I applaud the efforts of former III Corps commanders Robert Shoemaker, Pete Taylor and Paul Funk and others who spoke at a public meeting of the National Commission on the Future of the Army in Killeen last week.
Shoemaker, a retired general, and Taylor and Funk — both retired lieutenant generals — spoke on the importance of properly training and equipping soldiers.
The commission, created by an act of Congress, is working on a report it will hand to Congress and the president by Feb 1. That report will have recommendations on how the three components of the Army — regular Army, National Guard and Reserves — will be structured in the next 10 or more years.
There seems to be a lot of uncertainty hovering above the Army on how the Guard and Reserves will work with the regular Army in the future.
Among the questions: Should Guard and Reserve units have the same equipment that the regular Army has?
On that topic, the main issue is Apache helicopters. There is a plan to move all 200 Apaches the Guard has into regular Army units, but the Guard, in addition to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, is against that plan, saying the lack of the attack helicopters will make the Guard units weaker.
In any case, each component should be trained and ready, Taylor told the commission. He said time can be an enemy when it comes to training for combat, especially for Guard and Reserve units.
“We still live in a deploy-as-you-are environment,” Taylor said, urging the commission to address training times in its report.
Shoemaker may have said it best when he posed this question to the commission: “Where can you produce the best people at the least cost?”
Amid a time of recurring budget and personnel cuts, that question may be the bottom line when deciding the Army’s future.
Funk called on the commission to recommend more soldiers and modern equipment for all three components, and said other countries have grown and modernized their armies in the past decade, unlike the United States.
“The last 13 years has been like the death of a thousand cuts,” he said.
Former III Corps Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Gainey also spoke to the commission, and used a quote he heard Shoemaker say in 1975: “Never sugarcoat training.”
“We have to get back to the doctrine of training,” Gainey said.
And as Taylor pointed out: Proper training “saves lives in war.”