Artillery: May 25, 2004

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The need for trained troops in Iraq is causing problems with the army educational system. Officers and senior NCOs typically spend over ten percent of their time in schools, receiving training needed because of promotions (and new responsibilities) or to maintain or add skills. But with so many troops overseas, the schools cant get enough qualified people as instructors, and many of the students arent showing up either for the same reason. 

The army is getting hit hardest by this. Actually, the war on terror is largely an army war, with army combat troops and Special Forces doing most of the work. The navy and air force, while involved, have more volunteers than they need and are laying off people. The army is adapting by allowing eligible troops to get their promotions even though they did not have the opportunity to get the mandatory training courses. Its understood that the training will take place when things quiet down. Some technical training courses are now being conducted informally via the Internet or in the combat zones.

The National Training Center (NTC), for twenty years the armys realistic battlefield training site for its combat battalions, is also feeling the Iraq effect. Battalions that would normally be coming to NTC, are instead going to Iraq. As a result of the lack of use, the resident OPFOR (opposing force) unit at NTC, the 11th Cavalry Regiment, is headed for Iraq. The 11th Cav is not going just to fight, but to learn. The type of war fought in Iraq last Spring during the march on Baghdad, and in the peacekeeping since, is something that will have to be taught at the NTC in the future. The peacekeeping operations have caused mini-NTCs to be built in Kuwait to train troops headed north for Iraq and occasionally sharp action. 

The army was already changing its combat training before the Iraq invasion, and the lessons of that war accelerated the changes. So the 11th Cav is going off to fight, and learn, so that it can better teach.

 


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