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U.S. Army vs. U.S. civilians?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I read something surprising in one of my newsletters tonight. The newsletter said that an active unit of the United States Army, a part of the 3rd Infantry, which was the first unit into Baghdad in 2003, has been tasked with a civilian assignment. Purpordedly the assignment is to assist local law enforcement and other agencies to deal with terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other events that they're unable to deal with alone.

Some disturbing aspects of this report: this newsletter writer thinks that the reason for this deployment is the possibility of civil unrest due to the economic situation. The unit, known as "c-smurf" for its acronym CCMRF, is being trained in civilian riot-control and other civilian law enforcement tactics and logistics.

The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,†1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for any domestic purpose.
The plan is drawing skepticism from some observers who are concerned that the unit has been training with equipment generally used in law enforcement, including beanbag bullets, Tasers, spike strips and roadblocks.
I'm wondering, why use the U.S. Army for this task when we have the National Guard? Questions arise: where is the National Guard that they can't perform this duty? Is the civilian unrest expected to be so great that the U.S. Army needs to be called upon to subdue it?

There's precedent for this: in 1932, during the Great Depression, a group of army veterans marched on Washington, and the regular Army was called out to subdue them.

It's questionable whether this force is even legal:

Use of active-duty military as a domestic police force has been severely limited since passage of the Posse Comitatus Act following the Civil War.
Our government bears close scrutiny. These things can easily fly under the public radar. Why are these troops assigned to this duty, and exactly what might this duty entail? U.S. troops fighting U.S. civilians? Is the federal government expecting a civil war? A second revolution? What's going on here?




post #2 of 6
On the surface I don't think it's anything to be alarmed about. To me it sounds more like a quick reaction force that could be deployed quickly in the event of a terrorist attack with WMDs or for large scale natural disasters. Providing security during those types of missions would be a priority. Hopefully, it's nothing more than that but it should be tasked to the civilian authorities and the National Guard first.

Assistance from the active military during disasters isn't unheard of. Back in the early 1990's parts of the 1st Infantry Division (and other units) were helping to combat wildfires out west. The Navy provided a lot of support during the aftermath of Katrina.

Parts of the Special Operations community routinely provide assistance to civilian law enforcement when it comes to security issues. Delta operators have been brought in to go over the security details for events like the Olympics and WTO meetings. SEALs have also provided tech support in training LAPD SWAT in urban tactics (I may have that one backwards).

Am I concerned? Yes, anything can turn bad no matter how good the intentions, but not as much as I would be if it was a group of rogue cowboys like Blackwater.
post #3 of 6
Originally Posted by coaster View Post
I'm wondering, why use the U.S. Army for this task when we have the National Guard? Questions arise: where is the National Guard that they can't perform this duty? Is the civilian unrest expected to be so great that the U.S. Army needs to be called upon to subdue it?
We know where the National Guard is. They are overseas, in Iraq. I shudder to think what would happen if we were to actually need them here.

From what I can tell, the Guard and reserves are being used like active-duty Army and Marines in this war. Seems like a poor decision to me, but then I suppose I don't know much about it.
post #4 of 6
It's part of the role of the National Guard and Reserves. The Guard isn't here solely for the benefit of governors and for use in civil disturbances and disasters (though this is where they have been most visible). Since the National Guard was created in 1903 they have played a role, often a very large role, in every conflict the US has been in. If I remember correctly they made up around 40% of the US combat strength overseas in World War I. In World War II there were 19 divisions made up solely of soldiers from the National Guard. They also served in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the shrinking of the active military since the end of Desert Storm there has been a greater reliance placed on National Guard and Reserve soldiers. The current Secretary of Defense has placed more limits on the number of times these troops can be deployed and on the length of the deployments.

The Army Reserves provide more in the way of logistical support than the National Guard does. The Reserves supply a lot of medical personal, aviation, transportation, psyops, water supply, civil affairs and training units (just to name a few). The National Guard also has a lot of the same but, more importantly, they provide the combat units to augment the regular army. The Army Reserve's combat units were disbanded after the Cold War ended, with the exception of one battalion.
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Bryan, even if the newletter writer's concerns are unfounded, and it's purposes are completely above-board and as stated, there's still the question about the National Guard. This is a battle-hardened regular forces U.S. Army brigade (I think that's the unit size) tasked with an assignment that it seems to me would normally be done by the National Guard or the Reserves.

I think it's something to keep an eye on. It's kind of snuck under the radar, so it's worth shedding some light on.

There's still two months to go until change of command. Anything could happen.
post #6 of 6
I don't have an answer for you, Tim. I'm wondering the same thing myself. If the intentions for this unit are completely above board then I would venture to say that they may only be used in case of an NBC attack by terrorists but the Guard and Reserves have units that also deal with that sort of thing. Still, it's not exactly comforting.
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