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.

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