Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NCOs Run the Army: Are They Staying?

Here's what the LA Times says:

Army's Middle Ranks Are Dwindling

Such experienced leaders are a steadying force -- but many of them are quitting, in search of their own stability in civilian life.

"When you're single and in the Army, it's not really a big deal," Robynne Ashby [above, with her husband, Bradford] said, stopping off in Alabama on the two-day drive, their dog, Spade, in the passenger's seat. "It's nice; you go to foreign countries. We met people in Bosnia, saw Budapest.

"But these guys had kids being born while they were gone, toddlers growing up. It's hard on the family. You totally understand why they don't stay."

'Holes in the Force'

More than five years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have put the all-volunteer Army under tremendous strain. Time at home is supposed to be longer than time at war — two years to one. Instead, deployments are longer than respites — 15 months versus a year. And there is little or no R&R in combat.

By giving soldiers incentives to stay, the Army has met and even exceeded retention goals. Housing and family services have been improved. Signing bonuses have soared.

But in the middle ranks — soldiers such as the Ashbys, who have served between six and eight years and are at a point of deciding whether to make the military a career — the challenge is greater. Their retention rate is below the mark. That means the Army is struggling to keep the leaders it believes it needs to press two wars and train its expanding force.

In terms of sheer numbers, the losses are not large: The Army seeks to keep about half of the midlevel soldiers who are eligible to reenlist, and it is making 93% of that goal.

Still, the Army is losing more front-line sergeants and other noncommissioned officers than it can afford to. Considered the backbone of the Army, NCOs are a crucial component of the Pentagon's plan to add nine brigade combat teams to the deployment rotation, relieving the strain on soldiers now facing their third and fourth tours at war.

Military experts are concerned that the years of combat waged by a scaled-down Army are contributing to an erosion of wisdom and experience.

Read the whole thing.

Operation Yellow Elephant thanks the Ashbys for their service to our nation and wishes them all the best.


At 24 July, 2007 15:42, Blogger Charles2 said...

NCOs are truly a steadying force. Officers (I was one for 10 years), get moved from assignment to assignment - even on the same base - about every 12 - 18 months. NCOs usually stay in the same position, with the same soldiers for several years at a stretch.

Without that stability unit cohesion would fall apart. If we are truly driving the mid-level sergeants out the military is more broken than I thought.

A story on my local (Rochester, NY) NPR station today said that even the staffs of our military schools are nearly depleted because the knowledgeable officers and NCOs are needed on the front lines. "Eating the seed-corn" came to mind.


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