Reserve Urban Infantry

 

     The US Army National Guard (ARNG) is in trouble.  The problem is not a lack of support in Congress, and not pressure to downsize by the regular Army.  The ARNG is in trouble because its Cold War equipment is aging, expensive to operate, and inappropriate for likely missions.  The ARNG must shed its armored vehicles and convert units into urban infantry.  This will allow the eight ARNG divisions to change focus from the Soviet threat and concentrate on these urban infantry missions: 

      1)urban combat

      2)peacekeeping/riot control

      3)rear-area security

      4)disaster relief/refugee camps

     These are not glamorous missions, but they are ideal for the ARNG because they are manpower intensive, which means cost-effective for a reserve force.  The overall cost for two ARNG tank battalions equal that of one active-duty tank battalion.  This is because of the high operating, maintenance, and training costs of tanks.  However, infantry units require much less equipment that is inexpensive to maintain.  As a result, five ARNG infantry battalions cost the same as one active duty infantry battalion.

      A second reason is that urban infantry missions are shunned.  The regular Army is still focused on defeating Soviet armor thrusts into Germany, although battles with Iranian tanks are substituted.  The Army learned from its conflict in Iraq that it lacked the manpower and skills for urban infantry operations.  Fortunately, most ARNG units are located in urban areas where members can coordinate access to varied urban training areas.  Many guardsmen are employed in urban related security tasks, such as policemen, prison guards, firemen, and civil engineers.  If the ARNG focused training on urban infantry missions, it can develop greater proficiency in these tasks than active duty infantry. 

      For example, the regular army is reluctant to devote combat forces to guard airbases.  When a US Air Force Wing deploys overseas, its base security units must still guard its home base while providing more robust 24-hour security overseas.  Therefore, Air Force Wings should adopt a local ARNG infantry battalion, which can train with the Wing and deploy when necessary.  Reserve infantry battalions will be assigned a myriad of tasks, such as headquarters security, bridge security, and base camp security.  They will also be a manpower pool to support engineer units, and may be trained as truck drivers when more are needed. 

      If the Army becomes involved in a lengthy conflict, basic infantry requirements will quickly sap manpower from regular fighting divisions.  If ARNG units are specifically trained for such missions, regular Army Generals will include them in war plans, especially since infantry units suffer heavy casualty rates in combat.  A final reason is that the most important role of the ARNG is guarding the USA, and the ARNG can increase readiness for state missions by focusing on urban infantry skills.  Training exclusively for these missions will decrease readiness to fight major battles against armored forces.  However, the ARNG brigades will have several months to train and equip for a major war because of limits in strategic mobility assets.  

      The ARNG must adopt an urban infantry structure for all its combat brigades.  The mechanized infantry structure is too heavy while the light infantry structure is too light.  While mechanized forces perform well in heavy combat in urban areas, many urban missions are primarily infantry.  The standard ARNG infantry brigade will have foot infantry battalions backed by a support battalion that provides trucks and logistical support, and includes  a company of Rhinos, and an anti-aircraft company with 40mm automatic cannons, which are excellent for infantry support as well.

     Although 90% of reservists will agree to these reforms, change will be resented by some officers who view the ARNG as a club that exists for their benefit.  Tankers will oppose converting to difficult grunt work, and thousands of full-time civilian employees who maintain ARNG tanks and armored personnel carriers may lose their jobs.  In addition, defense contractors who provide spare parts would lose billions of dollars in business.  Hopefully, reservists will muster the courage to fight these special interests through their Governor and Congressmen.  The ARNG is the backbone the "Total Force" and should not be reduced in size; however, it must eliminate the expense of maintaining Cold war equipment so it can afford modern infantry gear.  Most importantly, the ARNG must adopt missions relevant to the modern era to remain a vital element of the Total Army. 

2006 www.G2mil.com