Watch as soldiers from Fort Polk and the Louisiana National Guard make their final drop before earning the coveted Air Assault badge. Jordan Allen/The Town Talk
We were thrilled this week to see the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to give soldiers a long-overdue pay raise. We are optimistic the senate will concur and the president will make it official.
Military spending is always a major issue, not just in the U.S. but in countries across the world, as was highlighted during the recent NATO summit. When there are major conflicts there is rarely a debate about military spending. Congress wasn’t pinching pennies during World War II, they were melting them down to aid in the war effort.
But in peace time — or as peaceful as our world seems to get when there are no major wars or terrorism operations taking place — many are quick to want to cut back on military spending.Â To help maintain support in times like this, military leaders will often bring groups of “distinguished visitors” (DV’s as they are called by soldiers — everything in the Army has to be abbreviated) out to show off what the soldiers can do. Service members call them dog and pony shows.
We got to witness one such show last week while embedded with the La. National Guard during a training mission at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. The group of DV’s included some Louisiana mayors, members of the La. National Guard Foundation —Â including recently retired England Authority executive director Jon Grafton —Â and members of the Belize Defense Force. And they got a good show. They got to eat an MRE (packaged meal-ready-to-eat soldiers carry), see a simulated medical treatment exercise and watch mortars being fired.
While the in-person demonstration undoubtedly had an impact, we think the better way to understand the need for continued investment in our military — especially in times of peace — is to do what we did and spend some time with the soldiers in the field.
If you want to know what is going right and what can be improved in the military, spend a few hours in the field with a soldier. They aren’t bashful about sharing their opinions. We’ll provide some of that insight in the coming weeks with our coverage of the La. National Guard’s current training exercise.
But to our current point, here is some insight from Cpt. Kenrick Cormier, commander of Bravo Company based at Camp Beauregard. His infantry soldiers had just successfully completed a night operation. At the end, Cormier noted the engagement wasn’t won that night on the field, it was won days before through planning, training and preparation.
Cormier went on to explain his primary objective is to use all of the assets at his disposal to eradicate as much of the enemy as he can in advance to reduce the risk to our soldiers on the ground. But to do that, he needs to establish superiority — better equipment, training, communication and technology — than the opponent.
Ensuring our military leaders have that superiority means investing in research and development and buying top-quality equipment, not just the best product available from the lowest bidder. And that investment of time and resources has to be done before the battle takes place. As Lt. Col. Marc Prymek, Battalion Commander of the 199th Brigade Support Battalion stationed in Alexandria noted, “on the battlefield is the wrong time to find out you have a problem.”
The reality, as Cormier and Prymek noted, is that the outcome of the battles our military will face in the future is being decided today. If we hope to win then, we must make the investments now to ensure our troops have the training and resources they need to be successful.
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