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Gordon Cucullu- Contributor

Former Green Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist, author and a popular speaker. Born into a military family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work, Separated at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is based in large part on his extensive experience in Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman. [website] [go to Cucullu index]


Separated at Birth : How North Korea Became the Evil Twin
Gordon Cucullu

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Being a Superpower - Part II - The Troops
More troop strength...
[Gordon Cucullu] 9/17/04

In Being a Superpower - Part I - Equipment we see how material and weaponry factors into calculations of US strength: nuclear capability “necessary but a misleading indicator of strength, military equipment - under funded and needing upgrades, and intelligence gathering technology” a repository for blind faith. We see that it is a uniquely American cultural proclivity to fall in love with our gadgetry and rely heavily on it. But that is only one facet of this complex issue. What else makes America a superpower?

The simple answer is: the quality of the troops who stand in the boots we put on the ground in dangerous places. Real power means much more than simply equipment. It takes special dedication, commitment and hard work from people to build the kind of force we take for granted. Runner Steve Prefontaine said that he didn’t go out to see who could run the fastest but to see “who has the most guts.” That’s the American spirit. Our troops are imbued with this positive spirit. Sure you can find a few in any group that large who fall short of expectations. But taken collectively our soldiers, sailors, airman and marines are far superior to any force that has ever been fielded in any war, by any country. That says a lot but these men and women have earned such accolades and more.

We have asked these men and women to move mountains since the attack on America on September 11. They have performed magnificently with utmost professionalism. Now it is time that we recognize, as part of the comprehensive analysis of military and intelligence preparedness in this War on Terror, that we need to do more for our troops. For too long we have been operating on a shoestring, depending on extension of service commitment for active duty personnel, long deployments of National Guard and Reserve force units and almost constant combat for special operations units in order to have the troop strength necessary to fight the war. The Guard and Reserves need a break; they are not configured for such long deployments. We need to upgrade our forces on the equipment side certainly, but more importantly we need urgently to raise the force structure levels so we don’t wear our people down.

There are bureaucratic methods that help and the Pentagon is using most of them: hire more civilians to free military for combat roles, streamline units for increased efficiencies, and recall some discharged reservists. These methods can relieve short-term personnel pressure but have just about run their course. We need more people in the proper places. Do we need to revive conscription? Absolutely not. That is a red herring dragged out by anti-war, anti-Bush politicians to try to scare Americans. One day they’ll learn that the public is made of sterner stuff than they are. No, raising the numbers of volunteers can be done by a presidential appeal to the country. In time of national crisis the American president has historically gone to the people to ask for help in defending the country. It is a unifying move and would elicit sufficient positive response to bring the additional 50,000-80,000 volunteers forth that would give our troops a chance to rotate out of combat, regroup, refit and be ready for the next round. For the next round will certainly come.

What new ground force units should we field? We are in good shape as far as the conventional war-fighting units are concerned. We saw what our mechanized infantry, armored and Marine units did in the last war. They were superb. We appear to have satisfactory levels of those units. Where we appear to need beefing up are in the special operations forces, airmobile and airborne units. We now have only one division of paratroops, the 82nd and an independent brigade, the 173rd. We have a single airmobile division, the 101st. These units have been deployed extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq. Given my preferences I would like to re-activate the 11th Airborne Division as a second full paratroop division, and re-activate a proud unit like the 29th Infantry Division converting it to Airmobile. This would seriously augment our battlefield mobility capability ˆ though paratroop drops and helicopter insertion and permit us to put the right force mix where it is most effective.

Additionally I would like to see at least another Ranger regiment formed. Rangers are trained to work in conjunction with special operations forces or alone against very difficult targets as well as respond to rapidly developing situations. Rangers have “led the way” as their motto asserts in recent combat operations since Grenada in 1983. Ranger units have proven their mettle for all to see. Along with the Rangers we urgently need to expand the special operations in all services, primarily the Army Special Forces, Delta Force, and Navy SEAL teams. Even more than is true with the Airborne, Airmobile and Ranger units it is important that expansion be consistent with high standards. It adds little to sacrifice troop quality and unit performance simply to fill a requirement. All of these units require special training in various forms. To win membership in the most elite units can take a soldier more than a year in some cases. Since we will not be able to field them overnight we must begin this expansion as soon as possible.

Similarly, out intelligence gathering capability must be modernized and improved. We’ll look at that next time in Being a Superpower - Part III - Attitudes and Institutions CRO

Coming: Being a Superpower - Part III - Attitudes and Institutions

copyright Gordon Cucullu 2004




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