In one of the most colossally stupid moves in modern military history, the Army is looking to scrap their three active-duty and six National Guard Long-Range Surveillance companies in the next 60 days. Established back in the 1950s, they were known as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP, or Lurp) back in Vietnam and Alamo Scouts in WWII.
A team of Alamo Scouts pose for a photo after completing a reconnaissance mission on Los Negros Island, February 1944.
In all some 882 billets will be saved as each unit is small (just comprised of 15 six-man teams led by a staff sergeant and a minute headquarters staff). Undoubtedly, since they are such a small community, they don’t get a lot of attention and support.
What will be lost will be unique airborne-qualified specialists that excel in forward surveillance and battlefield-intelligence gathering that is integral to the units they are assigned to such as the 82nd ABN, 101st Air Assault and 10th Mountain on active duty and the enhanced readiness units including the Alaska Guard in the reserves.
The argument is that this role can be given to drones who provide a soda-straw view of the battlefield. Gray Eagle squadrons, which contain 9 of the modified MQ-1C UAVs and about 120 personel in three platoons, will pick up the slack but since the Army is only funding 152 of these drones (and just 31 ground systems) and the 160th SOAR is getting two full 12-aircraft squadrons and two 4-ship units are in Afghanistan, there will only be one Gray Eagle squad per each of the 10 active duty division and none for the Guard or Reserve. The Army is also picking up 36 Improved Gray Eagles (IGE) with extended range for use by SF.
And of course what isn’t mentioned is that Gray Eagle replaced the old RQ-5 Hunter and RQ-7 Shadow drones in MI units, so there are a lot of eggs in the Eagle basket so to speak.
Team 5 from the Maryland Army National Guard’s Long Range Surveillance Company, C Company, 1-158th Cavalry get ready to jump during Leapfest XXXI, in Kingston, R.I., Aug. 2, 2014. Leapfest is an airborne parachute competition sponsored by the Rhode Island National Guard to promote high level technical training within the international airborne community. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brady Pritchett)
“Every year there are capabilities that must be added, but unfortunately this means the Army must divest some,” Army spokesman Troy Rolan said as reported by Stars and Stripes.
Commanders identified operational LRS units as a low priority, he said, adding that the decision to cut LRS companies was aided by “extensive computer models using combatant commander plans to determine what the Army needs.”
The problem is that a lot of Guard LRS units are composed of guys who were former active duty, many with Ranger and SF tabs.
The tribal knowledge these units have is simply not replaceable if needed in the future– leading to the enduring question of why the military always has to reinvent the wheel when the next war comes because they scrapped it in peacetime for the square.