Since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Army has been focusing it’s procurement and training resources into preparing combat soldiers for the realities of counterinsurgency warfare. This focus has emphasized tactical capabilities needed by warfighters in the field. However, after ten years of war one commander is arguing that the Army now needs to take a different, more traditional direction.
Earlier this month, Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, the commander of US Army Europe, told reporters that the Army needs to “reframe” it’s efforts beyond counterinsurgency. According to the general, “we are a tactically savvy Army that has been fighting a specific kind of conflict, and it’s now time to expand ourselves a little bit”, and that “because we were in such a rush to field forces, that we ignored some intricacies.”
Instead of focusing on counterinsurgency skills, Hertling claims that the Army needs to rebuild its training programs in areas that have been long neglected since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. These include preparing troops to fight more traditional wars, but also focusing on non-combat areas like training management, supply accountability, soldier discipline, and counseling and mentoring.
“If we’re going to reduce our Army”, said the general, “we’ve got to [retain] the very best, and those very best have to be counseled and developed and trained.”
One area where Hertling sees much need for improvement is in soldier discipline. In wartime commanding officers often overlook acts of indiscipline, not wanting to lose soldiers who might otherwise be helping the war effort. Hertling argues that over the last ten years discipline problems amongst soldiers “have not paid as much attention to as we should.” Now the Army must reframe itself to tackle discipline as an issue and commanders must not overlook acts of indiscipline.
When Hertling took command of the U.S. Army in Europe, he requested his staff create a list of soldiers that had more than one citation for driving under the influence. The number, he said, surprised him. The general makes a strong point. If the U.S. Army is going to remain an effective fighting force despite being smaller in size, it is going to have to pay closer attention making each soldier better, including greater attention to discipline.
Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.