Faith, John C., Army

Expending the Force

* The long-term implications of Gen. Frederick Kroesen's three recent articles on "Expending the Force" (November, December, January) should give everyone concerned with the future of our military forces and the security of our nation a serious case of the shivers. The most palpable, if not the most important of all the forces being expended in the current crisis environment, are our reserves. They, in fact, face potential post-emergency consequences that may incapacitate them for the foreseeable future.

The Army National Guard has worked very hard and in most cases with great success since September 11, 2001, in a variety and constantly increasing number of difficult, critical security and peace-keeping missions. They have earned the trust and confidence of their active force peers. Pennsylvania, which has reportedly been called on for many activations and deployments, has had units and personnel deployed to 19 countries, some 2,000 of them guarding military bases in several European countries and another 1,100 keeping the peace in Bosnia. These reservists will be returning to the United States by the end of March after nominally six month deployments and will be released after a period of demobilization.

In mid-January, another large number of National Guard units were alerted, from which 1,200 individuals will be mobilized for Kosovo later this year to take control of the U.S.-run sector. These soldiers will come from the 28th Division Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC), 10 other HHCs, seven infantry companies from four different battalions, and assorted personnel, finance, engineer, signal, military police and logistic support teams. Presumably the reason for the large number of source units is a desire to select personnel who can, with least disruption, meet the long separation from their families and civilian jobs. There will obviously be a severe loss of unit integrity and cohesion (a newly energized concern of the Army's senior leadership as they make their case for unit manning).

These diverse elements will require significant time to organize, train and prepare to deploy. Add the demobilization process on their return, and they can expect to be on active duty for at least nine months. It is obvious that these extended absences are not what most National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers expected when they signed up. Unquestionably, they are patriotic. They enlisted aware that they could be committed to periods of active duty in harm's way, and unquestionably September 11 brought out and confirmed their strong commitment to do whatever is necessary to support the nation in its war on terrorism and its confrontation with Iraq.

The argument will be made, with complete honesty and accuracy, that these are unprecedented, perilous times, and that all previous assumptions, assessments and estimates of requirements have been overtaken by recent events. Indeed, there was no real alternative to significant immediate call-ups, and there were sound political, as well as practical, reasons for doing so.

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