Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Empty Barrel

Andrew Bacevich wrote a piece declaiming that our Army should be fighting wars, not fighting Ebola. My initial reaction was to think that I might disagree with him, because sending in the Army’s Corps of Engineers seemed to me like a reasonable method of rendering aid for the Ebola stricken area. That is what the Corps does; build hospitals to treat victims and roads as a way for the victims to reach that treatment.

Of course the command ranks of today’s Corp are so filled with careerist hacks that the proud organization that once built the Panama Canal would probably be incapable today of digging a drainage ditch for a crossroads in central Kansas, but we’ll disregard that and base our thoughts on the purpose of the Corps rather than its capability.

I realized, however, that in all my reading of “sending troops to Africa to help with the Ebola crisis,” I had seen absolutely no reference to the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Corps is seldom referred to simply as “troops.” So I embarked on a search, and it turns out that no one seems to know precisely what part of the army we are sending. Obama never says anything other than the generic “troops,” and news media uses other terms but is no more specific than that.

I found this article in the Army Times, but it is pretty incoherent. Apparently the Army does not teach writing, or perhaps the writer has prepared too many press briefings and has become a bit too fond of obfuscation. Actually, there are three authors, which might also explain the incoherence. At any rate, the first unit which we are told is being sent is the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which put me back firmly in Andrew Bacevich’s camp that the Army should be fighting wars, not African viruses.

I have this mental picture of soldiers jumping out of C-130s and gunning down Ebola viruses as they land on the ground. Hopefully, they will have close air and artillery support.

Happily, we are sending 700 combat engineers of an unnamed unit, plus “an element” of the 1st Medical Brigade of III Corps and “dozens of Seabees.” Less obvious is the need for “multiple elements” of the 1st Armor Brigade and a “small element” of the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade. (The implication the III Corps has as many as 85 Civil Affairs brigades sort of freaks me out.)

Perhaps the 1st Armor Brigade elements are going to support the aerial assault made by the 101st Airborne when they find out where the Ebola troops are massed.

It seems our military is doing too many things in too many places, and when one more thing is added, when told to send a certain number of “troops” somewhere new, they have to resort to simply scraping up odds and ends off of the bottoms of all of the empty barrels that is the nature of our military today. They can’t be fussy about what type of soldier is suited to the purpose, they have to simply fill the body count as best they can.


  1. bruce9:55 PM

    And hopefully the body count won't include ours...

  2. I am certain that sending anyone to the area is a bad idea be they engineers, combat troops or medical units. Just may not be worth the risk. If a civilian volunteer agency wants to go, with U.S. funding, to research, build facilities, treat patients, etc. etc. then by all means have at it. Just don't expect to be allowed back into the country until it is proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is no returning infectious person.