Posted by Lexington Green on October 15th, 2003 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Phil Carter cites to an Army Times story about how the Army is going to require everybody to be a competent warrior first, and do whatever other specialty they are assigned, second. This is something of a novelty in the Army, but much less so in the Marine Corps.
Carter is a real Army guy, and I’m an armchair warrior only. But I have been doing a lot of reading lately and a thought occurs to me which Carter did not address.
The Army, and all the services, have in recent years talked about manouever warfare, and reconnaisance pull rather than command push, and Sun Tzu and deception, surprise and indirection, and blitzkreig and aufstragtaktik, and moving away from attritional warfare. This is all good stuff. Tommy Franks ran Gulf War II on these principles, to excellent effect.
But. This approach creates its own unique burdens. If you make an effort to attack where the enemy is weak, like the German stosstruppen of 1918, and you bypass enemy strongpoints, and leave the follow-on wave to mop up, then you necessarily make all elements of the Army into front-line elements. If the tanks and heavy units are supposed to race past the enemy like water flowing around rocks to make deep penetrations, then the columns of trucks behind them are not going to be pulling up behind a trench line with a “front” toward the enemy, and unloading their supplies in a safe zone. Rather, these logistic elements will be operating in a fluid situation where (hopefully) discombobulated but still armed and alive elements of the enemy are still running around. Or, as someone put it, if you attack where the enemy is weak, then it must mean that your own weakest forces are going to come into contact with the enemy where he is still strong. The Germans in World War II faced this problem, with their armored spearheads leaving large partisan formations operating in their rear throughout the war. It occurs to me that the training and expectations of “rear echelon” troops will have to change. This raises two further issues. One, will we need to give up on the idea that women in the military are in “non-combat” roles. That seems inevitable. Two, will we need to equip our support services with more robust, combat-worth equipment, i.e. tracked and armored vehicles rather than soft-skinned trucks? This one I haven’t seen anybody write about. The Army leadership seems to be trying to take these challenges seriously. Good.