This Is Awful…

…and it hits little towns hard.

Death toll for part-time troops in Iraq soars
Summer months prove deadly for Reserves and National Guard
The National Guard and Reserve suffered more combat deaths in Iraq during the first 10 days of August — at least 32, according to a Pentagon count — than in any full month of the entire war.

Stupid suggestions, even as you discount them, don’t help.

There is little evidence to suggest that part-time troops are being specifically targeted by the insurgents, since the Guard and Reserve troops are mostly indistinguishable from — and interchangeable with — regular active-duty troops.

The reason that reserve units are kept together (and hometowns pay a heavy price when terrible things happen) is hard lessons learned during conflicts where reserve units were called up, but their personnel used as individual replacements in units already in country. Both units’ cohesion and combat readiness suffered horribly. And people died because of it. Then there’s Korea, where the toll on reservists makes Iraq pale in comparison.

Korea was the first example of reservists paying the price for an extreme military drawdown. The parallels to the 90’s are inescapable. But if today’s drilling reservists are ‘shortchanged’, as the article quotes:

Some see it differently. Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst with the Brookings Institution think tank, said Thursday that while the performance of reservists has been generally excellent, some are shortchanged on training prior to arriving in Iraq.
“If we really believe that military personnel need months of intensive training before being at their best — as logic suggests and other evidence would seem to prove — it is hard to believe that most reservists in Iraq are really as strong as active-duty troops, especially when they first arrive in country,” O’Hanlon said.

…imagine how the Army INACTIVE reserves felt when they got bundled off to Korea…first.

Unlike World War II, the Army did not strip men from organized units as replacements or fillers for other units. They needed time to build up to a wartime footing, as did the active Army. There was also a hesitancy to commit them to Korea when the Korean conflict might only be the start of a global communist attack. This meant that the Inactive Reserves, those who had neither been drilling nor been given drill pay, were sent to Korea first.
There was considerable bitterness among the Inactive Reserves about the inequity of this situation. These were the same men who had won World War II, who had somehow managed to survive Kasserine Pass, Anzio, Peleliu, the Huertgen Forest, Guam and Okinawa, and who had come home to start new lives and new families. They had already saved the world once, now they were being asked to go save a part of the world most had never heard about before June 25, 1950. Not only were they being sent to war before their fellow soldiers in ORC units, there were still millions of men available for military service going about their normal lives.

The National Guard found it’s way there, too, but without as much emphasis on unit integrity.

The mobilization of the Army National Guard for Korean War service occurred in 19 separate increments, with units reporting for active duty between Aug. 14, 1950, and Feb. 15, 1952. It included eight infantry divisions, three regimental combat teams, and 714 company-sized units.
The 138,600 personnel federalized with their units represented about one third of the Army National Guard’s total strength. Many guardsmen went to Korea not with their units, but as individual replacements for units already in theater.

The worst part is, they got to stick around

The sweeping back-and-forth drama of the first year’s fighting in Korea was over, and the two National Guard divisions found themselves in a different kind of combat environment. As formal peace talks began in November 1951, U.N. and communist forces had settled themselves on either side of the 38th parallel. The National Guard divisions joined in a static warfare of entrenched positions and frequent combat patrols, punctuated by small-unit actions initiated by both sides.
Combat operations intensified once again in the spring of 1953, as both sides jockeyed for territory before a final border settlement. Both the 40th and 45th Infantry Divisions were still occupying their positions when the signing of an armistice at Panmunjon finally ended the fighting on July 27, 1953.
By this time, Army guardsmen who had arrived in South Korea during 1951 and early 1952 had returned home, their term of active federal service completed. But most National Guard units, now filled with draftees and enlistees, remained on active duty. Some stayed in Korea for several years, helping to monitor the fragile peace, but by 1955 almost all of the units federalized for the Korean War had been returned to state control.

In 1990, the Marine Corps addressed the importance of keeping reserve units intact:

Since the Korean Conflict the readiness of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve units has greatly improved. They have been formed into a division, wing, and force service support team; their equipment has been modernized; and they frequently train with their active duty counterparts. These improvements have increased the capability of both components to fight side by side in combat. Mobilization plans bring Reserve units to their station of initial assignment intact, but leave the decision of maintaining unit integrity up to the gaining commander in order to allow for flexibility.
The human dimension of war must always be a central concern to those
who plan the employment of any unit, as war is a clash between opposing human wills. The will to prevail is fostered by cohesive, well-led units. An important characteristic of most Reserve units is their cohesiveness. Continuity and shared regional origin encourage strong personal relation-ships amongst Reserve unit members which helps them develop the trust and confidence needed to fight effectively and deal with the psychological stress of combat.
RECOMMENDATION: The Marine Corps should provide guidance in its
mobilization plans which encourages commanders to weigh the combat
payoff of cohesiveness when making decisions on whether to maintain the unit integrity of Reserve units.
CONCLUSION: As the Marine Corps faces a reduction of its Active forces, the role of Reserve units as a partner in the defense of our national security becomes even more important. The most effective use of these units should be sought.
Thesis statement: The Marine Corps should incorporate guidance into its mobilization plans which emphasizes the importance of employing Selected Marine Corps Reserve forces as units in order to gain their most effective use in future wars.

Your heart bleeds at the pictures of the funerals and can’t fathom the anguish the families have to endure. But on the other hand, they endure it together. They were all their boys and girls. They belonged to the community. And if they hadn’t all known each other so well, known what the guy next to them would do and fight like a madman for their brother, there might well be more dead. That’s why they keep them together. A terrorist bomb doesn’t discriminate between children at a birthday party, men at a mosque or ask whether a truckload of Marines are reservists or active duty. It’s on the news every night. Someone sets it off and it just kills.
Daniel Henniger wrote about the service for the Ohio Marines today. He begins with…

BROOK PARK, Ohio–Over the weekend of Aug. 6, a steady line of cars and motorcycles pulled off Smith Road here to visit the fence that stands in front of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center. The small brick building beyond the fence is the headquarters for Third Battalion, 25th Regiment–“the 325th.” The fence had become a spontaneous memorial tribute to 19 Marines from the 325th, most of them from Ohio, who were killed near the Euphrates River in western Iraq last week. Across the weekend, planes were landing with the returning bodies at Hopkins Airport in Cleveland.
The politics of the Iraq war wasn’t much on view amid the memorial fence’s American flags, flowers, football jerseys, photographs, poems and Marine memorabilia. But someone had decided to put down on the ground an article published just three weeks ago in the News-Herald, a nearby newspaper. “All I can ask,” wrote Marine Cpl. Jacob Arnett, who is still on duty in Iraq, “is that the American people be given more than the bombings and daily death toll, because we are giving much more than that for Iraq.”

His beautiful piece finishes with…

In recent years, the outward expression of tragic sorrow in America has manifest itself as tears and inconsolable grief. We have become a people of extreme sentiment. But not that night in Brook Park. The grief at this too localized loss for Ohio was real enough, especially for the families, but the theme at the IX Center, and at the Marines’ memorial fence, had two parts: pride and, most of all, gratitude.
Both the memorial-fence poets and some of the speakers in the big hall drew a straight line between the Marines’ service and sacrifice in Iraq and the way we are able to live back home. “For more than 200 years,” said Brook Park Mayor Mark J. Elliott, “Americans have put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.” Someone said the Pledge of Allegiance, which in this version was “under God.” They listened to some other speeches by public figures, played “Taps” and walked out.
I don’t think what I saw in Brook Park adds up to a people who are for or against this war. But I do think it reflects a deeper understanding at home than is evident in our politics, of what those 19 Marines were doing in Iraq.

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