Overhauling Guard Training Is Costly
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is determined to overhaul both training and active duty tours for the Army National Guard, but finding a way to give these part-time soldiers more time at home will cost over $128 million, the Associated Press has learned.
After struggling for more than a year and a half to condense the training process, Guard leaders have managed to chop months off the time that citizen soldiers must spend away from their jobs and families due to deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Until early 2007, Guard combat brigades were training for up to six months — much of it away from home — and then would spend between 12 months and 15 months in the war zone. The average time has been slashed to a bit more than 13 months, including about a month of training at home, another 40 to 70 days at the formal Army training center, and roughly 10 months on the battlefront.
Spurred on by the Pentagon’s promise that Guard deployments would be limited to one year, military leaders pledged to spread some of the required pre-deployment war preparation into the soldiers’ routine weekend and weeklong training exercises each year.
That would allow soldiers to train, get required medical tests, and do some paperwork while at home for much of the 12 months prior to heading to one of 10 mobilization centers for their final prewar training and equipment.
But it’s an expensive exercise, and training and equipping these part-time troops will cost nearly double the estimated $128 million pricetag of revamping the nature of their active-duty tours.
Depending on the size and type of unit, soldiers now are spending anywhere from two weeks to more than two months at the mobilization center, where they get their final, most up-to-date training. The last weeks could include the latest data on counterinsurgency efforts and methods to find and defeat roadside bombs, as well as instruction on new weapons or the latest mine-resistant vehicles.
The spike in spending will fund the hiring of roughly 2,000 trainers for the Guard who will be needed to ensure that the Guard members get as much training as they can during that one-year period before they mobilize. Already, according to the chief of training for the Army National Guard, Colonel Rob Moore, nearly 1,500 of those slots have been filled.