A Call for Phantom Troops

In his recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post, retired Army General John Batiste said:

“We went to war with the wrong war plan…Previous planning identified the need for up to three times the troop strength we committed to remove the regime in Iraq and set the conditions for peace there.”

There is one problem with Mr. Batiste’s statement about the previous planning:  It was mathematically impossible.

In the initial invasion, approximately 175,000 U.S. military personnel were in the theater of operations.

By the previous plan, that would call for 525,000 personnel.

That would be every single member of the active duty Army plus 1/6 of the Marine Corps.

That would have involved abandoning the DMZ in Korea, ending out commitments in Japan and the Pacific, pulling the small contingents out of Kosovo and the Horn of Africa and sending literally everybody to either Iraq of Afghanistan–including everyone in the Pentagon all personnel involved in Homeland Security for Operation Enduring Eagle.

But that is not the major flaw with Batiste’s train of thought.

As the retired General must know, there are only about 113,000 actual trigger pullers in the military.

That’s right.

There are only 113,000 actual trained infantrymen who know how to operate effectively outside the wire.

There could have been an extra hundred thousand ‘troops’ in Iraq, but they would have been mechanics, payroll clerks and computer technicians–not exactly the types to quell an insurgency.

For everyone who said we needed more troops in Iraq, we at America’s Majority are going to provide a little lesson in military math–a lesson some of you will find shocking.

The Marine Corps has 158,641 total enlisted members.

Only 28,228 of them are actually infantrymen–grunts, trigger pullers, ground pounders, bullet stoppers–whatever you want to call them.

And out 18, 839 Marine Officers, only 2,118 of them are infantry officers.

The leanest, meanest most combat intensive branch of the armed forces is only 17% are actually in the infantry.

Now, lets look at the Army.

We hunted around the Army and DoD websites trying to find the exact number of infrantrymen (MOS 11B) in the Army, but couldn’t find it, so, we’ll go with some estimates.

The Army had an annual average strength of 487,986 personnel in FY 2005.  Using the percentage of grunts to total force in the Marines, we can expect to find 82,957 actual grunts in the Army.

[The consensus of the Veterans of America's Majority is that there are dramatically fewer grunts in the Army, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt.]

Simply put, the claims we didn’t have enough troops are false–there were no more troops to be put in the theater that would have made a difference, unless you think it is a good idea to pull administrative types out of the Pentagon and other HQ activities and tell them to go hunting for bad guys.

To get the requisite number of infantrymen, and infantry are what is needed to quell an insurgency, the U.S. would have had to abandon the DMZ in Korea, redirect every Marine Expeditionary Unit trolling potential trouble spots around the globe, abandon the Pacific Rim and leave China unchecked, abadon our missions in Kosovo, Africa and Latin America and the Army’s role in Homeland Security.

And once everyone was in the theater, by Batiste’s plan, they would have to stay their permanently until Iraq was built to our standards.

[We are not rebuilding Iraq, we are building Iraq; Ed.]

There would be no rotation of units–they would all be in Iraq.

If we left behind just enough forces for recruiting, boot camp, and initial skill training, which would cut down the the number of troops in Iraq, the boots would be dropped into cold.

One of the lessons learned from Vietnam was to keep units together as the deployed instead of just deploying individual personnel.

Batiste’s position would have us unlearn that lesson.

The media, in fawning over anyone opposed to Rumsfeld, the Bush Administration and the War on Terrorism, will never ask where the extra troops were supposed to come from.

The media will never ask Rumsfeld’s critics if they would advocate abandoning a dozen other military commitments.

They will just assume some phantom grunts would appear out of nowhere to fight the war.

One Response to “A Call for Phantom Troops”

  1. al hall Says:

    Little details like phantom troops, unrealistic battle plans and 20/20 hindsight have never gotten in the way of a good political attack on GWB, Big Dog(Rumsfield) or our country. In talking to people day to day, when they mention something I consider to be “out there”, I always ask their information source. Usually, they can’t provide an answer, but I know the drive-by media is providing talking points. I have strong doubts about anyone who actually believes what the MSM spouts.