We’ve talked before here about how important training is to achieving and maintaining the high quality of our troops.
Some of the best training for our armored, mechanized, and armored cav guys happens at the fabled National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. For two weeks every few years, a battalion or brigade rotates through for the best training anywhere on the planet. They fight outnumbered against OpFor forces, picked from the very best the Army has to offer. Everything they do is tracked, and in the after action briefings, everyone can see what they did right, and what they did wrong.
And most of them “lose” their engagements, teaching them things there they’ll hopefully never have to learn on the battlefield.
But there’s one thing the officers can’t get real-world experience doing: Moving entire divsions. For all its size, Fort Irwin is still only large enough to allow a brigade (that’s 3,000-5,000 soldiers) to manuever. Mech and armor divisions have 15,000-plus men and women, and often have extra support units attached.
Now, imagine having to move 20,000 soldiers, up to 100 miles a day, through unfamiliar roads and terrain, carrying with them everything they need to eat, drink, sleep on, shoot with, and shoot. And that’s just when no one is shooting at them. Then try to keep in mind that the two-star commanding the division has no way to have any practical experience in getting it done.
Can you say traffic jam? Can you say mass confusion? It’s a wonder even a bridade can get from point A to point B without Los Angeles freeway-type snarls, accidents, and traffic deaths.
Since late last week, 3ID has moved from Kuwait to within 50 miles of Baghdad. And they haven’t been able to progress in a straight line, either. They’re bypassing urban areas, which means they have fewer roads to roll on and fewer direct routes to use.
There have been slowdowns. There have been traffic jams. There have been accidents. Yet 3ID has still progressed faster than almost any army in history.
Be proud of the men for keeping the confusion to a minimum. Be thankful that the officers were able to put their book smarts to good use in an ugly situation. They’ve all earned our respect, and a whole lot more.