Leadership: December 5, 2003

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The U.S. Army is allowing units returning from Iraq to fall to the lowest level of readiness (level C-4). The reason for this is practical, mainly because all those activities that would have take a soldier from the unit (special schools, leave, transfer, retirement and end of enlistment) were halted while in Iraq. Once back in the United States, many of the troops in these units will be gone, at least temporarily, and it will take several months before replacements can be brought in, and the training cycle restarted. Some 6-12 months later, the unit will be back to the readiness level it was at when it went to Iraq. This phenomenon was first seen in the 1990s as brigades were sent to the Balkans for peacekeeping duty. It's almost impossible to prevent a unit, returning from overseas duty, from being reduced in effectiveness. The troops expect to get some time off, and when they were overseas, they were not training. The training has to be made up. However, it was discovered that, even in the Balkan peacekeeping duty (which has resulted in no American combat deaths so far, although there have been some wounded) troops working under the pressures of peacekeeping acquired valuable experience. Not only did they gain practical experience in dealing with peacekeeping situations, but they also spent a lot of time using their combat skills. This included a lot of patrolling, in situations where there often hostile people with guns in the neighborhood. The troops also gained valuable experience in defending their bases. While there were few attacks (usually a few bullets or a grenade), there were many more attempts by thieves to sneak in. The troops learned to deal with these unwelcome visitors. In combat, the people trying to get in are carrying guns, not looking to carry something away. It turned out that the Balkans experience provided troops, NCOs and officers with valuable experience that has paid off big time in Iraq. There's little doubt that the Iraq experience will be equally valuable in creating more capable soldiers.

 


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