Small Wars Journal

The Troops Train to Reassure Europe

The Troops Train to Reassure Europe by Thomas Donnelly and James Cunningham, Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon has confirmed it will send the Army’s Dagger Brigade—the Second Armored Brigade of the First Infantry Division—to Europe this September in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the American military’s response to Russian meddling in Ukraine.

The announcement signals that President Trump has embraced President Obama’s expansion of the U.S. commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That’s good, but unless Mr. Trump delivers on his promise to restore America’s military readiness, the brigade will have a hard time carrying out its mission.

Dagger Brigade has long known the assignment was coming and has trained nonstop to prepare for it. The brigade’s commander, Col. David Gardner, is a lifetime infantryman with a shaved head and an office packed with dumbbells and protein powder. With six tours in the Middle East and another in Kosovo, he does not excite easily. Dagger, he says, is stretched thin.

Col. Gardner first opened Fort Riley’s gates to us late last year. He faces many challenges, which we outline in a just-published study. The biggest of them is people—having enough and having the right kind. In particular, he needs leaders, from the squad and platoon level up through his principal staff.

Turnover is the main problem. With 4% of the brigade’s personnel changing every month, Col. Gardner and his subordinates work tirelessly to keep troops trained and personnel slots filled. He may have enough crews to drive the tanks, but he has given up hope of having a full complement of dismounted infantry…

Read on.