Monday, March 01, 2021

The U.S. Army and Conventional Ground Combat: A Dying Art?

    Traditionally, the U.S. Army has always been about ground combat, infantry, cavalry and artillery. But as the boundaries of combat continued to be pushed the Army was forced to adapt. One image in particular outlines every domain the U.S. Army must occupy in order to have complete control over the combat space. Land, Air, Sea, Space and Cyber are listed as essential for success, but how do these domains align with the main prerogative of the Army?

    With the introduction of the Army Air Corps during World War II the structure of the Army was forever changed. After the war and the divorce of the Air Corps from the Army thus forming the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense soon realized the interdependency of branches that had evolved. With interdependency however comes the logistical nightmare of coordination, information sharing and interbranch rivalries. Ultimately, it was decided that each branch would maintain their own set of diverse resources needed to be quasi-self-sufficient. What did this mean for the Army? It meant rotary aircraft, satellites and cyber assets all allocated to the Army in the name of mission preparedness. That mission however remained the same, to carry out and support ground combat in the event of a conflict. Two decades of the War on Terror have seen the U.S. Army participating in combat operations from Iraq to Afghanistan and things aren’t like they used to be. Certainly the Army has conducted ground combat operation during the War on Terror however, they are anything but conventional. Mostly though we find the Army in a surprising role. Over the last twenty years we see a dramatic rise in occupation, policing and training duties. While the Army is not a stranger to these jobs it is certainly not its primary objective. Conventional ground combat therefore has become a dying art in my opinion. 

    The likelihood of engaging a state in conventional ground combat has drastically diminished over the years. With nuclear deterrents, a shift in focus towards space and cyber operations and the constant pursuit of insurgents who don’t disappear when their territory is occupied its safe to say the combat landscape has changed. Due to these changes I believe that the Army should adopt two schools of thought in order to maintain its mission yet be flexible enough to meet modern threats.The first school of thought would allow the Army to utilize its now vast air and cyber resources as well as its land power to specialize in support of UN peacekeeping missions, occupation of captured territories and counterinsurgency as well as humanitarian aid distribution and logistics. The more traditional half would allow the expertise of the Army to live on into the twenty-first century. Preparing for potential threats, organizing inter-branch cooperation and carrying out conventional ground combat.

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