Small Wars Journal

A Worrisome Report on the Eroded Combat Skills of an Army Stryker Regiment

A Worrisome Report on the Eroded Combat Skills of an Army Stryker Regiment by Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy's Best Defense.

The 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker) is reamed out in an internal Army study for its performance last month at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, a training ground in Germany. It is worrisome that this unit appears to have deteriorated so much, yet paradoxically reassuring that the Army is using its maneuvers identify shortcomings.

The conclusions are hair-raising. Everybody from the way senior leaders understand command to the way privates poop comes in for criticism...


Para one says it all. Transitioning from the Fort Apache model used in Afghanistan to the mobile offense/defense of a euro battle takes time, and retraining. It ain't a 'basic skill' unless it gets a regular workout. That doesn't happen in Afghanistan.

What any of the on-lookers might have thought would only have been by way of a salutory lesson in the difficulty of re-adapting to new circumstances. A fact of warrior life that has plagued the 'opening numbers' of all wars, and cost victory in a few.

It's just a good thing there weren't a couple of Russian Rifle divisions or a Taliban armored unit involved.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 12/18/2012 - 12:26am

In reply to by DM 1108

DM 1108--most of the comments I do not buy into---the basics are the basics--what I have repeatedly heard over the last six years in OCing 41 BCT rotations when one trys to make suggestions for improvement---the following: "been there done it and have the four T-shirts to prove it"---once had a BN FSO who refused to do a TSM becuase "he had never done one during a deployment".

I had in 1993 trained over a year cycle two week MI sessions for non-MI personnel in the 7th Infantry Light using a NEO as the concept tied against Abu Sayef---actually the precusor for CoIST and DATE-in a counterguerrilla scenario---and then they were off to Panama using exactly the same skill sets they had been trained for. So the basics work regardless of conventional or COIN environment---something we have all forgotten.

When say mission command training ("art of command") in a regimented training cycle in the year prior to deploymentis is offerred to a unit---what comes back is "not enough white space so just give us a two or three day session and we can check the box as we a deploying". Am so tired of hearing the exact same comment for the last six years.

Due to the ARFORGEN cycle for deploying units (both Iraq and now AFG) the concept of a training cycle on all topics over a one year cycle is totally foreign to the Force.

Therein lies the problem--we simply have forgotten how to train.

As a side comment---look at the amount of time that is normally available in the face of a soldier having 30 days a year in leave, then the holidays and the 2 days per pay weekends which also comes to another 24 days of additional vacation time that the soldier now expects to have--so many have up to 74 days of vacation time for everyone soldier so now seen how that impacts say a Company of BN training cycle.

Having been a part of this unit during its last deployment, I believe there is an issue that has been overlooked. It redeployed from Afghanistan in June 2011, and is set to deploy again this coming spring. Understanding that it's personnel was decimated in the traditional post-deployment fashion, then incrementally built back to resemble a manned unit, hitting 85% in June, 2012 (5 months before the DATE), as previously stated. What do you think their priorities were? They will conduct a pre-deployment train-up in the beginning of the year, then back to Afghanistan. So I ask what YOU would prioritize your efforts on? Full Spectrum Ops (Decisive Action, or whatever the latest catch-phrase is for war-fighting), or look to the real fight 100m out, Afghanistan? The squad-leaders to company commanders aren't concerned about their performance of a DATE, nor did they realistically change their METL to incorporate armor threats and screening missions. The real question that hasn't been asked is why did a unit conduct a DATE right before another deployment? What were the real performance expectations?

Yes, there are many serious concerns about the fundamentals, but be careful of over-arching comments. It may have been a couple of isolated examples that were described, but we read them as a common trend across the entire formation. I can tell you that the Infantry Company and Squadron I was with accomplished incredible feats in battle and truly improved the AO we were assigned when deployed. Having been in light Infantry units for 18 years, it was the best organization I have ever been a part of. I welcome discussion and criticism about the performance, but we must keep in mind the context to which these performance measures are judged, and the realistic priorities the junior leaders have.


Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:22pm

In reply to by MAJ T

Appreciate your input. It was informative and I agreed up until the last paragraph.

"This is not the “bad olden days of the cold war” where I have had the same soldiers in my CO for x amount of years and only have to worry about annual training requirements annually."

Let me correct a misperception ref the Cold War Army since '85. We had to report training status monthly in a report called a USR. Part of that was marksmanship stats and our preparedness to execute our unit's METL. This was a MONTHLY report. You couldn't wait till the end of the year to be trained in conduct a defense. Marksmanship and mannning was part of it and we recieved replacements all the time. We had about a 25-30% turn over each year.

I bet today's Army has a bunch of BS training that does detract from training for its combat tasks but the rotation of leaders/troops is something we've always had to deal with and we never had the luxury of waiting a whole year to meet annual training requirements.

Seen the posts and checked the AAR report and have been moved to highlight a couple of things. The bottom line is that it is a unit’s responsibility to train it’s units and soldiers, and it is the CTCs responsibility to highlight deficiencies in the training plan (or lack of) to make the unit better. There are however other factors that play into the unit’s ability to train.

1. ARFORGEN. The process does what it is supposed to do. Get a unit to the appropriate level of readiness to deploy (on paper and in human capital). However, the process does not compliment training your unit. It is hard to teach your soldiers how to do x, y, and z when there are no soldiers to teach. It is equally hard to develop junior leaders in all aspects of the DATE model (even the basics) when you have very limited time windows due to manning and changeover. Receiving personnel in waves only creates repetitious training such as gunnery and rifle qualification because as soon as you get one group trained the next group arrives and you have to rinse, wash, repeat. Therefore annual training requirements become almost monthly training requirements to get 100% of your soldiers to standard for the year. All of this takes coordination, resources, and time away from a training strategy.
2. Competing deployment requirements (because this unit is getting ready to go downrange too). The constant flow of incoming personnel created by ARFORGEN also requires you to do time and manpower intensive tasks such as medical evaluations etc (FORSCOM 58, or by the way ISAF has a list too). The paper and time required to clear people to go downrange (not to mention track and report all of the data) also rob you of training days.
3. As to the lack of trust in subordinates issue highlighted in the AAR. The last 10 years of war have not helped us and this issue is much deeper than 2CR. Just take a look at the policy letters on FOB ____ anywhere in Afghanistan. You can’t move around without a reflective belt and soldiers can’t enter a DFAC even after patrol because they are too dirty. Things such as this become large issues usually taking undue time from many SGMs and CSMs, however in some cases Company commander’s are delegated the authority to determine uniform requirements outside of the wire, and oh by the way when something bad happens or they didn’t read the boss’s mind they get flamed for it. As stated….much bigger issue than 2CR.

This is not the “bad olden days of the cold war” where I have had the same soldiers in my CO for x amount of years and only have to worry about annual training requirements annually. As things draw down in Afghanistan and the Army gets back to training and stabilizing personnel turnover in most of it’s units the basics will get better because there will be less training chaos. Just want to make sure that you do not take my comments as making an excuse for the unit. They have several things that they can work on and I am sure they are aware of that. I just wanted to superimpose some reality of the current training environment (put the readers in the boots of the S3’s etc.). Understand that 12 months between notification of DATE rotation to execution for a unit only equals roughly a few weeks of collective training even at the CO level.

Train wreck

Sun, 12/02/2012 - 8:31am

The Commander who pushes for the basics in the CTCs should be applauded. You cannot get to a village to "help it "if you cannot maneuver to it. Currently our answer for all thing maneuver is more armor, more jammers, and less exposure (CROWS systems). That way we can cut the maneuver portion out of the CTCs and focus on chai. Lets get back to the basics. I remember reading a silly quote somewhere along the lines of: train for certainty, educate for uncertainty. While CTCs are certainly an education, they are a training venue. Shoot, move, communicate, medicate. Look at what McChrystal was lauded for implementing with the Rangers when he was a BN CDR. The pillars. The basics.


Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:22am

In reply to by Bill M.

Outlaw & Bill - I think you both make concrete points. These were a portion of my comments in Tom Ricks blog (the last three paragraphs are along the same lines as your comments)...

Folks really need to read the report before throwing stones. The Army has some serious systemic issues and outright organizational failures and while a decade of COIN IS a reason for shortcomings it’s never an excuse. That said, only an idiot tries to fix a problem without understanding why it exists.

For those thinking those citing COIN are using it as an excuse I encourage them to read the report before foolishly and ignorantly spouting off. The OBSERVER CONTROLERS cited it specifically in five of the 13 categories discussed. When not specifically mentioned by the OCs there’s little doubt commo differs when one is operating from stationary vs. mobile CPs. Commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan require either aircraft or significant security to travel to geographically spread units. Battlefield circulation must be a habit to overcome all the challenges that routinely arise and when your CP is a soup sandwich you tend to stick around and fix it before visiting subordinate units. Medical evacuation in Iraq and Afghanistan were generously supported by aeromedevac. We typically didn’t suffer the large number of casualties that are routinely inflicted during training exercises. Casualty collection points and moving casualties from the front line to the company CP to the BN aid station to the field trains is not something we’ve done a lot of over the last decade. Instead we’ve had a Blackhawk swoop in and take a casualty directly to a hospital in an hour. Well heck, THAT’s simple!

All said, none of these are excuses. The unit wasn’t surprised when it went to the field. They knew what to expect. Besides a training plan to address fixing shortcomings some deep discussion between senior and subordinate commanders to examine how effective their previous training plans were are in order to ensure lessons are learned.

There are two issues though that I see at work though that are seriously impacting the quality of leadership in the Army. Technology has succeeded in simultaneously degrading the face to face aspect of leadership and also provided a window for superiors to micromanage units. There is a natural tendency for leaders to revert to their previous experience as platoon, company and battalion leaders when they see something they feel isn’t correct. That breeds micromanagement in superiors and timidity in subordinates. The second fault that is destroying the Army is a lack of moral courage. A moral courage failure allowed Major Hasan to not get the evaluations he deserved. A lack of moral courage keeps superiors from protecting subordinates so they can make mistakes and learn to become better leaders. A lack of moral courage keeps leaders from making on the spot corrections or enforcing discipline. This starts at the top. Leaders at the highest rank need to stop the PC, ridiculous training distraction classes and all around BS inflicted on the Army by politicians and leaders who believe a checklist, powerpoint class or stand down day suffices to solve problems requiring face to face, example setting leadership.

As the Army attempts to center itself so it can respond to all threats and not just COIN I am reinforced in my belief that a force rigorously trained to handle conventional threats is much better capable to transition to COIN than the other way around. This is something I would hope the armchair generals remember as the bean counters whine about we’ll never face “that type” of enemy again (and yet we have twice in the last two decades).

Bill M.

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:03am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Seems to me the answer to some of your questions is risk-aversion and careerism. Not enforcing standards is a form of careerism (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).

I think another factor that comes into play is the constant mantra of everyone is a hero crap, and the negative effect that it has had on the force. It is like the "my kid is an honor student at whatever no-standards school they attend" bumper stickers. Every freaking kid is an honor student now!

Now we're starting to get a force that is too cool for training. If you're too darn lazy or stupid to dig a hole to crap in when you're in base camp you're closer to a zero than a hero. Disease used to sideline more troops in combat than bullets, if we're not careful we'll sideline units due to disease again simply due to units not having discipline. It gets worse if the report is accurate that NCOs are not enforcing basic weapons maintenance in the field as a priority. I hope this is simply a case of another OC just feeling compelled to write something instead of it being an accurate report.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:53am

Just a side comment concerning AARs---yes the OC-T has a job to do and yes the quality of them has eroded as has the Force---but the basics are the basics and if we cannot do the basics then we really must ask WHY?

The core question that needs to be asked is---Why after ten years on a war treadmill do we not have a deep residual institutional knowledge base in each and every unit even down to the Company/Platoon level via the current Officer and NCO corps?

Why do we have a deep distrust between Officers/NCOs, NCOs lacking basic NCO skill sets at all levels, distrust and micromanagement by Officers and Cmdrs---Why do we have deep and lagging skills in good ole MDMP---WHY is Design dead in the water--WHY is mission command being viewed one sided as strictly the C2 side and not the Cmdr/Staff side who drives the C2.

The Army throws the terms "Trust" and "Team" out there everyday--BUT do we really have "Teams" and do we really "extend Trust to others on that Team"?

WHY do we as in the ARR mention mission command as if it part and parcel of being strictly C2---we discuss mission orders BUT what is the true concept of mission orders as it is envisioned in Mission Command ADP 6.0.

Where in the AAR do they discuss the lack of dialogue and Trust---read between the lines of this particular AAR and you will see it as many OCs do---the problem is no one wants to talk about the "fuzzy" things like Trust and dialogue. WHY because MCTP and OCs strictly checklist the blocks and are not taught the "fuzzy things". It takes personal confidence/experience and credibility to discuss the "fuzzys".

Debate these questions and then you will understand this particular AAR.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 5:27pm

In reply to by davidbfpo

Dave having done about a dozen exercises with partner nations I can tell you the AARs are NEVER accurate portayals of their performance. The Brits and Aussies are probably the closest but most of our allies do not criticize themselves as bluntly as we do let alone stand for another nation to criticize their performance. I can tell you when we started the AAR process in the 80's we literally had fistfights learning how to critic ourselves objectively.

Most AARs I've prepared for joint exercises favored the strengths and addressed "challenges" obliquely if you get my meaning.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 3:25pm

Not my field of competence. Where in the report was any indication what the eighteen other partner nations thought? That struck me as a rather odd gap.


Tue, 12/04/2012 - 3:50pm

In reply to by Ken White

Ken – Having served in light units before they did rotations at the CTC I can tell you from experience what the problems are of your approach. BLUF, it doesn’t work and causes more problems than what it’s worth.
Force on force doesn’t replicate enemy tactics/approach. E.G. The enemy may do hit and run or IED attacks because they don’t have the manpower to go toe to toe. Training our guys to serve as OPFOR for another unit steals from an already filled training schedule to prep another unit. If I’m training my platoon to act like insurgents I’m not training them to fight as an Infantry platoon.

Force on force doesn’t replicate the force ratios on a potential battlefield. E.G. If we are doctrinally defend against a three to one ration when my platoon is training defend what does the second and third platoon train on? Remember, you are promoting force on force training which is equal numbers. Problem is we don’t fight that way in the real world.

Then there’s the variability of personnel. Trained OCs are not just trained very well to conduct AARs but provide a controllable variable in evaluation especially when evaluating units across the board and then rating them against each other. Units providing evaluators for another units evaluation have to train those evaluators which is another drain on that unit’s training AND are not present to train their unit when they are off evaluating someone else’s.

Finally freeplay force on force doesn’t ensure the most probable tasks, missions or people are tested. A unit that does great ambushes may never have to conduct a raid or run a patrol if in freeplay it doesn’t become necessary.

I’ve seen ALL these issues come to fruition before the establishment of the JRTC. Heartbreak Ridge is an entertaining movie full of inaccuracies but one thing it did get right is the cost to a platoon to serve as the training tool for another unit.

Units go to CTCs maybe once a year and before deployment. At home station, units borrow from their own unit to provide OPFOR/evaluators. That can work for platoon and below. It doesn’t at company and above. BTDT. :)

The key Operations Guru is the 1SGT? What’s the company commander who should ALWAYS have his 1SGT involved in operational decision making?

Ken White

Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:24pm

In reply to by major.rod

major rod:

I've seen a couple of NTC AARs and a JRTC AAR that were worse several that were as bad. I do not deny the CTCs are an asset to training -- whether they're worth the significant costs entailed as we now operate them is at least arguable; cost:benefit and all that...

The instrumentation is a plus, no question. However, if you did away with the dedicated OCs and OpFor, you could save big bucks. If you then did free play force on force exercises with few constraints and charged the Units themselves with responsibility for their training instead of donating it to reluctant recipients...

You might have a winner for far less expense. You'd also fix responsibility where it belonged instead of allowing fault to devolve to a committee.

I agree that for the most part Troop performance over the last ten years has been quite good. I do believe, however, that had we not fallen for the terrible BTMS Task, Condition, Standard individual training model it would have been much better. The Troops -- and their leaders -- did well in spite of a terribly flawed training model. As always, some units did better than others and that varied as Commanders and people rotated.

The thread topic AAR even illustrates the big BTMS flaws. Most people did most things well as discrete activities. BTMS fails to train folks to integrate the discrete tasks and the AAR details that failure. We need to move back to outcome based training and education. Wouldn't hurt to test units and relieve a few people for under performance, either

It is a trade. We <b>do</b> use a cadre and train up the force. We did that in all our wars including these and as a consequence the system, even today and / or in full peacetime is DESIGNED to operate that way. If it was not, you wouldn't move to a new assignment every year or so or three. I led and then I helped train leaders for a long time; trust me, it's a trade. You want to make it a profession, lose the attitude that a grunt qualifies as a tradesman but his bosses do not. ;)

That's not an attack on you. What that really means is that the personnel system we have forces us into a trade. Field Grades with over 12 or so years of service sort of qualify as Professionals in many but not all cases; generally, Officers with less service and NCOs and EM/EW(mostly and in most MOSC) do not qualify. If it were a profession, everyone in it would qualify as a 'professional.' Many in the service do not. It's a trade; a trade which employs some professionals, many tradespeople and which has too high a turnover rate to attain and retain true professional status...

As an aside, I note that the AAR accuses First Sergeants of not knowing their role in sustainment. I don't know who the inexperienced writer of that screed happened to be but he or she obviously hasn't tumbled to the fact most 1SGs are young guys nowadays and are more than willing to get involved up front and pop a cap or two. They are not disposed to stooge about with the chow -- they'd rather foist that off on the XO or the Supply Sergeant. You want it to be a profession, fix that. It has long been a major doctrinal glitch, a hangover from the days that 1SGs were the oldest guys in the unit and had 30 to 40 years of hard service. Those days are long gone; that should've been changed immediately after WW II and we're still stuck fighting on the plains post Civil War. What sense doe it make to charge him with responsibility for 'sustainment' and at the same time criticize him for not enforcing standards in the subordinate elements. He cannot do both, put him to work where his experience is beneficial. The most combat experienced person in the unit should not be a beans and bullets person. What kind of sense does that make? He should be the chief trainer and the de facto and de jure Company Operations guru...


Mon, 11/26/2012 - 11:53pm

In reply to by Ken White

Ken - "As did similar AAR's for maneuvers and exercises before there were CTCs. Not to mention those from combat in Viet Nam, Korea and even in World War II."

"yes, the dubious value of the very costly CTCs."

I haven't seen many AAR's with the same blistering evals from combat units since the CTCs stood up. Maybe those costly CTCs aren't "too costly" after all?

I think you are on to something with personnel and training policies but the troops general performance in combat over the last several decades has been exceptional.

If war fighting were a trade vs. a profession we could make do with a cadre and train up a force when needed. Problem is it's not. Sure driving a truck is a trade, even being a grunt might qualify but leading squads, platoons, companies etc. requires professionals.

Ken White

Mon, 11/26/2012 - 11:07pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09:<blockquote>"...virtually all the CALL AARs that have come in from the NTC/JMRC/JRTC DATE rotations are showing the same weak abilities in basic conventional Army skill sets."</blockquote>Heh. So they should. So would most going back to the formation of the original NTC.

As did similar AAR's for maneuvers and exercises before there were CTCs. Not to mention those from combat in Viet Nam, Korea and even in World War II. Reality bites. Most units are comprised most of the time of marginally trained individuals operating under the massive constraints imposed by a purposely designed short service, rapid rotation marginally trained force. Why would anyone expect anything different?

The Armed Forces of the US do themselves no favors by harping on professionalism. War fighting is a trade, not a profession. Professions undertake years of training, our Armed Forces personnel policies pay lip service to that but in reality, those policies preclude or at least significantly impeded attainment of true professionalism for most units most of the time. Fortunately there are some exceptions but the norm is 'marginally acceptable' not 'extremely competent.'

That report could've been written about many -- very good and not so good -- units I served with in two wars while they were more or less successfully prosecuting their part in those wars. I did enjoy this interesting contrast:

From the first observation in the report:<blockquote>...basic field craft skills have atrophied, and that junior leaders and Soldiers do not know how to operate under total field conditions. Senior officers and non-commissioned officers who were once trained on field craft are not training their subordinates, and are not making on-the-spot corrections when needed.</blockquote>From Page 8 of the report:<blockquote>Fundamental elements of fighter management are sleep, hot food, basic field sanitation, and maintaining a safe environment. The regiment is made up of well trained and highly motivated leaders and Soldiers, but a can-do attitude and working on pure adrenalin cannot be sustained for two weeks.</blockquote>

Recall also that if the OCs do not find fault, they won't have a job. Job security is a wonderful motivator... ;)

Much ado about, not nothing, but the wrong issues -- the concern should be over our personnel and training policies and, yes, the dubious value of the very costly CTCs.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/25/2012 - 12:12pm

It is interesting that while this CALL article stirs alot of comments both here and over at Tom's blog---virtually all the CALL AARs that have come in from the NTC/JMRC/JRTC DATE rotations are showing the same weak abilities in basic conventional Army skill sets.

A majority of the CALL comments were applied to all the warfighter skill sets---and that is the telling story of this particular CTC rotation.

This unit is by the way undergoing a loss of a majority of their officers by March---a nasty habit the Army has in transitioning officers either prior to their deployment or just right after their redeployment-thus the concept of institutional knowledge remaining in the unit is nonexistent--meaning those that participated in the train up will not be available for the deployment---forcing new officers into a really steep learning curve and we wonder why we have micromanagement.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 8:11pm

In reply to by 82redleg


I read both of LTG Bolger's books, some time ago. What I remember is his talking about how his units were outfought at times and how they learned from that. The books were not about, and my memory could be flawed, about how his units were incapable maintaining their weapons or ignorant of field sanitation. I especially remember his second book where his unit got beat up down at Ft. Polk but had the very unusual opportunity of going back after only a short time and how much better they did after they had a chance to learn from their failures and make improvements. They got to learn and apply what they learned. Then I read Outlaw 09's post about how the 2nd Cavalry Regiment will shortly change out its officers thereby insuring that the unit can't possibly learn anything and I want to bang my civilian head against the wall.

We do indeed only have to be better than the other guy, or less worse. But "We only have to better than the other guy and he may not be so good." isn't such a good slogan or goal I think.


Sat, 11/24/2012 - 11:06am

This report could have been written about a unit in the mid-90s, too- when we are arguably performing at our best at the CTCs. The CTC AARs are often cut and paste- the same things happen over and over again- and the same things are hard to do "right", especially in the training environment. We don't have to be "good", we just have to be "better" than our opponents- and there is no concievable opponent who has anything like a CTC for training.

For some comparisons, see LTG Bolger's books Dragons at War (NTC in the 80s) and The Battle for Hunger Hill (JRTC in the 90s)- then imagine the happenings in those books written in the language of the lessons learned report.

Frankly, CTCs are currently a training distractor that get in the way of redeploying back to war- not to say that units don't learn things there, but the difficulty and time spent moving to the CTC takes time away from training.

maj.rod is right- take this assessment for what its worth from a man with little or no experience. I'm very good friends with on of the BN CDRs in 2SCR, and his take on the rotation is completely different.


Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:52pm

In reply to by major.rod


No, not satphones, the report states "resulted in a default to cellular telephones as the primary method of communications." So, even though I am a forever a civilian, that seems to me a very bad thing that a combat unit in an exercise like this has to depend for commo on German cell phone companies.

I guess I am biased, or rather my viewpoint is constrained by my experience. But no matter how you try to explain away these things, your explanations aren't very convincing. And, even though I am a forever a civilian and understand that some things are pretty technical, like moving and establishing CPs frequently, I just can't see how this unit can't be viewed as anything but...ah...poor.

Despite the lofty classification of "For Official Use", an awful lot of that report doesn't seem to need much more that an understanding of 10% to come to the conclusion that that unit was...ah...less than poor. Also judging from the nature of the deficiencies, it isn't so much of a stretch to be concerned about the condition of the force as a whole, your statement to the contrary notwithstanding.

(Don't be offended by my ...ah... construction. It is not a shot at you. I just like to entertain myself by playing around with the language.)

I do so recognize initiative in people other than cops. Honest. Here is a great story about initiative. After the Battle Off Samar, some small surface units were searching the sea for survivors. The officer of the deck of one unit was sure he saw a signal flare and reported it twice to the captain, twice to be told to disregard it. So the OD turned the vessel toward the flare anyway. The captain came racing up to the bridge and told the helmsman to resume course. The OD told the helmsman to hold course since he, the OD, had not been properly relieved by the captain and could not be properly relieved until 15 minutes had passed and the captain had gained his night vision. So the boat stayed on course for 15 more minutes by which time another flare went up which the captain saw and off they all went to save a lot of guys. That was initiative, and that was cool, tres cool.


Mon, 11/26/2012 - 6:43pm

In reply to by carl

Carl - You are using hyperbole and I'm trying to rationally help you roll back your "concern" a tad.

Uniformed mob? I mean really? That's weak. I've seen mobs. The hyperbole isn't productive. If you're scared it's based on a lack of knowledge which is why I've been providing some context.

You used the Boy scouts fieldcraft and food preparation skills as a metric. It isn't the same. Freeze dried food warmed by the user IS the equivalent of what troops have with MRE's. YOU're in the poor popsition of not knowing the difference not me which is why I took the time to explain "hot chow" to you. It didn't stick.

Not burying crap. Disgusting. Was the area full of it? Doubtful. I can tell you again from experience that the CTCs will make an example of any mistake. Is it right to crap on the ground? Heck no. It's not a widespread problem though it obviously needs tightening up. BTW, just to put Tom Kinton's comments in perspective there are examples of the most disciplined and seasoned troops diving into their own crap because there's always "That guy". It happens. Again, an experience thing...

No "smoke screens", no "what about him's". I'm not making excuses. I'm trying to help you come out of orbit and understand that even in the best organizations we have issues and shortcomings. I thought you had enough experience in uniform to understand that a report read by the uninformed could be taken much worse than the situation actually was. Reading some reports about Katrina one would think the whole New Orleans PD was a "uniformed mob". Far from it.

BTW, the phones may have been satellite phones for all we know. We even issue those to special ops units as I believe that's how LT Murphy eventually called for help before he was killed and awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. Having CPs out of contact for 24 hours isn't good. The "why" is just as important. Don't be one opf the "make it happen" types huh? Caring leadership enforces standards after understanding why there are shortcomings and those shortcomings are addressed. Then again leadership doesn't have different standards for different organizations. Kudos to the NYPD to make como happen any way it could. I see you only recognize initiative if only cops exercise it. Thanks for providing more evidence of your bias and proving my point.

That report has "For Official Use" printed on every page. It's meant for the eyes of commanders and professionals to use as they train their units not the armchair generals that hardly understand 10% of what goes on after a unit leaves the motor pool. The force is not on the verge of failure.


Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:11pm

In reply to by major.rod


In your first paragraph you are arguing why members of this unit, composed of professional soldiers some of whom have long service, can or can't or should or shouldn't be expected to meet the standards of the Boy Scouts when it comes to camp discipline, field sanitation and provision of hot food (if you you want to count MREs well...). Ok. That is not a very good position to be in.

Your second paragraph is a variation of the "Oh yeah. Well what about him?" argument which isn't an argument at all. It is a smoke screen. The officers and NCOs in this unit were reported not to know what their jobs were. Maybe that is one criterion for closer to mob than to military unit on the mob to military unit continuum.

As for your comment on police officers not knowing concealed carry laws, that is an additional smoke screen. It has nothing to do with the question at hand.

Your third paragraph has some more smoke. I don't know exactly what you mean by providing a counterpoint to sensationalist media. The report was what it was. When a report details what appears to lousy performance...well how do counterpoint lousy performance?

The report mentioned "some command posts being out of communication with other units for up to 24 hours." I suppose technically that isn't wandering about the German woods out of communication but it certainly doesn't fill me with confidence.

Good for the NY cops adapting to the circumstances and getting on with the job. But I would note that a for a military unit training in a situation that is supposed to replicate war in some respects, for that unit to depend upon the German cell phone companies for their communications, that is not a good thing.

People don't bring this up to score points on the Army. People bring it up because it is scary.


Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:31am

In reply to by carl

Boy scouts aren't on the move when they are cooking chow. They don't have to move it to numerous remote locations or worry about defending it or themselves simultaneously. If we use the boys scout standard for "hot chow" units had three "hot meals" daily. MRE's can be heated and come with their own heating units. "Hot Chow" in the Infantry is considered cafetria quality food similarly prepared. The lowest level of support that retains that capability is the battalion. If the combat trains were not stationary for at least four hours before chow time there is not enough time to set up and cook choww for a 1000 man battalion.

NCOs and Officers not knowing their job? Scary yes but actually it happens and deserves attention. I can't tell you how many law enforcement people I have had to explain what the concealed carry laws are in their state and how reciprocity applies.

I might be a tad defensive. Someone has to provide a counter point to the sensationalist media and those that don't know enough to know the difference. I'm sure you don't cover dirty cops but I doubt you don't chime in when a sensationalist story is written about law enforcement.

As I've said there are issues here. We don't have uniformed mobs wandering the woods in Germany out of communication. The sky isn't falling. BTW, the Police in NY at one point were relying on TWITTER to rescue people from a CAT ONE hurricane.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 8:28pm

In reply to by major.rod


One thing I have noticed in many of the replies at Best Defense, and just a little bit in yours (my perception and mine only, flawed as it undoubtedly is) is the tendency to take personal insult when things like this come up and people express shock and disbelief. For myself this isn't a matter of 'Nyah nyah you're in the Army and boy are you guys jerks.' This is a matter, at its very base, of fear; fear for my country and my countrymen who depend on an Army that has to know what it is doing. And when reports like this come up that indicate that that Army may not know even the basics, it scares me.

It is no professional courtesy to refrain from pointing out deficiencies nor pretending they don't exist. It shows no respect to tell somebody they know what they are about when they don't. It does not do the citizens, other PDs nor all the good cops out there any good not to call a bad cop a bad cop nor a bad PD a bad PD. There ain't nothing good cops hate worse than when somebody covers for bad cops or bad policing. I expect good soldiers feel the same.

I did indeed intentionally compare some aspects of this unit's performance, as detailed in the report, unfavorably to the Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts, or at least my nephew's group, know about field sanitation and their leaders and sub-leaders teach it and enforce it. They know about camp discipline, teach it and enforce it. They get hot food into the Scouts. I called these things "baby fundamentals". They aren't that hard to get right. The Boy Scouts get them right but this unit didn't. That scares me.

It scares me because if they can't get that stuff right, what about the hard stuff? And in the report, they couldn't. It scares me even worse when commo broke down to the extent that cell phones became "the primary method of communications." My civilian self reads this-"Officers and NCOs are not familiar with the doctrinal roles and responsibilities of their MTOE positions." and gets even more concerned because it reads as if those officers and NCOs not only can't do their jobs, they don't know what their jobs are. And it scares me yet again when I interpret some of the comments about the report as attempts to soft soap deficiencies to spare feelings.

This isn't about looking bad. It goes way beyond that.

It goes to something you said that really gets to the heart of the matter, the Army having a problem with moral courage as it applies to leadership. That, in a few words defines the problem. An Army whose leadership has problems with moral courage is a grave threat to itself and more importantly, to the nation.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 5:23pm

In reply to by major.rod

Okay, whatever, keep it non-personal and you have my endearing thanks.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 5:16pm

In reply to by SWJED

We either have to handle a little tongue in cheek or be VERY careful with our words. I'm sure Carl didn't really mean to call the soldiers of the Stryker BDE "close to being a uniformed mob" and if he did maybe a question wondering aloud how he knows what a uniformed mob looks like might be in order?

Troops in uniform read this blog also. They deserve a modicum of respect. The CTCs always put out blistering on point criticism while always being professional and not using hyperbole. While the report in question isn't glowing it's not uncommon coming from a CTC. Yep, the unit has some problems as well as the Army. "Uniformed mob", "boy scouts can do better" and "absolutely lousy leadership and training" are pretty strong words based on one document and not a lot of experience doing the same things.

I refrained condemning the whole New Orleans Police Dep't for reported Katrina incidents without doing some due diligence on the circumstances and people involved. I would hope a former policeman would show the same level of respect. Even the simple things aren't "easy" when one's in the mix.


Sun, 11/25/2012 - 8:21am

In reply to by major.rod

Careful please that this thread does not get "too personal" and stays on topic. Knowing Carl, while not military, his uniformed experience is also not Boy Scouts. He served as a police officer and then as a contract pilot flying in war zones.


Sat, 11/24/2012 - 6:33pm

In reply to by carl

Well carl. 82redleg does a pretty good job of placing this report in context. Having been through near a dozen rotations back in the day at our European training center units typically left with plenty to work on.

No doubt there are leadership issues and if you read my comment in Tom Ricks thread you’ll see I comment about them at length. The Army does have an issue with “moral courage” as it applies to leadership. I’m not making excuses.

Uniformed mob? Hmmm, must be harkening back to your “uniformed” experience. BTW, you may not be aware of how the sustainment portion of evaluation runs at our NTCs, who they evaluate and how the info is gathered. (The focus of the sustainment cells is primarily focused at support units and hq level. Observations that pertain to units below BN level that are not sustainment typed units is typically garnered from maneuver OCS but it seems you may not know that based on your uniform experience. Even back in the day if found the non combat arms units field sanitation and field craft skills below par. That said I have no doubt the whole force suffers a degradation of field craft especially in the areas of camouflage, land navigation and defensive position emplacement.) Boy Scouts are rarely executing anything else but enjoying the outdoors, a definitively different environment than a training center but at least we know what your uniformed experience is. :)


Sat, 11/24/2012 - 12:44am

In reply to by major.rod

major.rod: I read the report and I don't have a day in uniform, well military uniform anyway. What I got out of the report is this unit is close to being a uniformed mob. It seems to lack many of the attributes that differentiate a mob from a military unit. Some of the things the report said are:

*Junior leaders and soldiers are not trained in basic field craft skills.
*Officers and NCOs are not familiar with the doctrinal roles and responsibilities of their MTOE positions.
*Company XO's and First Sergeants do not understand their roles in sustainment operations at company level.
*Routine maintenance of weapons and vehicles not conducted. Lack of maintenance reporting.
*Basic field sanitation lacking, junior leaders not maintaining standards or making on-the-spot corrections.
*and on and on and on.

The things I've listed and others aren't the complicated things the unit couldn't do well, like moving and setting up command posts quickly. This unit couldn't even get the baby fundamentals right. Literally, Boy Scouts do better at those things than this outfit is reported to have done.

These are things you can't blame on anything but absolutely lousy leadership and training.