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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Thumbs up The Army We Need

    The Army We Need by Dr. John Nagl, Small Wars Journal

    The Army We Need (Full PDF Article)

    It is a huge pleasure for me to be back at Fort Benning. My last visit here was more than 20 years ago, during the hot summer of 1986, when Sergeant Airborne pinned silver wings to my bony chest with a vigor that would today result in a court martial. Something has been lost and something gained since the demise of that particular custom, which was perhaps more important in a peacetime army than it is in one that is at war, as ours is today.

    You know that better than do I. Most of you have two tours in Operations Iraqi Freedom and/or Operation Enduring Freedom, as do your instructors. Your story is the story of the United States Army over the past seven years. You have had to adapt units that were designed for a different kind of war to conduct counterinsurgency operations. You succeeded—but, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted in a speech at NDU three months ago that I was privileged to attend, your job was harder than it had to be...

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Your nation needs you to be a diplomat as well as a warrior, because we can’t kill or capture our way to success in this fight; victory comes from building local institutions that can stand on their own. But your nation also needs you to tell us what you need to fight your fight better, to build an Army that is truly a learning institution able to defeat adaptive insurgent enemies.
    Soldiers are not diplomats. Soldiers do fight and kill their way to operational success and/or gain that success by being capable or threatening to do so.

    Soldiers can make the field safe for real diplomats/doctors/builders/etc to operate. In extremis, they may have to pick up the ball, but that should never be the default setting. The test is saving life, not building Schools.

    Victory does not from building local institutions. If it did, show me a majority of successes against Insurgents that came from that. Victory comes from breaking the will of the insurgency by subjecting it to military force. Non-military force may also required, but that is done by non-military agencies.

    If someone wants the US Army to become a learning institution, then why not start with precisely understanding the utility and limit of the military instrument. Other wise the the US will become "School builders with guns" and cease being any good as an army.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default Soldier, Warrior, and Teacher

    Soldiers are not diplomats. Soldiers do fight and kill their way to operational success and/or gain that success by being capable or threatening to do so.
    In Special Forces we strive to full fill the role of Warrior, diplomat and teacher as required to accomplish the mission. Part of the reason we did so poorly in Iraq initially is because many in the conventional Army failed to grasp that were in a diplomatic role where they had to negotiate with local leaders to gain situational awareness and to co-opt support.

    Soldiers on point in this type of irregular warfare environment cannot define their role as strictly being a warrior unless we want to lose this fight. There is no one else to perform that role outside the capital. That American Soldier may be the only American that a local sees in a remote village, and the dialouge between them is as important as the shooting war in IW.

    Victory does not from building local institutions.
    One of the criticisms directed at the U.S. military is that we confuse combat with strategy. Our entire Network Warfare concept is based on seeing first and acting first, which is great for combat, but it doesn't come close to looking like a strategy to win the war. We defeated both the Taliban/AQ and Saddam's conventional like forces in battle, but we're still far from a strategic victory. If a strategic victory is obtainable, it is going to be obtained through building viable host nation institutions, not institutions that parallel the American Government structure, but whatever works in the area we're fighting in.

    William, I think you're doubling back on your previous argument where you stated we don't need irregular warfare doctrine, we just need to learn to fight wars better (loosely paraphrased). I agreed to some extent, but your argument in my opinion proves why we do an IW doctrine/concept whatever to provide some sort of organizing structure for winning these conflicts. Unlike many who swallow the indirect approach and peace corps with rifle b.s. to the extreme, I agree ultimately we have to kill/capture or co-opt the insurgents, but to that we have to engage the local population and win their support to some extent to find them.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    William, I think you're doubling back on your previous argument where you stated we don't need irregular warfare doctrine, we just need to learn to fight wars better (loosely paraphrased).
    My actual point is you need better doctrine that does not make the error of looking at "IW" as something distinct and difficult, when it is the common currency of military operations.

    Unlike many who swallow the indirect approach and peace corps with rifle b.s. to the extreme, I agree ultimately we have to kill/capture or co-opt the insurgents, but to that we have to engage the local population and win their support to some extent to find them.
    Concur, and engaging the local population and wining their support is a normal military skill. It is not necessarily unique to COIN and it is not diplomacy! It's bog standard G2 bread and better. Calling it diplomacy is inaccurate, misleading, and unhelpful.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default "One people divided by a common language."

    Wilf, as Churchill said. You and Bill and John (and me) are not all that far apart. Part of the problem is semantic - we mean different things when we use the same words. Some of that is driven by culture and historical experience - American, British, Israeli, etc. But there are structural differences as well. The US military is bigger and more instituionally diverse than any other military engaged in the wars we are fighting. The American military is not now as large as the Soviet military was when it was engged in Afghanistan but the US Army alone brings far more diverse elements to the Afghanistan fight than the Soviets ever did. It also brings far more diverse capabilities to that fight than any of its allies. This is not to say we are better - often they are - but we can do things that they can't. And, often, we must do them because no other institution in the American government can. The ongoing effort to increase STate Dept capacity that Secstate designate Clinton hope sto ramp up will help but it won't replace the capabilities of the US military in both its active and reserve components, eg Civil Affairs. Bottom line is that much of what John said was specifically targeted at an audience of junior American officers with all the baggage they carry. As some wag put it, "Context is everything."

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Wilf’s post was spot-on. He sensed the essence of Nagl's speech which was--regardless of if he was talking to captains or generals--a call to transform the American army into a nation-building force. It can not be read in any other way.

    Those of us who have commanded combat outfits in coin understand Wilf's statement that soldiers are not diplomats. Coin experts may retch when this is said but basically, fundamentally it is a statement of fact. Combat soldiers stand posts, they shoot, they pull security, they do raids, they patrol, they secure infrastructure projects, etc. The notion that they are diplomats is self-serving fiction. It briefs well but beyond that it is pure nonsense.

    And what is one of those young infantry or armor captains to do with Nagl's call for them to be diplomats when they are infantry, cavalry, or tank company commanders and it comes to making choices about training time and resources? Does part of it go to diplomacy training?

    If Nagl gets his way the increase of 30K soldiers into the Army will essentially be spent on a nation-building advisory corps for Iraq and Afghanistan. Those 30K could have instead gone toward building 5-6 more combat brigades. See potentially the tack that the American Army is on?

    Is this really what we want?

    gg

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Soldiers -- and Soldiers and Teachers...

    John T. Fishel makes well the point that the US and the UK differ mightily on their employment of 'diplomats' in wartime. The UK does that very well, we are not so fortunate -- that means the US Armed forces have to fill the gap. That works.

    The question though is -- is that a good solution?

    I suggest the answer is a resounding 'no.'

    State and the rest of the US government need to be brought up to adequate capability and the Army, all of DoD, should fight hard to insure that occurs -- it will be to the detriment of the Defense establishment if it does not occur...

    Gian
    comes in with a good post. I frequently agree with him but often chide him and suggest he lower the level of his expressed discontent just a bit. Not this time. He and Wilf are right -- so is Bill Moore -- SF can do the diplomat / teacher / soldier bit and can provide the necessary interface with local populations (if the powers that be will stop sending them to kick in doors...); The Multi Purpose Forces that are the bulk of the US Armed Services are not diplomats and should not train or spend too much thought time on that aspect of their total competency.

    They can be adequately mentored and guided by SF elements and by a revamped and empowered Department of State. Shifting from combat to COIN is not that difficult, if it seems to hard, then the training is inadequate because numerous Armies do it, have done it, we have done it -- it just isn't that difficult. So let SF do their job and let the MPF do theirs -- to include assisting SF at a reasonable level of capability as supplementaries, not replacements.

    Be careful how we train -- too much training time spent on building other peoples Armies or nations will lead to a US Army that is not competent at its own primary mission. None of the services train new entrants, officer or enlisted well enough today; to fragment their training on COIN / FID as opposed to basic MOSC and military competence will lessen their overall capability. We need to be able to do COIN adequately (as opposed to superbly); we do not need to let it drive the train...

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    I agree with Wilf and Ken. There is a military aspect to COIN, or else it would not have reached the stage of armed conflict. Yes, State and NGO’s play an important role in COIN, but that is there role, not the Army's. The military's role is to fight the insurgents armed force and there means of supply and communication. I feel that stating that insurgencies are always about the population is flawed. Some insurgencies derive there strength and supply through the population but some do not.
    The big difference in COIN and HIC in my mind is that COIN has an aspect of Law Enforcement to it. I wonder if having some sort of US Gendarme would pay dividends?
    On an almost unrelated note: I feel strongly that reducing the DOD trend of micromanagement would pay big dividends in creating thinking, better fighting soldiers in both COIN and HIC. Creating effective and productive infantry is a big part of this as well.

    Reed
    Sorry for the scattered thoughts, working way too many hours.
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

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    See Ken, I have paid attention to your patient "chiding."

    I especially liked your last paragraph with the lead sentence cautioning as to "how we train."

    v/r

    gian

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    Default Our BIG Army

    is more than infantry, cavalry, artillery, and armor - the pointy end of the spear. At the point of the "pointy end" are the SF who often have to do it all, usually on a small scale. But out there on the shaft are the aviators, transporters, loggies, MPs, engineers, psyopers, CA, and intel folk. Embedded in the shaft of the spear are the folk who can, should, and must do some of the tasks that full spectrum warfare - including COIN - requires and that the combat arms are less well equipped to do. That said, the most common roles throughout the history of the US military have been those that require the skills of diplomats, teachers, advisors, trainers. This has been true since the days following the American Revolution. The very first task of the US military under the new Federal Constitution was to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania - something that was done by President Washington's designated second in command, MG Alexander Hamilton (Sec of Treas) without firing hardly a shot. Big wars came approximately once a generation punctuating lots of small wars activities but, most Army officers only wanted to train for and fight the big ones. See, for example, Emory Upton's trip report on his mission to observe and report on the Brits in the NW Frontier of India, published as The Armies of Europe and Asia, and concentrating on the German General Staff! So, the lessons of small wars, while recorded, were rarely learned. And we keep having to reinvent the wheel as a result.

    Ken is right when he says that State and other govt agencies need to do more but they have to be funded to do so by Congress. The Civilian Response Corps is a step in the right direction but it will take time to build and even more time to deploy. In its (and State's etc) absence, who will do what is required? Soldiers and Marines - as they always have. Again, that is why we have FAOs, SF, CA and other specialties. Finally, I would note that some of our Greatest Captains - Eisenhower, Marshall, and MacArthur, among others spring to mind - were more than just soldiers; they were diplomats as well.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Default Maybe Nagl was right?

    Those of us who have commanded combat outfits in coin understand Wilf's statement that soldiers are not diplomats. Coin experts may retch when this is said but basically, fundamentally it is a statement of fact. Combat soldiers stand posts, they shoot, they pull security, they do raids, they patrol, they secure infrastructure projects, etc. The notion that they are diplomats is self-serving fiction. It briefs well but beyond that it is pure nonsense.
    This attitude contributed greatly to our downward trend in OIF. Fortunately for our nation it was reversed by an officer who understood that engaging in diplomacy with the locals is not a self serving fantasy, it is absolutely essential. Soldiers are more than capable of engaging with the local populace to identify and help resolve their problems, thus helping develop trusting relationships with the locals that also enable Soldiers to garner intelligence based on that relationship.

    If Soldiers are only capable of guarding infrastructure and saluting their red coat officers who have no faith in them (I realize this only applies to a small percentage of our officers, but unfortunately a damaging percentage), then we might as well empty our prisons and fill our ranks with category four soldiers, because we don't need well behaved smart kids capable of solving complex problems like we have now, we just need grunts who do not interact with their environment, but can shoot when so ordered.

    Shifting from combat to COIN is not that difficult, if it seems too hard, then the training is inadequate because numerous Armies do it, have done it, we have done it -- it just isn't that difficult.
    Words of wisdom, as are,

    Be careful how we train -- too much training time spent on building other peoples Armies or nations will lead to a US Army that is not competent at its own primary mission.

    We need to be able to do COIN adequately (as opposed to superbly); we do not need to let it drive the train...
    It isn't that hard, even an officer can figure it out if he has a patient NCO that doesn't mind mentoring him. Nor do we have to be that good at it, but we sure as how have to understand the character of the fight we're in.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Couldn't have said it better myself...

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    ...who will do what is required? Soldiers and Marines - as they always have. Again, that is why we have FAOs, SF, CA and other specialties.
    Yep.
    Finally, I would note that some of our Greatest Captains - Eisenhower, Marshall, and MacArthur, among others spring to mind - were more than just soldiers; they were diplomats as well.
    Totally true -- and with no special training back in the day but a lot of common sense, more talking than was probably comfortable for all three and sound military judgment applied when required ...

    Wilf correctly notes:
    My actual point is you need better doctrine that does not make the error of looking at "IW" as something distinct and difficult, when it is the common currency of military operations.
    . . .
    Concur, and engaging the local population and wining their support is a normal military skill. It is not necessarily unique to COIN and it is not diplomacy! It's bog standard G2 bread and better. Calling it diplomacy is inaccurate, misleading, and unhelpful.
    My suspicion is that the three gentlemen John T. named would agree with that description. Then, as Bill Moore points out:
    It isn't that hard, even an officer can figure it out if he has a patient NCO that doesn't mind mentoring him. Nor do we have to be that good at it, but we sure as how have to understand the character of the fight we're in.
    True and as Gian reinforced, all we gotta do is be careful about
    "how we train."

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    This attitude contributed greatly to our downward trend in OIF. Fortunately for our nation it was reversed by an officer who understood that engaging in diplomacy with the locals is not a self serving fantasy, it is absolutely essential. Soldiers are more than capable of engaging with the local populace to identify and help resolve their problems, thus helping develop trusting relationships with the locals that also enable Soldiers to garner intelligence based on that relationship.
    Bill, with respect, I think you are missing the point. Talking to the local population is a very normal military activity, at least where I come from. Has the main force US Army always been good at it? Clearly not, but the US Army are incredibly fast learners and have re-learnt from experience.

    You talk to the locals to aid a military/security objectives. It should not be to make their life better. Ideally both will coincide, because if there is less violence, then everybody's life improves. The armed social work angle on COIN is pure poison to the soul of an army. Army's should not build schools, or day-care centres. Providing food, water and shelter, should be the limit. If you can employ locals to aid security then great.

    IF your army has to pick up the ball for the other branches of government, it's because your government is broken, not your army

    The "Advisor Corps"? Brits never needed an advisor Corps, nor the French, or anyone else, and 30,000 is a ludicrous number.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Before we can truly address the question of what kind of Army we need, we must first figure out what kind of foreign policy our government intends to implement.

    For the past 60+ years it has been a policy based on a Cold War construct, and now that the Soviets are gone, and try as we might, we can't seem to force anyone else to pick up flag and fill that "enemy" role required to make the policy work, we find ourselves in a quandary. For the past 20 years or so much have simply been our efforts to maintain the status quo.

    Problem is that things in nature do not remain static. Particularly populaces and doubly particularly populaces who have been suppressed under first colonial, and then Cold War induced policies implemented by foreign powers that have stifled their opportunities for self determination.

    Now, with post-Cold War opportunity, and accelerated by the factors of globalization, the region of the world that has been suppressed and controlled the most is rift with local insurgent movements. Add to that mix the stirrings of reformation movements within Islam as those same factors of globalization crack the stranglehold of the Mullahs over their congregations (much as the printing press cracked the stranglehold of the Catholic leadership over European populaces not so long ago...).

    So, the question is: What do you want to be when you grow up America?

    We have plenty of role models in history to learn from. My position (and I realize it is a lonely one, but I am confident it will grow) is that we must be true to ourselves. And by that I do not mean to selfishly impose our will over others, but to instead be true to the principles upon what this very great, and very unique country were originally built. We are so convinced that "we are the good guys" that populaces will greet us like liberators when we invade their homelands for "noble" purposes. History really doesn't bear this out.

    We have a new President, a new opportunity to finally take a strategic pause, catch our breath, and do a top to bottom reassessment of what type of world we want to live in and how we want to participate in that world (ends). Then look at our national strategies. We currently do not possess a grand strategy as a nation, but have an ad hoc collection of national level (and rather vague) strategies. Let’s craft a new strategy to achieve these newly defined ends (ways). Then, and only then, can we relook our national security structure and institutions of foreign engagement and retune them for the new mission at hand (means).

    Right now we are struggling over how to do the wrong thing very well. I for one, take the position that it is better to do the right thing poorly; but that we need to strive to do it to the best of our abilities.

    We can do this. We must do this.

    Right now we are like a bunch of beer bellied losers arguing about the best ways to beat their wives. Many opinions out there to those ends. Others say no, you must control your wife, and only beat her when she really needs it. I say, hell, we're not even talking about our own wife, we are talking about how to help the neighbor (same neighbor who has never done much for us, by the way) control and beat his wife.

    Maybe we need to step back and re-evaluate. I realize the analogy above is not perfect, and that it is intended to evoke an emotional response. Hopefully it also causes some to pause and reflect on the problems discussed in this forum in a new light as well.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Before we can truly address the question of what kind of Army we need, we must first figure out what kind of foreign policy our government intends to implement.
    OK but isn't this inherent to the nature of the military instrument? It's not particularly puzzling as to what you want an army to be able to do is it?

    Foreign Policy can change in less than a week. US Government Policy of September 10 2001 was made irrelevant 48 hours later. Armies take years to change.

    I don't think the question is what type of army the US and even the UK need. The need is for a good army. What makes a good army is actually pretty well understood. The problem is the people and ideas that stop those things from taking effect.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    I'm glad Bill Moore used the word "soldier", it has the best of both functions and qualities, and covers the vast center we mostly operate in between the words "diplomat" and "warrior". Soldiers should not be automatons, but embody I think the territory in between disciplined and fair, courage and honor, professionalism and candor, etc. Maybe that is what John Nagl meant, however, I would prefer we qualify what we are - just my preference.

    While I agree with John T that we have certainly been called often to perform those functions (teaching, advising, diplomat), I would say its worth considering the context under which they were performed, and who at what level should be capable of doing what and when. Does a company commander or battalion advisor characterize himself as a diplomat, or as a soldier who may employ some diplomatic skills to support his military purpose? What of LTCs, COLs and GOs? I realize this may seem like semantics, but it is a subtle nuance that may affect his mission. The truth I think is that it depends upon the conditions, and that is another reason why I prefer the term soldier with its inherent flexibility to adapt as opposed to warrior or diplomat.

    How is (or should) a FAO or CA perceived first by those with whom they interact? As a diplomat or as a soldier? How do they see themselves? How should they? Does this affect the way in which other around them act? Is this beneficial or detrimental? Is it something that we should attempt to change, or something we should use? If you change the core nature of something without contemplating the full implications, you may wind up with something that only does either "not so well". That was one of the reason I ran the draft of the case study by Ken, I knew he would raise the flag on any extreme recommendation in the DOTML(&E)PF chapter that raised risk instead of mitigating it. We should consider the addition of new skills and traits from the perspective of enhancing our core values, not as being in opposition to them, of improving our chances of achieving the objectives set before us, not fulfilling one at the expense of another. The oath we take is rather unique in its implications, and should be considered as the litmus test for how we see our future selves.

    I believe we are capable of doing what we are called on to do with some relatively painless changes once we recognize there is no real threat to our core values, however that requires we not create threats where there should be none.

    A soldier's balancing act then is not a 50/50 proposition, but knowing when (and how) to shift the load accordingly, with the understanding and anticipation that said load may have to be shifted again and again, because conditions and policy objectives change over time, and so must we. This is the danger in opinion - it is that we (people) seem naturally predisposed to calcify and protect our positions, and seek out rational to do so. It seems it is just who we are, and guarding against that desire to make things final, or to preserve what we have is a natural tendency we have to fight.

    Bob' s World: Sir, I sorry I missed your visit to Leavenworth - perhaps I'll meet you down in Tampa this month in support of the UQ seminar. There is something worth considering in your statement:

    a new opportunity to finally take a strategic pause, catch our breath
    Realizing I took the piece out of a larger paragraph, that opportunity comes with a price. As the President Elect takes office, there will be a great deal of pressure to employ the power of the United States in various ways ( from both inside the White House and beyond it). Certainly with tensions high between India and Pakistan, with the increased violence in Gaza, and with many others looking to take advantage of opportunities a true strategic pause would be hard to come by I think (if there ever was one). These in conjunction with dynamic situations in OEF and OIF. The GCCs certainly appear up to their eye teeth in hungry alligators. A pause of any type comes with a price tag - it may be worth paying, but its a price none the less. If it is visible, there are those who will advantage themselves of it.

    Best, Rob

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    This attitude contributed greatly to our downward trend in OIF. Fortunately for our nation it was reversed by an officer who understood that engaging in diplomacy with the locals is not a self serving fantasy, it is absolutely essential. Soldiers are more than capable of engaging with the local populace to identify and help resolve their problems, thus helping develop trusting relationships with the locals that also enable Soldiers to garner intelligence based on that relationship...we sure as how have to understand the character of the fight we're in.
    Bill:

    Your response is typical of the reactive nature of Coin experts anytime somebody questions standard thinking and language concerning the oracle of coin.

    Your suggestion that "this attitude" caused to use your words a "downward trend" in OIF is not supported by the operational record as shown by early histories of the Iraq War. I have used this quote before but the most recent current history "On Point II" argues that by and large, most army tactical units by the end of 2003 were conducting best practices in counterinsurgency operations. As a BCT XO in 4ID in Tikrit one of the first briefings we gave to our BCT commander was how to go about setting up local governance in our area, how to go about rebuilding infrastructure, and how to go about protecting the populace.

    Later I commanded a cav squadron in west Baghdad in 2006. Conventional forces in coin operate differently than ODA teams. Infantrymen, tankers, scouts, etc for the most part do not take part in so-called diplomacy. Their patrol leaders, SSGs, SFCs, LTs, etc are the ones who engage and talk to the population. So the notion that every combat soldier that has done a tour in Iraq or Astan is out talking to the sheik or local leaders as a diplomat is chimera.

    Does this mean as your post suggests, that combat soldiers in coin do nothing but kicking down doors and killing people? Of course not, nor does it mean that in pre-deployment training for a specific area that all soldiers should not learn the basics of the cultures they are going into to help them better understand their environment.

    The point that Wilf and I and others are making is that the notion as is literally stated that soldiers are diplomats is just simply folly. They are not, they are combat soldiers and as wilf has pointed out they need to be able to do the basic functions and skills of combat soldiers. If they can do that, then they can step into different directions to do coin, stability ops, nation building etc.

    The concern I have is that by using terms like Diplomats we are confusing ourselves as to what should be our priorities, and the reality of coin on the ground in places like astan and iraq.

    gian

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Certainly many share the position that Armies just need to focus on being Armies. We already have a "good army" in America. In fact, we have a great army. From the ingenuity and initiative inherent in each American Soldier, to the very best training, equipment and leadership we can provide. Building a good army is not the issue.

    The issue is what should we be asking that army to do, and is the army trained organized and equipped to do those things well. A good army at desert operations is not automatically a good army at jungle operations; or a good army at defense is not necessarily a good army at offense. We all know this. You must tailor your training, organization and training to the mission at hand. The US developed perhaps the most devastating army at fire and maneuver that the world has ever seen, and while that serves a tremendous deterrent effect, it does not help much in the operations that we are currently asked to conduct.

    My point is that we really need to sort out what the mission is prior to changing the army to simply do what we are currently asking it to do more effectively. And while policy may be able to change quickly, the US national security apparatus, with a few minor mods over the years, is based upon the world as it existed emerging from WWII.

    So, I stand by my position. England has always had a good army, but that and $1.75 will get you a cup of coffee at starbucks, but it won't bring the Empire back. The solution for this problem must begin at the top. Meanwhile we soldiers will keep doing what good soldiers do, and that is our very best; whenever and where ever we are directed to go.

  19. #19
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    I was typing this when Bob's World replied. His second paragraph is another way of looking at my next two paragraphs:

    I'd submit that the Army isn't just a hammer, nor is it the top-of-the-line Leatherman pocket tool that has everything from a can opener to magnifying glass.

    In this, I'd say that the Army is one of those multi-tools we had when we were growing up that had about 8 functions but did about three of them really well. In the end, you never used about 5 of the functions because you ran the risk of breaking the damned thing. Army units, particularly those at the tactical level, are the same. Cavalrymen being diplomats detracts from their abilities as scouts. Not saying they can't, just saying they won't be as effective. SF Soldiers have some fantastic capablilities and talents - However, I wouldn't want their leadership to determine the best way for 1st Cavalry Division to employ 2 tank companies in the defense. Not saying they aren't capable of providing that leadership, just saying there are other functions their particular piece is better suited to provide.

    There has to be a balance struck somewhere. Today's junior combat leader (squad leader, section leader, PL, PSG) should be able to conduct all of their basic battle drills, competently demonstrate proficiency in core METL tasks, actions on contact, and reporting, and basic troop leading procedures.

    They also need a familiarity with TTPs in COIN, though these TTPs need to find a baseline in the core competencies mentioned above. It's been said and quoted multiple times in this thread; It depends on how you train. This is the #1 big issue on my mind at this point.

    The new Army capstone training manual, FM 7-0, Training For Full Spectrum Operations, should not have been published. Training for METL is training for METL is training for METL. We need to, as an Army, get back to the 8 step training model, training schedules, and methods of training that our Soldiers will understand.

    FM 7-0, published early this month, opens up with a giant glass of Kool Aid describing the environments, conditions, and preconditions that wars and battles are to be fought in the future, quite possibly under the flawed premise that they are right. There are plenty of smart people on this board who work at CAC, but can someone tell me where the hell you all hide the Crystal Ball at Leavenworth?

    This manual offers no fresh ideas, but rather codifies an incorrect training methodology that pays lip service to the old method and mirrors what we've been forced to do as an Army in the last 7 years due to a mission cycle that finds the Army deploying, deployed, or recovering from operations abroad every 12-18 months. Just because we've been forced to train in this method due to poor planning doesn't mean it's the right way to train.

    I'm reminded of an AAR at JRCT in 2002, as my sapper platoon just completed a route reconnaissance where one of our vehicles was destroyed by a mine. The platoon OC, a cantankerous Staff Sergeant who had a 10th Mountain Division combat patch from Somalia, making him one of the only OCs we had with combat experience. This guy was EF Hutton - when he talked, people listened. At the conclusion of this lane, he sat everyone down and told us that he was going to give us a quote to think about but wouldn't tell us who said it until the last day of the exercise. The quote was "Don't let the fact that everyone is doing it wrong prevent you from doing it right." It gave us all pause and resolved the platoon into determining better practices.

    Our junior leaders have lost the art of how to train their Soldiers because those of us who have trained properly in the past have not trained them to conduct proper training management in the present. This is OUR failure as an Army and as Leaders. Platoons don't come up with training plans or schedules anymore. The vast majority of what a unit trains on before they leave for theater is directed by FORSCOM Training Guidance crammed down their throats that forces BDE and BN commanders to pick and choose which tasks they're going to blow off in the pre-deployment training cycle.

    Training isn't forecasted in terms of long range, short range, and near term anymore. Though tucked into the back fo chapter 4 in the new 7-0 it talks about these three terms, what it should have said is that tactical units at the BDE and below are in reaction mode within the 8 week mark and are so used to jumping through their asses on a week to week basis before deployment that any work done to forecast training out beyond three weeks is futile since it's going to change.

    Sure, there are large Easter Eggs that can be thrown on the largest of echelons' schedule (block leave after deployment, gunnery, CTC/MRE rotation, rail-load, block leave before deployment, and LAD), but the day to day operations, "Hey YOU" mission planning cycle, and micromanagement from echelons above BN due to the increased "strength" in BDE and DIV staffs have created environments of hate and discontent of the staff officers and NCOs appointed over the small units; Staffs whose mere existance, in the minds of the tactical units, stifles progress at the tactical level. This has become such an accepted part of Army life that FM 7-0 actually speaks to it in chapter 4:

    [Paragraph] 4-12. Modular formations are more agile, expeditionary, and versatile than previous Army organizations. However, modular organizations require a higher degree of training and operational synchronization at the brigade level.
    Operational synchronization, for those keeping track at home, is the new joint definition of micromanagement.

    Training meetings at the company level used to be able to take what is happening 8 weeks out and walk back to T-1 and T week to lock in and conduct final coordinating instructions. This doesn't happen anymore. Training meetings at the company level are now wargaming sessions that determine the method of crisis management to be emplyed over the next week to ensure the mission gets accomplished despite the changes imposed from on high.

    Indeed, it depends on how we train. The question is, does anyone remember how to train properly?

    PS - The quote was from that 1976 porn classic, The Opening of Misty Beethoven. You'll have to rent it to find out the context (or PM Stan).
    Example is better than precept.

  20. #20
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    ...In fact, we have a great army. From the ingenuity and initiative inherent in each American Soldier, to the very best training, equipment and leadership we can provide. Building a good army is not the issue.
    Define great...

    I do not agree -- we do have the potential to be great but that potential is NOT met due to the fact that we don't provide even adequate initial entry training; that our equipment issue is overly influenced by the defense industry, Congress and the media and that our leadership is not the best we can provide -- it is the best that a semi-meritocratic system hobbled by an inefficient and ineffective personnel system which is required to provide an excessively 'fair' shot for all at higher rank and which can only reward competence by promotion in such rank.

    As far as our great training goes, that's funny. It is adequate, no question but it overemphasizes cost reduction, metrics and ease of execution (particularly in the institutions) at the cost of true competence. RTK has well addressed many training issues above in his great post.
    My point is that we really need to sort out what the mission is prior to changing the army to simply do what we are currently asking it to do more effectively.
    That I do agree with -- I also doubt it will ever happen for three reasons; The world is infinitely variable and rapid, unpredictable shifts can and do occur, Politicians object strenuously to being tied into positions and we have developed an elephantine bureaucracy that will bicker about changes until they're too late. Thus we are confronted with the fact that the US Army must be multi-spectrum capable -- and that it is not today due to training inadequacies, a deficient personnel system and an inflexible bureaucracy.
    ...And while policy may be able to change quickly, the US national security apparatus, with a few minor mods over the years, is based upon the world as it existed emerging from WWII.
    Also agree -- and it's past time that needs to be corrected. The Armed Forces cannot change many aspects of that problem but they have also taken too few steps to change much they could change.
    ...Meanwhile we soldiers will keep doing what good soldiers do, and that is our very best; whenever and where ever we are directed to go.
    That is true and some issues are beyond DoD control but it does not excuse the 'system' for not trying to better itself to the extent it is able...

    Having said that, as Rob says:
    "I believe we are capable of doing what we are called on to do with some relatively painless changes once we recognize there is no real threat to our core values, however that requires we not create threats where there should be none."

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