Thursday, August 26, 2010
"Mostly Dead" must describe the horse it was beating - or so I thought. But alas, it is another post-mortem on the Armor Corps. Granted, LTC Weiss seems to fall somewhere between COL Gentile and MAJs Smith and Harbridge when it comes to his thoughts on "how dead" the Armor Corps really is. But this is still what I'm starting to call "Old Tanker Syndrome" (and yes, I noticed that LTC Weiss is an artilleryman) - or OTS.
OTS seems to cause those it afflicts to see the Armor Corps through the lens of their pre-Iraq experiences, when NTC was king and careers were made out of the brigade breach into the Northern Corridor. I'm not going to call it nostalgia - I don't think Gian is nostalgic - but their formative years in the Army were defined by these realities. I think that the biggest symptom of OTS, though, is a pre-GWOT conception of combined arms operations.
For these older field grades with OTS, combined arms operations are those brigade breaches and large maneuver formations - both Gian and LTC Weiss refer to them as lost capabilities. I have to say, as a former company grade, that I take umbrage at that. Tell any lieutenant or captain who has lead in Iraq or Afghanistan that they don't understand combined arms operations because they've never done an old school breach or brigade live-fire. Go ahead. I dare you.
Or maybe these young officers know combined arms better than their superiors - or at least more advanced at younger grades. They know how to work with host nation forces, call in fixed- and rotary-wing fires, artillery, and work with dismounts (conventional and SOF) and mechanized forces. Simultaneously. As lieutenants. If that's not "combined arms" then I don't know the meaning of the term.
And let's take a look at this focus on brigade and above operations. Do both of these experienced officers really believe that younger officers are "unschooled" in combined arms because of the nature of decentralized counterinsurgency operations? Both current theaters have plenty of examples of large-scale, combined arms operations - but just because the unit's front is more circular than linear doesn't dismiss the fact they are brigade-level operations. Further, employing weapons systems in this manner requires greater understanding of their capabilities because of the greater risk of fratricide.
Even during the invasion of Iraq, which was a corps-level operation, all I ever cared about was my commander's intent two levels up, my mission, and the missions of the units to my left and right. After the invasion, nothing changes except I now had to worry about what the units to my front and back and indigenous forces in the AOR were doing. Decentralized operations are the same in high- and low-intensity conflict. Even at NTC, I couldn't tell if we were doing a company or brigade operations, except that latter had three times as many observer/controllers wandering around. It doesn't matter to a company-level officer. Just as experience at corps-level operations isn't a prerequisite to effective leadership of battalions.
What I'm trying to get at, in a verbose way, is that today's younger officers are probably the most tactically competent officers our nation has seen in a long time with regard to maneuver and combined arms operations. Where I'll agree with Gian and LTC Weiss is that technical skills such as gunnery have atrophied - but this can be easily remedied. But the fact remains - the principles of warfare are the same for COIN as they are for HIC and our junior leaders are very, very good at executing those principles. So let's just stop with this "Armor is dead" leitmotif - it's not, nor is it endangered. Don't let OTS jade your perception of the quality and esprit of our Armor Corps. Please.