Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The U.S. Army says it will meet its readiness goals by 2022, but young sergeants in most infantry and close-combat units don't know how to maneuver their squads or do basic land navigation, Military.com has learned.

For example, sergeants in the majority of the Army's active brigade combat teams (BCTs) don't know the importance of gaining a foothold when leading squads on room-clearing operations, according to a series of report cards from the service's Asymmetric Warfare Group, known as the AWG.

The findings come at a time when the Army is racing to transition from the counter-insurgency mindset that existed in Iraq and Afghanistan to one focused on preparing combat units to fight in large-scale, conventional battles against a foe of equal strength.

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If the United States really wants to win against China or Russia, it needs to start investing in the infantry

In the cyber era, the infantry nevertheless remains our nation's foundational fighting force

Opinion
In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

The 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy (NDS) suggests our biggest national security threats come from "near-peer" rivals such as China and Russia. In order to adequately prepare the U.S. for a military conflict with one of these major global powers, the recently announced 2020 national budget prioritizes the rapid development of next-generation, high-technology initiatives in the nuclear, cyber, autonomous systems, and outer space arenas.

While these initiatives are important and worthwhile, they underestimate the importance of America's foundational and most critical military capability: the infantry.

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A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest patrols through a village near Bost Kalay, Afghanistan (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Marine Corps is gearing up for a complex ground fight by adding hundreds more infantry squad leaders, special operators, cyber Marines and information warfare experts, according to 2020 budget documents.

The Corps wants $45.9 billion in 2020, a 6 percent jump from last year's $43.1 billion budget request. The service's plans support a Pentagon-wide push to "prioritize close-combat lethality and build a future force oriented on meeting potential peer or near-peer adversaries," the budget documents state.

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The film jumps around, seemingly without structure. At times Marines are patrolling, other times they are sitting against walls, smoking, waiting. There are brief moments of combat, and then down moments of boredom.

Titled Combat Obscura, it offers no timeline to follow, and gives little thought to the strategic outlook of the Afghan War, which was just a quaint nine years old in 2011 when footage was first shot by Marine Lance Cpl. Miles Lagoze, then a 21-year-old combat cameraman attached to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines.

Yet it gives perhaps the most raw and realistic look at what an infantry Marine sees while on a combat deployment overseas.

It looks nothing like the recruiting pitch being sold to American teenagers, which is probably why the Marine Corps itself wanted nothing to do with it.

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Rory Hamill served as an infantryman in the United States Marine Corps, deploying to Afghanistan with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. That deployment would change Rory's life in many ways and has helped him develop into a man who has decided to never stop working on himself.

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U.S. Army 1st Lt. Elyse Ping Medvigy conducts a call-for-fire during an artillery shoot south of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2014. Medvigy, a fire support officer assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Company D, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is the first female company fire support officer to serve in an infantry brigade combat team supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston (Photo by U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.

So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.

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