Tuesday, April 10, 2007


U.S. Army Close to Breaking

Longer deployments, shorter rests, and loss of midlevel officers have analysts worried about the state of America’s military.

On April 2, the Pentagon announced that 4,500 U.S. soldiers would return to Iraq ahead of schedule. The decision to lengthen deployments and shorten rest and training periods at home between rotations in order to sustain force levels in the Iraq war zone is being seen by seasoned military experts as a sign of a broken army.

Another sign that the Army could be at its breaking point is the loss of midlevel officers.
Phillip Carter, a former Army officer who served in Iraq, warns:

The U.S. Army broke in the 1970s in the wake of the Vietnam War and the end of the draft. But if you ask officers who served during that period, few will recall the sounds of creaking planks, snapping beams, or rupturing buildings as the institution disintegrated. Instead, the crumbling occurred over time, becoming apparent only decades later.

Today’s Army is stretched past its breaking point by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sounds of its collapse may be faint enough for policymakers in Washington to ignore, but they are there. An exodus of junior and midlevel personnel illustrates the crisis. Their exit has forced the Army to apply tourniquets like “stop loss” to halt the hemorrhaging, and it has also dropped its standards for recruiting and retention.

For some time, there has been concern among military personnel and former personnel that the Army is overstretched. The surge now underway in Baghdad has only compounded those fears. According to retired Maj. Gen.
Robert H. Scales, it takes two brigades at home—one resting and one training—to keep one in combat at any particular time. However, the forces have only half the number of brigades needed to maintain the number of troops required for the current military buildup in Iraq—hence the longer deployments and shorter breaks and training periods.

Carter explains how critical the rest periods at home are to maintain an effective fighting force:

The combat-stress literature suggests there’s a finite limit to the amount of time that men and women can withstand combat. British historian Richard Holmes pegged this figure at approximately 60 days of sustained combat. In Iraq, we often wondered what our finite limit was, given the stresses of our advisory mission and the frequent attacks on our compound in downtown Baqubah. You can drink only so much chai with Iraqi leaders, and hit so many improvised explosive devices, before you burn out and need to go home. …

To a senior Pentagon official studying a set of PowerPoint slides in the Pentagon, the question may seem academic. But to men under fire, it is anything but. Keeping units in combat for longer than a 12-month tour may push many troops past their breaking point, endangering both their lives and the mission.

Even more damaging to a nation’s fighting force could be the loss of its officers due to frustration and lack of morale resulting from these fighting conditions. Though officials claim retention rates remain high, Major General Scales comments that the Army’s “cumbersome readiness reporting system only informs leaders in Washington of conditions on the ground many months after the force begins to break. … If we lose our sergeants and captains, the Army breaks …. That’s why these soldiers are … the canaries in the readiness coal-mine. And … if you look closely, you will see that these canaries are fleeing their cages in frightening numbers.”

Military.com reported last November, “So many midlevel officers are leaving the Army under the strain of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Pentagon is worried it might not have enough generals 10 to 15 years from now.” The New York Times reported last year that more than 30 percent of West Point graduates of the class of 2000 left active duty immediately after their five-year compulsory service was up—the highest rate of loss for 16 years. “Mirroring the problem among West Pointers, graduates of reserve officer training programs at universities are also increasingly leaving the service at the end of the four-year stint in uniform that follows their commissioning” (April 9, 2006). In response, the Army has been using aggressive tactics to keep officers. The Army Reserve, for example, will not allow any officers to leave the forces unless they first serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. New incentives have also been introduced to persuade officers not to leave.

The United States is at the “knee of the curve,”
Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general says. “There is no argument of whether the U.S. Army is rapidly unraveling.” He says that the Defense Department’s readiness ratings, which are classified, are in decline, and that the Army’s combat equipment “is shot.”

“Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has
said that the only thing worse than a broken army is a defeated army. But this puts the cart before the horse, because in this case, the breaking of America’s military will lead to defeat, both now and later,” writes Carter.

Such an American military defeat is precisely what biblical prophecy foretells. The prospect of a broken military force together with a
broken national will will yet prove Herbert W. Armstrong’s proclamation in 1961 true: “America has won its last war.” Read The United States and Britain in Prophecy to learn why this is true—and what you can do about it.

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