Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 84

(Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration) Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower (right) talks with Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley (center, First Army) and Maj. Gen. Pete Quesada (9th Air Force) about the heavy bomber attack that preceded Operation Cobra, a coordinated attack to break through German lines conducted 25–31 July 1944, seven weeks after the combined allied invasion of Normandy, France. example of how cooperation and mutual understanding benefit the land and air arms of the United States military. The two generals realized operating in a vacuum, independent of one another, would not work. Their cooperation was in the best interest of both parties, and it produced success. The stakes are high, and America’s military stands at a crossroads. The Army and Air Force rely on each other to be effective. Understanding is the first step in building an effective joint team. Mutual Respect— Shared Understanding The mutual respect between mid-level Army and Air Force officers is at a pinnacle. Air Force field grade officers at the Army’s Command and General Staff College (CGSC) are surrounded by Army peers who have served multiple twelve- or fifteen-month deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interviews with these airmen suggest a tremendous respect for soldiers who have sacrificed and served with diligence. Nearly every Army field grade officer lost a friend, a subordinate, or a mentor. Their families endured years of worry and absence while they defended the Nation. Army officers usually attend CGSC after commanding at the 78 company level. They were captains in charge of organizations with more personnel than many Air Force squadrons. Many managed fourteen M-1 tanks or M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, or a hodge-podge fleet of vehicles resistant to improvised explosive devices. Some were in charge of entire combat outposts. They directed soldiers to conduct combat patrols and then held memorials when some did not make it back. They are exper ienced, and their experiences command respect. This feeling of respect earned by Army officers is not one-sided. Army officers know the Air Force has done its part. Many of them tell war stories that capture life-saving actions by airmen. Statements like, “I love my joint terminal attack controller;” “when I heard the jets, I knew we’d be safe;” and “the Air Force saved us” are commonplace. Soldiers are thankful for ten-minute troops-in-contact close air support (CAS) response times. They appreciate low-altitude shows of force that drive off the enemy. They know airmen gave their lives, or were willing to give their lives, while trying to get ordnance on target. They also sense a strong dedication by airmen who strive to provide skilled, agile combat support. Young Army field grade officers trust the Air Force. This feeling of mutual respect and trust produces dividends. For example, Army and Air Force field grade officers seem to have an uncommon recognition of the each other’s joint spending needs. Army officers jest about the F-35’s long procurement process. Nevertheless, they want the Air Force to have this premium fighter; they want to maintain the nation’s one-sided airpower advantage. They are open-minded about other spending projects, like the purchase of a new aerial refueling tanker. After receiving an explanation of why the new tanker is necessary, most Army field grade officers clearly understand and support the need. Air Force officers display similar tendencies. Recent budget cuts are forcing the Army to change the way it trains. Air Force field grade officers recognize that actions such as restricting the training use of combat vehicles, limiting training ammunition, and reducing the number of soldiers who attend important schools significantly affect combat capability. The Army and Air Force want each other to be highly proficient. The trust and respect earned over the last thirteen years opens the door to compromise. Compromise often leads to the best solution. November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW