National Guard


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Faithless
November 27, 2004, 09:19 AM
Guardsmen Say They're Facing Iraq Ill-Trained

Troops from California describe a prison-like, demoralized camp in New Mexico that's short on gear and setting them up for high casualties.

By Scott Gold, Times Staff Writer

DOÑA ANA RANGE, N.M. — Members of a California Army National Guard battalion preparing for deployment to Iraq said this week that they were under strict lockdown and being treated like prisoners rather than soldiers by Army commanders at the remote desert camp where they are training.

More troubling, a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one soldier said.

They said they believed their treatment and training reflected an institutional bias against National Guard troops by commanders in the active-duty Army, an allegation that Army commanders denied. The 680 soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment were activated in August and are preparing for deployment at Doña Ana, a former World War II prisoner-of-war camp 20 miles west of its large parent base, Ft. Bliss, Texas.

Members of the battalion, headquartered in Modesto, said in two dozen interviews that they were allowed no visitors or travel passes, had scant contact with their families and that morale was terrible. "I feel like an inmate with a weapon," said Cpl. Jajuane Smith, 31, a six-year Guard veteran from Fresno who works for an armored transport company when not on active duty.

Several soldiers have fled Doña Ana by vaulting over rolls of barbed wire that surround the small camp, the soldiers interviewed said. Others, they said, are contemplating going AWOL, at least temporarily, to reunite with their families for Thanksgiving. Army commanders said the concerns were an inevitable result of the decision to shore up the strained military by turning "citizen soldiers" into fully integrated, front-line combat troops. About 40% of the troops in Iraq are either reservists or National Guard troops.

Lt. Col. Michael Hubbard of Ft. Bliss said the military must confine the soldiers largely to Doña Ana to ensure that their training is complete before they are sent to Iraq. "A lot of these individuals are used to doing this two days a month and then going home," Hubbard said. "Now the job is 24/7. And they experience culture shock."

But many of the soldiers interviewed said the problems they cited went much deeper than culture shock. And military analysts agree that tensions between active-duty Army soldiers and National Guard troops have been exacerbated as the war in Iraq has required dangerous and long-term deployments of both.

The concerns of the Guard troops at Doña Ana represent the latest in a series of incidents involving allegations that a two-tier system has shortchanged reservist and National Guard units compared with their active-duty counterparts. In September, a National Guard battalion undergoing accelerated training at Ft. Dix, N.J., was confined to barracks for two weeks after 13 soldiers reportedly went AWOL to see family before shipping out for Iraq.

Last month, an Army National Guard platoon at Camp Shelby, Miss., refused its orders after voicing concerns about training conditions and poor leadership. In the most highly publicized incident, in October, more than two dozen Army reservists in Iraq refused to drive a fuel convoy to a town north of Baghdad after arguing that the trucks they had been given were not armored for combat duty.

At Doña Ana, soldiers have questioned their commanders about conditions at the camp, occasionally breaking the protocol of formation drills to do so. They said they had been told repeatedly that they could not be trusted because they were not active-duty soldiers — though many of them are former active-duty soldiers. "I'm a cop. I've got a career, a house, a family, a college degree," said one sergeant, who lives in Southern California and spoke, like most of the soldiers, on condition of anonymity.

"I came back to the National Guard specifically to go to Baghdad, because I believed in it, believed in the mission. But I have regretted every day of it. This is demoralizing, demeaning, degrading. And we're supposed to be ambassadors to another country? We're supposed to go to war like this?" Pentagon and Army commanders rejected the allegation that National Guard or reserve troops were prepared for war differently than their active-duty counterparts.

"There is no difference," said Lt. Col. Chris Rodney, an Army spokesman in Washington. "We are, more than ever, one Army. Some have to come from a little farther back — they have a little less training. But the goal is to get everybody the same." The Guard troops at Doña Ana were scheduled to train for six months before beginning a yearlong deployment. They recently learned, however, that the Army planned to send them overseas a month early — in January, most likely — as it speeds up troop movement to compensate for a shortage of full-time, active-duty troops.

Hubbard, the officer at Ft. Bliss, also said conditions at Doña Ana were designed to mirror the harsh and often thankless assignments the soldiers would take on in Iraq. That was an initiative launched by Brig. Gen. Joseph Chavez, commander of the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade, which includes the 184th Regiment.

The program has resulted in everything from an alcohol ban to armed guards at the entrance to Doña Ana, Hubbard said. "We are preparing you and training you for what you're going to encounter over there," Hubbard said. "And they just have to get used to it."

Military analysts, however, questioned whether the soldiers' concerns could be attributed entirely to the military's attempt to mirror conditions in Iraq. For example, the soldiers say that an ammunition shortage has meant that they have often conducted operations firing blanks.

"The Bush administration had over a year of planning before going to war in Iraq," said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who has acted as a defense lawyer in military courts. "An ammunition shortage is not an exercise in tough love."

Turley said that in every military since Alexander the Great's, there have been "gripes from grunts" but that "the complaints raised by these National Guardsmen raise some significant and troubling concerns."

The Guard troops in New Mexico said they wanted more sophisticated training and better equipment. They said they had been told, for example, that the vehicles they would drive in Iraq would not be armored, a common complaint among their counterparts already serving overseas.

They also said the bulk of their training had been basic, such as first aid and rifle work, and not "theater-specific" to Iraq. They are supposed to be able to use night-vision goggles, for instance, because many patrols in Iraq take place in darkness. But one group of 200 soldiers trained for just an hour with 30 pairs of goggles, which they had to pass around quickly, soldiers said.

The soldiers said they had received little or no training for operations that they expected to undertake in Iraq, from convoy protection to guarding against insurgents' roadside bombs. One said he has put together a diary of what he called "wasted days" of training. It lists 95 days, he said, during which the soldiers learned nothing that would prepare them for Iraq. Hubbard had said he would make two field commanders available on Tuesday to answer specific questions from the Los Angeles Times about the training, but that did not happen.

The fact that the National Guardsmen have undergone largely basic training suggests that Army commanders do not trust their skills as soldiers, said David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland. That tension underscores a divide that has long existed between "citizen soldiers" and their active-duty counterparts, he said. "These soldiers should be getting theater-specific training," Segal said. "This should not be an area where they are getting on-the-job training. The military is just making a bad situation worse."

The soldiers at Doña Ana emphasized their support for the war in Iraq. "In fact, a lot of us would rather go now rather than stay here," said one, a specialist and six-year National Guard veteran who works as a security guard in his civilian life in Southern California. The soldiers also said they were risking courts-martial or other punishment by speaking publicly about their situation. But Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Dominguez, 45, one of the soldiers who allowed his identity to be revealed, said he feared that if nothing changed, men in his platoon would be killed in Iraq.

Dominguez is a father of two — including a 13-month-old son named Reagan, after the former president — and an employee of a mortgage bank in Alta Loma, Calif. A senior squad leader of his platoon, Dominguez said he had been in the National Guard for 20 years. "Some of us are going to die there, and some of us are going to die unnecessarily because of the lack of training," he said. "So I don't care. Let them court-martial me. I want the American public to know what is going on. My men are guilty of one thing: volunteering to serve their country. And we are at the end of our rope."

LA times (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-guard25nov25,0,7278305.story?coll=la-home-headlines)

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Battlespace
November 27, 2004, 09:32 AM
LA Times - say no more. :cuss:

The owners of The High Road should be careful on allowing full quotes. Another site, Free Republic, was sued by the LA Times and others for allowing this.

Faithless
November 27, 2004, 09:35 AM
If its a problem I'll delete it, and leave the link.

CarlS
November 27, 2004, 09:57 AM
It's really hard to judge the merit of this story. Having served both in the active Army and in the National Guard, I know that, institutionally, some disdain exists in the active Army toward reserve soldier. Even General Powell revealed some of this bias. Most of it this bias stems from competition for the slice of the defense budget. Sometimes senior Army leaders who have this bias will let it affect the way Guard and Reserve soldiers and units are treated. Fortunately, in my experience, this is the exception and not the rule.

In the first Gulf War, the Army tried very hard not to use Guard and Reserve combat soldiers. They did readily use Guard field artillery units who performed very well. To keep from using a brigade of Ga NG soldiers which was a roundout brigade to the active duty 24th Infantry Division (mechanized). Roundout means that when the 24th division was mobilized, the Ga brigade should have been called up and deployed as part of the division.

What happened was the Ga brigade was called up and sent to Ft Irwin, CA, the National Training Center (NTC). The previous year this brigade had completed a training rotation at the NTC. In the process of all of this, the active Army stripped the Ga brigade of its equipment – tanks, personnel carriers, truck, etc. – and left the 24th’s deadlined and faulty equipment for the Ga brigade. The Ga brigade had better maintained equipment than the 24th division and far fewer pieces on deadline. There are a lot of reasons for this and it is not an unusual scenario. Anyway, once the brigade arrived at NTC, the Army changed the rules and scoring ensuring that the Ga brigade could not deploy and serve as part of the 24th division. Instead the Army mobilized an infantry training brigade from Ft Benning (which had no desert warfare training) and rounded out the 24th Division with this brigade from Ft Benning.

The identical scenario happened to a Louisiana National Guard infantry brigade that was a round out brigade to an active duty division from Ft Hood.

Why? Competition for $$$$. If the NG combat units had been used as they were designed to be used by the war planners in the pentagon and had gone into combat with their active duty counterparts, there was/is a danger that congress would notice the capability of the NG combat units. The NG trains two days a month and two or three weeks annual training each year. If, with minimal train up on mobilization, these units performed as well as their active duty counterparts, congress might decide that it is cheaper to fund reserve units than active duty units and get the same bang for the buck. That could potentially reduce the funding for the active component in favor of the reserve components.

I have observed that the Army is only service with this mindset. The Air Force has fully integrated their Reserve and Air National Guard units in with the active component as have the Navy and Marine Corps.

tulsamal
November 27, 2004, 11:20 AM
If it was a bunch of 18-21 year old privates with no active duty experience that were saying all this stuff, I would just figure they didn't know what "being in the Army" was really all about. But the fact that many of those folks are former active duty makes me listen. I don't think there is any doubt that the Army is stretched quite far right now on both people and equipment. Whether having "armored trucks" is a critical element is probably related to where they will actually be sent. Our local NG unit went to Afghanistan. They stayed mostly in one place. For _their_ mission they probably didn't need all the high speed stuff the front line units are getting. I _assume_ this NG unit is going to get deployed to one of the "low intensity" parts of Iraq but I have to admit I would be unhappy as well if I was in their boots. And I understand the Army worrying about soldiers going AWOL but it's just wrong to fail to offer any holiday leave for soldiers who are going to be going into harm's way in a couple months. At least allow some long weekends so soldiers can say goodbye to families! That sort of policy just _leads_ to people going AWOL!

And let's all just admit that we cut the conventional Army back too far in the last 10-15 years and reactivate 2-3 active divisions! (We deactivated 6 divisions in the 90's.)

Gregg

(Former E-5 in the Active Army and E-6 in the Active Reserve. 11B30X)

WT
November 27, 2004, 11:53 AM
Back in the 1960's we could take a draftee and give him 4 months of training and then throw him into an infantry unit in Vietnam for 12-15 months. Nowadays, we take experienced soldiers, give them 6 months more of training and they still aren't ready. Something very wrong with that picture.

I think we should disband the NG although it would probably take a Constitutional amendment to do so. Our local guard detachment was not ready and that seems to be the norm around the country.

No wonder that CANG unit was locked up. Seems like a lot of guys went AWOL to suckle at mommy's teat. Willing to take the NG money but not willing to do what is expected of them.

I gather it came as a surprise to some NG that Soldiers sometimes miss holidays with their families. Part of the job description.

CarlS
November 27, 2004, 12:52 PM
WT,

Your post reflects the attitude on the part of some active duty soldiers toward the Guard that I was addressing in my previous post. I think a lot of this attitude came from the Viet Nam era when the Guard and Reserve were not used - a political decision on LBJ's part.

Back in the 1960's we could take a draftee and give him 4 months of training and then throw him into an infantry unit in Vietnam for 12-15 months. Nowadays, we take experienced soldiers, give them 6 months more of training and they still aren't ready. Something very wrong with that picture.
As an infantry soldier of the '60's, I agree with the first part of your statement. I do not agree with the second part. Infantry tasks are more complex today and there is more use of high speed, tech equipment. Even active duty units go through intense training prior to deployment and then further train in theater before they go on line. Since active duty soldiers can train every working day all year long, it is logical to expect that soldiers who train only 38 days per year, and still have accomplish all of the paperwork, documentation, and mainteneance of their active duty counterparts, would need a little more ramp up training upon mobilization. This says nothing the quality or lack of quality of Guard and Reserve soldiers.

I notice that you said nothing about Army Rreserve soldiers in your comments about Guard soldiers.

No wonder that CANG unit was locked up. Seems like a lot of guys went AWOL to suckle at mommy's teat. Willing to take the NG money but not willing to do what is expected of them.
I did not read in the posted article that the CA Guard soldiers did not want to or were not willing to do what is expected of them. The article stated that they wanted meaningful training and the proper equipment with which to do what is expected of them - the same thing that active duty soldiers want.

Over half of the FL ARNG has been mobilized and deployed with two infantry battalions going to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. There were no problems. The units did their missions well and took casualties and bled right along side of their active duty counterparts. Of these three battalions, one required a lot of ramp up training. This battalion is from a large metro area and does not have access to training areas that an infantry unit needs. Is that a fault of the soldiers? Does that mean they are second class?

I have son currently serving in Iraq in the active Army. He is an OH-58D driver. His younger brother was an AH-64 driver in the FL Guard. He was killed in a crash while training to deploy to Bosnia - mechanical failure, no pilot nor maintenance error. Was he less of a committed soldier than is his older brother? He was a college student called up out of college and he willingly and eagerly joined his unit.

I think your characterization of the Guard (and Reserve) soldiers is grossly unfair.

Langenator
November 27, 2004, 01:55 PM
I have to wonder how much of that is unit, not NG or Reserve, specific. The bulk of the NG's funding does come from Uncle Sam, but some does come from the State. CA has been having serious budget issues in recent years, and I can't imagine their NG units being a huge priority.

The Washington ANG, another Separate Enhanced Brigade of tanks and mech infantry, was mobilized about a year ago and deployed to Iraq in Jan-Feb after training at Yakima, Ft Lewis, and (I think) NTC. I don't recall hearing that they were having problems, except for a shortage of body armor, but that was Army-wide, not just the Guard units.

JNC
November 27, 2004, 09:37 PM
I was active Army for 4 years. I served in Iraq 12 months as a Sergeant E-5 and just recently was discharged from the Army. My brother is in that unit that was quoted in the article. Some of those men are being sent to most likely a hotspot as they are an air assault infantry company with the more advanced equipment and training.

It's true that there is not always equality among Reserve/NG and Active duty soldiers. One of the things about this article are that some parts of it are just plain wrong because the media often doesn't know what the heck they are talking about. However, the shortage of equipment and vehicles is definitely true. They've had to pass off vehicles and NVGs because they only had enough for 1 platoon to train with at a time. They don't even have any vehicle weapons mounts. They also have spent wasted time doing IMT and other basic training type things. I'm not sure how much of it is just their own brigade/battalion choice and how much comes from outside of that scope.

Many of the soldiers in that unit are not 18-year-old kids and some have already served in Iraq and have volunteered to go back. Many are in their late 20s, 30s, some 40s. Some are ex-Marines and some are prior service active Army.

I agree with CarlS, they haven't complained that they have to go to Iraq and perform their duty. They are complaining that the training they have been getting is substandard and in some ways insulting, and the way they are being treated is second class. There is a little bit of downtime where there isn't any training going on, but the only actual days they've had off is just 2 days for Thanksgiving in the past 2-3 months -- no weekends or passes. No civvies, no drinking, no off post priveleges, only 2 hot meals per day that are not even of chow hall standard (which isn't that great to begin with). They're expected to live in crowded tents and huts for 6 months in these kinds of conditions. This is the last six months before they leave for war, knowing full well that some will never come back, and this is how you're treated? I would be pissed off too.

JNC
- BSM
- PH

Sodbuster
November 27, 2004, 11:50 PM
Along with downsizing the military in personnel, TPTB also downsized the vocabulary. "Prior enlistment" once meant something, I guess it doesn't any longer.

Rembrandt
November 28, 2004, 02:01 AM
WaaaaahWaaaaahWaaaah.....what a bunch of cry babies. "My living conditions aren't very nice....and they make me follow orders I don't like"......maybe you can get a purple heart for your owieees to make you feel better. What a bunch of pathetic whinners, grow up.

The living conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq are not the Holiday Inn....the military is prepareing these whinners for what they can expect when hitting the sand. Guy's in my son's unit (Afghanistan) haven't had a hot shower or clean clothes in nearly 5 months. Hot chow is rare, and they sleep in cold/hot tents. Those guys are acting like men and fighting the enemy with what they have....not crying over their girl friends picture. Damn proud of the men serving and fighting the terrorists.....have nothing but contempt for the whinners.

CarlS
November 28, 2004, 07:36 AM
"My living conditions aren't very nice...."

Rembrandt,

The point is not the living conditions; it is equity of treatment. When an active duty unit is preparing and training for deployment for deployment, the Army does not move them into tents. They train hard and put in long hours preparing their equipment for shipment - but they go home most nights and have time with their families. As a senior NCO (active duty), I never did see the point in repetitive training in how to be miserable. I could learn how to be miserable very quickly without the need to be repeatedly trained in it.

Guard and Reserve units almost never have a full TO&E of equipment. And the more expensive a line items is, such as NVG's, the fewer of these a reserve unit has. Even high priority units such as SF and aviation do not have have all the equipment called for by the TO&E. For the non Army follks, To&E is Table of Organization and Equipment, the docudment by which a unit is manned and equipped.

If we are going to mobilize a unit for combat, we owe to the soldiers to provide the proper equipment and solid, good, meaningful training. The Army is a fault for not making plans for that and congress is at fault for not providing adequate funding.

Rembrandt
November 28, 2004, 09:31 AM
My point is that these whinners don't see the bigger picture, the Pentagon isn't interested in finding people to fill body bags...they are doing a pretty good job of supplying resources to where it's needed most. Sounds like the whinners are micro-managing things outside their pay grade.

My son's is in a Guard unit, at first they didn't have the same up-to-date equipment as regular Army...got sent to Fort Hood and trained for their deployment, not the greatest in living conditions but they did their job and made the best with what they had.

They used Toyota pickups and SUV's to patrol for insurgents till they were supplied with armor plated Humvee's. The Pentagon is doing everything it can to make sure these guys are well equipped and well trained and come home to their families....ironic, now the regular Army is jealous because his Guard unit has better equipment. Nothing unusual here, this goes back and forth and has for generations.

His men have been under fire many times, taken out terrorists and made a difference. The story you won't hear on the news...the locals like American's and are appreciative of what we are doing.

CarlS
November 28, 2004, 09:55 AM
They used Toyota pickups and SUV's to patrol for insurgents till they were supplied with armor plated Humvee's. The Pentagon is doing everything it can to make sure these guys are well equipped and well trained and come home to their families....ironic, now the regular Army is jealous because his Guard unit has better equipment. Nothing unusual here, this goes back and forth and has for generations.

And that is the travesty I am talking about. We should never commit our troops to combat (unless it is a dire emergency) without the proper equipment. The blame lies on the shoulders of Congress. They decide on the budget.

Most certainly, some active duty units are as ill equipped, as are the reserve units. And some high priority reserve units are equipped better than most active duty units. My point is don't send them to combat until they have, at least, most of their proper equipment. And don't waste their time calling them up for training if they don't have the equipment with which to train. Get the equipment in place and then call them up. With limited resources (dollars) the Army has elected to fund manpower over equipping that manpower. I'm not criticizing that approach; that is the reality of cutbacks.

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