06 August 2011

Helicopter Crash in Eastern Afghanistan Kills 31 US, 7 Afghans

It would appear that a helicopter carrying 7 Afghan Special Forces and 31 American troops, to include 25 members of SEAL Team 6, were shot down over Eastern Afghanistan today.  If you remember, these were the same Special Operations Forces involved in the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  Right now the Department of Defense is stating that this was due to hostile fire.

To quote ABC News:

Saturday's deaths bring the total number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan to 334 this year, according to the Associated Press.

The last worst one-day U.S. causality record in Afghanistan was on June 28, 2005 when 16 U.S. soldiers were killed in Kunar province after a helicopter was shot down by Taliban insurgents.
Afghan President Karzai's office released a statement on the incident.

"A NATO helicopter crashed last night in Wardak province," Karzai said in the statement. "President Karzai expressed his deep condolences because of this incident and expressed his sympathy to Barack Obama."
President Obama offered his thoughts and prayers to those killed in the crash.

"Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan," Obama said in a statement. "We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied. We also mourn the Afghans who died alongside our troops in pursuit of a more peaceful and hopeful future for their country. At this difficult hour, all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security."

More after the jump.

05 August 2011

US Army to Reduce Deployments From Twelve Months to Nine Months

NBC News is reporting that the US Army will announce a reduction in deployment times for its Soldiers.  Deployments will now fall, from twelve months to nine months.  There will also be a corresponding increase in dwell time.

Ultimately this shouldn't be a huge surprise.  When you combine a planned draw-down in Afghanistan to the already on-going draw-down in Iraq there is less of a demand for conventional Brigade Combat Teams and a corresponding drop in demand for Sustainment Brigades, Aviation Brigades, and Fires Brigades.  What will be interesting to see is how much impact this will have on deployment from US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) components.  Elements of USASOC have been running flat-out since the war began, and already have truncated deployment timelines as a result.

Ultimately, having more time back at home station and less time downrange will mean two key things.  From an operational standpoint I think you will see these a greater focus on training for conventional mission sets.  Many units are already starting to do this.  It will take time to regain the conventional war-fighting capabilities that existed in 2003 before the Invasion of Iraq.  Additionally, the strain on troops and their families will be lower.

A potentially interesting part of this will be how the US Army treats the home station training regimes.  Ultimately, units will still need to train for Afghanistan- and Iraq-specific mission-sets, which would be done on the back-half of dwell time.  That said, there will be more time for units to train for tasks congruent with conventional operations.  Artillery battalions, for instance, will be focused on how to provide fire support on a high-intensity battlefield.  This requires more training time, which also requires time in the field.  There will also be commanders who will attempt to maintain the flat-out operations tempo to make names for themselves.  Combine this with many Soldiers who now handle garrison life poorly I think you'll see acts of indiscipline continue at the rates we've been seeing.  It will take time to readjust to the new status-quo, so we shouldn't expect an immediate drop.  Theoretically we will see more Soldiers getting out for the same reasons, but the poor economy means that they incentives for these service members to bite their tongues and continue to serve.