Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I'm sure most of you have read Gian Gentile's latest at SWJ on the death of the Armor Corps. I don't intend to dissect the entire paper here, but I do want to talk about a couple of points.
Gian is absolutely correct that today's mechanized force does not know how to do a combined arms operation at the brigade level (he mentions division, but I'm not so concerned with that - I'm not sure what that would even look like). Now, being a cavalryman, I have no time or patience for breech operations - I'm more of a bypass, re-gas, haul ass kind of guy - but you older tanker folks know how hard a battalion/brigade-level obstacle breech is. If you think COIN is graduate-level war, a brigade breech is something closer to post-doc. And we don't train it anymore at NTC with live bullets like we used to. If I recall correctly, my brigade was one of the last to do it and that was back in 2004 sometime. Someday, somewhere, the U.S. Army is going to have to do that and we won't be prepared for it.
Gian is also partially correct on individual crew skills. I think that gunnery skills are important for tank and Bradley crews and it's true that we don't spend the time we used to on those skills. On the other hand, tank platoons are doing what they can to prepare their units for combat. Rest assured, the M1 series tank has been used quite a bit in Iraq. In 2008, one of my favorite tank platoon sergeants was slinging 120mm all over Sadr City when that area rose against the government again. And he and his platoon did it very well and played a big role in pacifying the area. I don't imagine he was the only SFC making sure his crews were ready for a big fight and I don't think that gunnery skills have eroded to the point where the Armor Corps is now dead.
Many of our readers will dismiss (or embrace) Gian's paper out of hand. I don't agree with all of it nor do I think all of it is accurate, but there are a number of points in it that need to be heeded. The Armor Corps is certainly not dead and is not nearing its demise. Yet. Hopefully longer dwell times will help bring competencies back to the level where they were and provide the time to train those skills required in today's fights.