Wednesday :: Jan 5, 2005

Is this supporting the troops?

by soccerdad

Two pieces on Soldiers For The Truth a website run by Colonel David Hackworth (U.S. Army, ret.), calls into question the training received by the troops in preparation for deployment to Iraq. Both relate the experiences of the F Company, 425th Infantry, Long Range Surveillance, Michigan Army National Guard that has long been an elite, airborne-trained, three-time volunteer fighting force, the only airborne-qualified unit in the Army National Guard

How they fell from glory is a stain on the proud history of the U.S. Army and clearly reflects the Pentagon’s inability to meet its mission goals in Iraq with a force largely constituted of Reservists and National Guardsmen who found themselves under-trained, under-equipped, and unprepared for the rigors of battling the Iraqi insurgents.

The first, Training Failures Left Guard Unit Unready for Iraq, details their experience at Fort Bliss undergoing “Theater Immersion Training".

....they found instead what one later described as a “circus of stupidity” at the Texas base. If the troops of are to be believed, they were immersed in a bureaucratic tangle of ill-prepared quarters, non-existent training situations, very little practice ammunition, no hand grenades, limited range time, broken trucks and equipment, and cast-off weapons they rarely if ever had the chance to fire.
This is how one grizzled sergeant from F Company, a former U.S. Army Ranger and Special Forces-qualified soldier, described his unit’s subsequent training experience at Fort Bliss: “Bullshit.”

From the unofficial After Action Report (AAR)

One paragraph about the availability of training ammunition described in the AAR sums up the frustrating situation in which F Company found itself:

“Ammo for training is key when training for combat.”

“We are not a CS (combat support) or a CSS (combat services support) unit: We are Infantry – ‘we fight.’ I cannot put it any simpler than that. While here, we fired 24 rounds to zero and 40 rounds to qualify. We were then given 120 rounds of blank ammo for the entire SASO training block. Who in their right mind signed off on this?

“We have been called away from our homes and families for hostile operations. We are owed a chance to be trained properly and given the tools to obtain that objective. I, and all the soldiers resent the fact that we are just ‘checking the blocks’ to be moved into theater. As an 11B [infantry MOS] we are suppose to fire the AT-4, use a claymore mine, throw hand grenades, fire the [Mk-]203 grenade launcher, fire our crew-served weapons, fire the Mk-19 grenade launcher, fire a .50 cal machine gun; almost none of which has taken place. While in theater we will be expected to execute any number of tasks, most will involve infantry duties and accomplishing the bare minimum is not an option when my soldiers are in the game. May God have mercy on your souls, you miserable wretches.”

A response from a soldier in Iraq

“The final point [is] that the part-time soldier comes at his countries calling at a moments notice. [He] gives up his civilian life, leaves his family and more then likely will lose his job to come here. Some have left life and limb in this accursed place. Then to add insult to injury, he is given next to no training, poor equipment and expected to execute a mission as well as the active component. If he falls short he can expect to be court-martialed or face lesser forms of military justice. The officers in charge can rest easy because the enlisted part timers will take the fall.”

A second article, Broken Weapons, Ammo Shortages, Latrine Security, details further problems.

Out of 21 M-60 machine guns receipted to F Company, 13 were either below minimum standards or completely inoperable, the AAR said. Only three of the essential weapons were completely functional. And this was after the weapons had been returned from repairs at the Fort Bliss support facility known as the “CUBE.” Some of the problems included broken firing pins, worn ejectors, cracked barrels, weak operating rod springs, broken locking lugs and a host of lesser evils. Several M-9 pistols and 20 of the unit’s M-203 grenade launchers also had deficiencies after being repaired. F Company’s armorer was able to fix most of the deficiencies with scrounged parts and experience, but several of the crew-served weapons were shipped still broken, the AAR added.

One senior F Company NCO said that the “weapons were turned in with 2404 and 2407 forms [repair/maintenance request forms] completely and correctly filled out. These noted all deficiencies and all weapons were returned untouched with the exception of one or two weapons.”

Ditto for F Company’s five-ton trucks and Humvees. Almost 50 percent of them broke down almost within sight of McGregor Range while on a test run before the unit deployed.
“We were told the decision had been made to throw out our two-and-a-half months of wasted ‘training time’ at Ft Bliss. We would have additional training sessions in the country of Kuwait. We would also have access to firing ranges and ammo to fire our crew-served weapons, which up to that point we did not have a chance to fire,” one soldier reported. “Apparently the demand for our unit in theater was so great that we were flown directly into Balad, Iraq. We were forced to drive via convoy to our Forward Operation Base at Abu Ghraib prison. We drove in Iraq for the first month with no armored vehicles, some of which had no doors. Many of our crew-served weapons had not even been test fired as promised.”

A statement signed by several soldiers and passed up the command line in Iraq reads, in part, as follows:

“Bottom line, the Army put out a call for our unit and the job it is qualified to do and we are not close to doing it. The citizens and soldiers were taken away from their state duties and their homes on a deception from the Department of the Army. The Army only wanted a crew of mindless fools that is willing to be worked to death and sent to their doom without so much as a word of complaint. The morale of the soldiers is destroyed and hundreds of millions of dollars in men and training is going to walk out the door upon rotation back to the United States. We can only hope and pray that we all survive to have that chance and pleasure to slam that door and vote with our feet and give the next sucker our seat.”

soccerdad :: 8:21 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!