As Obama Promises ‘No Boots on the Ground,’ U.S. Military Trains for Just That Scenario

“Once a conflict starts, the statesmen lose control.” ~ Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates

“No matter how a war starts, it ends in mud. It has to be slugged out — there are no trick solutions or cheap shortcuts.” ~ Attributed to Gen. “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell, WWII Commander

“Only someone who has served in uniform understands how thoroughly a military operation can get screwed up — and how quickly.” ~ Lt. Gen. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.)

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As President Barack Obama gives a national address Wednesday evening on how he intends to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS) without putting American “boots on the ground,” a potent force of 2,500 combat Marines, backed by attack helicopters and jet strike fighters, is aboard warships trolling off the U.S. East Coast. Training to deploy later this year to the Middle East, the Marines are practicing a long-distance evacuation of a U.S. embassy, high-speed stealth raids and the rescue of an American pilot shot down in hostile territory.

Separately, a company of U.S. Army Rangers, special operations soldiers who specialize in close combat, is preparing to swarm onto an airfield in Louisiana after several thousand paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team have conducted a nighttime tactical jump to seize the airfield and set up an expanded defensive perimeter. From there, the Rangers and paratroopers will coordinate a series of raids and other combat exercises this month.

And at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Army’s most experienced infantry commanders have gathered to brainstorm on how to confront a dangerous, cunning and ruthless enemy like the Islamic State — recognizing, as an official conference briefing paper explains, that air strikes alone “could not deliver rapid or decisive victories against determined, adaptive enemies.”

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