Soldiers Facing ‘Enormous Strain’

Soldiers Facing ‘Enormous Strain’

SMA Grinston training with soldiers
Photo by: U.S. Army/Pfc. Lilliana Fraser

Facing one of the most challenging recruiting environments in decades, the Army continues to operate at a high pace, with no relief in sight, the service’s top enlisted soldier said.

“We have an enormous strain on soldiers,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said. “We’re busier now than we ever have been.”

Speaking at the recent Fires Symposium in Lawton, Oklahoma, Grinston said the Army’s operations tempo is a “huge concern.”

“When you’re short people … and you come back from a deployment, my sense is you’re just going to move to another unit and redeploy right back somewhere,” he said.

The Army has a brigade combat team in South Korea, three in Europe and one in the Middle East, Grinston said. But the concerns don’t end with the Army’s brigade combat teams, he said.

“The No. 1 right behind that is the [air defense artillery units],” he said. Grinston cited Iraq and Syria as an example. “When you look at what’s going on, there are real rockets, there are real things flying around and real people trying to kill our soldiers in combat right now,” he said. “And that’s the problem with air defense. We have an obligation to protect our soldiers, … and any time something happens, that causes a ‘Hey, do we have enough air defense in that area? We want more. We want to keep them there.’ ”

There also are demands at home. “It’s amazing what your Army does all the time, and we do it over and over and over,” Grinston said.

During his four-year tenure as sergeant major of the Army, “the link of everything we’ve done has been the Army,” Grinston said. “Whether it’s COVID, hurricanes, forest fires, Russia, Ukraine, all the way to what we’re doing today. That’s why, again, I’m concerned about our optempo.”

Not much relief is expected soon for the busy Army, which has gotten smaller as it struggles to make its recruiting goals. The Army in fiscal 2024 expects to have a total Army force level of 951,800. With 452,000 in the active Army, 325,000 in the Army National Guard and 174,800 in the Army Reserve, that’s about 20% less than in fiscal 2022.

Despite the challenges, soldiers have always answered the call, Grinston told the audience at the symposium hosted by the Air Defense Artillery Association and the U.S. Field Artillery Association.

Every time the secretary of defense or the president has called the Army, “we’ve never said no,” Grinston said. “I’ve watched these soldiers, year after year, they’ve said, ‘Yes, I’ll go do that.’ ”