Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Rotating Officers and NCOs

I don't do much military strategery here, as what the hell do I know about it. But, Christian Bauman brings a pargraph from this Time article to our attention:

"...the Army is doing two things it has rarely done since the grim days of the Vietnam War. It has begun rotating officers and senior NCOs out of Iraq, which means replacing seasoned commanders with freshly arrived officers who don't know the country or the troops they are leading."

Christian has this comment:

This simple sentence would probably slide right by most folks reading the article. But any veteran would have to shudder. This "rotation" policy is one of those things that gets pointed to now as one of the huge failures of the US Army in Vietnam. It's something born of necessity, but leads to needless combat deaths (on both sides: our boys dying from incompetent leaders, and innocent civilians killed by scared newcomers).

In WWII, for example, entire units trained together, traveled together, then fought together. When time to rotate, they rotated out as a unit. It meant everyone was on the same page experience-wise; it meant foot soldiers had developed respect for their officers and vice versa; it meant you had something "extra" goading you to perform well (and intelligently)as a soldier: your comrades and officers were guys you knew and loved.

What happened in Vietnam is it became a machine, with privates to colonels and everyone in between rotating in and out like the breeze. It led to privates who had more experience (and more understanding of the enemy) than the lieutenants, captains, and colonels leading him. It's one of the biggest reasons pointed to for the high fragging rate in Vietnam.

It's scary to think this policy has been given new life. It's scarier to think it's not getting much attention.

This is a serious, serious issue tactically, and a massive sign of just how thin our army is stretched.