Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Death by "surge" mismanagement

A few weeks back, John Murtha had the audacity to suggest service members should be fully trained and/or rested before being deployed to Iraq. Republicans, unable to explain why untrained and unrested soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors should be sent Iraq, instead played with the words "slow bleed" like children with a new toy.

I hope they're pleased with themselves.
Two soldiers killed in Iraq in February may have died as a result of friendly fire, Army officials said Wednesday, not from enemy fire, as the press reported.

The military suspected friendly fire later in February but did not inform the dead soldiers' families of these new doubts.

One of the soldiers died just hours after arriving in Iraq -- and was one of those troops rushed to the country in the "surge" who did not receive full training. ...

On February 9, the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News reported: "At least 143 soldiers joined Fort Stewart's 1st Brigade too late to participate in a final combat exercise before their units deployed to Iraq. Last week, one of those soldiers - Pvt. Matthew T. Zeimer, 18 - was the first from the brigade to be killed when he was hit by enemy fire in Ramadi, the stronghold of Iraq's Sunni insurgency.

"Zeimer arrived at Fort Stewart on Dec. 18 after basic training and deployed to Iraq just a few weeks later. He missed the brigade's intensive four-week mission rehearsal in October when more than 1,300 trainers and Iraqi role-players came to the post as part of the most realistic training program the Army offers for Iraq operations.

"The fact some of the brigade's 4,000 soldiers missed that training raises questions about how well the Army is preparing troops for war in the face of accelerated and repeat deployments."

Two days before that, the same newspaper reported that "some Iraq veterans in the 1st Brigade have expressed concerns about their younger counterparts missing the mission rehearsal. 'The training was good but some guys came in after that. They're basically going straight from basic training into Iraq,' said Staff Sgt. Jason Massey last month, before saying goodbye to his family for a third combat tour."

At a late-February press briefing, White House spokesman Tony Snow was asked about reports that two Army brigades were being sent to Iraq without any desert training. His reply was widely quoted at the time: "Well, but, they can get desert training elsewhere, like in Iraq." (Emphasis Nitpicker's)
Update: "Greyhawk" proves to be an idiot, by arguing "Zeimer's Brigade wasn't part of the surge." Then you follow a bunch of links and get to this post, which lists the units which were planning on deploying already and which were part of the so-called "surge." Funny thing is, Zeimer's brigade isn't listed anywhere on those lists. My bet would be that they deployed with the H&HC and, according to your information, probably deployed earlier than the "late spring/early summer" Greyhawk deployment as planned, which, yeah, makes them part of the fucking surge. Greyhawk points out in comments that, yep, Zeimer's unit did deploy when it was supposed to. I was wrong to say it was part of the surge (which I referred to only in my headline). Rather, it seems the unit was just another victim of the Bush administration's "12-division strategy for a 10-division Army."

As for Greyhawk's whine that there's a "difference between missing an exercise and not being trained," I agree, but as someone who went through training similar to that which Zeimer missed, I think it was damn useful. That training provides you with the basic information about how to act in a theater, while boot camp only provides you with how to generally act in the Army. The pre-deployment training is basically a giant rock drill for the whole deployment.

For those of you with no military experience, imagine your kid gets her driver's license having spent only the bare minimum of time behind the wheel of a car. Wouldn't you feel better if, before she got out on the interstate, you could give her four weeks of realistic test driving with a car made of rubber, highly-skilled instructors and ready access to the latest info on how to survive in different types of traffic?

Now add guns. And IEDs.


Blogger Greyhawk said...

Strike two - but keep swingin'.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Xeus said...

I think I missed some of the conversation here, but new soldiers are always streaming into units. Some will always miss their pre-deployment training for whatever reason, under the current system. Even the fact that it's supposed to be mandatory for new soldiers to take a basic combat class before they deploy is not always followed.

Until they start training the new kids while they're in replacement units, this will continue to happen.

While I don't disagree with the stretching of the military's limits, I don't really link this soldier's death to a lack of training based on current information.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Point taken, Xeus, but what's telling to me is the SSG Massey's obvious concern about his junior soldier's preparedness. To me, that speaks volumes.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Xeus said...

Yes, the burden is being placed on the NCOs right now, just as with virtually everything else. They've been having to make training concessions for a while now... A new soldier is at the mercy of the quality of his immediate NCOs.

Everyone else (officers, policy-makers, Tony Snow) just sort of treats it like, "Oh, well, they'll pick it up as they go. Trial by fire and all that."

7:36 AM  

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