‘Every soldier a rifleman’
Phil Carter points out that the new Army Chief wants to make a fundamental change in the way that the Army trains its personnel. Namely, everyone, regardless of specialty, will get good combat training.
“Everybody in the United States Army’s gotta be a soldier first,” Gen. Peter Schoomaker told reporters during an Oct. 7 roundtable meeting with reporters in Washington.
The specialization of jobs in the Army pulled the service away from the notion that every soldier must be grounded in basic combat skills, he said. But Iraq has demonstrated that no matter what a soldier’s military occupational specialty is, he must be able to conduct basic combat tasks in order to defend himself and his unit.
“We’ve dismounted artillerymen in Iraq, and we’ve got them performing ground functions, infantry functions, MP functions,” Schoomaker said. “Everybody’s got to be able to do that — Everybody’s a rifleman first.”
In a nutshell, this is a Good Thing. Not really sure how/why we got away from it, but I think two things in the Iraq campaign have illustrated why every soldier needs to be a soldier.
First, the maintenance group that was ambushed in the early days of the invasion apparently didn’t have enough working weapons or the training to resist effectively. Getting properly trained on the weapons and basic tactics could have made all the difference there. Simply being more familiar with the craft of fighting would probably guarantee that the weapons were at least clean and ready, which wasn’t the case.
Second, there are a lot of instances where artillery and armor units are on foot, providing basic security and patrol forces in Iraq. I think that we need more MP and Civil Affairs soldiers in the military, but most of the battlefields in this war are going to require this type of after combat support. The front-line combat units need to be available for front-line combat. We don’t want any of our highly trained and motivated warriors getting burned out by standing guard, and the other areas need to chip in when and where they can.
The type of training that Schoomaker is proposing could increase the effectiveness of our forces immensely. If the non-combat types can not only stand guard and man checkpoints, but also provide basic security for themselves, our top-notch fighters can do what they’re trained to do.
Now if we could just get everyone a flack jacket…