If anything is certain about the Army and the world today, it’s that things are uncertain.
Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, made that point clear during a visit to Fort Drum, N.Y., last week.
“As I look out there today, there are several things that are happening around the world,” Odierno said during his opening remarks. “And this is, I’ll tell you, the most uncertain I’ve seen it in terms of what we think is happening — what we think the threats are around the world.”
According to the Army’s website, Odierno spoke about specific uncertainties around the globe and the challenges that the U.S. military might have to face, and the importance of training here at home for decisive-action readiness in high-end, combat operations.
“We need to be prepared, if necessary, to respond, because we don’t know when that will happen,” he said. “It’s important for us to ensure that we are prepared and ready, so we have to build readiness.”
It’s a tune we’ve been hearing a lot of lately. Following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which don’t seem to be completely over), the Army is in downsizing mode, and currently has about 495,000 active-duty troops. That’s down from about 570,000 soldiers a few years ago.
With ongoing sequestration and other budget constraints, it’s been said that the Army could get as low as 420,000 troops, which would bring it to pre-World War II levels.
Current and former Army leaders are increasingly speaking up about the need for proper training and troop strength. What leaders are trying to prevent, and rightfully so, is a situation where Americans are ordered to go into battle without proper training or equipment.
I attended a ceremony last week to mark the 65th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Retired Lt. Gen. Paul “Butch” Funk was there, and said the U.S. should be careful to avoid mistakes of the past. More than 33,000 American troops were killed in the war, which lasted three years.
However, many of them didn’t have to die. Improper equipment and lack of training led to high U.S. casualties. American troops were “outflanked” and “outnumbered,” one Korean War veteran said, and the conditions in Korea were brutally cold.
The war ended in a stalemate. However, the war could have ended better, perhaps even in a full victory for the U.S. side if we were better prepared and the objectives were clear.
Funk encouraged those at the memorial to write or call their congressman and tell them to make sure the military gets what it needs.
I couldn’t agree more.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the Fort Hood Herald editor and military editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. He was stationed at Fort Hood and served with the 1st Cavalry Division from 1993 to 1996. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7468.