Thursday, December 16, 2004

Re: A lack of armor

The army is a huge bureaucracy and it often times doesn't make alot of sense. I think one thing that should be noted is that all units are not equal. The Army classifies its units and this gives them priority for parts, equipment and so forth. The 82nd Airborne division is a RDF (Rapid Deployment Force) Unit so its requests for equipment and priority for equipment is higher than say the 5th Infantry Division which in my day was not a RDF unit. Body Armor, advanced weaponry, bullets, vehicle parts all go to the 82nd first.

When I was with the 5th Infantry Division we would wait months for parts to our vehicles and all of our small arms were outdated. We were a lower classification unit so we received things in a slower fashion than other units. In contrast when I was with the 2nd Armor Division, Patton's brain child, all orders came quickly and our equipment was up to date and well maintained. Additionally, when we deployed to Desert Storm we received a brand new allotment of M3 Bradleys. We were a higher priority so we received things more quickly. As to body armor, I don't know the deal with that today, we all had light under garment armor and thicker flack jackets. I don't know what happened to it all.

The Army is also a socialist society. As such, their priorities are often dictated by the way things have been done whether or not it is more efficient. The Army, and all the armed forces for that matter, don't have to worry about cost effective or efficient use of resources. To expect them to behave in a way that respects the resources they are given may be asking too much. The common grunt and the generals do not share common objectives with political administrations. (I would say ever but maybe that is going too far). But in an ideal world, the Army would train at home until needed then the administration would say go to war here, the Army would then prefer the administration to keep out of it until it was over and all the enemy were defeated. Not possible today. But this is just a simple illustration to show differing objective. The President on the other hand has to worry about public opinion, world opinion, troop morale, civilian casulaties and numerous other things I can't think of right now.)

But I think the trust of the piece was regarding the body armor. I say not a failure. If Congress had granted the Army unlimited funds to equip its troops then it would be a failure. But when they must choose between more tanks or body armor - or - between giving incentives to keep experienced sergeants or more funding for military schools it is unfair to sit back with clarity of hindsight and judge. Look at how they spent and then decide if it was foolish based on what they knew at the time. To do otherwise is unfair.

Military commanders have a hard job, they have limited resources and they have to train their men which is very costly. They can't get it right every time. But that is no reason to lash out at them. They made the best decisions they could. It would have been nice to have more body armor but other decisions were made. To point another thing out, in Desert Storm soldiers provided some of their own equipment there as well, such as rifle scopes and knives.


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