The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 32           September 22, 2003  
‘Each soldier a rifleman’:
radical shift in U.S. Army
(front page)
“Every soldier is a rifleman.” That’s a credo of the U.S. Marines. It’s now also becoming the motto of the U.S. Army—a radical shift in how the Army trains all its enlisted troops.

Unlike the Marine Corps, the Army has too many soldiers who are specialized as clerks, cooks, or mechanics but get little training or experience in using weapons or fighting, according to what Gen. Kevin Byrnes, the Army’s top training officer, told reporters September 4.

“We’ve become too specialized,” said Byrnes, the head of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Monroe, Virginia. “Ask a junior enlisted who they are, and they’ll tell you, ‘I’m a mechanic,’ not a soldier. We need to change that culturally in the Army.” Beginning next year for soldiers, and in three years for officers, the Army plans to formally inculcate a “warrior ethos” throughout its ranks, he added.

“I think the Marines do a good job on their basic combat training, and we’re trying to pull the better aspects out and embed them in our training,” Byrnes said.

This is part of a broader transformation of the entire U.S. armed forces, which includes giving central role to Special Operations units, combining commands of various branches of the military, outsourcing jobs like running military prisons and hospitals to non-military entities, and enhancing the military’s volunteer character. This is happening, as U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld put it in a Jan. 31, 2002, speech to the War College in Washington D.C., because “In the 21st century…we need rapidly deployable, fully integrated joint forces capable of reaching distant theaters quickly and working with our air and sea forces to strike adversaries swiftly, successfully, and with devastating effect.”

In other words, the White House aims at turning the U.S. military into an instrument more like that of Israel’s armed forces, or even those of Cuba’s—not politically, of course, but in terms of rigorous training aimed at making it a more effective fighting machine for imperialism.

After praising the military’s performance in the assault and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Byrnes said, “The initiatives TRADOC is leading now will ensure that the lessons of war are well learned and that every disciplined soldier thinks of himself or herself as an infantryman first. It is the Warrior Ethos—the culture of disciplined initiative, teamwork, determination, sacrifice, and self-reliance—that guides our soldiers today and tomorrow.”

These initiatives include adding a six-week leadership course to the officers’ training. The course would come before the officers’ 8- to 14-week training in their specialties, such as intelligence, infantry, or logistics, and emphasize small-unit leadership skills, similar to those possessed by Special Operations forces.

“They are very agile, very adaptive,” Byrnes said of those elite soldiers. “They are intelligence collectors, they’re war fighters. How can we take some of that goodness and bring it into our regular force?”

Like Marine mechanics and supply clerks who pride themselves on their shooting skills and ability to defend themselves in battle, GIs will undergo similar instruction. “Thus, mechanics not only will be required to fix engines but to repair them at night after a long road march. And all Army personnel, not just front-line combat units, could be required to qualify on marksmanship twice a year instead of just once,” said an article in the September 8 Washington Post.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home