Monday, July 16, 2007

Perspective: Army's middle ranks are dwindling

Above: New non-commissioned officers from 2nd “Lobo” Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, recite the NCO Creed at an induction ceremonyat Camp Taji in June. Eighteen new NCOs from the battalion were inducted.

Bradford and Robynne Ashby were the kinds of enlisted soldiers an Army at war wants to keep — highly trained and combat-tested with two tours in Iraq behind them.

Still, nothing their superiors offered could persuade the two sergeants to make the Army a career. Not even a stint in Hawaii. And last month, the Ashbys found themselves in a different kind of convoy — her Chevy S-10 pickup behind his Dodge Ram, rolling from the outskirts of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina to southern Louisiana to start a new chapter of their civilian life.

They had been skilled helicopter technicians with the 82nd Airborne Division and, not yet 30, just the sort of noncommissioned officers needed to train the 65,000 new soldiers President Bush has ordered to expand the short-handed force over the next six years.

But the Ashbys are among the midcareer leaders the Army is having the most trouble holding on to — those torn between finishing a fight and raising a family.

Read the rest at the LA Times