The Gathering of Eagles
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Surge troops skipping NTC before deployment

UPDATE: John Hood from NRO's The Corner has linked here and is discussing the same bit. Matty O' points out in the comments that it was an AP piece by John Burns that ran in the Army Times, I missed that but think it explains the tone of the piece.

From the Army Times

Rushed by President Bush’s decision to reinforce Baghdad with thousands more U.S. troops, two Army combat brigades are skipping their usual session at the Army’s premier training range in California and instead are making final preparations at their home bases......

Instead of going to the National Training Center first, it imported personnel and equipment — even Toyota pickups like those used by Iraqi insurgents — from the training center at Fort Irwin for two weeks of final rehearsals that begin Wednesday.....

The main things that cannot be replicated in a home-station exercise are the vast spaces of the National Training Center, which is located in the Mojave Desert, and the weather and other environmental conditions that so closely resemble much of Iraq, Wagstaffe said.

“Your weapon won’t jam from sand at Fort Stewart,” he said.

I imagine we will hear some wailing and gnashing of teeth about this, but let's take an objective look at what this actually means. It would be great to send all our forces through an exact simulation of what they will face in Iraq, but NTC is not a perfect model either. The main thing our troops will be doing is urban/village counter-insurgency and while much of Iraq is desert, we are not conducting Rat Patrol operations chasing Rommel around North Africa. The training most important for these troops is building clearing, urban operations, and civil-military affairs. Both Ft. Stewart and Ft/ Lewis have excellent MOUT (military operations on urbanized terrain) training facilities where the units could work on the small unit tactics that they will use in Iraq.

I have been to NTC and traveled about in those vast spaces of California desert, and they are a great place to stage giant force on force battles where tanks and Bradleys and Humvees go screaming around hiding behind rock formations then blasting at each other. As I mentioned very helpful if we are attempting to repel an invading Iranian Armored Corps, not too helpful for house to house, cordon and clear, counter-insurgency. So these wise commanders decided that rather than pack up the whole unit and deploy them to NTC and then back home, they could just bring some of the training aids like Toyota pickups etc., have folks from their bases play the Iraqis and they could be ready to go weeks sooner to join the most important actions since our invasion. Awful idea I know.

Now I'm not saying it isn't a compromise and that in a perfect world it wouldn't be better to go to NTC. I'm saying this is a minor issue, that will be inflated and bandied about by the Murthas of the world and this doesn't even rise to "Embrace the suck" status. Also remember that most of the leadership of these units have already done a couple of tours in Iraq and they have been teaching their troopies how to deal with sand jamming their weapons, and I don't think the spokesman for NTC has ever been to Ft. Stewart and seen the evil red clay/dirt there in the summer either.

So deep breaths, we are not sending our troops un-trained into combat. They have been working on the tactics and techniques they will use to operate in the cities and villages they will help secure, I think they would join me in saying that they will get plenty of Iraq-like weather and terrain once they actually get there.