I was fifty five percent done with my download of America’s Army, the game you can get for free on the internet (or in CD format from your Army recruiter if you don’t have broadband, kid) when notice came down an anti-war list that the Army Reserve is, according to a leaked memo, “rapidly degenerating into a ‘broken force.’” Since memos are to be taken seriously when leaked the day before Congress convenes, I’ve little choice right now but to toggle between my Army made Army game and this Army induced article, which is good preparation, don’t you think for the all-Army future that is bringing purpose and clarity to your muddled life and mine.?
The author of the (ahem) leaked memo, James Helmly, is no whiner, having worked his way up from Vietnam-era Private to three-star General and Chief of Army Reserves. In Sept. of 2003 he was quoted in USA Today saying that the Army Reserve is now on “a war footing” and needs to enter full war mode. In fact, he seems to have a pretty clear idea about how Congress can help him fix his “broken force,” according to testimony that he gave to the House Armed Services Committee on March 31, posted at globalsecurity.org. But before we get started on that long, boring agenda for readiness among our children’s children, including perpetual rotation into combat, please start your own download of America’s Army so that you too can begin to acclimatize yourself to the appropriate mood. Meanwhile, please excuse me as I unzip my file.
In a footnote to his Congressional testimony, it appears that James Helmly makes a note to himself to reduce the use of acronyms, “which Congress hates.” Actually, Congress only hates the acronyms it does not use on a regular basis. Some acronyms, like PATRIOT Act, Congress simply loves to speak and hear, even if nobody knows what PATRIOT stands for anymore, the acronym or the word. So Helmly need not give up all acronyms when speaking to Congress, and I like the one he keeps, OPTEMPO. I like OPTEMPO for two reasons, first it does seem to compress the idea of the speed of war, conveying the impression that operational tempo can be conducted at a more rapid flick of the Commander-in-Chief’s wand. As an acronym it conveys an intent to adjust the velocity of things.
The second reason why I like the acronym OPTEMPO is because I find it only three words removed from “statutory” in Gen. Helmly’s testimony to Congress, where he seems to say that a new OPTEMPO for the Army Reserves will require new laws. Since his concerns about what will happen if Congress does not follow his advice have been recently (oops) leaked, we might want to revisit a full paragraph from his March testimony:
Changing the way we employ Soldiers starts with changing the way we prepare for calls to active duty. The current process is to alert a unit for calls to active duty, conduct administrative readiness preparations at home station, and then send the unit to the mobilization station for further administrative and logistical preparedness processing and to train for deployment. This alert-train-deploy process, while successful in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, today inhibits responsiveness. By changing to a train-mob-deploy model, and dealing with administrative and logistical requirements prior to active duty, we will reduce the time needed to bring units to a campaign quality level needed for operations. This will require us to resource more training events at home station through the use of devices, simulators and simulations. As you would expect, this shift in paradigms will increase pre-call-to-active-duty OPTEMPO beyond the current statutory level and will require greater effort and resources to achieve. We are confident that the increased costs will pay significant dividends in terms of readiness and deployability.
You can read the rest of the testimony for yourself, but it looks to me like Gen. Helmly wants to see a beefed up and “rotating” Army Reserve in which soldiers go active on a four or five year rotation. They can work at home, go active, and then rotate back home in what Helmly calls the “train-mob-deploy” model, or what we might better call Bush’s answer to the New Deal. For Helmly, the Army Reserve will need to rely less and less on folks coming out of the Army, more and more on new kids gearing up for their first Army experience. This is handy timing, because older soldiers aren’t coming back to reserves like they used to.
In the new order of things, the Army reservist’s “home station” will be equipped with “devices, simulators and simulations.” Excuse me again, while I click the next button on my Install Shield wizard for America’s Army (these Army downloads are sharp, I gotta say). After clicking everything that says I agree (who knows what we’ll be agreeing to in the future?) the wizard tells me my name and asks me to fill in my organization. Peacefile should do nicely. Install this for anyone on the computer? Why not. Click install. This may take several minutes. Okay, back to OPTEMPO.
OPTEMPO pertains to what Gen. Helmly calls “pre-call-to-active-duty.” In order to provide for the American Army more “predictable and sustainable rotations” of freshly groomed soldiers, Helmly needs good pay and benefits. He needs an advertising budget. He needs support services for families, new computers, and a batch of new contractors who can help secure bases, train leaders, and plan exercises.
This global war on terrorism, as our president has described, is a long-term campaign of inestimable duration, fought in many different places around the world,” concludes Gen. Helmly’s March testimony. In order to give the President what he needs, Helmly has a pretty clear idea about what Congress needs to do next.
On my home computer, the America’s Army install shield is asking me do I want to install GameSpy Arcade? “GameSpy Arcade is the fast, free way to find games and opponents,” says my nifty dialog box. “Join millions of other players just like yourself!” I like that exclamation point that follows “other players just like yourself!” I’m going to remember how enthusiastic folks get about that phrase the next time someone calls me a commie because I think equality would be enjoyable, you know, where millions would be just like myself, etc., and we could play these games together more often. “Would you like to install GameSpy Arcade?” Click yes. Oh wow, look at this. Click yes, yes, yes.
What’s cool about GameSpy Arcade, says the screen now in front of me, is that it offers “cheat free servers.” This idea is appealing, because the next time I get my ass kicked online playing WarCraft, I would like to know that it wasn’t because of cheat codes. So okay, sign me up for another download. But I do wonder how GameSpy got itself bundled into the Army install shield. Maybe I could get some help from the info hacks on this. Does the Army take bids for little perks like this? The “wise” wizard also offers SeeMePlayMe and Xfire, both of them service providers that will take your credit card number right away. At last, when I start up the game finally, it confines my cursor inside the military frame, no more toggling here. Either play America’s Army or don’t.
As I roll the credits for America’s Army, looking for the music composer, I think about the creative and strategic genius that is being put to work here with tax dollars that have been borrowed from our children’s children. Free war games all around, in preparation for a future of interminable strike forces and routine rotations into and out of combat. Here is the new American system, ever ready for the next little war in the next little country. Boot up America, your Army is waiting, and your ship of state is puffing hard, damn the leaks and full speed ahead. Click yes to play.
Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dimes Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his Peacefile weblog at: http://peacefile.org/wordpress/.
Other Articles by Greg Moses