Saturday, August 23, 2008

An army stretched too thin

Longtime readers of the blog will know that the severe impact of the excessive deployments, multiple combat tours and strained family life has acutely affected officer retention. In addition, as this article details, the insatiable call of duty has prompted very rapid promotions for NCOs, as well as for officers. The result is that a worrying proportion of the sergeants, the men and women who actually run the army, may be not up to the tough demands of combat leadership. News | Strained by war, U.S. Army promotes unqualified soldiers

"America's military commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan is certain to remain a key issue in the presidential race -- and soon that could include renewed focus on a "stretched thin" U.S. Army. According to a Salon investigation, the Army is facing a troubling shortage of qualified sergeants, the noncommissioned officers considered to be the backbone of training and combat operations. In fact, a new Army policy intended to boost this critical leadership corps of NCOs has prompted a wave of promotions for apparently unqualified soldiers -- and even jeopardized some combat operations in Iraq.

"In essence, an Army policy implemented in 2005 and expanded this year lowered the bar for enlisted soldiers with the rank of E-4 to gain the rank of sergeant, or E-5, by diminishing the vetting process. According to more than a half dozen current and former Army sergeants interviewed by Salon, the policy has produced sergeants who are not ready to lead. In some cases, soldiers were promoted even after being denied advancement by their own unit commanders. While awarding a promotion once required effort on the part of a commander, those interviewed say, the Army's current policy actually requires effort to prevent a promotion, and has had negative consequences on the battlefield."

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