RICK’S COLUMN

The US Army and the cost of war 

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Posted on Aug 16 2021
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The two military organizations most impacted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades have been the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The deep and complete involvement of the U.S. Army in fighting America’s imperial land wars over the course of time has been unique, complex, sometimes dark, chaotic, and impressive all at the same time. Some of the finest officers and senior leaders to ever serve the American empire in times of conflict and in times of peace have worn the uniform of the U.S. Army.  

The total cost of war from Iraq and Afghanistan to the American empire is staggering. Estimates range from a floor of $7 trillion when factors such as lives injured, lives lost, total military medical costs, veteran-related costs, costs associated with rebuilding total Army readiness and end strength, training foreign military forces, lost national productivity, broken family costs, hardship costs and macro-opportunity costs are taken into consideration.  

Select challenges that the Army continues to work through

Today the U.S. Army continues to shoulder the brunt of having to train, prepare, deploy, modernize, and reconstitute itself for the next fight. Part of this means that the Army will continue to come to Guam, the Marianas and Micronesia to train alongside other branches of America’s armed forces and foreign militaries, such as the Japanese self-defense forces. 
The involvement of the U.S. Army with the government of Japan, however, is nothing new. The Army has had a deep and somewhat concealed relationship with Japan and its government since the immediate aftermath following the conclusion of World War II. 

Recent military exercises

Today’s Army is required to insert itself into a land fight that could initiate anywhere in the world within 24 hours to support American interests. This fact was recently seen when Army Special Forces units flew halfway around the globe to parachute into northern Guam during recent armed forces exercises. 

In addition to training for kinetic and very physically destructive war scenarios, the U.S. Army is also home to arguably the world’s most proficient military intelligence apparatus, aviation and special operations communities, and a host of other entities that provide medical, engineering, scientific, and logistical support to a variety of mission sets.  

US Army connections to our ancient Chamorro Pacific Islander civilization

The Army has a long and sometimes dark history tied to fighting and maintaining a presence throughout the Pacific Blue Ocean continent and Indochina regions since the 19th century. The historical threads that most closely connect the U.S. Army to our Chamorro Pacific Islander civilization have generally been tied to World War II events and Cold War actions seen over several successive decades leading up to present day. 

Several generations of some of the bravest and most able men and women of Chamorro and Micronesian Pacific Islander ancestry have proudly served in all communities that make up the Army’s total force across active duty and reserve components. 

There will come a time not too far off in the future when an unusually exceptional Army officer of Chamorro ancestry will be nominated to a four-star general officer leadership position. He or she will follow in the footsteps of former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, an American of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific island of Kauai. 

Despite the innumerable courageous actions undertaken by American soldiers of Chamorro ancestry throughout the Vietnam conflict and other wars, not one Chamorro has been formally nominated for the Medal of Honor. Conversely, Chamorros have been inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame. 

Jobs program producing upward mobility with strings attached

The U.S. Army has served and continues to act as a significant jobs program for our people living throughout the Marianas Islands region. The Army sells itself as a place to create and grow a long-term career, build proprietary and transferable jobs skills, while offering a wide variety of educational opportunities to many of its members, all at the tremendously high cost of being obligated to go to war when directed by national command authorities. 

What’s next

Congress is currently contemplating legislation that would place Army National Guard units in positions that train more closely with Taiwanese defense forces to further improve overall military readiness across the spectrum of conflict in East Asia. The American national government refers to this as the Partnership for Peace Program and Guam Army National Guard units will be some of the most affected organizations as this effort becomes larger and more robust. 
 
Second, the Army has and will continue to maintain a significant land-based presence throughout the Pacific Asia region. Thousands of soldiers serve in Northeast Asia as part of the strategic footprint required to demonstrate American commitments to treaty allies, costing taxpayers billions of dollars annually. 

The American national government is also thinking through its overall posture when it comes to issues of placing Army land- and ground-based missile weapons systems in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, in response to China’s continual military growth. 
Expect to see the Army become more closely involved with supporting international public health efforts to include international vaccination programs as part of a whole-of-government approach to project influence throughout the Blue Ocean continent. 

Excellence pursued; excellence continued

The U.S. Army has demonstrated a greater level of commitment to the Chamorro and villager communities of the Marianas Islands, when compared to that of the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The Army is the only branch of the American armed forces that has built a tier one ROTC program at the University of Guam, while maintaining a robust National Guard presence, thanks in large part to the past pathbreaking work done by people like the Honorable Dr. and Congressman Robert A. Underwood.

Rick Perez | Author
Rick Perez used to serve in the U.S. military and has work experiences in public policy research and public affairs. He is passionate about national security and geopolitics and runs a newsletter called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For questions or comments, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.
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