Untrained Soldier Killed in Iraq?
Editor and Publisher is touting as “EXCLUSIVE” a Greg Mitchell report that a soldier killed in what may be a blue-on-blue incident in Iraq “did not get full training.” The story is getting many bites.
- Will Bunch passes the story along as an example of how the Bush administration doesn’t care about the troops.
- John Aravosis: “Bush has destroyed the military, and is now sending virtual kids, unprepared, into battle. He has the nerve to talk about supporting the troops. His idea of support is killing our troops in order to assuage his own ego. Anyone and everyone who continues to support this war is complicit in this kid’s death.”
- Nitpicker: “I hope they’re pleased with themselves.”
- SpinDentist: “If You Surge Wouldn’t it be nice if they did so with trained troops? “
Two small problems with this story: It is not exclusive and the soldier was fully trained.
On February 9, the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News reported: “At least 143 soldiers joined Fort Stewart’s 1st Brigade too late to participate in a final combat exercise before their units deployed to Iraq. Last week, one of those soldiers – Pvt. Matthew T. Zeimer, 18 – was the first from the brigade to be killed when he was hit by enemy fire in Ramadi, the stronghold of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency.
“Zeimer arrived at Fort Stewart on Dec. 18 after basic training and deployed to Iraq just a few weeks later. He missed the brigade’s intensive four-week mission rehearsal in October when more than 1,300 trainers and Iraqi role-players came to the post as part of the most realistic training program the Army offers for Iraq operations.
“The fact some of the brigade’s 4,000 soldiers missed that training raises questions about how well the Army is preparing troops for war in the face of accelerated and repeat deployments.”
Two days before that, the same newspaper reported that “some Iraq veterans in the 1st Brigade have expressed concerns about their younger counterparts missing the mission rehearsal. ‘The training was good but some guys came in after that. They’re basically going straight from basic training into Iraq,’ said Staff Sgt. Jason Massey last month, before saying goodbye to his family for a third combat tour.”
So, this E&P “EXCLUSIVE” is actually a two-month-old story from a local newspaper. More importantly, the idea that soldiers customarily get a month-long “rehearsal” before deployments and that failure to do so means they’re “untrained” displays a woeful understanding of the military.
Soldiers rotate in and out of units on a constant basis. New soldiers join the program already in progress and their leaders get them up to speed as soon as possible. Young Zeimer had “a few weeks” with his unit at Fort Stewart before deploying to Iraq, which is more than many get.
Units tend to be manned below their authorized strength, for a variety of reasons. When they get deployment orders, it is usual for them to quickly get new soldiers and equipment to get them up to warfighting form. During Desert Storm, several new junior enlisted soldiers and NCOs joined our unit while we were staging in Saudi Arabia, some a few days before the ground war got underway. In Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, green recruits constantly joined units in the midst of combat. That’s how the Army works.
Very little public information is available on Private Zeimer’s death, so we have no way of knowing whether additional training would have helped. Most of the time, though, blue-on-blue incidents are just the fog of war. Training, even the most realistic, is still “just training.” Once the shooting starts for real, young men’s adrenaline gets pumping, they get jumpy, and they make mistakes. Constant training, especially unit training, cuts down those mistakes. It doesn’t eliminate them.
Spook86 provides a very detailed analysis as well.