manifestations are not obvious. There are many waivers that are given to recruits; i.e., those without high school diplomas, those with criminsal convictions or felonies, non-US citizens, etc. More West Point graduates with the rank of captain are leaving. Those are actually indications of possible fractures. The American people should truly value its military and not allow leaders like Bush and Cheney to use it on personal whims.

Posted by: M. Stratas | April 15, 2008 9:04 AM

Before the war began there were many who were daunted by the knowledge a majority of Americans wanted to invade Iraq and remove Saddam regardless of the rationale.

Since the invasion it has been a priority for those with a vested interest in the failure of that venture to portray the military and the administration in whatever narrative best denigrates their effort.

It is not surprising that the Washington Post ventured that we would fail or break or any number of calamities take place. Nor is it surprising that they are wrong.

Posted by: D Castle | April 15, 2008 10:42 AM

I suspect that the reason the Army isn't broken is that we sweep the breakage under the rug. How many broken men will be populating sewer grates for the next century?

Posted by: elgunjduts | April 15, 2008 11:50 AM

The Army is restructuring, re-equipping, and re-educating for a long-term COIN war. The primary missions of defending the homeland and conventional battle have been ceded to the Air Force.
Very soon Congress will realize that a different force structure will be required for National Defense in the future. Ground forces in Iraq will withdraw to a bare minimum, partly due to a lack of political will but also due to the rise of Iraqi capabilities. The Air Force will continue to fly in support of our remaining troops in theater and the Iraqi forces. So the chief funcion of the Army will now be what?
Waiting for flare ups in Iraq and Afghanistan? (Do you think the next administration will want to INCREASE forces in Iraq one they've been drawn down?)The next COIN campaign? (Do you think any future POTUS will initiate another such conflict?) Guarding our borders? (The Guard will and should do that.) What, then, will the Army's mission be? Congress will realize that the Air Force is the service that has inherited the banner of Homeland Defense from the Navy and the banner of Conventional War from the Army. And given the rise of China, the resurgence of Russia, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and the challenges of knocking down the door of any small power like Iran, Congress will begin a dramatic restructuring of the military wherein the Air Force ends up being far larger, with a much higher perecentage of the budget. Missile Defense, Cyber Defense, and traditional airpower missions will be the demands that determine the force structure of the future. The Army isn't breaking; it is becoming obsolete.

Posted by: W.Mitchell | April 15, 2008 2:10 PM

Good lord, the guys are posting, so I might as well jump in.

The Army is made up of people, and those same people get shot up, wounded, and given the heave-ho after being patched up.
How many dead?
How many wounded?
How many wounded have been released back to civilian life?
Yes, the Army is made up of people, but people with years and years of military experience are being killed, wounded, and let go...that is an irreplaceable loss.
Time is not on our side, and I think JD has the right of it...it's only a matter of time before the full weight of our lost is realized.

Posted by: sheerahkahn | April 15, 2008 3:05 PM

"W.Mitchell"??? Is that the pen-name for Major General Dunlap of the USAF?

Posted by: IRR Soldier... | April 15, 2008 3:18 PM

What a bunch of crap. The US Army is surely broken, if measured by its ability to deploy, fight and win a war anywhere else on earth outside the continental United States. The Army reserves and the National Guard are more than broken, they are fragmented and despirited.

The Marine Corps is only better off on account of its small size, shorter deployment and its traditions as a light, fast, compact fighting force.

I blame not only the ignorant, illiterate, smirking reformed alcoholic and crack-head who runs this country. I also blame the gutless generals and admirals presiding over this mess, more worried about their stars and pensions than the men and women they command and send in harm's way on a fool's errand.

Posted by: Bill Johnson | April 15, 2008 4:35 PM

Bill Johnson said:
"I blame not only the ignorant, illiterate, smirking reformed alcoholic and crack-head who runs this country."

Now Bill, I'm afraid you've dun and gone a bridge too far on that one. You have crossed the line of death of good taste, so to speak. I cannot, for the life of me, visualize George W. doing "Crack!" For one thing, it is too down market; furthermore, it is a dalliance more associated with the duskier of our American Brethren.

Having lived in the Lone Star during George's rambunctious years, let me testify that Oal Bidness types of that epoch were doing refined Coke, and were considered vanguards amongst their professional peers as to the quantities enjoyed.

Posted by: Rapido Eduardo | April 15, 2008 5:04 PM

It is true that because of the dedication of the Army's people, many of the myriad of problems that the service is facing are hidden from view. The people I have served with in Iraq and in my whole career are exceptional, dedicated to their mission--dedicated to doing good, however that might be defined. My experience among those I have served with has been so profound that I cannot turn my back on the Army.

However, while the core of the Army is its people, that is not the whole picture. The Army is also equipment, and much of that is very run down, stuck as it has been in Iraq for the better part of five years. Most of it has been logged 10 times or more the hours or miles for which it was designed. Again, through the dedication of the Army's maintenance personnel, it is still usable. How long can we keep it up? And after we leave Iraq, what then?

Another issue is training. Our units deploy to Iraq, return for a year, and deploy to Afghanistan. A unit's training program is entirely driven by the war in Iraq or Afhanistan. There is simply no time to train for anything else. We have grown a generation of soldiers who have only ever prepared to fight a COIN campaign.

I am not one who thinks that this is entirely a bad thing. Like it or not, these types of conflicts are the most likely types of conflicts to occur in the foreseeable future. And if the United States wants to maintain its leadership position in the world, we cannot shy away from them. But this does not mean we should not be able to execute any type of mission. At present, even if we had the soldiers available to fight a force-on-force type of battle, we could not do it. (By the way, despite Air Force claims to the contrary, they couldn't do it either...and even if they could, haven't we learned a lesson about post-conflict stability operations? That definitely requires large numbers of ground forces.)

The dedication of the Army's soldiers, both active duty and reserve (yes, even the reserves show the same dedication to service and, in my experience, the same level of competence as any active duty soldiers) fills in the cracks that are starting to appear. But eventually, once the pressure of ongoing operations subsides, those cracks could cause the foundation to fail.

Its not broken yet, but the Army is breaking.

Posted by: DM Inf | April 15, 2008 5:18 PM

"Like it or not, these types of conflicts are the most likely types of conflicts to occur in the foreseeable future. And if the United States wants to maintain its leadership position in the world, we cannot shy away from them."

You want to expand on that a little bit? You write as if involvement in future such conflicts is somehow preordained. Perhaps you've noticed a lot of Americans disagree; a lot of Americans have had enough of preemptive wars and involvement in other nations' internal strife. A lot of Americans also think we can't afford it.

Posted by: Publius | April 15, 2008 9:19 PM

Just got back from riding to Fort Campbell with my son so I could bring his car back and store it for the next fifteen months, while he follows his father, grandfathers, and various previous antecedents in going to a ar he might easily have avoided. While watching him purchase his next months worth of shaving and related products, I remembered some Stan Lee mag or other that was to be the start of a series set in SE Asia, wherein some field grade officer was assembling a special ops unit. The final panel, if I remember, was three of the team members relaxed in a hootch, one sharpening a bayonet, one cleaning his M-16, the third doing some other "precombat maintenance" and it occurred to me that My son, the seasoned SGT, was another generation removed from them, for, where they prepared for battle with what, at the time, many of us in the Army saw as silly displacement behavior, This generation prepares for battle by deciding if it needs another blade in its razor. Stan Lee, How Have the Mighty Fallen.

At the same time, got a look at his barraks and company area, and a cursory look at Fort Campbell.

Just a cursory inspection tells me that the Army really is broken, like whisps of blue smoke trailing from a cars engine compartment while it idles at a red light.

Really broken.

Poor maintenance of buildings, poor police of living areas, something of a lack ov energy in troops who can be easily identified as part of the contingent that will deploy in three days. The energy has gone out of them. The minutiae that their NCO's would have directed them to care about are ignored. Little things they could do to keep up the quality of their residences are ignored. In choosing where to have lunch my son said Mickey D's was out, it would be too crowded. That says that the Mess halls must be failing in their mission, (although, since the mess halls are contracted out, the Mess Halls see their mission as making money, and that doesn't bode well for the GI's they are supposed to serve)

The Army is broken, and it is broken because it isn't the Army of the United States, but only the Regular Army, and we can, and mostly have, ignored the Regulars as a normal thing for most of the history of the Republic.

The Army of the United States is the Army we get when we call in all those citizen soldiers who are in for the war, and no longer. The U. S. Army is as tough and as versatile as it is because of the talents those soldiers bring with them.

The Regulars are also talented, versatile, and tough, but they self select for less than the full array of weapons that our draftee Armies demonstrate.

And, having a Regular Army, who, after all "Joined Up to Fight..That's What They Are Paid For" Congress can forget them, fail to properly support them, or work them to death like an underfed plow mule, and the People will think nothing of that, because what really matters is "Is J. Lo's career over?"

The Army is broken because a President has set it to a task that has no end, that cannot be brought to a successful conclusion, and that therefore must eventually end in failure, and cares only to see that that failure be timed to be chargeable to the Democrat who replaces him.

It is broken because that President abuses it to puff his ego, says"Let's You and Him Fight." and pays no price, bears no burden, doesn't even curtail a vacation now and then, and yet pines, that he might be young enough again to again avoid actually serving.

That splendid old car is now a jalopy, will it even make it to the mechanics to get it repaired?

Does a single Republican in Congress even care?

Posted by: ceflynline@msn.com | April 15, 2008 10:42 PM

I am happy to expand on my comment about future conflicts that we are likely to be engaged in. I do not think that they are preordained. If the American people don't want the military to fight another COIN campaign or any other type of stability operation, then we won't. And that is a reasonable desire. They are painful and dangerous and confusing, both politically and morally, not to mention to the guys on the ground.

My point is that for the foreseeable future, the world will continue to be a dangerous and confusing place. If we continue to wage a "war on terror," we will be in effect waging a global COIN campaign. Furthermore, our interests are now much broader than they once were and most of our enemies are quite aware of our ability to dominate a conventional battlefield. How do you think they will challenge us?

So we can either abdicate our position as a global leader and retreat within our borders, leaving to Europe or some other sort of power to deal with the threats out there, or we need to be prepared to conduct these same types of campaigns. That is a choice for the American people, and its time we had a discussion about the choices we are facing.

Posted by: DM Inf | April 17, 2008 6:43 PM

The Army is broken, but it continues to function because its component parts, the Soldiers, will not give up.

We had 51 captains in my brigade drop their REFRAD (release from active duty) paperwork prior to our last redeployment. After the palette of Captains benefits came out one withdrew his paperwork. And yet we persevere.

We will not have all our vehicles reset by the time we restart training and are concerned whether or not we will have any at all, and yet we persevere.

We have been told that we will be lucky to be at 90% strength when we deploy, and yet we persevere.

I will say that if things do not change the day is coming with the rucksack will hold no more.

Our exalted leaders point to the reenlistment rates of the deployed units without mentioning that it has taken an order of magnitude increase in the bonuses to make this so. 20K+ is the norm now, but even that is not enough to get every Soldier to stay and the bar is raised with each deployment.

The Soldiers of the Army will persevere up to the very gates of hell, but passing the gates is another story.

Posted by: Two Tour Soldier | April 17, 2008 7:49 PM

The military is broken because it refuse to deal with these cliques we have at the highest level of our ranks. We are in OIF 7 going on 8, 9 an 10 and I see many soldiers who have deployed 2, 3, and 4 times that can't get promoted, but yet they have to work under leadership who is getting promoted to MSG and SGM and never been deployed. How the heck can a AMRY not break when we are raising a generation of soldiers who have more experience than there leaders? These same leaders I look at them everyday and they have no family problems, no medical problems or anything that is keeping them from sacking up there ruck and joining those overworked soldiers on the battlefield right now as I type. These leaders know and feel they are untouchable because they dont have to make rank anymore because they have the rank. It makes me boil to know they preaching to soldiers "THE AMRY VALUES" but none of them demonstrating leadership, especially Selfless Service. They are only showing me SELFISH SERVICE!!!! The problem is their peers are to afraid to tell them "You are wrong for this". I feel at this time the Army should start removing these leaders from these leadership positions if they have not deployed yet. When I deployed I worked with a Sergeant Major who told me she took a E-7 job that was available down range just so she can deploy. When I was down range I saw men who wives were having babies alone without him and none of these great brave men was bit*hing to their command saying "send me back home so I can see my child be born". They put the mission first and sacrificed the moment they waited all their lives for (to see there child born in tho the world) just to live out the army values. I am sick of the ARMY leadership protecting these sorry leaders and this is the real cause of any foreseen "BREAK" this ARMY will experience because the soldiers are tired of biting their tongue looking at this cliquish mess unfold before their eyes.

Posted by: LeadByexample | April 20, 2008 10:50 AM

Please tell me that the money being paid out to the individual soldier in this idiotic war, has nothing to do with the apparent willingness of most,to return again and again to combat.

Posted by: Richard | April 20, 2008 7:18 PM

It doesn't Richard. It's kind of a "well hey if you're offering" type deal. The guys getting the bonuses were most likely going to reup anyways. The ones that want out, get out. Or at least try to.

Posted by: David | April 22, 2008 8:03 PM

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