The US Army is downsizing. "Take Three Years Off" screams the Army Times in front-page headlines. I've read the Army Times religiously every week since the 1970s. Since I got out of the service in 1986, I've kept up with trends and rumor-mills via print media. I write several series of para-military thrillers (Running Out of Time, Impossible, and even the Winds-series which includes Abandoned and Darkness). I depend on AT and a handful of buddies who are still in the service or recently released from Active Duty to keep me current.
I've been through downsizing before. I was a DA Budget Analyst and Logistics and Personnel Technician during the Nixon, Carter, and Reagan administrations. I got recalled from the standby reserve to help plan for future mobilizations. Every time I took time out from military service to pursue a career as a writer, the Army needed to increase troop strength again to handle a new emergency. Eventually, after more than twenty years of yo-yoing between civilian and military careers, I asked out of that chicken-shit scenario. Now I'm too old to put the uniform on again (even if it fit), but the nightmares still haunt me that I'll wake up in the middle of the night and have to shave and get a haircut, don my ACUs, grab my duffel, and airlift somewhere under live fire. Like CW5 Dave Davis and The Ranger in Abandoned, I just want the killing to stop. Is that only wishful thinking?
Periodic downsizing is necessary, but so is periodic mobilization. America must have a viable deterrence to threat, but we also have realistic limits on men, money, and materiel that require us to withdraw and take stock before responding. We can't keep running without taking a breather. Now is the time to "smoke 'em if you got 'em" and get ready to run again. We've come a long way, but we have farther to go before we can rack our rifles and turn in our unexpended ammunition.
How many boots on the ground will we need for future conflicts? How soon will we need them? I hope planners take a long, hard look at history before culling too many of the herd.
Take three years off? Hell, yeah! It sounds like a great idea for reducing troop strengths while keeping combat-trained men and women available for future conflicts. Whoever thought up that idea deserves a medal.