“The U.S. Army’s rapid reaction force in Europe is underequipped, undermanned and inadequately organized to confront military aggression from Russia or its high-tech proxies, according to an internal study that some who have read it view as a wake-up call as the Trump administration seeks to deter an emboldened Vladimir Putin.” (Politico)
OK. This article starts off like some Cold War fever dream once again awaiting the 8th Guards Army to barrel through the Fulda Gap on its way to the Rhine. However, this report is not another neocon fear piece about the growing Russian menace. It is a sober report commissioned by the 173rd Brigade commander about the combat readiness of his own unit. It's a damning assessment.
“When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, the unit's [173rd Airborne Brigade] paratroopers were the first American troops to reach the Baltic states to deter another potential incursion on NATO’s eastern flank. But the assessment details a series of “capability gaps” the unit has identified during recent training with Ukrainian troops with experience battling Russian-backed separatists, who have used cheap drones and electronic warfare tools to pinpoint targets for artillery barrages and devastated government armored vehicles with state-of-the-art Russian antitank missiles.
Some of the shortfalls, like the brigade’s lack of air defense and electronic warfare units and over-reliance on satellite communications and GPS navigation systems, are the direct results of the Army's years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy has no air power or other high-end equipment and technology.
“The lessons we learned from our Ukrainian partners were substantial. It was a real eye-opener on the absolute need to look at ourselves critically,” Col. Gregory Anderson, who commissioned the report earlier this year during his stint as the brigade’s commander, told POLITICO after it had obtained a copy of the report. “We felt compelled to write about our experiences and pass on what we saw and learned.”
The report has so far been distributed only through internal channels to the Army staff and other military headquarters.” (Politico)
This isn’t a matter of being under equipped or under manned so much as it is a matter of being woefully ill trained. As the article alludes to, our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq have seriously degraded our Army’s ability to conduct modern combat. It’s not a matter of money, but of priorities. I look back at my time with 25th Infantry Division during the “Hollow Army” days of the 70s. My rifle platoon was seldom more than twenty five strong and over half of them were working on their GEDs in our down time. My weapons platoon was kept near fully manned as it should be. We were in the field training every week during our ten week green cycle. We were on the ranges or supporting other units in the field during the five week yellow cycle. During the five week red cycle, my troops were in their GED classes, standing guard mount and performing post maintenance.
We trained with an urgency borne of the realization that our equipment and numbers were wanting. I remember our new battalion commander addressing us just prior to a morning run. “Look to the west and imagine those planes coming through that pass [Kolekole Pass] to strafe our very barracks, bomb our airfield and sink our ships. Remember this with every drop of sweat you shed in training.”
We were masters of digging in. The companies maintained far more picks and shovels than what we were authorized. We lived in our DePuy fighting positions and were quite adept at camouflage. Our camouflage nets were always in place and properly employed. All this was meticulously inspected at all levels of command. We all knew, “if they can see ya, they can kill ya.” Our only body armor was our steel pots. We conducted defensive and offensive operations using only wire for communications… a lot. And thank God we didn’t have cell phones back then. It was bad enough that the pakalolo grew wild in the training areas.
Judging by what I read and view on videos of our Army fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, all that has fallen by the wayside. Maybe some of you young guns can fill us in on what’s going on.