As the United States prepares for a war against international terrorism,
it is more important than ever that the armed forces devote more
resources to improved training, according to a number of retired
military commanders who spoke to National Defense.
“A lot depends upon our soldiers doing the right thing at
the right time,” said William W. Hartzog, former commanding
general of the Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Training is “one of those things that usually takes a hit
in the defense budget,” Hartzog said. “We can’t
afford that any more.”
The services need more training with the new equipment being introduced
to the services, he said. “A lot of information technology
is being inserted into the force these days that hasn’t been
digested yet. Soldiers have a lot of new machines and not much practice
time with them. That has to change.”
There’s been a major increase in the use of simulation and
modeling technology, Hartzog said, but “not nearly enough
attention has been paid to modeling terrorist tactics. Those tactics
are hard to model, but we have to increase our ability to do that.”
Military operations of the past decade—such as Panama, Haiti,
Somalia and the drug war in Latin America—may offer some idea
of what strategies and tactics might be employed, Hartzog said.
The goals in each of those conflicts might be different than the
present one, he explained, but “the means are similar.”
In Afghanistan, as in those cases, he suggested, special operations
may be the driving force, with conventional units in supporting
The idea, he said, would be to have a light forward force, operating
from nearby launching platforms, with most of the air support based
in the continental United States.
But patience will be required, Hartzog warned. He noted that hunting
down Panama’s strongman Manuel Noriega a decade ago took time.
Hartzog was operations officer during that campaign.
As with Noriega, he cautioned: “We may have to have 50 lightning
strikes before we find the right person at the right place. That
can take quite a while.”
Hartzog pronounced himself “pretty satisfied with the level
of training for our special operations forces,” but he added
that improvements are needed in training for conventional troops,
especially in urban combat. “Afghanistan isn’t all desert,
you know,” he said.
Besides, while Afghanistan might be primarily a special-operations
target, conventional forces might very well be required if it is
necessary to invade Iraq again, said Hartzog, who commanded the
Army’s 1st Division at the end of Desert Storm. “We
may have to do that again,” he said.
Whatever the war strategy, he said, it is certain to involve other
agencies in addition to the Defense Department. “The military
can’t conduct this kind of operation,” he explained.
“It’s got to involve the Justice Department, Transportation,
“How do you get all that? You need interagency cooperation
on the presidential level,” Hartzog said. “The Hart-Rudman
Commission recommended an anti-terrorism czar. I think we ought
to think about that. Maybe Vice President Cheney can do that.”
A war against terrorism will be “very complex,” warns
retired Rear Adm. Frederick L. Lewis, now executive director of
the National Training Systems Association in Arlington, Va.
A former Navy combat pilot, Lewis led the carrier air wing that
conducted operations in the Gulf of Sidra against Muammar Khadafi’s
Libya, resulting in two downed Libyan fighters. Later, he commanded
Carrier Group Four and Carrier Striking Forces, Atlantic.
“Afghanistan is a great distance away and it is very isolated.
The problem becomes one of logistics and reach.”
The United States has military units training for such operations—both
conventional and unconventional—right now, Lewis noted.
Some units, however, are training with old equipment that needs
to be updated, he said. “The F-14 simulator, for example,
has been around for a long, long time. There are problems in fully
supporting that system. It’s hard to find parts.”
The same is true of the F-15 simulator, Lewis said.
The newer systems that are used in the Air Force’s Distributed
Mission Training (DMT) program need to be fully funded, he suggested.
“That hasn’t happened right now.” DMT links individual
flight simulators at several bases in a single network, permitting
groups of pilots to rehearse missions together without traveling.
“Also, we need to upgrade our training ranges,” Lewis
said. He mentioned the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.;
the Marine Corps facility at Twentynine Palms, Calif.; Nellis Air
Force Range, and Fallon Naval Air Station, both in Nevada.
Lewis urged the Bush administration “to seriously reconsider”
the decision to abandon the naval training facility on the Puerto
Rican island of Vieques. Just days after the terrorist attacks,
Lewis’ son—a Marine F-18 pilot—deployed aboard
the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The carrier recently trained at Vieques, “but they were unable
to drop live munitions,” Lewis said. “We’re sending
these folks out, into harm’s way, without live-fire training.”
To prepare for what is predicted to be a “war in the shadows,”
the nation needs “to enhance the training base” of its
military services, suggested retired Army Maj. Gen. William C. Moore,
chairman of the Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Division
of the National Defense Industrial Association.
“The first thing that we’ve got to do is assess the
cost to fix the training base,” said Moore, who served as
Army director of operations in the mid-1980s.
Army units maintain mission-essential task lists, “the things
that you absolutely have to do,” Moore said. “The units
know what their shortcomings are—both for the units and the
individuals in the units. They should be looking very hard at how
they meet those lists.”
Making the needed improvements will be costly, Moore said. “We
just have not put money into ranges, classrooms, buildings where
you can give instruction over the past decade,” he asserted.
“There’s been a conscious decision to divert funds elsewhere.”
What is needed now, more than anything else, is “field training,
stressing field skills,” Moore said. “Now is not the
time to employ simulation. There is a place for simulation, but
the troops right now need to train in the outdoor environment, where
it gets cold, wet and dirty. You can’t replicate live-fire
training in any kind of classroom or simulation training.”
While training needs to be stepped up, any war against terrorism
is going to have to be fought—initially, at least—with
existing forces, Moore noted.
“This is a ‘come-as-you-are’ war,” he said.
“In my opinion, we have enough special-operations forces to
execute the plans that are likely to be developed.”
Over the long term, Moore said, “I think we could use more
special-operations troops. Each of the services would tell you that
that they need more, and I think that’s probably true.”
The problem, Moore said, is that it takes time to train special-operations
personnel. “A man is in training for a year to qualify for
Special Forces. You can’t make a Special Forces soldier out
of any guy who jumps out of a plane or goes to Ranger school.”
Rapid-response forces like the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division
and the Marine expeditionary units can perform complimentary missions,
Moore conceded, “but they are not as highly trained for special-operations
Moore cautioned against a full U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he
said. “I hope we have learned something from the British and
Soviet campaigns there,” he said. “We shouldn’t
make that same mistake.
“What I can see is a two-pronged effort, with one force striking
up from Kuwait to Baghdad—to finish what we started there—and
a ‘war in the shadows’ fought in Afghanistan,”
Moore said. Both prongs would have overwhelming air support, he
An attack against Iraq is likely to be an essential part of any
war against terrorism, Moore said. “I don’t think anybody
in a policy-making level is going to be willing to let Saddam Hussein
remain standing when this is over.”
If any further proof is required that Iraq has supported terrorism,
Moore said, “I’m sure that our intelligence services
can provide it.”
Special-operations training is going to be particularly valuable
in the emerging struggle, ventured retired Marine Maj. Gen. Harry
W. Jenkins, chairman of NDIA’s Expeditionary Warfare Committee.
Jenkins commanded the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade during Desert
“A lot of this is going to fall on the special-operations
community, because of what they do,” he said. “I don’t
see a major land war coming. I do see a lot of patrolling, a lot
of deep reconnaissance, better use of ISR (intelligence, surveillance
Other important skills, Jenkins predicted, will be chemical and
biological warfare, nighttime operations, urban combat and the ability
for small units to operate independently. “They may have to
go with what they bring with them without re-supply for long periods
of time,” Jenkins said.
The units best trained and equipped for such missions are special-operations
forces, Jenkins said. Army Rangers “would be ideal,”
he added. Also, he said, Marine expeditionary units have some capabilities
“that they can bring to the table.” For example, he
said, they can conduct small raids, conduct long-range targeting
and reconnaissance mission and rescue downed pilots.
The Army could use more Ranger battalions, suggested retired Lt.
Gen. James B. Vaught, who conducted the ill-fated Iranian hostage
rescue attempt in 1980. Rangers are elite soldiers who are especially
trained for raiding and close combat behind enemy lines. They would
be particularly useful in Afghanistan, he noted.
“We only have three Ranger battalions right now,” said
Vaught. They are all assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, which
is part of the U.S. Special Operations Command. “And they
are never going to be made available to anybody but the president,”
“Each corps in the Army needs a battalion of Rangers of its
own, Vaught said.
Conventional ground forces don’t have a role in Afghanistan,
Vaught said. “They don’t need to be over there. They’re
not trained for it. None of these divisions are ready to go.”
What worries retired Army Brig. Gen. Walter L. Busbee is the threat
of biological or chemical attack. Busbee is chairman of NDIA’s
Chemical Biological Division.
“From my time at the Pentagon, with the exception of a few
pockets of excellence, we are woefully unprepared,” he told
National Defense. A particular nightmare, he said, is the possibility
of a biological attack on Diego Garcia, the main U.S. military base
in the Indian Ocean, which is likely to serve as a launching pad
in strikes against Afghanistan.
A 1997 study pointed out the shortcomings in U.S. chem-bio defenses
and the steps necessary to remedy them, but “very few of those
recommendations have been followed,” Busbee said.
“The Special Operations Command has taken the report seriously,”
Busbee said. Also, he said, some of the conventional forces in the
Pacific Command, especially those in Korea, have “looked at
the chem-bio threat across the spectrum.”
Busbee noted recent media reports that an abandoned chem-bio laboratory
had been found at one of Osama bin Laden’s camps with dead
dogs tied to stakes in the ground. “That’s how we used
to test our weapons when we had a program,” Busbee said. “Only
we used goats.
“There’s absolutely no question in my mind that they
have the capability to use at least a rudimentary device.”
While the chem-bio threat seems to be increasing, U.S. defenses
aren’t keeping pace, Busbee said. “We have a single
training site—Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri,” he explained.
“It’s an excellent site, but it was down for four years.
It’s only been up for a year now.” During that period,
he explained, the Army moved its Chemical Weapons School to Leonard
Wood from Fort McClellan, Ala., which was shut down in an earlier
round of base closures.
Meanwhile, Leonard Wood has been given the responsibility providing
chem-bio training to the National Guard “without any additional
resources, Busbee said.
The way to have the most immediate impact on homeland defense,
Busbee said, is to “invigorate the preparation” of the
guard’s new Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams.
President Clinton in 1998 ordered the creation of 10 such teams
to help state and local authorities in the event of a WMD attack,
and Congress last year mandated 17 additional ones.
“Those 27 teams need to be trained to integrate with the
firemen and the police,” Busbee said. “There needs to
be more communication. If the first responders simply follow the
smoke and there is a chem-bio threat, they’re likely to run
right into it—with deadly consequences—leaving their
One of the problems is that the federal agencies involved are fighting
over turf, said Busbee. “The first order of business is for
the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Defense Department and
Justice Department to sit down and smoke the peace pipe,”
Previously, in this country, few people took chem-bio issues seriously,
Busbee said. “Everybody said, ‘no credible threat, never
happen here.’ Now, we know better.” nd