Are We Better Today than 20 Years Ago?
-- An Army Master Sergeant's Reality Check

September 15, 1998

Comment: #187

Discussion Thread:  #185


[1] Email from a Master Sergeant at Fort Sill. Attached.

I received the email below from an Army Master Sergeant stationed at Ft Sill, Oklahoma. He is responding to Comment #185, "Hollow Defense Debate Continues to Depart from Reality." His method of net assessment displays the kind of wisdom and balance that is hard to find in a Pentagon that is choking on its own hype. This approach to analysis and understanding makes a lot more sense than tortured comparisons of "Big R" and "little r" readiness [see #186 and related thread]. Finally, the Sergeant's outlook reminds us why we are in this business -- TO MAKE THINGS BETTER.

Chuck Spinney

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Reference #1

Email from a Master Sgt @ Ft Sill

It's said there's no comparison of the force 20 years ago and the force now, but I think there is.

  • 20 years ago we had outdated trucks and limited parts availability. Today we have up to date trucks and limited parts availability.

  • 20 years ago we had HF radios. Today we have the internet & satcom. Still, the principles of commo remain the same: Use multiple channels of commo to get your messages across when and if necessary.

  • 20 years ago we had a cumbersome newspaper and radio broadcast delivery system. Today we have a cumbersome newspaper and a slightly improved radio broadcast delivery system. 20 years ago, though, training was catch as catch can. Today, training is systematized, first with SQT tests (too bad they went), and with CTT tests and an improved NCOES.

  • 20 years ago I was in a GOOD unit and the basics of soldiering and leadership pretty much remain the same to this day! These days, though, you need to be better educated and you need to have more mechanical and computer knowledge to make it, of course.

A lot of the talk about an improved military is, unfortunately, blowing smoke. I believe our military accounting system was confused and cumbersome 20 years ago, and it still is today! There's more tendency for the leaders to listen to good ideas today with the internet, the Soldier Improvement Program and the Battle Labs today. We're better trained to deploy than we were 20 years ago.

We have improved protective masks over 20 years ago. The tanks and artillery pieces are computerized today and we have improved battlefield visibility (there there is no comparison: better today).

There's been some incremental improvements over the last 20 years, but before there's "no comparison" we have a long way to go:

We need more emphasis on basic skills and on NBC defense before there's no comparison. Today, as yesterday, there needs to be an emphasis on training till we get it right and on the basics of leadership.

We still have a shortage in combat in cities training, too. This ought to be a common skill taught to all of us, yet I see relatively little on this type of task being taught to us in the Combat Service Support community.