July 10, 2009

On ANA driver training and the 1230 report

Just one more thing on those new "security force kandaks" referred to in the June DOD 1230 report.

One thing the DOD report doesn't explain is why there was no rationalization between the equipping of the current front-line kandaks with 4,100 new HMMWVs (p. 32), and the equipping of the 8 new security force kandaks, which will only get 40% of their lift due to vehicle shortages (p. 28).

The front-line troops have whatever Ford Rangers they have now, and shifting partly to HMMWVs (it's not a total replacement: over 80-odd Kandaks, that works out to 50 HMMWVs per, enough lift for maybe 250 people out of 400 or more effectives in an infantry kandak) is going to significantly change how they operate: HMMWVs take 5 people, period, including commander and driver, while Ford Rangers take... well, let's just say I've never seen a generally observed limit among the ANA, although after the first 8 it starts to get a little crowded. So instead of one vehicle per "section" it's two. (If the ANA had sections, but that's another story.)

Taking units off the line long enough to train them in the new procedures is also going to continually prove difficult in any part of the country where the ANA is, you know, actually fighting. This is true both for the drivers, who've likely never had any driver education before their HMMWV course, and the commanders, who are being trained to be, you know, real vehicle commanders, which means real junior NCOs, which, again, they've probably never done before in most cases. So this is a big, big deal for them.

Never mind that HMMWVs can't get to a lot of the places Rangers can get to, whether you're talking narrow lanes in Zhari or mountain passes in RC-East, either. Take that and the fact you can actually fight from a HMMWV with some chance of survival, and you can see that Ranger ANA and HMMWV ANA have the potential to operate and fight very differently from each other. The guys in Hummers are not quite mech inf, but they're not the dragoons/motorized infantry the ANA used to be exclusively, who used their Rangers primarily for their operational (out-of-battle) mobility, and fought on foot.

One can't help feeling that the better solution might have been to work this sort of stuff into the stand-up training for the new 8 kandaks, and deploy them as 100% HMMWV kandaks, wherever they were sent. They'd be better for road security, and we wouldn't have spent these crucial months before the August election with fewer ANA soldiers on the front line than we could have had due to the HMMWV training delta.

One might also wonder why the Rangers that are now surplus because their crews are in HMMWVs now couldn't have been given by the army to the new kandaks. The real reason this wasn't done, likely, is the recognition that once something (like a Ford Ranger, or a weapon, or a laptop computer) goes into the ANA supply chain and down to a unit, it doesn't often come out again. It's doubtful any Ford Ranger will come back to the centre to be reassigned, out of this. Those identified surplus will turn out to be "not roadworthy," or "missing," or "lost in combat," etc. (The HMMWVs likely will too, in turn, someday.) Where are they actually? You'd have to ask the local kandak commander that one. He might even know, if he's good at his job. As I've said before, TIA.

The risk here is that in addition to tying up badly needed frontline troops in training right now, once that's done you're still going to end up with a mash. Kandaks will end up with a mix of Rangers and HMMWVs, giving any given group of them the significant deployment limitations of both vehicles. And getting one of the new security kandaks in your brigade this year, because they're basically foot-borne for the moment, won't make things any easier.

Posted by BruceR at 02:57 PM