GEAR LACK ALMOST STOPPED IRAQ OPS

"The top U.S. commander in Iraq complained to the Pentagon last winter that his supply situation was so poor that it threatened Army troops' ability to fight," the Washington Post's Tom Ricks reports.

The lack of key spare parts for gear vital to combat operations, such as tanks and helicopters, was causing problems so severe, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez wrote in a letter to top Army officials, that "I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low."Senior Army officials said that most of Sanchez's concerns have been addressed in recent months but that they continue to keep a close eye on the problems he identified. The situation is "substantially better" now, said Gary Motsek, deputy director of operations for the Army Materiel Command.Sanchez, who was the senior commander on the ground in Iraq from the summer of 2003 until the summer of 2004, said in his letter that Army units in Iraq were "struggling just to maintain... relatively low readiness rates" on key combat systems, such as M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, anti-mortar radars and Black Hawk helicopters.He also said units were waiting an average of 40 days for critical spare parts, which he noted was almost three times the Army's average. In some Army supply depots in Iraq, 40 percent of critical parts were at "zero balance," meaning they were absent from depot shelves.
THERE'S MORE: As we all know by now, the U.S. miliary is running short on personnel for Iraq, too -- so short, they've decided to deploy their "OPFOR," or opposing force, used to test other units' mettle. That's the equivalent of "eating your seed corn," Phil Carter says.
This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That's like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that's a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC [Army National Training Center] to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren't going to get the same tough experience they would have with the [11th ACR] as OPFOR and that means they'll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it.
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