I was fortunate enough to be one of the 17 ILE students selected to participate in the UK Exchange this past March. I have to say this was one of the best professional experiences I have ever had. Working with our British counterparts during EAGLE OWL was one thing, but I did not fully appreciate how different our two armies are beyond those subtle differences apparent when comparing the Seven Questions method and the Military Decision Making Process. It goes without saying that the Staff Ride to Caen and Bayeaux, France to trace the Allied invasions of Normandy was by far the highlight of the trip. Learning about heroes and then seeing the terrain they traversed is nothing if not humbling. For the purposes of this blog, however, I wanted to share an experience that significantly shaped my understanding of this key ally and our future relationship with them. While we were there, several generals came to speak to us, and a major topic of discussion was the ramifications of the proposed personnel cuts that would leave the British Army at 82,000 by 2020 from its current count of just over 100,000. As one of the American majors noted, “That is essentially Ft Hood.” Admittedly, I had not kept up the twist and turns of British politics (beyond watching the biopic on Lady Thatcher) much less military policy, so I was completely shocked and had to ask rhetorically, “This is our strongest ally?” It was not meant as a dig on our British counterparts, but it got me thinking about the words “strength” and “ally.” It’s quality, not quantity – I got it, but at some point in time, quantity and quality will become equally important. What then? Will Britain’s greatest contribution in the near future be limited to “political legitimacy”? More importantly, who picks up the slack?
Ms. Gina Jones, SG 10C, Interagency student