View Full Version : Great idea on a Measure of Effectiveness

04-04-2007, 04:26 AM
Often read discussions on what are good measures of effectiveness for COIN on this site. Some debate the importance of capturing/killing insurgents, decrease in IEDs vs # of schools built, unemployment rate, etc.

Here's one that I heard today that I thought particularly ingenious: How many meals do your squads eat with Iraqi families in any given week?

One of the best COIN minds in the Corps (and an outstanding proven combat leader as well) mentioned this measure of effectiveness in a PME today. Brief background: Simultaneous with his Bn clearing or he prefers "securing" towns and villages in the Al Qaim AO a year or so ago, he dragged bulldozers behind his unit and built 14 plt-sized battle positions; previously there had been 2 FOBs in the AO a good distance from the people.

Anyway, once a village was secured and a platoon moved in, he tasked all plt cdrs with creating a chart on a dry erase board so that his squads could compete with each other to see which squad spent the most time with Iraqi families sharing a meal. When visiting his platoons, this was among the primary indicators he used to determine if the plt cdr was doing his job. Not surprisingly, he validated his belief that more meals shared = more info/intel from the people = more security.

04-04-2007, 07:51 AM
I think the problem is that our military system is run by turkeys who feel the need to "measure effectiveness." The instant you make "Meals eaten with Iraqis" a metric, it will lose all value. (I can visualize Iraqis being drug out into the streets at gunpoint, being forced to eat at a table with an Army LTC at the head of it, several times a day)

How about you discriminate AGAINST micro-managers who feel the need to break everything down to "metrics", when it comes time for promotions and assignments? That would violate the "American Way of War" to be sure.

04-04-2007, 10:49 AM
120mm: Understand what you're saying and we certainly need to be careful of making Marines/Soldiers feel that they're being forced to build relations with Iraqis. If the Marines/Soldiers don't want to do so--because their leadership has failed to explain why this is so important and get them to buy into it--then the metric or any notion of having a good-spirited competition over how many meals were shared with the Iraqis among squads, platoon, companies is pointless, if not counterproductive. Your concern with Iraqis being held at gunpoint is certainly valid; however, this again comes back to leaders explaining the method behind the strategy. Additionally, you can't execute such a plan if you don't live amongst the people. This Bn Cdr's Marines DID NOT COMMUTE TO WORK FROM FOBs--they lived amongst the people 24 hours a day, patrolling the vast majority of the time on foot.

All this said, I've spoken to Lcpls, Cpls, Sgts, SSgts, Lts, and Capts that all served under this Bn Cdr. In no way, shape or form did any of them feel micro-managed. In fact, they were amazed by the amount of freedom they were given. After all, throughout the Al Qaim AO then and now as a result of this Bn Cdr's vision, there are SSgts and Lts running initially 14 but now 21 battle positions or security stations by themselves (for the 2 years before his Bn's arrival, there were only 2 FOBs in the AO). These junior leaders are quite literally "strategic" SSgts and Lts. Every single Marine that I've spoken to had the utmost respect and admiration for this Bn Cdr, and expressed a desire to serve with him again and again.

04-04-2007, 12:32 PM
since Viet Nam. The only cross cultural training I had prior to going to Nam was being told not to rub/pet Buddhist kids on their heads. "Don't rub their F'n heads" we were told. End of training. I'm a two Corps veteran, Marines and Peace Corps and language was a big deal in the latter. I presume troops are learning Arabic phrases other than sallam allaikum. That's very, very smart to be eating with Iraqi families and I presume the men have been given instructions on right hand etiquette. It's a damn shame this kind of stuff isn't being reported here in the States.

04-04-2007, 02:38 PM
I worry when I see I see managerial terms like "metrics" applied to combat units. The specter of enemy KIA being reported and bar graphs of effectiveness and leatheality of forward forces rises. I think just the implied concept of applying metrics to combat is a symptom of the bloated bureaucracies that have infested the post Korea military. The students of COIN are going to know breaking bread is the cultural equivalent of announcing friendship. They likely will tell you about Islamic culture and the issues similar to our Constitutional rights regarding forced quartering of troops. In other words if you bring dinner it is much better than taking dinner.

With the nature of the political process in America it is becoming apparent that micromanagement is going to be a huge issue in the near term. Looking back at the threads about strategic corporals (and LT's) the need for a systemic paradigm shift is becoming apparent in the dichotomy of managerial and mission analysis. I to worry that the experience of the Bn Cmdr in the story is going to be published, transmitted, indoctrinated, taught, and the real lesson of flexibility, empathy, and intelligence in the face of adversity will be missed.

04-04-2007, 03:34 PM

Let me apologize up front. I do not think my explanation of the "measure of effectiveness" did justice to what really happened or what he recommended in the PME. THIS WAS NOT A CASE OF THE BN CDR FORCING HIS SQUADS TO REPORT MEALS EATEN TO PLATOON COMMANDERS SO THAT THIS COULD GO TO COMPANY, BATTALION AND ALL THE WAY UP. This was not bar graphs of meals eaten like bar graphs of body counts in Vietnam. It was the furthest thing from it. It was simply a way for him to answer higher--and to assess his unit's performance--when asked how he knows that he's having success. His simple response was when I "check-in" on my Marines, who are living amongst--hugging (his word)--the populace, I ask them how many house visits they've conducted, how many meals they’ve shared with Iraqi families, etc. Because they understood that one of his primary goals was to secure the populace and most, if not every Marine bought into it (as stated above, I spoke to Marines holding rank E-4, E-5, E-7, E-8, O-1, O-2, O-3 under his command both in Iraq and Afghanistan), it was easy for him to visit a platoon commander and his Marines at a battle position (he tried to do so at least once every 5 days or so), ask how things were going, how the people were responding to their moving in among them, etc. In the course of these visits he began asking how many house visits platoons were making and how many meals the Marines, along with Iraqi Army or Iraqi Police that were integrated with all his unit's patrols, had shared with the families. He noticed a trend in his visits that more meals shared generally meant better relations. This validated his beliefs on the importance of living amongst the people IOT get legit info/intel about the enemy which led to truly providing security. From this point, he encouraged his squad leaders, platoon and company commanders to compete with each other in sharing meals. His main goal the whole time was for his Marines to find ways to build relations with and secure the people. There was absolutely no forcing Iraqis to eat with Marines or vice-versa; they wanted to. Further, the Marines loved living on their own without higher "micro-managing" all that they did. Many even refused to ever go back to the FOBs outside the towns and villages because they truly believed the grunts belong among the people--it became a matter of pride! Because of his vision and Marines' performance he ended up recruiting roughly 1000 soldiers from the local Sunni tribes into the Iraqi Army. Keep in mind that prior to his battalion's arrival, Al Qaim was considered part of the "Wild, Wild West" and many folks thought Zarqawi was operating out of the AO.

Last point... I recently interviewed a Lt that served with the Bn that relieved this Bn Cdr's in Al Qaim. The Lt spoke extensively about how much he enjoyed running his own BP, living amongst the populace, building relations, etc. In fact, part of him felt robbed because he didn't get the chance to participate in any major clearing operations during his deployment. If this isn't a sign of success, I'm not sure what is.

04-04-2007, 04:06 PM
Corporate managerial vocabulary is endemic in DOD and the concerns are valid because of the point paper mentality infused top down on a strict hierachial rank structure.

04-04-2007, 06:34 PM
Corporate managerial vocabulary is endemic in DOD and the concerns are valid because of the point paper mentality infused top down on a strict hierachial rank structure.

As an example - operations planned and executed to produce effects are a good thing, Effects Based Operations (EBO) as put forth by JFCOM's J9 and to a certain degree the USAF is a very bad thing when considering Small Wars - in particular COIN operations.

04-05-2007, 12:05 AM
Hi guys please take this in the spirit it is intended because it is a big problem with EBO concepts. The number of meals eaten with a group is NOT a measre of EFFECT is a measure of PERFORMANCE. The effect you wanted to achieve was to generate more intel from the local population so you developed an action that could be performed and measured, BUT it has to be correlated to the desired effect in order to have a true MOE. Another way to think about it is MOP will have verb (action statements in them) MOE's will not. I saw this all the time in LE where they confused arrest rates (a measure of performance) with the desired effect which was usually less crime.
I have a 5 ring analysis of a Domestic Violence System that Col. Warden helped me develop. If I can get it loaded I will try to explain how it was used in a real case

Point 2: once the EBO plan is developed you have to have what is called an IMPACT plan (which has all your actions and MOP's in it, but it is the second step to the larger EBO plan.)

04-13-2007, 01:44 PM
I've dealing with EBO in the conventional vein in the Pacific for the last two years (it's in every major JTF exercise or OPLAN).
For COIN, what strikes me as similar is the USMC approach to recruiting (I can only deal with the Marines because that's what I know. I commmanded a recruiting station that covered Minnesota, North Dakota and parts of Wisconsin and South Dakota in the mid-nineties).
There are a myriad of "MOPs" for recruiting that tie together--how much activity the recruiter does, which should generate interviews, which should generate applicants, which should generate a certain number of "contracts" of which a certain percentage should be qualified, ship to boot camp, and finally, graduate from boot camp.
As the above list can show, there's plenty of opportunity to hone in on certain statistics. The secret was to understand that the statistics were only indicators. Obviously, if I focused on generating activity (phone calls, area canvassing etc.), the recruiters would give me activity--lots of phone calls, but not necessarily any better ultimate results: feet on the yellow footprints at San Diego or Parris Island. The various activities were just indicators to direct me where the problems or room for improvement may lie--and that was the result of synthesis and and understanding of how they all relate in each specific situation (recruiting in Minot ND is different than downtown Saint Paul MN).
I'm sure that the Bn Cmdr Maximus is describing is doing the same thing--Meals are just one indicator. Obviously, if he only asked for meals, he'd get alot of well fed Marines and possibly not much else.
This is also where I see EBO being dangerous. Its not so much in the theory (although it does count on alot of definite understanding of cause and effect in very squishy areas, such as enemy leadership perceptions), its in the the application. I see EBO becoming collecting green dots on ppt. stoplight charts. the focus becomes less on the overall purpose or objective, but rather diffused into counting up the MOEs and MOPs.
Back to my initial point, I think that there is alot to be applied from recruiting to COIN. Good recruiting creates a positive atmosphere within the community. Long before there were Lines of Operation, Recruiting looked at synthesizing advertising, command recruiters (recent boot camp grads back in their neighborhoods), goodwill activities in the community, educating educators, etc.
In COIN, aren't we in effect, recruiting the population to our point of view? Aren't we trying to recruit the 18-30 year old males to the government and away from insurgents? Obviously, there is no one shooting at recruiters (most of the time), but both endeavors primarily deal with swaying opinion and actions of the community.