But the unfortunate truth is that today's Guard and reserve units are being thrown into the fight in ways similar to conscript-based units of past generations. Reservists today get mobilized, trained on the most basic tasks of war, and then shipped to Iraq in a matter of weeks. Today, just as in World War II and Korea, we are throwing unprepared units into battle with the hope that they survive and gel as a team in the ultimate Darwinian environment. The reservists in Iraq lack the training, equipment, leadership, and resources to do their job. And their morale proves it; surveys conducted under the Army's auspices last year showed a marked difference between the attitudes of active-duty soldiers and Marines, and of reservists like those in the 343rd.
There remain a number of salient differences between today's soldiers and the draftees of the World War II and Vietnam generations. Unlike conscripts, today's reservists are volunteers, and they have gone through the rigors of boot camp. But from an operational perspective, some of those differences have been slowly ground away by the exigencies of the mission in Iraq. Consequently, reservists today are acting in ways that look startlingly like conscripts of yesterday. The reservists in the 343rd made a conscious choice between the risk of court-martial and the risk of a combat mission, based on their gut feelings about their equipment, training, leadership, and likelihood of survival. Professional soldiers face such risks every day, and yet they persevere because they have faith in their units, leaders, training, and equipment. The reservists of the 343rd Quartermaster Company appear to have run out of faith, perhaps because the Army—which treated them as disposable—never gave them enough reason to have it.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
The Reserve Mutiny
Phillip Carter takes a look at how today's reservists are similar to draftees of yore.