Surprise: Liberal media gets military strategy wrong

According to an article in the Washington Post, the Army is supposedly fighting a turf war with the Marines over who will have the dominant role in countering threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

True, the Army is looking to modify its capability as we draw down from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially in these times of budget cuts. And unfortunately, as we reported here, the civilian and contractor force seems to grow while combat capability lessens.

But clearly the Post conveniently ignores history and misses the point about a comprehensive national military strategy for the 21st Century battlefield.

The writer, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, sets up his story aboard the USS Lake Erie off the Hawaii coast where the Navy crew apparently watches with “trepidation” as US Army helicopter practices landing on the ship.

It’s amazing the reporter finds this odd, because he obviously has no idea it was a contingent from the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division that was loaded on a US Navy aircraft carrier for the potential invasion of Haiti back in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton.

Also, a study of history would have shown Chandrasekaran that the US Army participated in countless amphibious operations during World War II in the Pacific and European theaters, including the largest; Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion.

Chandrasekaran says,

The Army, which fights on terra firma, does not usually land its helicopters on ships — the domain of the Navy and the Marine Corps — but these are not usual times in the U.S. military. As the Obama administration winds down the Army-centric war in Afghanistan, Pentagon leaders are seeking to place the Air Force, Navy and Marines in dominant roles to counter threats in the Asia-Pacific region, which they have deemed to be the nation’s next big national security challenge.

But that certainly doesn’t mean the Army is fighting for relevancy, nor should there be some sort of competition between the forces. I spent three years on an exchange assignment with the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) and learned much about expeditionary operations at the MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) and MEB (Marine Expeditionary Brigade) level. It was without a doubt one of the best assignments in my career for advanced professional development.

The Senior US Commander in the Pacific, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks (one half of the famous Brooks Brothers, both of whom I have the pleasure of knowing), wants his forces to more quickly and effectively respond to small conflicts, isolated acts of aggression and natural disasters.

Chandraeskaran points out:

Doing so, however, has traditionally been a challenge for the Army, which bases most of its soldiers assigned to the Orient, outside of Korea, in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington state. To overcome what he calls “the tyranny of distance,” Brooks is trying to make his forces more maritime and expeditionary.

This “Pacific Pathways Initiative” is a brilliant vision, coming from a very adept combat Commander, General Brooks.

However, what is also necessary is a national military strategy for this 21st century battlefield. We must carefully examine all geographic areas of responsibility (AORs); PACOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM, AFRICOM, SOUTHCOM, NORTHCOM. We should conduct a bottom-up assessment of the capability and capacity required to conduct full-scale combat and disaster relief operations in all of them – not just the Pacific.

Our force should be tailored in these AORs for full-spectrum engagement along definitive mission sets and have dedicated forces for each. Our US military should have a force structure that has a primary and a secondary AOR to support with proper force mix and joint training in deployment and employment.

What the writer fails to present is that after any major combat operation, America has always sought to use the military as a bill payer in order to expand domestic spending. What results is a dangerous catch-up after a crisis, because our enemies are always looking to advance their nefarious objectives.

We must prioritize spending in Washington DC — don’t forget, the primary mission for the federal government per the Constitution is supposed to be to “provide for the common defense.”

We are playing a very bad game of “whack-a-mole” with Islamic totalitarianism. Instead, we must demonstrate the ability to conduct strike-oriented operations and not nation-building expeditions. Of course, a good national military strategy emanates from a good national security strategy, one that does not list fighting global climate change as a mission.

I have personally experienced strategy transitions in the military. It is natural and desirable. I was commissioned into the US Army in 1982 and entered active duty the following year after graduating from college.

I entered an Army that had 18 combat divisions, four Cavalry regiments, and complimentary artillery formations to support. I would see the Army transform from M-60 tanks to M1 Abrams, from M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs) to M2 Bradley fighting vehicles (BFVs). The Army went from AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters to AH-64 Apache’s, from UH-1 Huey’s to UH-60 Blackhawks.

I had the distinct honor to command the oldest Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) batteries in the Army as a Captain. This was the modernization and transformation the Army underwent in the Reagan years to make it a potent land force.

I applaud General Brooks. Contrary to what the Washington Post may want you to believe, Brooks isn’t trying to stoke the flames of inter-service competition but is expanding the mission-set capability of his forces in the Pacific AOR. He represents the kind of visionary leader we need in our military – unfortunately we just need comparable civilian leadership to back it up.

29 COMMENTS

  1. I think that the if the Army want’s to find a better way to move men and material quickly in the PACOM AOR they should look at some of the ships Austal has built like the MV WESTPAC EXPRESS. Then they should further find the best way to convoy and protect a 35 knot+ transport. (This is where I think we went wrong with the LCS, which doesn’t have the legs IMO.)

  2. With respect…. I proposed in 2000 the use of Lighter-Than-Air heavy lift capacity as a method to rapidly deploy Army forces (including and especially Heavy Mech forces) anywhere in the world within a matter of 3-5 days.

    (See article: http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/eARMOR/content/issues/2000/MAR_APR/ArmorMarchApril2000web.pdf

    , pages 46-50 in the PDF).

    I also contributed the idea to a book: Air-Mech-Strike: (http://www.amazon.com/Air-Mech-Strike-Asymmetric-Maneuver-Warfare-Century/dp/1563116162/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388678713&sr=8-1&keywords=air+mech+strike)

    A further study of the prospects showed that we could conduct a mechanized forced entry operation into a landlocked nation or remote region and sustain them without the need for an intermediate staging base or lengthy land routes through other countries (e.g. Afghanistan and Manas AFB in Kyrgyzstan).
    Had someone taken the idea seriously, we could have put at least one mech brigade of the 4th ID into Northern Iraq despite Turkey’s objections.
    The Cargolifter company is now out of business, but the concept is sound and worth the cost of development.

  3. Being that the Marines are actually part of the Department of the Navy, it becomes a question as to whether the premise for the argument is even a viable one. Budget concerns and ultimate decisions between military branches are not made by one logistical solution in a single operation.

  4. The Army needs ships designed to meet its needs. Like the Marines they need ones that are set up to support and land forces amphibiously whether the beaches are defended or not. When I was first in the Army National Guard in my home state the Army Transportation Corps had a series of Roll On – Roll Off ships for deployment of forces to hot spots, but these ships needed friendly ports to load and unload in. What the Army needs is some ships with the capabilities to support landing troops in operations similar to those the Army faced in WW-2, but with the abilities to provide fire support, medevac operations, and logistical support.

    • Sorry, I disagree. If the Marines and Navy were properly manned, there would be no requirement of the Army to do amphib landings into a hostile AO, as it would have been secured prior to their landing. As for coming ashore, those ships already exist and are used to land the Marine and Navy units no differently than the Army needs.

      WWII number of SeaBees—120K…Today’s draw down target of SeaBees—-5K …it is impossible to field an invasion like either theaters of WWII in today’s force manning levels. We could not do Iwa Jima let alone Normandy with today’s forces.

      Drawing up plans that take more of the budget pie out of those already starving for budget, so that you can extend role capabilities of one service at the expense of all other services is wrong and ill thought out.

    • The army has ships. It’s called the Navy. Those Naval ships called LPH’s are filled with Marines trained to do that job.

      • I hope that you 100% DEAD WRONG.

        It is my belief that the MOST important responsibility of whoever is
        President – before tinkering around with the tax structure, healthcare,
        social issues or anything else – is securing America’s place in an
        increasingly uncertain and dangerous world and managing and overseeing
        the defense and protection of the U.S. and its citizens. We haven’t
        heard much about this from any of the the people in either party whom
        the media is presuming to anoint as likely presidential candidates for
        2016 – only Colonel West seems to be speaking coherently about it, which
        is why I and a lot of other people here are hoping he chooses to run
        for President.

  5. The USS Lake Erie is a Guided Missile Cruiser, NOT an aircraft carrier. Navy crewmembers would naturally have “trepidation” about an Army helicpoter landing on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier BECAUSE IT’S DIFFICULT TO DO. Navy crew members might also be concerned for the helicopter, it’s crew and the Navy gear that will get damaged if the Army helicopter pilot makes an error. This task would be even more troubling if the vessel were not a relatively stable platform (like and aircraft carrier) but a topsy-turvy platform like a much smaller Guided Missile Cruiser where there is very little room for mistakes and a constantly pitching and yawing deck the relative size of a postage stamp.

    Military forces ought to able to operate in conjunction with and alongside other military forces that have differnt capabilities. From time to time, the Navy has carried troops from the Army and Marine Corps to destinations around the world where the troops arrive in large enough forces to accomplish the mission. That the article represents that these concepts are new is a little bit aggravating. I just don’t have any incentive to educate the author because I typically don’t need to explain baseball to a three year old. When a child wants to learn about baseball, we put a bat in their hands and tell them to swing for the fences; this guy will likely never serve his country and so is bound to a lifelong unfulfilled quest for something he can never understand.

  6. I normally agree with you Mr. West, in this case I think you’re a little off base on this one. Though the reporter may not have done his due diligence in getting all of the necessary information. The Army relied on the British & U.S. Navy to accomplish those landings. The Army kept the Marines completely out of the European theater, for reasons we both are aware of, and only began to arrive in the Pacific theater as it’s units were no longer needed in Europe. The large majority and the greatest brunt of the Pacific war was born by The Corps and U.S. Navy. This move by the Army is an outright attempt to grab a bigger portion of the reduced budget as well as trying to justify a larger force than current draw down requirements. As you and many Army Generals in the Army both past and present have experienced and have said on many occasions is that they wish they had more Marines available to them as it would make their missions easier to accomplish. If you believe that the Nation needs to worry more about the Pacific Area of Operations then the proper answer is to strengthen the Marine Corps, instead of trying to have the Army take on a new area of training. I do agree that regardless of how we feel about this particular issue, the weakening of our Armed Forces is a tremendously bad idea. If however you truly believe the Army needs amphibious capabilities, then they should also have fighter and bomber capabilities as well. Since at one time it was once the Army Air Corps instead of the U.S. Air Force. Please keep up the good fight against this and any Administration that tramples on our Constitutional Rights and attempts to weaken the World’s Greatest Military Force. Semper Fidelis!

    • That’s funny since my father served in New Guinea, in the army and was never assigned to Europe. FYI Please read The Ghost Mountain Boys. It will give you a clearer perspective.

    • A goodly number of Army units were deployed to the Pacific. IN fact, the invasion of Okinawa had two or three Army divisions deployed; the liberation of the Philippines was almost entirely an Army operation with Naval support.

      • Check the dates and you’ll see that by the time of the Philippine and Okinawa invasions, Victory in Europe was almost assured. Which explains the heavier Army participation. Though they operated under the Command and Control of the U.S. Navy. Was there Army units involved in the Pacific theater, yes. Were they the majority, no. if you consider that Army Division are nearly four times, then as they are today, the size of a Marine Division I can see where you would easily get confused. History records Army participation in the Pacific theater more as a side note, sorry to say. Maybe, if the Army hadn’t flexed its muscle and kept the Marines out of the European Theater in WW2 they might have gotten a bigger mention in the Pacific theater. As for the Philippines the Army got a bigger mention more thanks to Gen. Mac Arthur’s famous “I shall return” promise. In the end it was the Marines that were left to protect both island chains.

        However, that is not the question posed here. The Army has carved out its supposed dominance of occupational ground operations, that now they are feeling the pinch they want to expand into the expertise of other Armed Forces to protect their collective butts. Let the Army remain the Occupational Land Force they believe themselves to be and let the Marines be the Expeditionary Force they have proven themselves to be. The Marines are more capable of dealing with a Pacific centric defense due to the relationships they have built in the area for the past 70 years. The Army has slowly reduced its footprint in Korea as the Marines have begun to increase it over the past couple decades. When, and if, China or Korea decides to cross the line the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will be glad to give you a ride to the show.

  7. Our capabilities rely on the desired effects, not on how they are accomplished. A helo from any service can pick someone up or drop them off.

  8. What a brilliant and well informed writer! “which bases most of its soldiers assigned to the Orient, outside of Korea, in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington state.” Is this idiot serious? He obviously has no clue about how big our Army is, and where it is located. I am glad he’s so stupid because why give the enemy more info? OPSEC always.

    • OPSEC always, agreed. But let’s be honest, you can wikipedia U.S. Army installations and get the same information. Also, in your quote (I mean right there in it) he’s speaking about those assigned to the Orient, not the entire Army. He was a light colonel in the Army, I’d dare say he might know something about how big the Army is and where it is located.

      • Just to make clear – I assume that by “this idiot,” Proud Vet presumably meant the Washington Post reporter who wrote in his original article about the troops watching the Pacific area being located in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington State — which section Colonel West quoted in analyzing and deconstructing the larger article to make his point that liberal media doesn’t have a clue when it comes to writing about this stuff to try and explain it to the American public.

        It is my belief that the MOST important responsibility of whoever is President – before tinkering around with the tax structure, healthcare, social issues or anything else – is securing America’s place in an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world and managing and overseeing the defense and protection of the U.S. and its citizens. We haven’t heard much about this from any of the the people in either party whom the media is presuming to anoint as likely presidential candidates for 2016 – only Colonel West seems to be speaking coherently about it, which is why I and a lot of other people here are hoping he chooses to run for President.

  9. This is from the same crowd of poultry droppings who said the US Armed Forces there would be tens of thousands of “body bags” and the US would never make it to baghdad. The same idjits who chuckled with joy when the mother of all sandstorms and lagging logistical tail stopped the US south baghdad that saddamm was winning. Next we knew the same brilliant nitwits where whining about how horrible some US Marine cover the face of a saddam statute with the US Flag before the USMC pulled it down. They wouldnt know how to put out a fire in a cardboard trash can sitting in the middle of a flash flood. But the worse thing is that the cheap nit wit in this regard is obama.

  10. Sounds like the leverage of the conversation was means of infiltration. If Army sets sail with the birds onboard we won’t need to be landing back on the ship. Gun slingers are gun slingers, we don’t care how we’re getting to show just get us on the playing field. We never minded hitching a ride form the Marines or anyone else or conducting Joint Operations. The more guns we can put into the fight at one time is what it’s all about. Infiltrate, Saturate, Dominate, Army Special Forces, first in, last out!

  11. We need both you and Mattis running for pres and vice pres. We would be the superpower we once were, and no one would dare mess with us.

  12. He better be careful, he might end up getting canned because he’s actually trying to do some good within the military, something Obama has clearly got contempt for.

    • Besides what sort of strike capability does the military really need besides what can be supplied by SWAT-type paramilitaries? The only real threat to National Security in all the world is a White Male with an assault rifle (sarcasm).

  13. I am a Viet Nam Vet and a Biker. When on active duty I would go into a bar and see civilians giving a Marine or Sailor a hard time I would always have their backs. There is a rivalry between the Services and always have been however this rivalry cannot be understood by Civilians. We are Brothers at Arms. We take care of each other no mater what. Civilians should take caution when instigating problems between the Armed Forces such as the Washington Post. They need to get their facts straight before publishing anything.

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