Saturday, October 25, 2003


A CPT Patti reader, Joe, asked me to comment on the quality of life disparities between the Air Force and Army.

Joe, I guess I've been around the block enough times to put this in the category of "Life Just Isn't Fair".

The stories we've seen here and elsewhere about Soldiers living in rough conditions while airmen live in the comparative lap of luxury are certainly stirring. It strikes us that these things just shouldn't be so.

But, as I've said before, it is a mistake for soldiers to compare - for there will always be those who have it better, those who have it worse.

From a practical standpoint, its easy to understand why the Air Force has it better. Usually the Air Force operates from a stand-off position. Compared to Army posts, Air Force bases are less often in the danger zones. So their logistics plans anticipate those conditions and allow for the luxuries to flow. But even in the Army we have a saying that "you don't have to practice being miserable". Nobody deliberately lives under conditions more miserable than can be helped.

Secondly, the Air Force establishes many fewer bases than the Army does.

An old military adage says that while air power can do a lot of things, it can't take and hold ground. For that you need Soldiers and Marines - and they have to be spread out all over the place.

Hence, just within the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad, originally there were some 40 odd Forward Operating Bases. After some consolidation that number is down to about 20, and the 1AD commander has announced plans to reduce it to 4 by the time the 1st Infantry comes to replace them. I expect that when that happens the full Force Provider packages will be in use at each of the 4 posts. But you can't do that up front...consolidation only can happen once security is under control.

Meanwhile I believe I saw where the Air Force has 3 bases in Iraq. So, by their very nature, the Air Force benefits from certain efficiencies and economies of scale from the get go.

Now certainly the disparity gets to be a real morale bummer when you have Soldiers and Airmen on opposite sides of the same fence, looking incredulously at the conditions that exist on the other side. I would hate to have that situation in my command. However, Soldiers know these inequalties exist...they exist within the Army within same units. Folks at the company level know they have it worse, usually, than those operating at Battalion, Brigade or Division level. I'm sure that everytime CPT Patti goes to Martyr's Monument where the 1st Brigade HQ is set up, she is envious of the availability of telephones.

Within the office where I work, one lady hears from her husband nearly every day via e-mail...he works on the Brigade staff. Me, I get a call about every two weeks...e-mails come less frequently.

So, in my view, it comes down to this: mission pretty much dictates everything else. The nature of the Soldiers' mission means that Soldiers will live under less cushy conditions.

And it helps if you can train your Soldiers to watch their lanes, not everyone else's.

And Joe...thanks for asking.

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