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Guest Column: An American Foreign Legion
Guest Column: An American Foreign Legion


This article is provided courtesy of DefenseWatch, the official magazine for Soldiers For The Truth (SFTT), a grass-roots educational organization started by a small group of concerned veterans and citizens to inform the public, the Congress, and the media on the decline in readiness of our armed forces. Inspired by the outspoken idealism of retired Colonel David Hackworth, SFTT aims to give our service people, veterans, and retirees a clear voice with the media, Congress, the public and their services.

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January 21, 2004

[Have an opinion about the views expressed in this article? Sound off in the Hot Issues with Defensewatch Forum.]

By Wayne Hommer

Since the launch of the global war against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks, many federal agencies involved in defense and homeland security have been pushed to their limits. The U.S. Army has, in fact, been stretched beyond its capacity, with eight of its 10 divisions this year either preparing for combat operations, conducting combat operations, or recovering from combat operations.

The U.S. Army cannot maintain the current tempo of operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas. It is easy to suggest that the U.S. Army should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan in a year, but history does not support that assertion. Our forces have been in Bosnia for a decade, and there's still work to do there.

One solution that can be quickly implemented would be to create an American Foreign Legion that could assume a number of duties currently handled by the Army and Marine Corps. Here is my concept for such an organization:
  • The American Foreign Legion would consist of three 8,000-man mechanized infantry divisions whose members would be non-U.S. citizens serving under a cadre of regular Army officers.
  • Each enlistee would agree to serve in uniform for a minimum of ten years, after which he and his immediate family would be naturalized as American citizens. While serving, each AFL soldier would receive a salary and benefits similar to those received by the active-duty military.
  • Initial training would consist of an intense, six-week English-language course for those unable to communicate effectively in English. Following that, the recruit would attend a 12-week Army basic training program. The training focus would be on basic mechanized infantry tactics and security operations. Every graduate would be qualified as a rifleman with specialized training conducted within the AFL division as required.
  • The American Foreign Legion would have split responsibilities similar to that of the U.S. Coast Guard for peacetime and wartime conditions.
During peacetime, the AFL would fall under the control of the Department of Homeland Security with a primary mission of augmenting the U.S. Border Patrol in border security operations. Daily operations would include conducting extensive patrols of the border, freeing the U.S. Border Patrol to concentrate its efforts on operating fixed border checkpoints.

When directed by the president, command of the AFL would shift to the Department of Defense. While trained and equipped to carry out high-intensity combat operations, the primary role of the AFL under the DoD would be to serve as a designated peacekeeping force. This would allow regular Army units to concentrate on high-intensity conflict scenarios, and would dramatically increase the overall readiness of the U.S. armed forces.
  • The Army can equip the AFL divisions with M113A3 armored personnel carriers currently in storage in the War Reserve Stock, making the units rapidly deployable. In addition, the tracked vehicles will protect the troops from the small-arms, RPG and improvised explosive threats common to low-intensity conflicts. Each AFL division would require roughly 500 M113A3 series vehicles, in addition to a limited number of Humvees, fuelers, LMTV's, and HMMT wreckers.
  • Aside from the core mechanized infantry units, each AFL division should include an engineer construction battalion. While the AFL should have no need for combat engineers, construction engineers are in constant demand, particularly in training deployments to Third World nations. The ability to build schools, roads and irrigation systems would contribute significantly to the success of any peacekeeping operation.
  • Construction engineers would also be very useful on the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada. For example, a battalion of engineers could build a substantial secure border fence from the Gulf of Mexico, to the Pacific Ocean in a year, and dramatically improve the security of the border.
  • The logical bases for the AFL divisions would be at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and Fort Bliss, Tex. Infrastructure would be required for the 8,000 troops and estimated 2,000 training cadre for each AFL division.
It would not be difficult for the Pentagon to establish three AFL divisions very quickly. Each AFL division would be manned by roughly 8,000 personnel.

The personnel who would serve in the AFL are already on hand: They are part of the population of illegal immigrants already in the United States.

The Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates that 700,000 illegal immigrants enter the United States each year, joining an estimated 8 million other illegals already here. Many of them would be glad for a chance to enter and live in the country legally, and serving in the American Foreign Legion with its programmed citizenship reward could provide such an option.

Creating the American Foreign Legion would not come without significant startup costs, but the U.S. Treasury would meanwhile realize additional millions of dollars from tax payments by AFL members rising out of the underground economy of the illegal alien population.

The units would significantly help the regular Army and its troops carry out their primary missions as soldiers and not policemen. The AFL would also provide the Department of Homeland Defense the teeth it needs to be effective.

It is critical to our national security for the Pentagon to ease the strains that the Army is suffering. It is also critical for our national security to have positive control over our borders.

The American Foreign Legion could satisfy both needs.

Capt. Wayne Hommer USA is the pen name of a U.S. Army officer serving on active duty. He can be reached at CPTWayneHommer@Hotmail.com. 2004 DefenseWatch. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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