Time reports on ‘America’s broken-down Army’

RAW STORY
Published: Thursday April 5, 2007
 


 

President Bush’s rush to send thousands of additional troops into combat in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the point of crisis, according to an article by Mark Thompson in Time.

As a result of the increased pressure to add more troops on the ground in Iraq, soldiers are receiving inadequate training, leaving them less equipped to handle combat. Time writes of one soldier, Matthew Ziemer, who was killed just two hours after taking up his combat post in Iraq, having been in Iraq only a week. Prior to deployment, Zeimer received nine weeks of basic training but was forced to miss the standard 4 weeks of pre-Iraq training that troops deployed previously received.

“Instead, Zeimer and about 140 other members of the 4,000-strong brigade got a cut-rate, 10-day course on weapon use, first aid and Iraqi culture,” writes Thompson. “That’s the same length as the course that teaches soldiers assigned to generals’ household staffs the finer points of table service.”

According to Thompson, that lack of training may have contributed to Zeimer’s death. “Zeimer’s mother was unaware of the gap in her son’s training until TIME told her about it on April 2,” he writes. “Two days later the Army disclosed that Zeimer may have been killed by friendly fire.”

The Army has been stretched thin in other critical areas as well. “Disintegrating” equipment, lack of armor, and more frequent deployments with shorter breaks have led retired Army general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell to declare the active Army “broken.”

Gear and equipment is now left in the war zone for use by newly arriving troops, which “grinds the equipment into scrap up to 10 times as fast as in peacetime,” Thompson writes. “The lack of guns and armor back home has a boomerang effect: many of the troops training in the U.S. are not familiar with what they’ll have to depend on once they arrive in Iraq.”

Extended deployments with shorter breaks are leading to a decrease in morale and an increase in cases of suicide, desertion, and post traumatic stress disorder.

“Ever since the war started, they’d be saying all they wanted to do was to get back to their buddies in Iraq to keep on fighting,” one retired general said of wounded soldiers he visited at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “Now it’s more about getting out and wondering about civilian jobs. There’s very little chatter about rejoining the unit.”

Excerpts from the article follow…

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A volunteer Army reflects the most central and sacred vow that citizens make to one another: soldiers protect and defend the country; in return, the country promises to give them the tools they need to complete their mission and honor their service, whatever the outcome. It was Bush, on the eve of the 2000 election, who promised “to all of our men and women in uniform and to their parents and to their families, help is on the way.” Besides putting Powell at State, the President reinforced his Administration with two former Defense Secretaries: Vice President Dick Cheney and, in the job for a second time, Donald Rumsfeld.

So it is no small irony that today’s U.S. Army finds itself under the greatest strain in a generation. The Pentagon made that clear April 2 when it announced that two Army units will soon return to Iraq without even a year at home, compared with the two years units have traditionally enjoyed. One is headed back after 47 days short of a year, the other 81. “This is the first time we’ve had a voluntary Army on an extended deployment,” says Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who advises his old service. “A lot of canaries are dropping dead in the mine.”

The main consequences of a tightly stretched Army is that men and women are being sent into combat with less training, shorter breaks and disintegrating equipment. When those stories get out, they make it harder to retain soldiers and recruit them in the first place. “For us, it’s just another series of never-ending deployments, and for many, including me, there is only one answer to that—show me the door out,” wrote an officer in a private e-mail to Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey.

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LINK TO FULL TIME ARTICLE

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