More Troops Needed for Army to Achieve Mission
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
For better or worse, the war in Iraq is changing the U.S. military, and we've heard about some of the changes in conversations this week.
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
The Army is focusing on more training for Iraqis. It's dealing with a loss of equipment and the strain on troops.
INSKEEP: Today we'll talk with a man whose job is to make sure the U.S. Army is ready for this war, and for the next one. He's General Richard Cody. He is the Army vice chief of staff. He says the Army spends more time training for unconventional warfare these days, but that means the troops have less time to train for other kinds of conflict.
General RICHARD CODY (Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army): The problem that we're in right now is the fact that, because of the size of the army, we are turning our brigades and battalions around one year in combat - resetting them back here for about 13 months, training them, and sending them right back in. And we're training them for the counter-insurgency irregular warfare. The risk that we take is that we are not training for the high-end spectrum, right now, because of the size of our force.
INSKEEP: By high-end spectrum, you mean a conventional war?
Gen. CODY: A more conventional campaign against a nation-state that has a large army.
INSKEEP: General, I want to ask about something that was said by the Iraq Study Group, which put out its much-publicized recommendations for the war, this week. One of the things that it said was that the U.S. military can't meet the next rotation in Iraq - rotating in the next group of soldiers and Marines - without, quote, "undesirable changes in its deployment practices."
Gen. CODY: It is a tight timeline. You know, to reset a brigade combat team, for instance, it has about 40,000 pieces of equipment, and so the speed at which we're doing that is about a year - from the time they get back to the time they have to go again. But we have the requisite amount of forces to be able to meet a rotation at the current level we're at. The question comes in as, what do we have in reserve and what do we have for surge?
INSKEEP: Surge, meaning if you urgently needed a couple of divisions someplace, whether you could get them?
Gen. CODY: Yeah, that would be - that would put additional stress on the force.
INSKEEP: If the U.S. military is going to spend more time training Iraqi forces, and detach more American military officers and non-commissioned officers to work in small groups with Iraqi units, is that going to damage the combat units that they leave behind - the American combat unit?
Gen. CODY: What we don't want to do is hollow out our brigade combat teams. Right now, a military training team consists of a lieutenant colonel, and five captains, and five non-commissioned officers. That's leader-heavy. We've got about 400 of these military training teams in there. We did not have that many officers and non-commissioned officers sitting off on the sidelines. We've had to take them out of units that were resetting. And so, if we're going to be engaged - and I think we are for some time, in terms of providing transition teams and training teams - that means we have to grow our end strength, so that we have trained and ready brigade combat teams simultaneously, while executing the training mission.
INSKEEP: As you know well, General, the National Guard has a commitment that people in the National Guard will only be deployed for about 24 months. Do you expect that to be changed, to allow people in the Guard to be overseas for longer?
Gen. CODY: The issue is, if we're going to continue this, we have to have assured access to the total Army - active, Guard and Reserve. And if we don't have assured access, we're going to have to grow the active Army bigger so that we can sustain this operational tempo. The surge for the active force is one year's in, two year's out. We're inside of that.
Gen. CODY: For the National Guard and Reserve, it's one year in, five years out.
INSKEEP: So a member of the National Guard who has done his tour in Iraq might be called back in less than five years if you got your way.
Gen. CODY: As long as this nation requires it.
INSKEEP: Well now what do you think then of General Gordon Sullivan's proposal, which we heard about earlier this week on this program, to add another 100,000 soldiers to the U.S. Army?
Gen. CODY: This is going to be a strategic issue for this country. If you don't have a balanced access to all components of the Army - active, Guard and Reserve - and you're going to have this type of level of commitment for some time, then you're going to have to grow the end strength of the active force so that we don't wear it out.
INSKEEP: Something has to grow - either the active force or the National Guard and Reserve.
Gen. CODY: That's right. Well, the National Guards don't have to grow, but...
INSKEEP: They just have to be more available to you.
Gen. CODY: More available. And these are about national priorities.
INSKEEP: Well, General Cody, thanks very much for taking the time.
Gen. CODY: Okay, thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff General Richard Cody. And you can hear earlier conversations in this series at our Web site, npr.org.
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