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October 28, 2004

Meet your Army...

I spent yesterday going through the demographic surveys of the troops participating in the experiment. Let's meet your Average Infantry Platoon out fighting the GWOT...

They range in age from 21 to 32. They come from all over, but the South and West so far predominate (that's not a survey question, that comes from talking to them). They are a mix of races (minorities do NOT predominate in terms of proportion to the population). They have the eagerness of youth, but the insouciance of veterans. They aren't twitchy, but you can tell they've seen the Elephant.

Most have 'some college,' two have degrees (but that includes the platoon leader). The average rifleman has 2-3 years of service. The Squad Leaders vary from 3.5 to 12.

One squad is led by a 12 year service NCO who has no combat experience. The rest of his squad have Combat Infantrymen Badges and a minimum of 8 months of time in a combat zone. Two of those did the Thunder Runs into Baghdad. There's a leadership challenge. He's up to it.

One soldier, another squad leader, has been in the real Fun, Travel, and Adventure Army. His overseas deployments include Korea, Thailand, Australia, Okinawa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Djibouti. No, he's not an SF guy, he's a standard light infantryman.

Most have done at least one tour in a sandbox. Over half have been to both sandboxes. One troop with a little over two years of service has been to Iraq and Afghanistan, twice each. For a minimum of 6 months per trip. You do the math - this soldier has been in combat zones from the month he left AIT until he joined this unit. Chew on that.

We range from kids who will profess to being experts in just about any area of home/office computing use, to kids who say they never use a computer - but they aver they are experts at video games. One member of this platoon says they never use a computer at all. That's changing. They're all using computers now. Part of the experiment. One of the interesting things to check will be to see if our complete naif is actually easier to train, or harder.

Talking to them, half intend to re-enlist, half intend to finish out and go back to Fort Living Room. No one expresses any bitterness about the war (and none of them are shy about expressing themselves, save one). No idea of their politics, and ain't asking. Not appropriate in context.

Another interesting tidbit - the younger ones know more about what's going on in the world outside the army... and about Army Transformation, than do the more senior NCOs.

These kids are tough and sharp. It would be a privilege to lead 'em, and comforting to know they had my six.

The Republic is well served.

This is their world for the next few weeks (that's a tech in there doing some integration work). They still dismount to fight. One of the interesting things will be to see how these soldiers feel about these tools which will suck their attention inside the vehicle vice outside the vehicle. I have my own predjudices in that regard (I'm not fond of it) but it's a phase we have to go through to get to what to me is a better implementation - visors or monocles, so you can keep eyes on the ground around you. These guys have a better experience base than I do to judge that. It will be especially interesting to interview the guys who did Major Combat Ops and SASO (what's going on now) to see if they think there is a particular difference in the utility, pluses and minuses, between the two types of combat ops. I do also wonder who is doing the battery analysis...

This is my world. (No, I'm not in the picture).