Tag Archives: ARMY TRAINING

Is the Bradley due for upgunning?

Developed in the 1960s and 1970s, and entering service in the 1980s, the M2/M3 Bradley series of fighting vehicles was designed to counter first generation Soviet BMP and BTR series vehicles. As such, the Army equipped it with the 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun. The M242 performed very well against Russian and Chinese built armored vehicles in Desert Storm, and later in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But the threat is not static. More and more, infantry carriers and other armored vehicles are getting bigger and bigger, and carrying more and more armor. And small anti-tank missile teams are employing longer ranged missiles. The armor piercing ammunition for the M242 has been improved, but there is little room for growth. To achieve more armor penetration, the Bradley will simply need a larger gun. And to that end, the Army is experimenting with a 30mm autocannon.

The 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster II gun isn’t new. It’s been around in various forms for almost as long as its little 25mm brother. It was intended to be the main armament of the cancelled Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. And it is mounted as secondary armament on the Navy’s LCS and LPD-17 ships. Various foreign powers have evaluated or adopted it. So adapting it to the Bradley would seem to be a simple matter.

But it isn’t quite that simple.

The Bradley was designed with the smaller 25mm in mind. The size of the gun here wasn’t so important. The gun and its mount are in the gunhouse portion of the turret, above the hull of the vehicle proper. The size of the gunhouse itself wasn’t critical.

But the ammunition cans for the gun are stored inside the turret basket. That’s the part of the turret, the ammo system, turret drives, and support that extends down inside the vehicle, and rotates on a roller path on the bottom of the hull.  And the turret basket size, essentially its diameter, went far to fixing the exact size of the Bradley.

You can simply put a new turret on the Bradley, with the same size turret basket. The 30mm round isn’t that much larger than the 25mm. 25mm ammo is 13.7 centimeters long. The Bushmaster II 30mm ammo is 17.3cm long.

But that extra inch or so of length cuts into the crew space of the Bradley. Already fairly cramped when designed, the turret crew space has further been crowded by installation of additional electronics, fire control, and networking equipment. An inch doesn’t seem much, but even my relatively small 5’10” frame, when seated in the commanders seat, had my knees in uncomfortable contact with the ammunition cans.

We’ll see if the Army decides to pay to upgrade the Bradley, search instead for a whole new vehicle, or just continue to move along with what we have and hope for the best.

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, weapons

The Dearth of Black Combat Leaders

Last week, several papers carried stories about sociologists in the Army worried about the low percentage of black leaders, particularly at the battalion and brigade combat team level.

U.S. Army sociologists are worried that a lack of black officers leading its combat troops will have detrimental effect on minorities and lead to fewer black officers in top leadership posts.

“The issue exists. The leadership is aware of it,” Brig. Gen. Ronald Lewis told USA Today on Thursday. “The leadership does have an action plan in place. And it’s complicated.”

———–

The paper also noted that of the 238 West Point graduates commissioned to be infantry officers in 2012, only seven were black. One of the Army’s plans for addressing the issue will be to put more emphasis on recruiting and mentoring minority officers.

Let us set aside for the moment the question of whether the Army needs to have senior leadership ethnically proportionate to the population of either the Army or the nation at large.

Why is it that there are so few black field grade commanders?

Well, one author, writing under a pen name to avoid career suicide, addresses the topic.

In trying to resolve this issue the Army has gone through excruciating efforts to recruit more black officers into the combat arms. The Army has not failed, but has not made much progress. Previously, while I was in a position to observe the branch assignments of one of the Army’s largest commissioning sources, it was apparent to me that there was little interest from the majority of minority men in going into the combat arms. In particular, black me were significantly underrepresented in the infantry, armor and field artillery branches. Correspondingly, the ADA, signal and logistics branches were overrepresented. As for explanations, none could be found.

In a previous life I was in a position to observe the intake of initial-entry soldiers into the Army. It became apparent rapidly that minorities of all types and black soldiers, in particular, were underrepresented in combat arms. We instituted an analysis of why and obtained no cogent results. Often we asked members of high-school academia how we could get more black men to enlist for the combat arms. They had no answer. We asked them why they thought young black men were not coming into the combat arms and their best guess, and only a guess, was that the community was sending them to where they could best obtain a skill transferrable to civilian life. Being a member of rifle squad, an M1 tank gunner, or a gunner on an M198 crew did not transfer well to civilian life, according to them.

Read the whole thing, and the comments.

The skew in demographics is far less for senior NCOs. There’s plenty of black Command Sergeants Major. But even so, my anecdotal experience as  recruiter showed me that, while many young blacks were interested in service, they were mostly interested in improving their lot in life, via technical training in the service, or through the educational benefits. Many who did enlist in the combat arms did so mostly because low test scores precluded them from more skill oriented specialties.  Some of those soldiers found they enjoyed the combat arms, and decided to make a career of it. Many did their job for the term of their enlistment, and went on to use the GI Bill to pay for education. At any event, once they were in a unit, there wasn’t much to choose from between one soldier and another.  Was there racial tension in the units I served in? Some. Sometimes. But less than I see in the population as a whole.

On the officer side, as Petronius Arbiter notes, not many blacks commissioning in the Army want to be in the combat arms, in spite of a great deal of effort to convince them to go Infantry.

Combat Arms is the path to stars in the Army. It’s not the only path, but it is the most likely. But the journey from 2LT to GEN is a long one, and only a vanishingly small number of officers will rise that far. If you don’t start with a significant percentage of black officers in the combat arms, your chances of having any rise to the very top are miniscule. Not non-existent, just miniscule. That’s not racism. It’s statistics.

The Army could simply force larger numbers of black officers to accept commissions in the Infantry or other combat arms branches. That is likely to have serious consequences in the officer management system on two fronts within just a few short years. First, the obvious one. It’s extremely likely that many young black  officers, forced into a branch they didn’t seek, will leave at the earliest possible opportunity. And do we really want combat leaders who don’t want to be combat leaders? Second, there are plenty of young officers who do want to be in combat arms, and fight like heck to get the crossed rifles of the Infantry. If we force black officers to take slots in the Infantry, obviously, some officers who had sought that branch will be forced elsewhere. And they too will likely seek to leave at the end of their obligation, rather than continue as career officers. Both groups would likely show as a dip in the numbers of mid grade officers in their respective branches. Given the difficulties the Army is already having in that group of grades in retaining quality officers, exacerbating the problem is not wise.

Likely, the Army will stress diversity, attempt to increase recruiting among blacks (at an increased cost- lower propensity to join means higher recruiting costs), and, at worst, a unspoken quota system for those few black officers that do choose combat arms; in effect, if you’re black and breathing, you get promoted.

Ironically, as mentioned in the comments at FP, there was a time when the Army virtually excluded black officers from the combat arms, even for black regiments. To be black and in the Army in World War II was one thing, to be black and in the combat arms in the Army in World War II was a source of great pride. And ultimately, I’d argue that it was one of the germs of the civil rights movement. A man who will fight and shed blood just as red as a white man’s was obviously as due respect and equal treatment as the rest of the population.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING

Counseling

Kill me nao.

This

has been replaced with

This.

Stolen from Doctrine Man.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING

Albert Wedemeyer and the Victory Plan

The 1941 Victory Plan came up in the comments about the mobilization of divisions for World War II.  It’s a topic that’s little known outside historical circles, but one worth serious scholarly study. Unfortantely, I’m pressed for time, so you only get the briefest gloss on the subject.

The US Army had for some time anticipated that it might be drawn into the war in Europe. And it had sown the seeds of a massive mobilization of the Army. In 1940, for the first time, the Congress enacted a peacetime draft, greatly swelling the ranks of the Army. But at that time, while the Army might anticipate being drawn into war with Germany, the nation was still at peace, and there was still a very strong isolationist sentiment in the country. The first role of the swelling Army authorized in 1940 was to train an Army for the defense of our own coasts, and then to provide task forces for the defense of the Western Hemisphere, particularly in areas such as the Caribbean and the Panama Canal.

With the increased cooperation with Britain in 1941, however, it came to be understood that if the US did in fact find itself at war with Germany, it would have to come to grips with the German army and destroy it. That meant deploying across the Atlantic.

That summer, GEN George C. Marshall tasked an obscure Major, Albert C. Wedemeyer to come up with a plan, outlining what the national objectives were (based on political guidance and the assumption that we would in fact join with Britain to fight Germany), what would be needed to defeat Germany in terms of forces, and the production and manpower required to fulfill that need.

With all the officers senior to Wedemeyer, even in the Pentagon, Marshall’s choice seems a touch odd. But Wedemeyer was hardly your run of the mill Major. He had a few things going for him. First, the wave of promotions the Regular Army was about to undergo hadn’t quite caught up to him yet. But like virtually all Regulars, he would have seen some level of promotion soon in the expanding Army. Second, he had spent the 20s and 30s largely in schools, schools that had made him almost uniquely qualified to undertake this task.

Wedemeyer knew the Germans better than almost any other officer in the War Plans Division. He’d actually attended their Kriegsakademie, the German Army Staff School.

Second, Wedemeyer had access to the Army Industrial College. Stung by the poor showing of American industry in the mobilization of World War I, the Army in 1924 set up a think tank to analyze the industrial capacity of the country, and determine which industries could be converted to militarily useful wartime production. The college had an encyclopedic knowledge of virtually every industry, virtually every set of machine tools in the entire nation. If you wanted to know where the Army could buy 8 million entrenching tools, the AIC had a master document that could show which companies could best convert to making them.

Most importantly, Marshall knew and trusted him. Marshall had a short list of officers he knew, or knew of, whose past performance had impressed him sufficiently that he would task them with seemingly impossible planning missions. Having assigned a task, Marshall would then leave the officer to work with little interference. If that officer measured up and produced, he would almost certainly be rewarded with promotion, and command. If the officer failed, he would be banished to less critical roles.

Wedemeyer understood that a modern industrial nation could realistically only put about 10% of its population in uniform. His estimates of manpower in total, and roughly how they would be equipped, and the industrial might required to do that, were incredibly prescient. His estimate that, accounting for the Navy and the Marines, that the Army would put about 8 million men in uniform spot on.

Where he erred badly, as noted in the comments of the previous post, was the estimate of the total number of divisions the Army could field. The rough number he estimated was 215 divisions. As it turned out, the Army would only activate 91 divisions. There were a couple reasons for this. Again, as noted in the comments, the support troops required were far in excess of original estimates. That includes both the institutional side of the Army dedicated to training troops, as well as the logisticians required to keep the Army in the field. Further, the numbers of non-divisional troops raised were far in excess of his estimates. For instance, the Army raised dozens of tank destroyer battalions during the war, none of which Wedemeyer anticipated in the Victory Plan. Similarly, he had not anticipated the large numbers of independent tank battalions, nor the large numbers of field artillery battalions outside of Division Artillery. In the event, the habitual attachment of a TD battalion and an independent tank battalion to almost every division in Western Europe resulted in a de facto level of armor in an infantry division that was utterly absent in Wehrmacht infantry divisions.

Wedemeyer did see that the relatively small triangular division would have to be heavy on firepower, with generous numbers of automatic weapons, mortars, field guns, anti-tank guns, and artillery. Further, it was incredibly mobile. US infantry divisions both had huge numbers of trucks assigned (compared to the German army) both as prime movers, and as lift for logistics and troop transport. And there were also huge numbers of non-divisional truck companies to support the logistics of the Army in the field.

Wedemeyer got far more right than he got wrong. Most importantly, with a fairly rational starting point, the Army could do just that- get started.

Marshall eventually rewarded Wedemeyer with stars, and duty in the Far East. Not as visible or as important as other theaters, Wedemeyer’s name is almost unknown outside military history circles. But that doesn’t diminish the incredible accomplishment of his Victory Plan.

For further reading, this is a good place to start.

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World War II- Mobilization on an Industrial Scale- The Creation of a Division

From the Napoleonic Era through the end of WWII, the basic model of large scale land warfare was of the mobilization army. That is, a small professional army in peacetime would vastly expand in time of war by means of conscription of a major swath of the military aged male population. The standing army would provide the framework upon which to build new units, and the command structure of corps, armies and theater headquarters.

For most of this era, the regiment was the standard formation raised. Roughly 1000 men strong, and virtually all of it infantry, as little as a few weeks of drill would suffice as training before a conscription regiment was considered fit for duty.

But by the time of the beginning of World War II, the US Army had evolved its doctrine to embrace combined arms, especially the integration of infantry with artillery as a team. Further, advances in motorization, signals, and engineering, coupled with a shift to the division as a standing permanent formation, as well as being the primary tactical formation, meant that rather than simply raising regiments, the Army would focus on raising divisions, training them as a single unit, and once trained, deploying that entire division overseas to a theater commander as an integrated tactical unit.

First, let us take a quick look at the Army’s triangular infantry division. The division consisted of a headquarters, three Infantry regiments, a Division Artillery of roughly regimental size, and the Division troops, with such diverse units as the Engineer Combat Battalion, the Medical Battalion, the Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Quartermaster, Ordnance, and Signal companies, and a Military Police Platoon.

All total, the division would have a strength of just over 14,000 officers and men. And virtually the entirety of the divisions men would be draftees with absolutely no military experience. The division would have to train them both in the most basic of military skills, then for the specialty the Army intended for them at an individual level, and finally, once some semblance of individual skills had been imparted, begin training the component units as units.

A couple months before a division was activated, the head of Army Ground Forces, LTG Leslie McNair, would sit down with the head of Army personnel and pick the future Division Commander, the Assistant Division Commander, and the Division Artillery Commander; that is, the three general officers of a division, one Major General, and two Brigadier Generals. Those officers would be sent to a short course at the Army’s Command and General Staff School to be indoctrinated on the organization, training, and tactical employment of the division

Concurrently, a cadre of about 1300 officers and senior NCOs would be selected from an existing division to form the skeleton of the new division. For instance, the Division staff, the commanders of the various regiments and battalions, and key positions in their staffs would be named. This cadre would also undergo training in anticipation of the division’s activation, but with more an emphasis on how to train the draftees that would shortly come into their charge.

The great majority of divisions raised for the war were infantry divisions McNair’s AGF laid out a standard training schedule that divisions would follow. Lasting roughly one year, at the end of a crawl-walk-run approach to unit training, AGF would have produced a division that it could release for embarkation overseas to a theater commander.

The broad overview of the training schedule looked like this:

17 weeks of basic and advanced training
    13 weeks of unit training
    14 weeks of combined arms training and large-scale exercises
    8 weeks of final training

The first 17 weeks would be devoted to what today we would call Initial Entry Training. Rather than conducting basic training at another post and then joining the division, here the division bootstrapped its own basic training course, over about 8 weeks, and then conducted what amounted to Military Occupational Specialty training for the many, many different jobs in the division.

The 13 weeks of unit training would quickly build from the team to the battalion level. Examples might start small, such as the rifle squad in the defense, then quickly grow to an entire company live fire attack course.

Fourteen weeks of combined arms training was where the division’s regiments began integrating with the supporting divisional artillery battalions, forming the Infantry/Artillery team that was the heart of the division’s combat power. See also this link.

The final 8 weeks of training ideally saw the entire division maneuvering as a single unit, and exercised not just the combat troops, but also the logistical elements of the division. And of course, as larger and larger units maneuvered, the staffs and headquarters of those units became more familiar with how to best employ them.

The Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN George Marshall, was a great believer in large-scale, force on force maneuvers. During unit and combined arms training, the various companies, battalions and regiments of a division could square off against one another. Eventually, the division would conduct maneuvers against another division going through its own mobilization and training.

Having completed its year long training schedule, the division would continue training at various levels until such time as it was alerted for embarkation and deployment.

Two other major ingredients were needed for the division’s recipe. One was equipment. The other was a post, or cantonment for the troops to live and train on. Personnel turbulence would also have a major effect on a division’s ability to constitute itself and train for deployment.

The common perception today is the the US simply produced vast quantities of all the material needed for war. And to be sure, the US did pull off a miracle of manufacturing. But in the early stages of mobilization, the production of equipment was not yet vast enough to equip units as they were activated. Typically, as a division was planned for activation, the Quartermaster Corps would begin planning to issue all the thousands of different pieces of equipment a division would need, from uniforms to rifles, to trucks, artillery pieces, signal wire for field telephones and untold other numbers of items.

But as noted, rarely was the production of war material sufficient to fully equip a division. Usually, a division would be issued roughly half the equipment its tables of organization called for. That limited allocation would at least allow the division to begin training.

But while a partial allocation might be enough to begin training, it was usually only sufficient to train at the individual and small team level. A division however, is more than a collection of small teams. It was a carefully designed tactical formation, a weapon that was more than the sum of its parts. It was designed to be wielded as an entire formation, and as such, it needed to train at all levels, from the individual up through and including the entire division. But putting the entire division through its paces was clearly impossible without its full complement of equipment.

Of course, the division’s Quartermasters would attempt to draw the rest of the division’s equipment as training went along. The hope was that by the time regimental and divisional level training took place, the full allocation of equipment would be on hand.

It rarely worked so smoothly. First, even as the Army was struggling to mobilize divisions, industry was still struggling to ramp up production of military equipment. Worse, just about the time the fruits of that production started to come forth, Lend Lease came upon the scene, and much of what the Army had planned for was suddenly diverted to Britain, Russia, China, and other Allied nations.

Even as divisions trained on what little equipment they had, changes were afoot. New models of equipment or entirely new types were introduced into service, meaning that a division would have to completely retrain on new equipment. One example is the basic rifle of the Army. M1 Garand production was slower than hoped, so prior to 1943, virtually all the divisions created trained throughout their mobilization with the M1903A3 Springfield rifle. Only when they were alerted for embarkation for overseas service would they receive M1 rifles.

The production of equipment and the mobilization of divisions did not often align, and neither did the mobilization of divisions, and the need for divisions to deploy. Early deployment of US forces, particularly before our entry into the war in December 1941, were usually regimental sized and limited to the Western Hemisphere for the defense of advance bases in places such as the Caribbean. Early campaigns such as the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch employed divisions that hadn’t fully completed their training. Worse, not having the full complement of their equipment, they were forced to strip other divisions in training of what little equipment they’d managed to gather. That had a knock on effect of delaying the training of those units. It would be well into 1943 before a division could reasonably expect to have a complete divisional set of equipment for the final phases of its training.

Simply keeping people in the division during training was a struggle. One of the key concepts of the Army in WWII was that we would field a small overall number of divisions, but they would be kept at full strength through individual replacements once committed to combat operations.

But even before deployment, indeed, throughout training, a division would face a drain on its manpower. The cadre that first formed the core of a division had come from another division, further along in the training pipeline. Eventually, our division in training would be tasked to calve off 1100 or so of its most experienced officers and men to form the cadre of yet another division. This large-scale turnover in often key personnel was often a significant blow to the training of a division. And it wasn’t the only drain on manpower. Throughout the Army, volunteers were sought for special programs, such as Airborne training, special units, transfers to the Air Corps, and large numbers of the brightest enlisted men to attend Officer’s Candidate School (OCS). New draftees would be sent to bring the division back up to strength during its training, but the need to train those draftees at the individual level while simultaneously trying to train the units at higher levels was a challenge. Turnover of a quarter of a division’s personnel was not uncommon, and as much as half in some cases.

We will describe the challenges of providing a post and associated facilities for raising and training a wartime division in a later post.

In spite of the challenges facing a division commander when tasked to raise a division for service in World War II, the Army, and LTG McNair’s Army Ground Forces had devised a well thought out program that did allow the Army to raise and train divisions rapidly. Some divisions were better trained than others when deployed, but that was often more a matter of the talents of the commanders than of the training program devised. The division making process was successful enough that of the five US divisions committed to the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, arguably the single most important day of the war, three had never before been in combat.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, history

Authentic Barbie Vs. Real GI Joe

You may have seen the latest bit of silliness about wanting Barbie dolls to better reflect reality, and cease their horrific crime of fat-shaming.

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A controversy is brewing over a request to remake Barbie in way contrary to the iconic image so many girls knew growing up.

Plus-Size-Modeling.com is suggesting Mattel create a plus-size Barbie. While some say more realistic curves would be a better role model for girls, others say an overly large Barbie would be an unhealthy example.

Always a stalwart supporter of equal opportunity, Craig suggested to me this morning that what we men really need is a GI Joe that more truly reflects some of the people we served alongside.

  • Intel Analyst G.I. Joe with glasses and a kick-butt World of Warcraft character.
  • Personnel Actions Clerk who loses paperwork. And “Profile” with hands formed best for 12 ounce curls.
  • Realistic Supply Sergeant that won’t issue toilet paper.
  • SPC Mafia that excel in shamming and Caspering, and Buffer Rodeo and getting arrested for minor in possession or disturbing the peace.
  • Chain smoking motor sergeant who refuses to issue repair parts, fearing depletion of PLL.
  • 77F fuel handler who loses the key to the lock on the gas pump.

What are some of your suggestions for a more realistic GI Joe?

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, Humor

Paella

So, this week’s food thread at Ace’s place features the tasty Spanish mainstay paella.

Many, many moons ago, my Dear Sainted Mother made a wonderful dish of paella for a small dinner party. And it was wonderful. It tasted like pure joy. It was a very, very memorable evening.

http://img4-2.myrecipes.timeinc.net/i/recipes/ay/11/06/chicken-paella-ay-l.jpg

And because that evening was so memorable, just about every time I managed to come home on leave from the Army, Dear Sainted Mother would carefully, and lovingly recreate that dish with the rice so richly infused with that most expensive of spices, saffron. And as a Loving Son, I would dutifully eat every bit served to me.

See, there’s a reason that first service of paella was so memorable. It turns out of all the multitudes of foods in the world, the only thing I’m apparently allergic to is saffron. Within an hour of eating paella that first time, I was laid low by the most horrific pains and gastrointestinal unpleasantness.

Dear Sainted Mother’s memory somehow managed to remember that paella was significant, but failed to recall that “significant” does not always mean “good.”

And so, being the dutiful Loving Son, I would eat what was served, and again find myself tormented by that golden spice, saffron.

Eventually, I took to writing home to remind DSM that paella, lovely and tasty as it was, would eventually overcome my considerable constitution, and kill me dead. And that if she wanted to achieve that, there were less painful, less expensive alternatives.

Too bad. As it really does taste great.

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