View Full Version : Comments and Observations About Other Posts

20th Sep 2004, 15:30
Normally I don't like to spam messages across multiple threads, but my response to the thread Army or Marines (http://forums.eidosgames.com/showthread.php?s=&postid=442317#post442317) is a bit embedded and I feel the information therein is worth sharing in a more findable way.

Whew ... I managed to get through this thread.

That being said, I have several observations:

First, on branches of service overall--

Each branch of service (Army, Marines, Navy, etc.) serves a different purpose from a strategic or grand tactical perspective, and each presents military planners with the flexibility to accomplish the strategic aspects of making war. The nature of these military resources are all of importance (branch bias being what it is).

In any country's military, by far the largest force is their standing army, whose purpose is the sustaining of combat operations throughout a theatre for protacted periods of time and has the bulk of a nation's military logistic infrastructure tied to it.

Marine forces are generally designed for amphibious assault and the establishment of beach heads (note that in the WWII Pacific campaign, that there were many US Army units committed to such campaigns as Guadacanal, Leyte, the Philippines, etc. after the Marines established the initial beach heads).

The air force of a country has two major functions: the establishment of air superiority (fighter aircraft) in a theatre of operations and the ability to interdict tactically or strategically against the infrastructure of the enemy (fighter-bombers for tactical interdiction and bombers for strategic interdiction).

Finally, naval forces serve two major purposes as well: the most vital, of course, is keeping sea lanes open so that the logistical pipeline can supply theatres of operation, and the second is the ability to project strength across the globe (or at least within their territorial waters for smaller countries). From WWII and beyond (taking a huge hint from the Japanese naval structure), the Americans have perfected the carrier battle group infrastructure to an unparalleled military art form. It is this military capability which gives the United States major credibility in the strategic sense diplomatically -- nations must respect the US's intentions when a carrier battle group is within the operational sphere of their country, or such use is threatened. As Roosevelt (Teddy, not FDR) said: Walk softly and carry a big stick. The carrier battle group is America's big stick in projecting global power.

Secondly, from a more tactical viewpoint (the soldier's level)--

Inter-service rivalry is a GOOD thing: it promotes esprit de corps -- i.e., morale. Military units cannot survive the "shellshock" of combat if there is not an underlying belief among the soldiers (or marines) that they are the best. And not only at a branch level, this extends down the hierarchy to the squad or even fire team level. There HAS to be an intrinsic trust that the person fighting next to you can be trusted to watch your back (and vice versa). At the most basic level, it must be remembered: soldiers don't fight for high level causes, they fight for their survival and for each other.

All of this boils down to training and equipment. Overall, no military is currently as well-trained as that of the United States (helps to have hundreds of billions of dollars to throw at the problem) -- the ferocity of the Ghurkas notwithstanding. Add to that the military-industrial complex of a country (the ability to produce the materiel of war) and the equipment and technology they can employ ... after all, soldiers have to have confidence in the weapon systems they are using. Again, as it stands today, the US military not only has the best training, it provides the soldiers (or Marines) with the best equipment available. As a side note here: the Army is generally better equipped than their Marine cousins, a phenomena that has existed since the beginning.

Having seen 20 years of service in the US Army, the state of a country's military (in this case the US's) generally tends to be cyclical as politics emphasizes or de-emphasizes the importance and size of military budgets. From a personal standpoint, it is highly demoralizing, even to a well-trained unit, to hear that term "disapproved: lack of funds" ... whether such funds are for training or equipment.

Keeping in mind from the first point, the strategic/grand tactical aspects of the different branches, the training needs and dictates of each branch -- and here we are focusing on Army/Marine differences -- the role of the Army and Marines determines the training regimen.

From the Marine perspective, every marine is a rifleman first and foremost (although the quality of a Marine rifleman who has been further trained as a supply clerk would be just as suspect as an Army clerk's) because the focus on the Marine mission is the establishment of an amphibious beach head, and in such an environment, even HQ units are subject to see combat. This is much the same doctrine one sees in Army units that operate similarly (air assault and airborne units that establish "air heads" behind enemy lines).

Further, the size of the Marine Corps proportionate to the rest of the ground offensive forces of the military, is far smaller than their Army cousins. Thus, given its greater size, the Army's doctrine is more specialized in its deployment. Soldiers are assigned to various roles: combat arms (infantry, armor and artillery), combat support (engineers, etc.), combat service support (supply and maintenance units and the like), logistic and administrative. Such non-combatant roles, unlike the Marine Corps doctrine, are not expected to maintain the "rifleman first" mentality. Perhaps this doctrine will be revisited after the Jessica Lynch convoy escapade where a combat service support unit found itself ambushed.

So when making comparisons, it is important to compare apples to apples: in this case, Marine combat arms and Army combat arms (or, as they say: REMFs don't count). Due to training regimen (and as an Army man, I HATE to admit this), Marine riflemen are given the edge in their initial training. This does not extend to specialized Army units (post-Basic Training and assignment to their specific units): Army airborne and light infantry (including the Rangers) are trained to a level of performance that exceeds that of Marine comparable line units. As mentioned above, this is due to the nature of the mission for these types of units.

Finally, there is the matter of special forces units within the branches: the Army Special Forces (Green Berets), USMC Force Recon, US Navy Seals, etc. (the Air Force has special ops troops as well, but I never had the opportunity to work with them). These are specialty troops whose mission varies vastly from regular line units, and hence their specialized (and very lengthy and grueling) training.

They cannot be compared to regular units (the extreme of comparing apples to oranges). As to which is better (British SAS, US Special Forces, Force Recon, Seals), that debate is usually best left to the confines of the NCO or Officers Club and good old inter-service rivalry shared over a beer or two (or more). Within the theatre of operations, professionalism prevails and these assets (despite their esprit de corps) work well in accomplishing the special operations taskings assigned to them.

Lastly, my oberservations on history that have been bandied about here--

On World War II:

By June 1944, when D-Day took place, the issue on the Russian front was no longer in doubt: the Germans were on the defensive, and the Red Army was driving on Berlin. However, it is important to put this "end game" in the proper perspective: the issue was not clear-cut when the US entered the war after Pearl Harbor in December 1941. By mid 1942, Hitler's armies were driving on St. Petersberg, Moscow and Stalingrad, and the Red Army -- though fighting couragously -- was reeling from the onslaught of the German blitzkreig. France, of course, was in Germany's hands, and Britain was being blitzed from the air (the famous Battle of Britain).

There is no doubt that Hitler made a serious strategic mistake here: committing to fighting on two fronts before the air superiority issue over England was resolved. Remember, Britain prevailed against only one-third of Germany's Luftwaffe and had opening of operations against Russia (Operation Barbarossa) been delayed, England's RAF would have been obliterated by the entirety of the Luftwaffe.

It was Hitler's almost paranoid fear of Russia that swung the whole war. Strategically -- during 1941-42 -- Russia was content to build up their defenses, and it was a narrow issue in German operational planning (and argument) that forestalled Operation See Lowe (Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of England), and as it turned out historically, permanently. For a good reference on the war from the German's point of view, Albert Speer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a must read.

It is also important to remember, that at the end of 1941, the US military was an antiquated entity, closer to the World War I model than the "modern" militaries of Germany and Japan (and to a much lesser extent, Italy). As was pointed out in the threads by my learned British colleagues, during much of 1942 and 1943, the emphasis in US planning was to stop the hemorrhaging in the Pacific and to ignite the US industrial complex to a wartime footing. (Historically, this was an amazing feat ... to go from a lesser power in 1941 to a super power by the end of 1943.)

It must be also remembered that the vaunted British Empire (the super power of the day) was being strategically hammered in the Asian theatre: navally (to the wounding of their national naval pride), as well as on the ground and in the air (the loss of Singapore and Hong Kong), and were facing dire consequences in the North African and European theatres. To their relief, the concentration of US efforts to the Pacific initially, allowed them to concentrate their efforts in the Mediterrainean and North Seas, the North Atlantic and the control of the English Channel.

So from a strategic standpoint -- the comments of my British colleagues to the contrary -- to minimize the US's impact on the war is more than a bit misleading. The US's initial role upon entry to the war did play a huge part in giving England the respite it needed at the time.

From a US strategic standpoint, keeping England itself from being over-run was a huge concern: the US needed England as a jumping off point to the European continent. I would also take issue with my colleague's sniping at American blunders in North Africa early on: one only need to look at Waverly's record in the same theatre to see that blunders were hardly constrained to US military tactics. In fact, non-German armies were trying to shed their WWI mentality and adopt/adapt to the Wehrmacht's model of modern warfare (remember, most Western senior generals' mentality was fixated on refighting a war on the WWI model) and using the combined armed approach.

On post-WWII conflicts:

Most of the conflicts (Korea included) were the result of the world-wide hysteria regarding the spread of communism (particularly China and the Soviet Union), and the the containment policies of multi-national treaty organizations such as NATO and SEATO. In fact, a major part of the US getting drawn into Vietnam was due to our containment policy in southeastern Asia and our commitment to SEATO (which explains why there was an Australian and New Zealand military presence in Vietnam). Search on such topics as Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the like for the background of such containment policies of the time.

It must be remembered that Vietnam itself was war-weary and war-ravaged well before the US began its involvement in 1959 (though everyone likes to focus on Nixon's role in the war, remember it was Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson's escalation that got us mired in SE Asia). The region had seen Japanese occupation in World War II, and further, rebelled against French colonialism following that. So, by 1967, Vietnam (and southeastern Asia generally) had been the site of conflict for over 30 years (make that a total of about 40 years by the time Saigon fell in 1975).

In conclusion--

For those trying to determine which branch of service in which to enlist: they each have their merits. The key is to ask yourself: which service is going to benefit my future the most? What are my career interests and which service can help fulfill them?

Talk to the various recruiters and see who will offer you what. It is to be commended that you are considering joining the ranks of the millions of Americans who have gone before you. As far as being an officer: in a recent survey/article (http://encarta.msn.com/college_article_undergradacademics/the_best_academics_for_undergrads.html) on quality of education, all four military academies (yes, the Coast Guard has one as well) ranked in the top ten. That is, 40 percent of the top colleges in the US are the service academies. Competition for qualifying for these schools is ferocious: if you have the grades, however, a good first step is to contact your Congressman or Senator.

By the way, for those non-Americans considering enlisting in their respective country's military: there is no higher mark of patriotism than serving your in your country's military.

In the eternal debate about which branch, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), or other aspect of military service is best: I'll hoist a virtual glass of beer and argue -- within the spirit of esprit de corps -- that all of you legs take a back seat to the US Army airborne -- particularly the 101st. lol.

Congratulations to those of you who made it through my long-winded diatribe. Let's keep all discussion civil, shall we? I am getting rather old to do otherwise (lol).

Take point troop and don't get yourself waxed to the max. Geronimo. -- d2

23rd Sep 2004, 15:19
Thought I would be self-serving and bump this up lol ... though I think it contains a lot of good info that was brought up elsewhere.

Take point troop and don't get yourself waxed to the max. Geronimo. -- d2

23rd Sep 2004, 15:42
It's not necessary to bump posts when they already appear on the front page.

8th Oct 2004, 18:07
lol ... consider me chastised.

But now it is no longer on the first page, so I will revert to being self-serving ... lol ... and bump it back up.

Take point troop and don't get yourself waxed to the max. Geronimo. -- d2