OxBlog

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

# Posted 11:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE OFFICER'S PERSPECTIVE: This morning, Maj. Ben Connable, a Marine Corps veteran about to head back to Iraq for his third tour of duty, published an op-ed in the Washington Post. Connable argues well and passionately for a the importance of victory and of looking past headlines that show nothing but carnage. He made one point that struck me especially:
Open optimism, whether or not it is warranted, is a necessary trait in senior officers and officials. Skeptics can be excused for discounting glowing reports on Iraq from the upper echelons of power. But it is not a simple thing to ignore genuine optimism from mid-grade, junior and noncommissioned officers who have spent much of the past three years in Iraq.
In Vietnam, it was mid-level officers such as Lt. Col. John Paul Vann who taught American journalists to see through Johnson and the generals' party line. Perhaps now there is a latter-day Vann who is quietly advising to journalists to disregard the White House line. After all, Vann himself only spoke through his journalist disciples. Yet journalists today, regardless of their opinion of the war, seem to accept that the officer corps is sincerely optimistic.

It should be apparent, however, that the officers' optimism is not enough to shift the tide of public opinion at home. But consider this counterfactual: What if a majority of officers agreed that the war was unwinnable and made their views quietly known. I think it would destroy the administration's resolve. In a war being fought by volunteers, the volunteers must believe in the cause.

For as long as our soldiers re-enlist for second and third tours of duty in Iraq, it will be hard for opponents of the war to insist that we should bring them home now against their own will.
(10) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
How strong will the urge by after tours 4-6 roll around?
 
I believe that ground-level officers can very well provide the clearest picture of how the military mission is going , but what exactly makes these officers qualified to judge the nation-building that is going on?

Using members of the military for their take on the political, economic, and cultural transformation that is occuring in Iraq makes about as much sense as asking the Megaplex security guard for his opinion on Brokeback Mountain.
 
"For as long as our soldiers re-enlist for second and third tours of duty in Iraq, it will be hard for opponents of the war to insist that we should bring them home now against their own will."

There are two items that need to be added for perspective.

The first is the backdoor draft. This includes soldiers who are kept in Iraq against their will after their enlistment is up, and retired soldiers on ready reserve who are recalled. The backdoor draft wreaks havoc on families.

The second is the enlistment shortfall. In February for instance the Army was short 27%.
 
Nate: rather, I think it makes about as much asense as asking the gregarious Megaplex security guard for his take on what the moviegoing public he listens to thinks of Brokeback Mountain. (After all, it's the moviegoing public that decides the financial success of the movie, not Ebert & Roper or the Academy.)
 
"...but what exactly makes these officers qualified to judge the nation-building that is going on?”

Every military officer has earned, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree. It is a requirement to hold a commission. At the same time, more and more junior officers are pursuing and earning graduate level degrees. Furthermore, the higher you go in the chain of command the more advanced the level of education completed is. Additionally, the subjects studied are myriad and the choice is normally left to the person pursuing the degree. Finally, remember the following:

“Seventy-Four have been awarded Rhodes scholarships, making West Point the fourth ranking source of Rhodes scholars in the nation, even though graduates were not allowed to compete until 1925.”

“Four Naval Academy individuals were recently announced as recipients of 2006 Rhodes Scholarships.”

Mentioned above are men and women who fall into one of three categories: have served, are currently serving, or will serve in the active duty military after completion of their studies.

The officer corps of the United States military, at all levels, is educated. It is that education that allows them to make the judgments on the cultural, political, and economic situation.

"The second is the enlistment shortfall. In February for instance the Army was short 27%."

That was almost a year ago. Maybe there are more recent figures available out there.

"The active Army and the Army National Guard met their recruiting goals for November, the sixth consecutive successful recruiting month for the active Army and the second for the Guard."

http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1409980.php
 
You are correct. The 27% number is from February, which is almost a year ago.

This is from November 18, which is almost a month ago:

"Military recruitment falls short in key jobs
A government report found that the military had failed to adequately staff 41 percent of its array of combat and noncombat ranks."

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/auto/epaper/editions/friday/news_34d7c861b4a2a0d71001.html

I would conclude that if something happened in February and it is still happening in December, that it has been going on for awhile. Furthermore, the recruitment shortfall furthur necessitates the backdoor draft.

Anyway you look at it, young people are voting with their feet.
 
"Military recruitment falls short in key jobs
A government report found that the military had failed to adequately staff 41 percent of its array of combat and noncombat ranks."

First off, let us look at some of those jobs that are under filled.

Army Band Person, Fabric Repair Specialist (Marine Corps), Bioenvironmental Engineering (Air Force), Diver (Navy)

Above is one under filled job from each branch of the military listed in the GAO report. Therefore, it can be said, that each undermanned job that makes up the 41% statistic is not necessarily a severe impediment to the military’s combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In general, the 41% figure is somewhat sensational. The majority of positions with shortages are still at or above the 90% level. Additionally, in some of the positions the shortages number under 50 people, some less than 20, and some even less than 10.

However, that being said, there are some very critical jobs that the military is coming up short in. In particular are translators/linguists. At the same time, this is not an example of service members “voting with their feet.” Rather, it is due to the highly technical nature of these jobs and there is no quick and simple fix for the shortages. It is simply going to take time for the language training to be completed. Additionally, demand for these positions has doubled in some cases. For example, the Army Human Intelligence Collector position went from 577 slots in 2000 to 1013 slots in 2005. That is almost a 100% increase and training in this field, takes a large amount of time, over a year in some of the more difficult languages. The shortage of language specialists is similar to the problem that the Army is having in filling certain Special Forces fields. These positions require extraordinary levels of physical ability, intelligence, and discipline. The shortages in Army Special Forces, like the problem with translators, will take time to properly fill with fully qualified people.

While the shortages have been discussed, the surpluses bear a closer look. In particular, what are some of the jobs that are listed as being overfilled?

In the Army: Cavalry Scout, Combat Engineer, Tank Crewmember, and Infantry Senior Sergeant

In the Marine Corps: Infantry Unit Leader

In the two branches of the military doing the majority of the fighting on the ground, important combat jobs are not merely at the minimum, they are overfilled. Additionally, other key combat fields are not listed as a being affected by a shortage. Still also, two of the above fields, Infantry Senior Sergeant and Infantry Unit Leader, show something else. Leaders at the enlisted level, non-commissioned officers, are not made fresh from basic training. Rather, they are the Soldiers and Marines who have already served for several years, most likely with at least one deployment to OIF or OEF, and have decided that they are staying in their respective branch. They make that decision to stay and compete for promotion knowing full well that being a combat leader will practically guarantee that they will be a member of a future deployment or future deployments. This is further reinforced by the report’s statistics on retention and reenlistments in the Army and Marine Corps. In 2005, both the Army and the Marine Corps exceeded all of their retention objectives.

While there are shortages in certain key fields, efforts are being taken to see they are filled with quality personnel. Additionally, progress is evident. For example, in the “Human Intelligence Collector” position, the Army added almost 100 in 2005 alone. Additionally, important and vital combat jobs are filled if not overfilled. Additionally, the two branches of the military doing the majority of the work on the ground show amazing reenlistment and retention rates in 2005 as well as in the fours preceding. These are good signs about the current state of our armed forces, not bad signs.
 
"amazing reenlistment and retention rates in 2005"

With the backdoor draft in effect, I'm not surprised at the 'amazing' retention rates.

As for your other statistics, I would like to see your references.

The backdoor draft and the ready reserve callup seems to me callous treatment of warriors who have served their duty well.
 
All my statistics are from the GAO report cited in your link.

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06134.pdf

Retention/reenlistments and the "backdoor draft" are two seperate things. The "backdoor draft" refers to servicemembers affected by stop/loss orders and those who, as members of the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR), are recalled to active duty.
 
Yes, the report titled:

"MILITARY PERSONNEL
DOD Needs Action Plan to Address
Enlisted Personnel Recruitment
and Retention Challenges"

The first two sentences of the report are:

"DOD’s active, reserve, and National Guard components met most aggregate recruiting and retention goals for enlisted personnel from fiscal years (FY) 2000-2004. However, for FY 2005, 5 of 10 components—the Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and Navy Reserve—missed their recruiting goals by 8 to 20 percent."

This is the executive summary. A fair minded person would therefore conclude that the Armed Forces are missing their recruiting goals. It is possible to cherry pick more agreeable statistics, but this is the summary.

I completely agree that 'Retention/reenlistments and the "backdoor draft" are two seperate things.' However, my point is that a decline in retention necessitates an increase in the backdoor draft. The first CAUSES the second.

They are seperate. However, they are causally related.

In addition to the backdoor draft, the DOD is also sending National Guard troops to Iraq on extended tours.
 
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