Saturday, December 03, 2005

Military Readiness clarified for me if not for others

The tail end of the AP report, the upper part of which bothered me enough to half-seriously mock, had three paragraphs relating the readiness issues of the Pennsylvania National Guard very directly to Murtha's assertions that the military is "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth." Here is the tail end of the AP report to which I refer:

Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, spokesman for the Pennsylvania National Guard at Fort Indiantown Gap, said "there are some deployment concerns."

Cleaver said some guard units had to leave equipment in Iraq when they returned to the United States, which could cause training problems here.

But Cleaver also said most of the 2,100 Guard troops now deployed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team can't be sent back to Iraq for a second tour of duty anyway, because of regulations that limit redeployment.
It concerned me enough that I called Lt Col. Cleaver to ask about it. Introducing myself as an "investigative blogger", which he promptly echoed as a question, I asked about it. In asking my introductory questions about having seen it and its accruacy, Lt. Col. Cleaver explained he had and he noted his confidence in its accuracy.

Lt. Col. Cleaver was kind and patient in my requests for elaboration and my delivery of the questions, providing me a better understanding of those brief paragraphs.

For instance, he gave me an overview for "there are some deployment concerns". Indiantown Gap is a training center. (The main webpage for their site gives you an idea of it's extent.)

Those who use the Center need to train regularly to maintain their readiness. Readiness affects deployment. Concerns develop if equipment is lacking because the Center can't have people train if the equipment needed is not there.

Lt. Col. Cleaver noted a few things that had been left behind -- some tractor trailers, in Iraq if I remember correctly, and helicopters in Afghanistan. He also noted there was a 750 man PANG contingent coming home but he didn't know if they had left anything behind. Those were the major items he noted. The Guard has had these things replaced, Cleaver noted, without much intervening time.

Lt. Col. Cleaver explained the equipment is not PANG's but the Army's and the equipment left behind by PANG was to be used by incoming replacement forces.

From the Army's POV it makes sense to leave equipment assigned to PANG, like helicopters, behind for the incoming replacements rather than ship out the helicopters assigned to PANG and ship in other helicopters assigned to the incoming group. The same goes for tractor trailers. It's more cost effective to just do a stateside transfer to make things right. (I think I brought up this rationale first, to which Lt. Col. Cleaver concurred. Being a budding investigative blogger, my notes are fuzzy on it; they're a mess from trying to get everything down and thinking what to ask at the same time. Then again he might have brought it up or thought it should be obvious to me. In any event, he was patient enough to go through that with me.)

Lt. Col. Cleaver made clear that any concerns about deployment did not extend to domestic emergencies. Under circumstances such as flood, hurricane, etc., PANG would be ready. Lt Col. Cleaver explained about restrictions on additional overseas deployment of some troops because of a two year time limit. I didn't ask him to elaborate but on reflection, that limit could place constraints on how and how much of a mobilization could occur if needed and the possibility that only a partial mobilization could be effected.

An that brought the conversation back to the beginning and first paragraph noting "there are some deployment concerns." I thanked Lt. Col. Cleaver for his time and hung up having a much better appreciation for the complexities of the military's job and responsibilities to which we hold them than anything the AP has put out for me to read. I can't express my appreciation enough for the work they do in protecting our country through thick or thin.

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Not much of post, I'll concede, but I'm concerned about the trustworthiness of any AP report, had to check it out, and since I did take up Lt Col. Cleaver's time, I ought to report it. But as this post and this post illustrate, my belief that mainstream advocacy groups like the Associated Press want us to fail in Iraq is not just a product of my living in a fantasy world.


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