- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Two of the five new Army brigades that will be involved in the Baghdad surge were so quickly deployed to Iraq that they did not engage in crucial training at Fort Irwin, Calif. “These soldiers, aren’t getting the benefit of participating in war games on the wide Mojave Desert, where gun-jamming sand and faux insurgents closely resemble conditions in Iraq,” Time magazine reported in a weekend cover story, “Why Our Army Is At the Breaking Point.” In an April 7 article, “For the Army: Code Yellow,” the National Journal reported: “The high demand for fresh troops has led the Army to reduce basic training from 14 weeks to nine, and drill instructors have lessened the physical demands so that injuries won’t disqualify valuable recruits.”

As these magazines hit the newsstands, the Pentagon revealed new developments confirming the Army readiness crisis. At least 13,000 troops in four Army National Guard combat brigades, all of which served overseas combat tours in 2004 and 2005, will be involuntarily mobilized and deployed to Iraq before the end of the year, the Pentagon announced over the weekend. Also, another 17,500 soldiers now serving in Iraq will likely have their one-year combat deployments extended by as many as four months.

Meanwhile, the equipment crisis is so severe that stateside troops routinely train on hardware different from the equipment they will operate in Iraq. “Beyond the lack of weapons for stateside troops,” Time reported, “Army stockpiles of equipment around the globe are shrinking as their contents are siphoned to Iraq, reducing the nation’s ability to respond to the next crisis.” On the op-ed page of this newspaper on Monday, retired Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, a former commander of the Army War College, wrote: “While the true magnitude of the Army’s equipment disaster remains clouded in classification, the anecdotal evidence of impending collapse is anywhere you choose to look. For the first time in nearly half a century … the 82nd Airborne Division cannot generate enough power to put one of its brigades on strategic alert.”

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who served in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War, told the National Journal: “[T]here is a sense of denial of the problem in the Pentagon that I find utterly beyond belief. My bottom line is that the Army is unraveling, and if we don’t expend significant national energy to reverse that trend, sometime in the next two years we will break the Army just like we did during Vietnam. Only this time we won’t have 10 years to fix it again. There will be no timeout from the Global War on Terror.”

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