January’s Potpourri

by LtCol J.P. Glasgow, Jr.

. . . LtCol Batcheller’s commentary on Officer Competence (Jan82) resurfaced many of the traditional complaints concerning the inequities and uncertainties of the present manpower system. I basically agree with him, but offer the following observations on two of his recommendations:

Promotion Criteria: I strongly disagree with the recommendation to establish a policy favoring FMF tours and command assignments as guarantors of promotion. The general consensus is that the existing system already favors those billetholders. Precisely because of this perception we forfeit combat proficiency by squeezing as many people into those hallowed billets as possible, with priority of assignment going to those who have been away the longest. I agree that we need clear cut promotion prerequisites-but not this way. We must go back the other way stressing billet performance in concert with other prerequisites.

Officer MOS Exams: No! No! No! Such exams as prerequisites for promotion would be grossly inappropriate and thoroughly biased toward those individuals fortunate enough to have spent a tour in their primary MOS prior to consideration for the next promotion. Exams are clearly not the way. Perhaps an alternative would be completion of certain schools (career level, ILS) either by residency or correspondence prior to consideration for promotion. Another alternative would be completion of predesignated correspondence courses germane to particular ranks and primary MOSs.

Maneuver Warfare: Maj Gregor’s searing letter echoes my sentiments of Capt Wilson’s regurgitation of Messrs. Boyd and Lind. By resurfacing Bill Lind’s old gaps, Capt Wilson does nothing but cloud the issue. Are we to assume that such thinking is germane to every conceivable combat environment-Vietnam, NATO’s northern flank, the Middle East, the Steppes of Russia, Central America, etc? What about the defense, or is maneuver warfare symbolic for always being on the attack? Who provides security for all the “dumps” far forward? Does our resupply system change with this thinking-and if so-how? What’s the real difference between “mission oriented orders” and “frag orders” once the players are on the field? How does one hide a giant task force in this day and age? With the Sixth Fleet off Tripoli, I doubt that Qaddafi would believe false communication transmissions concerning a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. Have I been out of the artillery so long that “artillery far forward and in reserve” is generally accepted policy? When did it become fashionable for the artillery to be “attached” rather than have specific artillery missions of direct support, general support, etc?

Before I slipped down that “insidious black hole” and lost touch with the here and now, “maneuver” was a generally accepted principle of war; and, I thought, a pretty good one. The last pure example of its use to perfection in my lifetime was the relief of Pusan-MacArthur’s bold stroke at Inchon on 15 September 1950. It worked then and no doubt it will work again; but it is a principle, not a be all and end all for doing business.