- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
It turns out that William T. Sherman, one of the best American generals ever, was no fan of the practice of rotation that the Army follows today.
Rather, like retired Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Robert Rush, he favored the World War II method of sending in new men to seasoned units. Sherman wrote that, "I believe that five hundred new men added to an old and experienced regiment were more valuable than a thousand men in the form of a new regiment, for the former by association with good, experienced captains, lieutenants and non-commissioned officers, soon became veterans, whereas the latter were generally unavailable for a year."
Sherman felt so strongly about this he took time out from the Vicksburg campaign to write a lengthy letter to his commander, General Grant, about this policy, with a request that his views be forwarded to President Lincoln.
I think Sherman and Rush are right, for commanders as well as the enlisted troops. When you have one-year rotations of units, no one "owns" a war. They get in and get out. One way to do it differently would be to have units assigned to rotate in and out every couple of years, perhaps with commanders from brigade up doing four-year stints to provide continuity. To do that, you’d need to give them months off every year, and so they’d need very strong XOs.
So it would be difficult. The personnel people will say too hard. But perhaps better to do difficult and win, than do easy and lose?
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |