Ready, Aim, Misfire!

Inside Washington
National Journal, Sat. Apr. 26, 2008
By Elaine M. Grossman

Can Army artillery units hit the side of a barn? Maybe not, according to a troubling internal memo sent this month to Army Chief of Staff George Casey by three former brigade commanders.

“The once-mighty ‘King of Battle’ ” is a “dead branch walking,” write the active-duty colonels in the five-page document obtained by National Journal. With “growing alarm,” they describe “deterioration” in artillery readiness to perform its most basic missions. In training, “firing incidents [occur] during every rotation”; “crew drills are very slow, and any type of [disorder] halts operations”; and, absent instructor intervention, “most” cannon platoons would have fired in unsafe conditions, the memo says.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have drawn experienced artillery troops into other jobs-like infantry and transportation-where soldiers are badly needed, the authors write. Ninety percent of fire-support personnel have been reassigned, leaving behind fewer than 10 percent certified for the mission.

“General Casey seeks out and appreciates receiving feedback [from] commanders and soldiers in the field,” said an Army spokesman, who declined to comment on the memo’s specifics.

[Reprinted by permission of National Journal Group. This article may not be reproduced or redistributed, in part or in whole, without express permission of the publisher. Copyright 2008, National Journal Group. For more information and exclusive news, go to or]

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Filed in Uncategorized | 29 responses so far

29 Responses to “Ready, Aim, Misfire!”

  1. EmeryNelsonon 25 Apr 2008 at 6:31 pm 1

    Not terribly surprising. As others here have mentioned, at the company level any kind of coordinated unit “reaction” against a real army would likely involve trying to find crew served weapons at the lowest level, and NCOs with only a vague notion of combined arms, trying to organize the motley crew of CI back into an army. At the highest level we can count on a chaotic Ferris Bueller’s Day OFF, while they try and start an air war (effectiveness, as always, matters not), which is the historical fall back position.

  2. catranchon 25 Apr 2008 at 6:50 pm 2

    Well, one more ‘not good’ factor in the ever growing list of changes. American businesses as well as the services have been ill served by the outsourcing mentality.

    All the ‘brilliant’ post grad types have thought that all the components of an organization could be evaluated and quantified, and organizational structure condensed to an algebraic like relationship. Ooh goody, now we can calculate what efforts are up to our values/self image, and spin the rest off to lowly outsiders.

    And so we have said a fond farewell to the unsung organizational synergies that have given firms large and small, as well as divisions and armies, the flexibility and vibrancy to be more than just crowds. A nice touch for the Army, since artillery was what saved their ass in Vietnam and Korea.

  3. simontmnon 26 Apr 2008 at 2:13 am 3

    This 90% figure is worrying, indicating that the US army is no longer organised for conventional warfighting, but solely for occupation/counter-insurgency (“infantry, transport”). I had been very sceptical of Lind’s hypothesis that a conventional Iranian offensive (backed up by Shi’ite militia, possibly including the Iraqi ‘army’) in response to a US attack on Iran could roll up the US army in Iraq, but this lends strong support to the view that it is a practical possibility. I still don’t think the Iranian army (excluding IRG) is psychologically oriented to such an action, however.

  4. maximilliangcon 26 Apr 2008 at 6:19 am 4

    on 26 Apr 2008 at 2:13 am
    3This 90% figure is worrying,

    Yeah, but you forget the USAF has the mighty invincible,
    omnipotent allmighty, F-22 Raptor the greatest fighting
    machine ever concieved, imagined, and built,
    and the US will conquor and
    crush any and all who dare oppose the will of our
    invincible leader, and..


  5. loggie20on 26 Apr 2008 at 6:20 am 5

    This is the natural result of “transformation”. Rumsfeld has the vision.

    Red Army style frontal assault will roll up the Future Combat System brigades in a heart beat.

    Maybe the C-130’s will fly them away.

  6. Sven Ortmannon 26 Apr 2008 at 11:45 am 6

    Such shortcomings can usually be fixed within few months.
    In worst case they’d need to run some personnel databases to find true senior artillery NCOs, reassign them, run a refresher program and hand out some rounds for training (and of course range time).

    Other effects of neglecting conventional warfare prowess are more difficult to rectify.

    Btw; Hi Emery! You remember me (lastdingo)?

  7. maximilliangcon 26 Apr 2008 at 12:27 pm 7

    “Maybe the C-130’s will fly them away”

    Wrong again as usual Loggie, it’l be V-22s,
    hundereds of them, blotting out the sky.

    We should start our own blog,,,

  8. EmeryNelsonon 26 Apr 2008 at 12:56 pm 8

    I certainly do Sven, hope all is well with you and yours.

    Although the fix is easy the bureaucracy is, as always, hard. Inertia is carrying them towards their destiny. It took us almost two years to change the direction from a conventional army and we had many more “professional” soldiers around to guide and make the transition. The Brits are very good at this but the US army, not so good. Inertia, Inertia, Inertia. The operational tempo is simply too difficult to do any serious training in conventional war fighting skills.

  9. loggie20on 26 Apr 2008 at 6:44 pm 9


    Yes, a new blog.

    Someone needs to advocate the MV 22 in numbers that could withdraw the FCS brigades from the clutches Red Army and stow them on Amphib Ready Grp LHD’s and run them around the flank.

    Fill the seas and darken the skies.

    I’ll put together a CRRA for the JCS.

    Tell the great grandkids their future is being spent in the military industrial complex.

  10. maximilliangcon 26 Apr 2008 at 7:49 pm 10


    “It took us almost two years to change the direction from a conventional army and we had many more “professional” soldiers around to guide and make the transition.”

    I agree ultimate ‘victory’ against all of Americas sworn enemies
    is just around the corner.

    The next 6months are libel to be critical !
    The US continues to dominate the world stage, and this will only
    expand to every corner of the globe.

    “Professionals !” equipped with vastly superior weapons and devastating firepower to overwhelm any, and all opposition, that’s the key to ultimate victory !


  11. maximilliangcon 26 Apr 2008 at 7:56 pm 11

    loggie20on 26 Apr 2008 at 6:44 pm 9

    “Tell the great grandkids their future is being spent in the military industrial complex.”

    Now you’re really being rediculous LG, and to whom do YOU
    imagine we owe ANY money ?

    Once America’s enemies worldwide have been neutralised and the
    threat of weapons of mass destruction is eliminated for all time,
    we can get back to the “Bussiness” of exporting American
    prosperity, worldwide. Then and only then, pepole everywhere will be eternally greatful and beholden to this great US of A of ours !


  12. maximilliangcon 26 Apr 2008 at 8:24 pm 12

    Sven Ortmannon 26 Apr 2008 at 11:45 am 6

    Such shortcomings can usually be fixed within few months.

    Agreed, furthermore any kind of miliary preperation and training is highly over rated.

    Not when you you have the kind of overwhelming resourches in unlimited quantity and on tap, that the USA has at it’s disposal.

    Moreoever, the recent track US record, s peaks for itself.

    Victory, after victory, after victory.


  13. loggie20on 27 Apr 2008 at 12:11 pm 13

    “….to whom do YOU imagine we owe ANY money ?”

    How ridiculous of me, I forgot the new colonialies of the 21st century exchange their wares for worthless paper with no recourse.

    How much simpler than occupying them.

    What happened in Saudi?

  14. MickeyPvXon 27 Apr 2008 at 1:48 pm 14


    Well haven’t you heard? The Air Force was apparently trying to send the F-22 into Iraq for “electronic surveillance,” only oops, there’s too much for it to handle:

    But y’know, it’s here in case war breaks out…or something…

  15. seydlitz89on 27 Apr 2008 at 4:48 pm 15

    Referrring to subject of Artillery. . . (my primary MOS as a young, 18-year-old Pvt was 0811), my friend FDC does a fine job discussing this subject and the skill sets involved . . .

    Check out the first and following posts. . .

  16. maximilliangcon 27 Apr 2008 at 7:40 pm 16


    “How ridiculous of me,”

    I applogise LG, but you probably recognise I’ve been pulling your leg
    on this thread, and with a sense of undelring trust in doing so.

    The reality is we’re very, very much alike.


  17. maximilliangcon 28 Apr 2008 at 7:11 am 17

    Todays Lesson >

    How to guarantee that you’ll lose in a 4th Generational Conflict.

    *”you bomb some guy’s rice paddy and kill his oxen, you take away his livelyhood, how’s he supposed to farm without his tractor (oxen) ?! ”

    *”You bomb the same guy’s hooch and kill his family, you’ve made an instant Vietcong !”

    * Joe Galloway AP correspondent in the Vietnam war era.


    “GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – An Israeli tank shell slammed into a tiny Gaza Strip home Monday during a skirmish with gunmen, killing a Palestinian woman and four of her children as they prepared to sit down for breakfast, officials and relatives said.”

    ” “What a black day. They killed my family,” said Ahmad Abu Meatak, father of the children, wailing outside the local hospital where the bodies were taken.”


    Here endeth the lesson according to the gospel of Creveld, Lind, and Boyd.


  18. loggie20on 28 Apr 2008 at 6:00 pm 18


    I know.

    Actually, I have been working a theory that the the economic benefits of colonialism can be realized by exploiting third world labor and having the exchange rates always favorable to the US.

    I wonder who thinks there is a Communidst party in the Peoples’ Republic?

    Rather a US colonial establishment.

    Bank of Japan is similarly compliant.

    Why occupy when you can “invest”?

    But the flip of the theory is what do “we” do when the Red Chinese pull their version of the Indian mutiny.

    What about all our yuppies being pulled out of the black holes of Shanghai?

    Will need lots of MV 22’s

  19. maximilliangcon 28 Apr 2008 at 9:37 pm 19

    loggie20on 28 Apr 2008 at 6:00 pm 18


    “I wonder who thinks there is a Communist party in the Peoples’
    Republic? Rather a US colonial establishment.”

    Exactly your sardonic witt is not lost on me.

    One might successfully argue that China might be defacto a US enclave. Same for Japan, and S. Korea,
    Austrialia, and Canada.

    In China’s case I like to cite that Walmart Inc.
    (one single, although particularly large and powerfull US corporation (that’s obstensively a family owned and operated business, not a G-8 member country mind you) is on it’s own China’s 5th largest international trading partner).

    I’ll leave it to you to draw further conclusions.

    My point is much simpler, being that the rate that China’s economy has liberalised, and embraced capatialistic values, is like nothing seen
    before in recorded human history. As goes progress towards human rights and the rights of individuals.

    Remembering also that Blacks did not have the right to vote in the USA until the last century, despite being founded back in 1776.

    More recently even Cuba is changing.

    Any excuse for wars on fundemental ideological grounds, IE; They’re a bunch of commies who want to make us the same. Is now bogus.

    But, cheer up, thanks to the brave new American century as we can still go to war with “them” (1 billion and able to feild at least 700 million eligable for military service) simply because they are harder working, smarter, and more ambitious.


  20. loggie20on 29 Apr 2008 at 8:28 pm 20

    Interesting, I recall a lecture on the rapid decline of United Kingdom once the benefits of the colonial form reversed.

    We should think of new age colonies more.

  21. maximilliangcon 30 Apr 2008 at 6:26 pm 21


    “We should think of new age colonies more.”

    The Brilliant Chalmers Johnson on The Rand Corporation,
    US hegemony and grand stratigies.

    ” A Litany of Horrors ”

    by Tom Engelhardt and Chalmers Johnson

  22. loggie20on 01 May 2008 at 6:48 pm 22



    We had seen nothing of consequence from the Reagan splurge by the time the wall fell.

    Forward defense fits with expensive failed plotting.

  23. maximilliangcon 01 May 2008 at 8:28 pm 23


    “Forward defense fits with expensive failed plotting.”

    I’ll try this link one more time.
    It’s been blocked at least 3 times as far as I can determin.

    If you liked that, you’ll really love this.
    I’ve argued from this perspective for quite sometime.

    If Americans really want an economy predicated on perpetual war,
    and fear mongering, that’s your own business, ok, and be prepaired to one day, eventually pay a really big price.

    But for God’s sake, at least be honest about it, and vote on it, honestly, and stop all the rediculous LIES, trying to concille that truth. and that choice, afterall, we’re not fooling anyone anymore but ourselves.


  24. Maxon 03 May 2008 at 1:24 pm 24


    “The Air Force was apparently trying to send the F-22 into Iraq for “electronic surveillance,” only oops, there’s too much for it to handle”

    Thanks for that Mikey,
    I may pass that link on.
    I’m not surprised
    nor even dis-appointed since I wrote
    off , at least in my mind, as opposed
    to my taxes, the F-22 years ago.

    If I wasn’t laughing, I’d cry.

  25. Maxon 03 May 2008 at 1:32 pm 25

    on 27 Apr 2008 at 1:48 pm

    “But y’know, it’s here in case war breaks out…or something…”

    Funny, and have YOU heard the one about
    the Osprey and the C-47 ?


    “Critics have charged that the Marine Corps is restricting the use of the Osprey to what amounts to non-combat situations.”

    “”Basically, they are using it as a truck flying from one relatively safe area to another, as they would use a C-130 cargo aircraft to move soldiers and equipment,” said Philip Coyle, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester under former President Bill Clinton.”

    “”But at $10.4 billion (the cost of the latest Pentagon multiyear contract), it makes an awfully expensive truck,” he said”

  26. Maxon 04 May 2008 at 10:12 am 26

    And now it’s time to turn out attention
    to ‘precision Weapons’

    *”it’s all bullS$^t as far as I’m concerned”

    * Chuck Spinney on precision
    weapons, in “why we fight.”

    “BAGHDAD (CNN) — Three Iraq boys were killed in an airstrike in eastern Baghdad on Saturday as they were sifting through trash, looking for stuff to sell, said a 10-year-old boy wounded in the attack.”

    “I was hit by an American helicopter,” Ahmed Yahya said. “I was with a group of about 10 children who were collecting empty soft drink cans in Jamila. We haven’t done anything.”

    “U.S. military officials confirmed firing two Hellfire missiles at a rooftop in the vicinity about the same time that the boy said the attack took place. However, they say the only damage U.S. forces saw was to the rooftop.”

    Any questions ?

    Here endeth the lesson.

  27. The Appalachianiston 04 May 2008 at 8:34 pm 27

    I’m commenting late here. The post reminded me of some of my observations and experiences in Iraq. I’m not an Artillerymen, my background is Infantry. There was some Artillery being used, but it was limited. Most FA’s were guarding gates, running convoy’s or knocking down doors. It seemed 4th ID didn’t see Indirect Fire as an asset. Giving Indirect Fire is an asset to be used discretely in Iraq. 1st Cav Div seemed to make good use of it.
    I was in CMATT Advising Iraqi Army.

    I did see the first Excalibur Rounds fired in Iraq.
    This device could have great potential if used correctly.

    Not here for a shameless plug. But, I wrote about the subject some on my blog.

    I do see it good that it’s recognized that the answer lyes within the NCO Corps. Here, and when ever theories of Warfare are discussed the focus seems to be on officers. Then NCO’s are the ones to get the vital techniques down.

  28. Maxon 05 May 2008 at 5:13 pm 28

    Emery Nelsonon 25

    “At the highest level we can count on a chaotic Ferris Bueller’s Day OFF, while they try and start an air war (effectiveness, as always, matters not), which is the historical fall back position.”

    If that means we’re the best, you’re right !

    “You’re being very belicose arn’t you ?”


    I don’t know what that means, but if it’s good,
    then I must be the greatest, of all time !”


  29. Newjarheaddeanon 07 May 2008 at 3:22 pm 29

    I’ve recently been seeing a lot of information on these Excalibur guided shells, it all sounds great.

    However if all these Advanced guided munitions (AGM) circuits ever failed to serve us. I’m afraid we well have few personal who can read a map to find the burn.

    I believe the brass is aware of the training waning woes. It’s no wonder to me since this is the same system that changes its terms (for the same meanings) at every level of command. And changes it’s hole vocabulary every generation. Example WMD weapons of Mass Destruction. It use to be NBC nuclear, biological, Chemical. IMO the new one is to broad. But it sounds scarier. All this leaves no chance to develop a true worrier class to protect those worker ants, and poets.

    Thanks for the information and time.