• July 22, 2014

Army must adapt to funding cuts

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Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 11:33 pm, Fri Mar 8, 2013.

Of all the alarming, worrisome, blaming-the-other-guy reports I’ve read on sequestration during the past week, one of the more interesting tidbits is this: “Some commanders said the budget crisis has a silver lining, spurring young Army leaders to find cost-saving workarounds they would never have considered when the coffers were flush.”

That sentence was part of a Washington Post article the Herald ran last Friday on all the budget cuts facing the military.

The story told of an artillery battery commander, Capt. Nathan Adkins, in the 82nd Airborne Division who is trying to keep down repairs and other costs as the budget shortfalls become more dire.

“We’ve got to be more conscious and creative,” Adkins told the Post. “We have to be more selective on what levels we maintain equipment.”

Adkins said his unit found a cheap alternative when a $10,000 cable broke on a weapons system.

Not that I’m for military budget cuts, but I thought that Adkins made a good point in the midst of this big mess we are calling sequestration.

Soldiers need to have a good understanding that while the nation supports them, Uncle Sam may not always provide every tool and answer on a silver platter. Soldiers need to be adept at adapting.

Adapting to a situation when a vehicle breaks down.

Adapting to a situation when ammunition runs low.

Adapting to a situation when the electricity gets cut off.

And — dare I say it — adapting to a situation when Congress cuts funding.

Army budget leaders are saying that, except for units preparing to deploy, almost all regular Army training will come to a near standstill. The training that will happen will be at the squad level and below.

The tanker in me is laughing with mockery.

A tank squad, if you want to break it down like that, is four people, or one tank crew. A tank platoon is four tanks (16 soldiers). Now, an infantry squad would be more than four people, and I don’t know about artillery. But to cut down Army training to the point of only four people training at a time?

Stupid.

The whole point of an army is soldiers working together to defeat an enemy. Historically, an enemy army.

Perhaps the world has changed, but I think there are ways soldiers can still train as a large team despite all of the budget cuts. Here are three ideas off the top of my head.

— No gas, no problem: Hey, you can run out of gas in war, right? Why not train for it? Start off at the motor pool and start hoofing it to an assembly area out in the field somewhere. Bring everything you would in a combat situation.

— Walk-throughs: Increase the amount of classroom and walk-through training, and bring in some combat arms to the mix.

— Range bullets: When it’s time to qualify with small arms at the ranges again, do so with half the bullets as normal.

Those ideas are not ideal, but my point is, training does not have to stop.

We all know the government can be wasteful, including the Army. It’s time to tighten up the bootstraps and be resourceful. Like it or not, the time of big military budgets to fund a pair of wars is over.

The bottom-line to overcoming sequestration is simple: adaptation. And, truthfully, it’s nothing new. Every soldier has heard this line: Adapt and overcome.

Adaptation skills are good when a Congress-fueled breakdown in government leads to massive military budget cuts. More importantly, however, adaptation skills are good to have in combat scenarios when anything and everything can happen, from accidents to enemy infiltration.

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