Monday, July 16, 2007

NCOs dwindling


They had been skilled helicopter technicians with the 82nd Airborne Division and, not yet 30, just the sort of noncommissioned officers needed to train the 65,000 new soldiers President Bush has ordered to expand the short-handed force over the next six years.

But the Ashbys are among the midcareer leaders the Army is having the most trouble holding on to — those torn between finishing a fight and raising a family. In this case, the Army lost twice: Bradford Ashby left in October, his wife the year before, because they didn't want to watch the children they plan to have grow up on video.

Having flown in some of the world's ricketiest helicopters (H-34s), it scares me to death thinking about our guys flying around in ancient, sand-worn rigs maintained by PFCs right out of Chopper Fixin' School...

Military experts are concerned that the years of combat waged by a scaled-down Army are contributing to an erosion of wisdom and experience.

'S true. I know the Corps took years to recover from the discharge of this Corporal of Marines...(cough)

The Pentagon had years of peace to rebuild after Vietnam, and it did, producing an NCO corps considered a model to the world. But replacing lost experience in wartime is much more difficult, akin to fixing an airplane while it's flying.

This is actually pretty serious. Inexperience leads to mistakes, whether with a wrench or a Squad Automatic Weapon. Mistakes mean the deaths of the wrong people.

During Vietnam, the Army had an "Instant NCO" program, also called "Shake 'n Bake", to make Corporals and Sergeants quickly out of guys right out of recruit training. I don't think the Marine Corps had a formal program, but they promoted people a lot faster than before. You can put all the stripes you want to on someone's sleeve, and good, motivated soldiers though they may be, there is no substitute for experience.

Wisdom as an NCO comes from making most of your mistakes before you get put in charge so you can show your troops what not to do. You can keep some of them from making the same mistakes you did.

Bush's War & Occupation are breaking our military faster and faster as each day goes by. Should we ever need it for an actual war to defend our country instead of a criminal unnecessary war of choice for oil, we may find ourselves in big trouble.

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