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BRAND NEW! Incoming Chief of Staff of the Army - A Chance to Restore “One Team, One Fight?”
Incoming Chief of Staff of the Army, General Mark Milley, may provide the much needed opportunity to restore the “One Team, One Fight” concept to the Army. The plan is for General Milley to replace General Odierno sometime this late summer - provided the Senate approves Milley’s confirmation for this position. This is potentially great news for the Guard. Milley recently said in an interview with the Army Times that all three of the Army's components [Active Duty, Reserves, & Guard] must be ready to respond to "the entire range of military operations" in an uncertain, volatile world.
Milley also added “Our number one task is readiness. It's readiness now, because we have no earthly idea what will happen a month or two from now." A timely and relevant point, considering the Guard is a huge part of readiness and at one third the cost. With ARI, this number one task of readiness is decimated. It is the National Guard’s perspective that “the entire range of military operations” means that the Guard would also have Apaches to assist in combat operations. Hopefully, Congress will challenge General Milley in the confirmation process in regards to his position on Apaches in the National Guard. Read more from Milley’s interview at: http://www.armytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/05/13/new-army-chief-of-staff-named/27232781/
As a Special Ops leader throughout the last 13+ years of conflict in OEF/OIF, General Milley knows that his Tier 1 operators have worked directly with Guard Apache aviators. These aviators have provided hundreds upon hundreds of sorties overhead, providing Close Combat Attack (CCA), Close Air Support (CAS), and a myriad of other missions to his troops. Unlike General Odierno, who has said the Guard had to be given the easy missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Which is, in a way, the same thing as telling the Tier 1 operators that they had the easy missions. In other words, Odierno’s comments are contrary to what really happened. Milley knows the Guard has had the same challenging missions that Active Duty has. Whether flying in an Apache or manning an outpost, the National Guard (NG) is completely interchangeable with Active Duty (AD). Let us hope that General Milley can restore “One Army.”
Case in point, check out: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1250 - there appears to be some merit in the Army not telling the truth, especially staffers to their bosses (and perhaps the bosses just may not want to hear the truth, anyway).
According to the study: Untruthfulness is surprisingly common in the U.S. military even though members of the profession are loath to admit it. Further, much of the deception and dishonesty that occurs in the profession of arms is actually encouraged and sanctioned by the military institution. The end result is a profession whose members often hold and propagate a false sense of integrity that prevents the profession from addressing—or even acknowledging—the duplicity and deceit throughout the formation. It takes remarkable courage and candor for leaders to admit the gritty shortcomings and embarrassing frailties of the military as an organization in order to better the military as a profession. Such a discussion, however, is both essential and necessary for the health of the military profession.
CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP
It will be very interesting to see if the incoming Chief of Staff of the Army, General Milley, will be more receptive to the Guard. This could be a great opportunity for the senior leadership to undo some of the damage that has been done. Some think there isn’t time to wait - recently Colorado TAG General Michael Edwards spoke up, who describes the relationship between state Guard leaders and Army brass as broken, saying the two entities are giving each other the silent treatment over budget battles. General Edwards suggested a change at the top of the Army to replace Chief of Staff General Odierno could be what it takes to get Guard leaders and Army brass back in the same room. "Sometimes it takes changes in leadership to move forward with the ball.” Read more at: http://gazette.com/colorado-national-guard-boss-decries-rift-with-regular-army/article/1547977
General Odierno has likened the National Guard to JV and Active Duty to Varsity. In his own words, “I need a certain amount of the force - I like football so I compare it to football. The difference between National Guard / Reserve and Active Component is the Active Component can practice every single day. The Guard gets to practice 39-40 days out of the year. So if you want a football team that can do one practice a month and then have two weeks of ‘Spring Training’ versus a force that can train every single day, there’s a difference.” - General Odierno, July 23rd, 2013 speech to American Enterprise Institute. See the full transcript at: http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/-odierno-event-transcript_141205664594.pdf
Once again, Odierno has been misinformed. In truth, it is the other way around.
THE TRUTH HURTS
It is a well known fact that there is a significantly higher turnover rate on Active Duty, which ultimately means less continuity and experience across the force. It is estimated that the average Active Duty Apache ARB has a turn over rate of 70% every 4 years - in other words, every 4 years, three-fourths of a unit either transfers to another unit or leaves AD. Conversely, it is estimated that the average Guard Apache ARB has a turn over rate of a little less than 20% every 4 years. This is a SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE. With Active Duty ARBs changing hands every few years, there is clearly little continuity and their training programs have no way of competing with the Guard.
As an example, an AD Apache ARB unit that recently deployed did not have a large experience base and not many were wearing combat patches. The AD CAB had to cross level “patch wearing” soldiers across other Battalions within the CAB to bolster the AD Battalion that did deploy.
As for the remark about the Guard only training 39 days a year, this is clearly another case where Odierno's staffers led him astray. Your average Guard ARB trains much more than that, using up to 72 AFTPs, as well as RMPs and other pay statuses such as supporting TDY flight training exercises or returning to Fort Rucker (for professional military education or attending a tracked course, i.e. Instructor Pilot, Maintenance Pilot, etc). In reality, a Guard pilot can spend up to 130 days a year in a military status.
As for the claim that Active Duty is training 365, this is a complete fallacy. When not deployed, most Active Duty units work Monday through Thursday, with several Fridays being a half day at best and typically consisting of morning PT and a handful of admin tasks. Not to mention that all weekends are off, as are Federal Holidays, and on top of that Active Duty is given 30 days of leave annually. AD also has periodic DONSA days, or: Day of No Scheduled Activities. So in reality, the number of days Active Duty spends actually working is closer to about 190.
THE "RIGHT STUFF"
What hasn't even been mentioned here is passion… your Guard aviators and mechanics are some of the most dedicated, most experienced, and most passionate patriots you'll find out there. And yet some of the senior leadership of Active Duty, the Pentagon, and the DoD continue to challenge the Guard's capabilities. Here’s the truth: a "Weekend Warrior" is that Guard guy or gal who comes in on the weekends to train, in addition to all the other training done throughout the year, because a National Guard soldier is that committed to going above and beyond their civilian requirements. In reality, it’s more than just weekends… it includes many a week night, with aviators and mechanics routinely coming in after hours during the work week to meet their training requirements.
Your average Guard pilot flies once a week, coming in to fly after their civilian job, paid on an Additional Flight Training Period (AFTP). These aviators frequently participate in flight training with other branches of the military, and frequently go TDY to participate in advanced flight exercises. To revisit the Myth vs. Facts posted previously - refer to ARCHIVES: October 2014 (found on the right) - Guard Apache ARBs also frequently flight train with other joint top tier flight units, such as the Fighter Weapon Schools at Nellis (USAF), Naval Top Gun School at Fallon (USN), or MAWTS-1: Marine Aviation Weapons & Tactics Squadron-1 School (USMC). These locations are home to the elite of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, and they frequently request to work with the Guard. Why doesn't the Army have a "Top Gun" school? The other services use these schools to combine and refine TTPs among all of their compos - something Army Active Duty is seriously lacking.
Most Guard units have additional unique training that goes above and beyond anything you will find on Active Duty, to include Shipboard & Overwater Operations (SC, NC) and High Mountain / Power Management (ID, UT, AZ) - the latter of which has paid dividends for the Guard in their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the terrain is extremely challenging and hot temperatures with heavy aircraft result in minimal power margins. The Guard also frequently trains with Special Ops from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The Guard also routinely trains with not just joint, but international Special Operators and JTACs, including but not limited to the Brits, Aussies, and Dutch… just to name a few.
Bottom Line: Guard ARBs spend more time planning and executing collective training as a result of fewer training distractors and concentrated training plans that Active Duty simply cannot take advantage of. Active Duty is frequently too distracted with, to quote a former Active Duty pilot, "Garrison Training... AC ARBs may return to what is was in the early '90s. Back then we did PT, Fun Runs, SDO... and [when flying] never left our Restricted Area. There is also probably a good chance that in the next 5-10 years a large portion of AC combat veteran pilots will choose to leave Active Duty for one reason or another. A good number of your most experienced AH-64 pilots will end up in the National Guard."
By the way, the Guard has the EXACT SAME flight hour requirements that Active Duty does. And yet the Guard only gets a fraction of the flight pay.
The Army, unlike the Air Force, Navy, or Marines, has no Fighter Weapon School or WTI - the Army simply has no advanced training program. The Army does not have a central clearing house for their higher skill set / higher tier level aviators - this term simply doesn’t exist in U.S. Army Aviation. The Air Force has a much more robust training program and tier designation that the Army lacks. The Air Force is people oriented on the mission. In other words, they get the right people with the right skill sets in the right positions for the mission. So… this begs the question: where does that leave the Army?
Getting back to experience, the experience on Active Duty does not always seem to be properly utilized; rather, it is being pushed elsewhere, both for aviators and maintainers. W4s, and periodically W5s, need to be at Battalion (BN) level [as is often the case with the Guard] with the operational units, flying with junior pilots and providing crucial guidance, insights, and mentorship. The senior warrants are the true technical experts - and for units to be the most effective, these highly experienced aviators need to be integrated into the operational level.
Historically, W4s and W5s are at the Brigade (BDE) level or above, but this is not always the best answer. It is worthwhile to have many more W4s and some W5s participating in BN training and missions, in key leadership and mentorship roles who are still actively flying with junior pilots. How else do you have a means to carry on decades of lessons learned that these senior Warrants have? And throwing away these decades of experience, by not integrating senior Warrants at BN level, has lead to the considerable number of accidents on Active Duty that could have likely been prevented - whereas the Guard accident ratio is significantly lower.
During OEF 4, 5, 7, 8, there was only one Apache ARB in Afghanistan at a time, and they were all Guard ARBs - respectively, from NC, UT, ID, AZ. Not to mention that SC was the only Guard ARB in OIF during the draw down of Iraq. These Guard ARBs performed ALL missions, both complex and simple, and the Guard Apache ARBs did an excellent jobs conducting Air to Ground Interdiction - which, ironically, General Odierno claims the Guard was not very good at. How is that possible when the Guard ARBs were the ONLY ARBs in the aforementioned OEF/OIF rotations helping Tier 1 operators?
The Guard is completely interchangeable with Active Duty - we challenge Active Duty to name one case where a Guard ARB was NOT inter-changeable. If anything, it is Active Duty that is the one that struggles with interchangeability. The Guard has noticed that it’s sometimes the Active Duty Apache ARBs that show up in combat, not really ready… again, back to lack of continuity and experience. There has been more than one occasion where Active Duty needed Guard help. For example, there have been times when Active Duty Apache SPs needed a lot of help getting up to speed from the Guard Apache SPs. As for maintenance, there have been times when Active Duty needed help unpacking their aircraft, so that their aircraft could be put back together in a timely manner to assume combat missions. It was the Guard that often helped these AD maintainers getting AD aircraft ready for combat. And in some cases Active Duty has had to rely on the Guard for phase maintenance when both AD and NG were deployed at the same time.
NG aviators routinely have to show AD aviators power management and high mountain flying techniques, or overwater and shipboard ops. These programs have been routinely pioneered by the NG, who oftentimes train AD in these programs. In response to a startling number of pilot error accidents by Active Duty, the AD implemented HAMETs - but to be clear, HAMETs does not actually qualify anyone. HAMETs, or High Altitude Mountain Environmental Training, is more of a familiarization, with no formal standards tied to it. Active Duty aviators show up in combat not knowing what they don’t know, and their pilot error accident rates FAR exceeds the Guard. Additionally, many AD Apache aviators received High Mountain training from the National Guard at the HAATS: High Altitude Army Training Site. It’s very apparent that the Active Duty Apache ARBs depends upon the Guard in more ways than one, time and time again. Why eliminate the Apache Guard assets that routinely “bridge the gap?”
Furthermore, Active Duty doesn’t go through the 1st Army validation that the Guard does. In reality, the Guard doesn’t usually need 1st Army validation, because it already has a large base of experience within its own units - this ties directly back into the continuity and experience that make the Guard so effective. The Guard has frequently observed that some of the 1st Army trainers had never been to OEF (or OIF), and often the Guard has to correct 1st Army - in other words, the trainee ends up being the trainer. Furthermore, some Guard units had excessive pre-deployment processes forced upon them that Active Duty hasn’t had. Namely, prolonged 1st Army and UFTP requirements that far exceeded anything ever imposed on Active Duty.
Active Duty has perhaps 2 to 3 CW4s in their BN (even though more are authorized). The Army is in the habit of routinely moving senior warrants out of the Battalions and placing them elsewhere, effectively removing most of the senior experience from the place where the flying / missions actually take place. What’s more, many AD Apache pilots and families just get burned out and leave Active Duty. This results in a cycle of learn, relearn, learn, relearn at the operational level; rather than building upon a foundation of solid experience, as the Guard does. NG units often have 10 or more CW4s in their BN. Most often, there is a CW4 in each line company, which pays dividends when it comes to mentoring junior pilots and providing a reliable foundation of experience.
What qualifies any ARB for combat, whether Active Duty or National Guard, is completion of the Unit Fielding Training Program (UFTP). UFTP is a comprehensive training program that starts at unit home station but culminates at Fort Hood, TX, and validated by 21st CAV. As part of this program, units must show proficiency in ALL assigned missions - from COIN to full spectrum, decisive action, unified land operations.
In reality, what matters is NOT whether or not the unit has completed UFTP, but how many people currently serving in the unit have completed an UFTP. On Active Duty, it is a safe bet that only a very small handful have completed UFTP. Most Active Duty units completed AH-64D UFTP 10 - 15 years ago, whereas most Guard units have completed AH-64D UFTP in the last 5 - 7 years. In the case of the Guard, many if not most will have completed at least one UFTP - and in the same unit they are currently serving, no less. In some cases, the Guard has soldiers that have done 2 or even 3+ UFTPs. This makes for a more cohesive unit, with more recency to their training. It is the Guard that has the recency and bulk of experience.
There is another issue at hand, known as “Generational Gap” - in attack aviation, this is perhaps best defined as the gap in experience between those that have completed UFTP and trained in full spectrum operations (pre OEF/OIF) versus those that grew up in the Army largely during the last 13 years of conflict and have limited training, more specific to COIN. On Active Duty, this experience gap is large, especially where it matters: in the operational unit, meaning at BN level or CO level. Undoubtedly there is some senior experience on Active Duty, but these older aviators are typically at Brigade level or above. This leaves the operational units with little experience and hence the generational gap. In the Guard, this gap really just does not exist. This all goes back to the fact that the Guard keeps their senior Warrants more often than not at the BN level or below. Especially on deployments.
The Guard has been accused of not being “accessible” for deployments or other requirements. This is fallacy, because it is Active Duty that control the “patch chart” - the plan on who deploys when and to where. It seems that Active Duty has found and continues to find ways to keep the Guard Apache ARBs “benched.” Initially, any aircraft could deploy, but as the conflicts continued, Active Duty started imposing specific conditions that made it difficult for the Guard to participate without being properly resourced. Guard units that had the original AH-64A and deployed with them to OEF/OIF could suddenly no longer participate in OEF or OIF. Then, it was further restricted to only AH-64D Block 2 aircraft, when most of the Guard still had Block 1 aircraft. Eventually, it would be no surprise if Active Duty starts requiring all deploying units to have AH-64Es, once Active Duty units are all fielded.
* AC Apache ARB costs $77 million annually vs. NG Apache ARB costs $32 million annually - a difference of $45 million, per ARB, annually!