Peace Time: October 29, 1999

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National Guard units are grudgingly admitting that due to a lack of training time and money, they are having a difficult time maintaining combat-ready status. As the Army gets smaller, the National Guard faces a growing risk that it may have to deploy for combat in less time than the nominal 180 days it is designed to expect.--Stephen V Cole


October 29; Military wives are protesting Guam has become a "divorce mill" for military officers. The residency requirement to get a divorce on Guam is only 90 days (and only for one of the couple), and courts often ignore this requirement. Dozens of military officers have gotten divorces on Guam, often without their spouses even knowing that a divorce had been filed. In some cases, the spouse did not know anything until the divorce was final and the property division approved by the Guam courts. One military wife has managed to get a case before the Guam Supreme Court, asking it to rule that military personnel cannot get divorced on Guam without knowledge of their spouses.--Stephen V Cole

October 29; The GAO says that the Veterans Administration wastes $1 million per day (a quarter of its health-care budget) on maintenance for buildings that it does not need. The buildings in question are obsolete, unused, or under-utilized, and could easily be done without. Presumably, some veterans would have to drive farther to obtain care.--Stephen V Cole

October 29; The Marine Corps and its supporters are furiously opposing Air Force plans to build the new Air Force memorial only a few hundred feet away. The Air Force originally planned to build a huge star-shaped sculpture 50-feet tall and 150 feet across. (The star shape is visible only from directly overhead.) The Marines cried foul, noting that it would overshadow the famous monument of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, and hinting that this was the original Air Force plan. The Air Force responded by offering to make the base of the star smaller (85 feet across) but the monument would remain 50 feet high, easily enough to overpower the Marine memorial. The Marines cried foul again, noting that since the Air Force did not offer to reduce the height of their rather ugly memorial (which, from ground level on any side, looks like three huge triangles that don't seem to symbolize much of anything), this proves that their intention all along was to insult the Marines and not to memorialize their own service members.--Stephen V Cole

Peacekeeping missions detract soldiers from their wartime roles and training. It takes six months or more to retrain a combat unit for peacekeeping. When it returns, it takes at least six months and usually a year to turn it back into a combat unit. That takes a combat unit out of the line for two-three years for each year of peacekeeping actually done. With several missions going on at any given time, as much as half of the Army can be unavailable for combat (or ineffective if forced into it) because they are getting ready for peacekeeping, keeping the peace somewhere, or learning how to forget about peacekeeping and get back to real duty.

One solution is for Congress to fund a "peacekeeping corps" that is either outside of the Defense Department or at least over and above the 11-division-equivalent force structure needed for national defense. This corps could consist of about five self-contained brigades, which would allow the US to keep two of them deployed on missions, a third ready for immediate deployment in the event of an unforeseen crisis, and two brigades recovering from the past mission and training for (and filling up with recruits for) their turn to relieve the two deployed brigades. If no crisis develops when one of the training brigades is ready for action, it becomes the on-call brigade while the on-call brigade goes to the field to relieve a deployed brigade, which of course then discharges many of its soldiers and becomes a training brigade working up to its next deployment. Another brigade or two could be formed in the National Guard from surplus combat units just in case the global peacekeeping industry gets busy. One of the five active brigades might be composed of Marines just so they don't feel left out.

Each brigade would include three line battalions of light infantry carried in Humvees. One or all of these battalions might be designated as a military police unit. There would also be an artillery battery, a reinforced tank/Bradley company (to rescue MPs trapped in riots), an engineer battalion, a civil affairs company, an aviation squadron to provide tactical airlift and disaster relief, and a support battalion with increased manpower to handle field hospitals and relief supply warehouses.
Soldiers for these brigades could include conscientious objectors, idealistic youth who volunteered specifically for peacekeeping duty, reservists who volunteer for an active tour, or active duty troops who volunteer or are picked for a rotation through such a unit. Without peacekeeping to do, the regular Army would spend less time deployed in the field, and soldiers might want to do a tour with the peacekeepers just to get into some action. Some units, such as engineers, might find their peacekeeping and wartime missions not all that different and could be rotated through peacekeeping brigades as intact units.--Stephen V Cole


 


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