An Army of Riflemen

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.

3 thoughts on “An Army of Riflemen”

  1. Absolutely. Back when I did my bit of service, truck drivers were required to get basic sniper training or anti-tank rocket launcher practice to help cover their load and passengers should their convoy come under fire. Desk jockeys were expected to run 10 miles every morning and to be decent shooters.

    In a way, the right model is not so different from American football teams with their specialized “units”. Offense, defense, special teams. The frontline obviously specializes in offensive tactics. But the boys behind must known defense cold. Not only for their own good as they supply and follow the frontline boys and run into bits and pieces of remnant, or even intact, enemy formations, but when and where the offensive line has to fall back, they could and should provide cover and limit the damage. If you got to retreat, being able to do so in an orderly and effective fashion is an invaluable asset. Won’t happen unless those helicopter crews, logistical teams and other bits and pieces that make the whole thing run can man the machine gun and throw a grenade properly. You might not be trained nor positioned as a quarterback, but being able to throw a pass can’t hurt you on the field.

  2. “truck drivers were required to get basic sniper training or anti-tank rocket launcher practice to help cover their load and passengers should their convoy come under fire. Desk jockeys were expected to run 10 miles every morning and to be decent shooters.”

    Now, if those comments were meant to apply to the U.S. Army then that is, perhaps, indeed, is quite likely, the most stunning and deranged bit of hyperbole that I have seen on the Ole Internet. Let me rephrase that and remark that, with apodictic certainty, I assure you, I guarantee you, double your time back and a brand new P-38, not only do truck drivers not get basic sniper training, even 11-Bs don’t, even Infantry Instructors don’t. If, in the entire history of armored warfare, a truck driver, or truck drivers, ever held back an advance of tanks, or a tank, with bazookas, LAWS, or anything similar, I would just like to say, “Numbah freaking One!” while pounding my right fist into my left palm repeatedly.

    Desk jockeys run 10 miles every day? I doubt if 10% of the US Army ever runs 10 miles even once in their entire lives, and that has been the case for at least the last 30 years, probably a lot longer than that, as in since the inception of the U.S. Army.

    You are normally a level-headed guy, but your bubbles are way outside the lines on this one. Ya done broke the glass.

  3. George, Sylvain is talking about his service in the French army.

    Maybe they are way badder hombres than we think?

Comments are closed.