Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Fixing the Army (VI): How can officers hold NCOs to standard if they don’t know what sergeants are supposed to be doing?

By “Petronius Arbiter” Best Defense department of Army affairs Training   Increase course length in both officer and enlisted IMT. This is the critical time in officer and Soldier development. Purpose of doing so largely is Soldier and leader confidence; probably the most important ingredients of soldiering and competent units. Train the officer corps to ...

546588_111129_Gray_111_-_Vertebral_column-coloured2.jpg
546588_111129_Gray_111_-_Vertebral_column-coloured2.jpg

By "Petronius Arbiter"

Best Defense department of Army affairs

Training

By “Petronius Arbiter

Best Defense department of Army affairs

Training

 

  • Increase course length in both officer and enlisted IMT. This is the critical time in officer and Soldier development. Purpose of doing so largely is Soldier and leader confidence; probably the most important ingredients of soldiering and competent units.
  • Train the officer corps to know what their enlisted Soldiers and NCOs are trained to do. In doing this it will require officer involvement in NCO training. It will require officer involvement in NCO training development. We as an Army are a total anomaly in the military community in not having officers involved in training our NCOs. Other ground forces shake their heads in disbelief at this issue. It is difficult for an officer to hold an NCO to a standard if he does not know what the NCO is trained to or expected to be able to do.
  • Restore “Crawl, Walk, Run” in the minds of all trainers in the Army. It is simple, easily understood and long standing great guidance on how to train. All training should be “multi-echelon” in order to better utilize all training time available. This phrase has taken a back seat for some reason. Restore to the training vernacular.
  • Soldiers learn by seeing and doing, over and over again. “Performance Oriented” training is another time tested way to do training correctly.
  • Limit (I say limit, not stop) actual firing of large caliber weapons systems. Simulations for all weapons systems are key. Rapidly expedite fielding of simulations for mortars, artillery, heavy machine guns, etc. There is great fiscal responsibility in doing this and doing so will also produce better trained fire support organizations. A mortar platoon simulations would probably pay for itself in first month of use; likewise the same applies with other large caliber weapons systems.
  • Pathfinder and Air Assault produce similar skills. If so, consolidate the two into one course, determining what the skills, knowledge and experience are needed for the Soldier. You pick the badge. Or simply eliminate one or the other, your choice.
  • Reinstitute calling CGSC, the “Staff College” or “Command and General Staff College.” ILE sounds like a disease and definitely in not a descriptive term for that level of schooling.
  • Bring back the bayonet. My guess is there were some in Afghanistan who had wished they had it. Bayonet training instills aggression in Soldiers. There are times, especially in STABOPS, where a weapon with fixed bayonets has a tremendous impact on people getting the right message. But, if you don’t even carry a bayonet, it is real hard to instill that “cold steel” feeling in someone when you give the command “Fix Bayonets.”
  • Examine closely the relationship between constant roadmarching and disability. Does roadmarching make you better, more prepared or does it debilitate your body? Can you better prepare for roadmarch requirements by other, less abusive forms of fitness? I think so.
  • Restore Soldier traditions; walking on left of superior, reporting criteria, stand at attention when talking to an officer, parade rest when talking to senior NCO, etc.
  • Establish a Skill at Arms course that will make our junior Officers and NCOs experts in weapons systems, ranges and training. Take a lesson from the Brits on this one.
  • Make Digital Training Management System (DTMS) work for the commander, not the commander work for DTMS. Fix it and they will use it. Don’t fix it and they won’t.
  • Restore retreat formations to instill Soldier understanding of tradition. 
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.