Infantry: July 16, 2002

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Looking at the immediate future, the U.S. Army sees a severe manpower shortage. More specifically, an infantry shortage. Despite the greater use of automation (replacing troops with machines), there are more jobs that require people. Peacekeeping and fighting in urban areas (especially an invasion of densely populated Iraq) are infantry intensive. Moreover, about half of the National Guard infantry and military police units are also being tied up with anti-terrorism duty. There are several solutions to the problem. One is to organize a pool of troops for peacekeeping missions. Many of these would come from the National Guard and reserves, where they would be given special contracts, with financial incentives, to do at least one six month peacekeeping tour every two years. These troops would become professional peacekeepers, and would allow the army to keep it's combat troops trained for combat. Currently, when you send combat troops on peacekeeping missions, you spend six months training them as peacekeepers, then send them overseas for a six month peacekeeping stint, then bring them back and spend six months getting them back into shape for combat. Thus, for every combat soldier used as a peacekeeper, two more are tied up as well. This hits infantry units particularly hard, as infantry battalions have the manpower for peacekeeping, which involves a lot of patrolling and manning checkpoints. The army is eager to use Special Forces for some missions (as in Afghanistan) that in the past would have used a lot of infantry. But there are still a lot of potential wars where you simply have to put a lot of your own infantry in there. Meanwhile, the army is also examining the possible use of more generous bonuses for those who volunteer for the infantry. 


 


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