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December 02, 2005

The Army is worn out.

So sez Representative Murtha.

LATROBE, Pa. - Most U.S. troops will leave Iraq within a year because the Army is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth," Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record) told a civic group.

You can read the whole thing here.

Hmmm. From where I sit, I see a different Army. I see one where some parts are more tired than others, having just returned from one of the boxes, but I don't find the grumpy, living hand-to-mouth Army Representative Murtha describes.

Are there challenges? Yep. Stuff is wearing out, and it's hard to keep up. Welcome to a war. To hear Mr. Murtha talk, we should have pulled out of WWII around, oh, 1943, certainly 1944.

I recently spent two weeks at Fort Benning, Georgia. Arguably the heart of the Army now fighting, being the home of the Infantry.

As a middle-aged fat guy with a beard, no uniform, I sat among the soldiers in all sorts of places - restaurants, fast food joints, bars, movie theaters, the mall, out in the field, in garrison... everywhere.

And they griped like soldiers griped. And they had war stories to tell. And some were going to get out. And some were worried they weren't going to be able to re-enlist without reclassing to a different MOS. Many were concerned about the stress on the family. But a surprising number of them also noted that they had it a lot better than their fathers/uncles/grandfathers had it in WWII, Korea, or Vietnam.

Some weren't all that crazy about Iraq, either. Some thought they had dumber-than-dirt NCO's and Officers. And listening to the stories - *some* of them did, though nowhere near as many as *thought* they did. And most of them knew that, too.

In other words, they were soldiers in an Army at War.

I heard bitching about how the war they see in the US is not the war they fought in Iraq, or even Afghanistan. In fact, many of them wonder how many people still know we've got people on the ground fighting in Afghanistan. And none of them knew who I was, only that I didn't look important, so they ignored me and talked.

I didn't see the Army Murtha describes. I see an Army that is meeting it's re-enlistment goals. An Army that is having trouble meeting it's new end-strength numbers, but if they hadn't been given the 50K increase they didn't ask for... they would be meeting their goals.

Has it occured to anyone that there might be a limit on how many people you are going to get to enlist - regardless? And that if you raise the bar high enough, well, yep, yer gonna fail. Of course, we did field an All Volunteer Army of over 745K when I was a Lieutenant... in an economy bequeathed us by Vietnam, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter.

At work, I move amongst the core of the next generation of senior leaders - the Majors attending CGSC. We do studies and analyses of the Army and it's gear - now, next year, and in the relatively far future. In all my work there I find an Army that is very busy, and struggling to keep an eye on the future because of the present - but I don't see an Army living hand to mouth. Just one working flat-out.

The Reserve and Guard, there are some issues, and the study I'm going into will lead me down some of those paths. There are some real challenges there, right enough. But it wasn't just that part of the Army that Murtha was referring to. I just don't see the Army that Representative Murtha claims to see. Unlike Senator Kerry, whom *every soldier he's talked to has said we should leave Iraq* that simply isn't true for me. And I'm betting my sample is better than his.

Just sayin'.

John | Permalink | Comments (11) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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