Beyond theory and beyond the important issue of how we should be fighting the war on terrorism, what is the public understanding of what our Army represents today and where is it going in the future to enhance our national security? The security environment is of course dynamic, and our/your Army must be ever flexible and agile to meet the threat that might still be over the horizon. But some observations may nevertheless be made.
In September, I traveled to Ft. Riley, Kansas, to visit the 1st Battalion of the 16th Infantry of the First Infantry Division, with which I served in Vietnam. Ft. Riley is a city unto itself, with schools for the children of soldiers, housing, hospitals, playgrounds, gas stations, shopping centers, and social centers. It is at these bases that families wait and pray as their fathers and mothers are deployed. For the Active Force, civil-military relations is in a different context than for the Guard and Reserves. Families of deployed soldiers from the Active Force have a support base at these military installations. If there is a casualty from among them, they rally to each other. With our Guard and Reserves so heavily deployed into the theater of operations, our civilian communities take on a special responsibility to support our soldiers and their families. This is why with an all-volunteer Army we need to keep the lines open between the military and civilian communities. Each soldier serves for us, and each soldier, whether Guard, Reserve, or Active component, needs and merits our support. We are a nation at war, but the sacrifices are being made by but a few Americans.
As Secretary of the Army Dr. Francis Harvey recently said, “Grassroots support for America’s Army can only be achieved”–and I would add maintained-“when the people know and understand the sacrifices of its soldiers and the value of the Army to the Nation. That is why this year’s theme “A Call to Duty” is so appropriate.” Foreign Policy Research Institute president Harvey Sicherman was correct when he said that the concept of the citizen-soldier itself is under stress. “Patriotism” should be redefined, he suggested, to include a call to national service. Our Army’s call to national service is just that, a “Call to Duty”.
Our Army leaders face five critical challenges today:
ARMY GLOBAL COMMITMENTS
THE AMERICAN SOLDIER
Sixty-six percent of our soldiers are married; 19,000 are dual married couples, meaning 38,000 soldiers where both husband and wife are in service; 54 percent of Army spouses are employed (child care is a major issue at big posts but especially for the Guard and Reserves); 3.7 percent of single soldiers are parents; 90 percent of the enlisted are high school graduates; 35 percent of the Army is comprised of minorities; 90 percent of the officers have a master’s or higher degree; 15 percent of Army officers are women. The bulk of our enlisted and NCOs are age 17 to 42. Twenty years service leads to a retirement with 50 percent of the pay earned while on active duty and medical care for life. Senior NCOs and officers of course serve for 30 years or more. Thirty years of service results in retirement pay of 75 percent of base pay upon retirement. But direct pay is not enough, especially to retain soldiers who are married.
Compensation. We are in a competitive employment market. Individuals of the age of 17 to 20, a prime group for recruitment, have many career choices. We as an Army need to be competitive. How much does a soldier get paid? An E-1, a new recruit, earns some $14,000 per year in addition to housing and full medical coverage. This may not be enough to buy a Ferrari, but it’s a career start. Military service still counts in getting an added edge in the job market. In addition, after a three-year tour of duty, a soldier is eligible for VA educational benefits to use toward college or graduate school. In addition, enlistment incentives today for special skills might be $20,000, with new legislation proposed to offer $40,000. A soldier who deploys to a combat zone receives a $225 per month Family Support pay add-on and $110 per month in nontaxable Hostile-Fire pay. So a married 18-year-old just out of high school, after serving stateside in training for less than two years and being promoted to E- 3 (a private first-class), could earn $1,501 per month plus housing for his or her family; with Family Support and Hostile-Fire pay bringing that to $1,836 per month, or some $22,000 per year in addition to the $20,000 enlistment bonus. As a start to a 20-year career, this just might be attractive for many when one adds the special skills learned (i.e., medical technician, law enforcement, engineering, etc.), many of which have high value in the private sector.
Despite the hazards attendant with our nation’s being at war, soldiering is attractive to many. Patriotism also counts with our youth as an incentive to enlist. There are conflicting studies, but the latest results point out that the middle-class is well represented in our enlisted ranks, which are therefore not made up only of poor inner-city or farm youth, as many believe.
An enlistee volunteer who succeeds, stays for 26 years, and attains the rank of E-9 (Sergeant Major, the top NCO rank) receives retirement pay at 75 percent of base salary, or $45,000 per year plus family medical and college benefits for life. This is not bad in today’s market, but our Army needs to retain its NCOs, the backbone of our Army.
One new, very critical, change is the plan to building stability and predictability into the force. Members of the Active Component will be stabilized at their home bases for six to seven years, rather than relocating them every three years, to enhance both unit cohesion and family stability.
When a soldier deploys from theater as in Iraq, the plan is to have him or her expect to be stateside at their home base for three years before the next deployment. The Guard and Reserve is to be stabilized for six years. Guard and Reserve units according to the current plan are not to be deployed more than once in a six-year cycle.
MANEUVER UNITS OF ACTION
Main fighting vehicles. A heavy BCT is equipped with the MIA2 Abrams Tank that can attain speeds of more than 40mph, with a 120mm gun, armor protection, a computerized firing and operating system, and a crew of four. It weighs, however, some 67 tons. The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is also part of the Heavy Brigade Combat Team. It provides protective transport of an infantry squad of ten, providing with its armament to support dismounted infantrymen. Fully combat loaded, it weighs 67,000 pounds, can reach speeds of 38 mph, and is armed with a 25mm cannon, a Tow missile system, and a machine gun. It, too, is computerized with a GPS system and advanced communications system.
The Stryker is the newest vehicle in the inventory, and was added to meet the need for a strategically deployable vehicle, air lifted by C-17s and C-5s anywhere in the world, and placed into local environments by C-130 aircraft. It can be an infantry troop carrier, a Mobile Gun System, a medical evacuation vehicle, an antitank missile system, an engineer squad vehicle, or a recon vehicle. It carries nine soldiers and can be armored. It weighs 19 tons and can reach 60 mph. In urban settings, it is the vehicle of choice. Throughout our Army we also have Humvees, a multi-purpose vehicle for transport.
The M1 tank, Stryker, and Bradley are still expected to be around into the years 2025-30. But by 2025, we expect to have 20-ton variants of our heavy vehicles in the modernized force that will enable us to load three tanks on a C-17 and fly it anywhere and to fit one each on a C-130 for forward engagement. Parts and components of vehicles are to be interchangeable to reduce the number of specialized mechanics and streamline the spare parts chain. Networks will be advanced to enable forward infantry units to interface with air and naval assets. The price tag is $20 billion for design and development and an estimated $80 billion to construct. But these systems will gather information for the soldier and link him or her to intelligence and weapons systems that are immediately responsive to the battle at hand. One Brigade Combat Team is to be FCS equipped by 2014, and fifteen by 2030.
There are today some 350 companies working to bring FCS to reality, under the leadership of our Army, with a corporate consortium led by Boeing and SAIC. When realized, it will put battle command software into the hands of forward- deployed troops and give them real-time intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance; networked logistics systems; unattended sensors; non-line-of-sight missile launch systems; intelligent unattended munitions; unmanned aerial vehicles, some with vertical takeoff and landing and some fixed wing; armed robotic vehicles; small unmanned ground vehicles; lighter-weight mounted gun systems; new infantry vehicles; and a medical vehicle equipped with medical diagnosis capabilities and telemedicine interfaces. Our Army deserves no less.
Americans can be proud of those who serve. For more than 230 years our soldiers have answered the Call to Duty. Those who serve merit our unwavering support.
This article is reproduced by permission of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, www.fpri.org.
Sherwood (Woody) Goldberg is a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army. This article is based on a presentation he made in Philadelphia on Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2005, co-sponsored by the FPRI and the West Point Society of Philadelphia.