"As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want." - Donald Rumsfeld
It's hard to believe that it has been over six weeks since I posted last. Just to catch up; five weeks ago I was still sitting behind a desk trying to anticipate the next issue while playing fireman to numerous little "fires" that break out and need putting out. Three weeks ago I took two whole weeks off of work to travel with my family all over the eastern seaboard. We hit Arapahoe, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; and finally the west coast of Florida where my mother-in-law lives. For this past week I have been climbing out from underneath all the emails I ignored while I was away.
The Battle Roster for my company is published. A Battle Roster (BR) is the list of names of the Soldiers who are deploying. It lists their name, rank, job position and job competency, and what unit they are coming from (if not organic to my unit). Filling a Battle Roster is not as easy as it should be and has been the cause of many heated email exchanges and phone coversations.
In March, my BR was solid and I looked forward to taking a lot of the veterans on the roster so that they would mentor the new "kids". I needed officers, the one thing my company is serously lacking is commissioned officers within the ranks. I was relying on the the veterans who had two, three, up to five tours going back to 1990 to provide the initial leadership until we got going - collectively as one unit.
By May, reality set in. I lost two solid Non-commisioned officers to retirement. I lost another to age - he will turn 60 while we are deployed. I lost two more Soldiers to medical issues and a final Soldier decided not to re-enlist. Six gone before the summer started. Six to backfill, plus find over six officers.
These issues are not mine alone. I share this headache with a faceless Major S. at Ft. Bragg, NC, who sole job is to populate the vacancies on the BR. He shares his headache with Big Army, who has the responsibility to fill anything left over.
I back filled some of my vacancies in the junior enlisted positions with my own Soldiers. Young men and women who volunteered, even begged, to go with the company. This dedication amazes me every time I see it. I understand that some are just looking for the adventure and some are looking for a steady paycheck. However, there is a war on and Iraq is still a dangerous place to volunteer to go to.
From May until July back filling and filling my senior leadership positions was harder. I was given officers who I never met. I had one office who I knew volunteer to go but got tied up and lost in the bullshit bureaucracy that is Big Army. I was forced to push some NCOs outside of their comfort zone into positions of greater authority and responsibility.
Why does all of this cause me concern? The reason is that I believe in building strong units and teams prior to entering a hostile zone. That strength comes from working together over time. Since we are coming together for the first time in three weeks I have apprehesion over the performance of the teams as they start.
As we speak I am still trying to get to "final". I write this with the full knowledge that "no plan survives first contact" and that even as I will eventually leave the US with my teams set, that those will change again when we get into Theater.