Gates Questions Contractor Training

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I'm not sure how I feel about this...

From this afternoon's Military.com headlines:

Use of Contractors for Training Faces Review

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a top-level review of the Pentagon's use of private security contractors, including the controversial Moyock, N.C.-based Blackwater Worldwide, to train American troops.

"Why have we come to rely on contractors to provide combat or combat-related security training ... Are we comfortable with this practice?" Gates asked in a July 10 memo to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The defense boss also requested more detail on how much each of the military branches is spending on contractor-supplied training and whether the services have established "appropriate red lines" governing "what types of security training are permitted to be contracted out."

He expects initial answers sometime this week, Gates said in a letter Friday to Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. A Mullen spokesman confirmed that a response is in the works.

I've run into a lot of contractor trainers in my travels and I've got to tell you, they're by in large pretty darn good at what they do and provide a necessary service to American troops preparing for battle. Most of the training Soldiers and Marines receive at the camps in northern Kuwait, including Camp Buehring, before they go into Iraq comes from contractors. Everything from urban warfare training to tactical shooting drills are taught by retired master sergeants and gunnies.

The ones I've talked to are dedicated pros who don't complain about the abysmal conditions and isolation of some of these camps. I've also looked into the training that goes on at civilian organizations for special operations forces. Again, some of the most sophisticated and highly technical fighting and weapons training goes on at these places and it would be a shame to have to shut these relationships down.

I'm not sure where Webb is going with this inquiry. I've got to admit, I am a bit squeemish when I hear that sailors with the riverine force are being trained by Blackwater staff. Not because of the company involved, but more because that seems like pretty basic training that should be conducted by sailors themselves.

I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but I just don't see what the problem is with retired grunts finding a new career training the same Joes they once served alongside. It's the same thing that happens in the civilian world with retired whomevers "consulting" in their prior business. If the troops are more effective for it, why not do it?

-- Christian

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