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Thread: Officers With PhDs Advising War Effort

  1. #21
    Council Member sullygoarmy's Avatar
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    Hey All,
    New guy to the forum. Former AST member back in 2004 and currently working for JCISFA where we look at security force assistance issues daily. Stationed at Fort Leavenworth and a recent CGSC grad while it was under LTG Petraeus.

    The thing I like about Ricks' article is that we're bringing in what many consider the best of the best on COIN and SFA. Most guys know that Kilcullen's work is widely floated around military schoolhouses as a framework for good COIN principles from Leavenworth to Knox. I think using him as an asset, adds a valuable tool to the General's kit bag.

    Glad that I found the SWJ website and probably wouldn't have done so had Ricks not mentioned it in his article. Looking forward to the discussion!

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    Mike,

    It is freezing cold hear in D.C., but it beats the automated planning tools class. I am having too much fun on this inter-agency thing. Your CGSC and fellow 6 month hold classmate.

    Jim McD

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    As a point of reference for what the Army personnel system currently produces, it is nowhere geared towards producing leaders that have an incentive to attend advanced civilian schooling. Despite the press that Petraeus, McMaster, Chiarelli, etc. have garnered for their graduate schooling, they are the exception that chose to do something outside the normal career path and were probably told by many that they were wasting their time.

    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute...les/PUB731.pdf

    As for the comment that the social science degrees cannot be tested in the real world, I think it is fair to say that someone like GEN Petraeus performed better than LTG Odierno did back in 2003 when it came time to test what advantage a degree could provide. While theoretical, having a framework to be able to fit the real world into to try and make sense out of events is better than nothing, plus having the critical thinking skills to be able to approach a problem from multiple angles.

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    The 101 vs. 4ID comparison is a false one. The situations that 4ID faced were very different from the 101st. There were things done well in both areas of operation and some things that needed to be fixed.

  5. #25
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Shek,

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    As a point of reference for what the Army personnel system currently produces, it is nowhere geared towards producing leaders that have an incentive to attend advanced civilian schooling.


    Love the oped piece!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    As for the comment that the social science degrees cannot be tested in the real world, I think it is fair to say that someone like GEN Petraeus performed better than LTG Odierno did back in 2003 when it came time to test what advantage a degree could provide. While theoretical, having a framework to be able to fit the real world into to try and make sense out of events is better than nothing, plus having the critical thinking skills to be able to approach a problem from multiple angles.
    Let me just clarify that for a second. I didn't say that the degrees couldn't be tested in the real world, I said that often you aren't allowed to test it. This goes back to he academic institutions of ethics review boards that pass on all academic research. What that has come to mean, in a lot of the social sciences, is that you are not allowed to test your theories in the real world from inside the academic environment. Because of his test ban, the academic environment in, say, Sociology or Political Science or Anthropology, tends to reinforce a concentration on what you are allowed to do, which is either "theory" or "approved" testing. In the case of Anthropology, that means you can "test" your ideas in some very limited, real world applications - mainly advocacy work. If you aren't operating within the academic environment, that is an entirely different matter.

    I certainly agree with you about the value of having theoretical frameworks and, more importantly, the ability to modify theoretical frameworks to match observed reality. As for "critical thinking skills", the have been a major topic of discussion in pedagogical circles up here for the past decade or so. I've been following that debate, and one of the things that struck me most about it was that there didn't really seem to be a coherent definition of what the term meant . I had always assumed that it meant looking at a problem, picking it apart into its component pieces, and then trying to find a solution. Once I hit Grad school, I realized that I was being incredibly naive as a number of my peers proceeded to tell me .

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
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  6. #26
    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Hi George,



    BA Sociology and Comparative Religion,
    MA Canadian Studies (Cultural Studies concentration)
    Ph.D. Sociology (Social Anthropology)

    Just an FYI

    Marc
    One of our still in graduate school daughters has double undergraduate majors in Spanish and Sociology (statistics side of same). Your degrees and academic focus sound good and logical to me.

    Cheers,
    George Singleton

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    The 101 vs. 4ID comparison is a false one. The situations that 4ID faced were very different from the 101st. There were things done well in both areas of operation and some things that needed to be fixed.
    Jimbo,

    No doubt that there were different situations and had units with different organic capabilities. However, having worked for a few weeks alongside 4ID and for a few weeks alongside 101, there was a world of difference, and much further beyond what just the different situations would create. Now, maybe I just got a taste of extremes because of who I worked alongside and so my little view is not necessarily representative, but given all that I've read since and haven spoken with friends from both units, I don't see my experience as having been non-representative in general.

    Put a different way, would LTG Odierno have had as much success in Mosul, a situation needing lots of people and cultural skills, and would GEN Petraeus not have done as well in Diyala/Salah Ad Din in a situation where people skills were still as important, but more kinetic skills were required. I'm not envisioning a commander emphasizing "putting the screws to 'em" as being as successful in Ninevah, while on the other hand, I'm thinking that GEN Petraeus' experience as an infantry commander up through the ranks would have equipped him for the fight against the greater numbers of FRE.

    Cheers.

    Shek
    Last edited by Shek; 02-06-2007 at 01:24 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by George L. Singleton View Post
    Let's kick the old school, hide bound, military academy ring knocker thinking
    Sir,

    I read this comment with great irony since GEN Petraeus and all three O6s mentioned by name in the article are West Pointers.

    Cheers.

    Shek

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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Hi Shek,

    Love the oped piece!

    Let me just clarify that for a second. I didn't say that the degrees couldn't be tested in the real world, I said that often you aren't allowed to test it. This goes back to he academic institutions of ethics review boards that pass on all academic research. What that has come to mean, in a lot of the social sciences, is that you are not allowed to test your theories in the real world from inside the academic environment. Because of his test ban, the academic environment in, say, Sociology or Political Science or Anthropology, tends to reinforce a concentration on what you are allowed to do, which is either "theory" or "approved" testing. In the case of Anthropology, that means you can "test" your ideas in some very limited, real world applications - mainly advocacy work. If you aren't operating within the academic environment, that is an entirely different matter.

    I certainly agree with you about the value of having theoretical frameworks and, more importantly, the ability to modify theoretical frameworks to match observed reality. As for "critical thinking skills", the have been a major topic of discussion in pedagogical circles up here for the past decade or so. I've been following that debate, and one of the things that struck me most about it was that there didn't really seem to be a coherent definition of what the term meant . I had always assumed that it meant looking at a problem, picking it apart into its component pieces, and then trying to find a solution. Once I hit Grad school, I realized that I was being incredibly naive as a number of my peers proceeded to tell me .

    Marc
    Marc,

    I thought the "fashion tips" metaphor used by Dr. Wong was quite clever, although the message itself is disheartening. Once again, as an Army, in order to close a gap, we implemented a "fix" by starting to award masters degrees for the war college to show that we were "educating" our officers; however, the war colleges don't provide the broadening experience that a civilian graduate school will, and so some of the value of a graduate degree is lost (this isn't saying that they don't receive solid instruction at the graduate level, but a lunchroom conversation over a particular conflictwith other uniformed members isn't the same as one with fellow grad students who may have been with NGOs working a completely different side of the same conflict and can provide a potentially alien perspective).

    As far as "critical thinking," I guess that I am also naive as to its true meaning. What I was trying to get at was the ability to look at a problem at from several angles, especially to include those that you disagree with or may not have otherwise ever thought of (e.g. the conservation with a NGO member) so that you can arrive at a solution that has thought through all the possibilities. Thus, as the proverbial saying goes, not all problems look like nails wanting a hammer to fix them

    Cheers.

    Shek

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    No doubt that there were different situations and had units with different organic capabilities. However, having worked for a few weeks alongside 4ID and for a few weeks alongside 101, there was a world of difference, and much further beyond what just the different situations would create.
    It was probably only a flash in the pan, but I had an opportunity to experience the 4th ID firsthand in mid-April, during the RIP between their elements moving north to Tikrit and TF Tripoli.

    We were coiled up north of Samarra, basking in the joy of finally receiving packages and mail, when OH-58s and Apaches appeared over the long line of HETs that were dragging gear north to Tikrit. It was a little bit uncomfortable to watch an Apache circling the battalion TAA, tracking personnel on the ground with the slaved chain gun. Definitely a WTFO moment. It didn't stop there though, and within 15 minutes of the air troop's arrival, we had to call in our patrols because the Apaches began firing rockets, guns, and Hellfires at hell knows what across the highway, only a klick or so away. Needless to say, we were not impressed.

  11. #31
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    What I was trying to get at was the ability to look at a problem at from several angles, especially to include those that you disagree with or may not have otherwise ever thought of (e.g. the conservation with a NGO member) so that you can arrive at a solution that has thought through all the possibilities. Thus, as the proverbial saying goes, not all problems look like nails wanting a hammer to fix them.
    Dang marct, you hit one homerun after another! Perusing the Marine Corps career track webpages, I see several fellowships that put folks into the corporate world for a short tour, as well as graduate learning environments, but am not sure what that gets us.

    How about a fellowship with the ICRC or other relief affiliated agency? I know, lot's of baggage with a Marine infantry officer sitting in on a relief delivery planning session, but perhaps these are just the walls we need to be breaking down.

  12. #32
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default The Brain Trust

    The Brain Trust - MilBlogs.

    The WaPo headlines: "Officers With PhDs Advising War Effort"

    The only appropriate response might be "Well, duh!"

    But seriously folks... no offense to the fine folks profiled therein, but try finding a senior officer in the military without an advanced degree.

    These guys might be exceptional, but they aren't the exception in that department. There's a bit of myth perpetuation here - the reality is the military invests time and money in developing the talents of the right folks for the right jobs - and sometimes they get it right.

    And in spite of the article's "but the job is too big for these guys or anyone else" tone, I think the right people have indeed been chosen for this task - a conclusion not just based on the evidence of wisdom exhibited in the highlighted words of this paragraph:

    Petraeus, who along with the group's members declined to be interviewed for this article, has chosen as his chief adviser on counterinsurgency operations an outspoken officer in the Australian Army. Lt. Col. David Kilcullen holds a PhD in anthropology, for which he studied Islamic extremism in Indonesia.

    Kilcullen has served in Cyprus, Papua New Guinea and East Timor and most recently was chief strategist for the State Department's counterterrorism office, lent by the Australian government. His 2006 essay "Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency" was read by Petraeus, who sent it rocketing around the Army via e-mail. Among Kilcullen's dictums: "Rank is nothing: talent is everything" -- a subversive thought in an organization as hierarchical as the U.S. military.

    And his Don't confuse the surge with the strategy entry at the Small Wars Journal blog was recently recommended by one of Mrs Greyhawk's favorite military thinkers.

    You might also want to make time for A Framework for thinking about Iraq Strategy and Two Schools of Classical Counterinsurgency...

  13. #33
    Council Member CSC2005's Avatar
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    While Tom Ricks did play up on the liberal stereotype of the military being uneducated and needing Ivy League policy makers to make the big decisions, I still give Gen Petraeus credit for bringing in a hand-picked group of creative thinkers. I have been through too many OPTs where the focus was on process and not creative operational design. I would love to read a study on how these guys work out in a year or so from now.

    My hunch is that Petraeus picked these officers because of their intellectual/operational ability, not just because they had PhDs. I am sure there are plenty of PhDs in the Army who were not picked. You have to admit that putting a foreign officer on your senior staff is a pretty bold move in wartime and annoyed many of the normal staff officer types.

    I am surprised John Nagl did not make the list.

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    Nagl's playing a lead role in ensuring Army MiTTs/MTTs/PiTTs are being trained properly before being sent over. I suspect he has a direct link to Gen Petraeus.

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default But the key advisor is not a West Pointer!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Sir,

    I read this comment with great irony since GEN Petraeus and all three O6s mentioned by name in the article are West Pointers.

    Cheers.

    Shek
    Well said, and well taken.

    However, General Petraeus has chosen as his chief advisor on counterinsurgency operations Australian Lt. Colonel David Kilcullen, who I believe is not a West Pointer, or am I wrong on that one? Like my late Uncle, Rear Admiral Art Gavin, graduate of U. of Wisconsin, who as a Navy 05 was put directly in command of all Navy and Army aviation in the Panama Canal Zone by the Secretary of War in Dec., 1941, immediately after Pearl Harbor. Art surely was hated by many brass hat and fat bottom Army and Navy flag ranks and senior 06s, but he was the best and right guy for that job at that time. I view Lt. Colonel Kilcullen, who is additionally a PhD, as in that mold and wish him well, too!

    I am a USAF OTS product, commissioned Feb., 1963. Served as a Det. Commander with the old US Embassy in Karachi, then West Pakistan, housed with a bunch of you green suiters in a MAAG staff house next door to the Army 08 head of the USMAAG to Pakistan. His aide was my housemate and that aide, a lifelong friend since Karachi days, is now himself a retired 08, and was #2 in his class at West Point of 1958.

    My job in Karachi from 1963-1965 was as USAF Liaison Officer for the Commander, 6937th USAFSS Group, ie, the base commander, US Air Base (U-2s) at Peshawar. As a Second and First Lieutenant this was a unique assignment but I grew and learned from all concerned, as I surely didn't know a damn thing at the get go!

    The service academies are well and good, but many flag rank officers today did not graduate from the academies. Same applies to many fine 06s of all services today.

    I turned down as a reserve officer 07 reserve promotion opportunity as the Air Force wanted me to come back on active duty for 8+ months to understudy with the four star then heading up US Space Systems Command. I could not spare the time, etc. away from civilian job and a young family, wife and three small children, and an aged Mom in an Alabama nursing home, who I essentially supported.

    Taking USAF Reserve non-unit, largely purple suiter slots my last 12 years in the Air Force Reserve, by dumb luck, coupled with doing all the advanced schools, service and NWC courses, too, helped me as an "old man" make 06.

    Colonel was and is good enough for me, when I would have been happy to retire as a Major. *I had been wounded as a non-combatant in the January, 1965 earliest phase of the India-Pakistan War in the Rann of Kutch, so when I left regular active duty in late 1967 did not join the USAF reserve until four years later, in part due to slow recovery from spinal wound from 1965 Rann of Kutch, etc. I limped like hell and hurt like hell for a few years before "rebouding."

    Back to the task at hand, the War on Terrorism and in Iraq/Afghanistan. My wife and I were roundtrip on a Space A (Alabama Air Guard refuelding tanker) vacation July, 2006 in Germany and France (and in Belgium and Luxembourg).

    At the American Cemetary at Normandy we met a group of 60 Dutch and US Special Forces, headed up by a senior Dutch NCO. They were all in less than two weeks from when we met them (beside Brigadier Roosevelt's grave, the son of President Teddy Roosevelt, killed at Normandy D-Day Landing) headed into Afghanistan. Having been there (Afghanistan and Pakistan) during 1963-1965, I was able to share some cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious experiences that I would hope may have been of some small benefit to these men, and to their mission and personal safety. The Dutch senior NCO made me feel good when he said very low key that he and his men were touring the American Cemetary as boys all under age 30, some in their late teens, to understand better that freedom is not free.

    To close on a humerous note. One cousin by marriage is a West Pointer, retired as a Regular Army 05. The other cousin by marriage, (both married to my second cousins who are sisters) is a retired Regular Army 06, University of Alabama ROTC commissoned. If the 05 had used any degree of humility, he, too, could have retired as an 06.

    My forte with USSOCOM, and it's predecessor, USREDCOM, and with TDY active duty orders short tours as a reservist with MAC (I ran the airlift in January, 1991 for Desert Storm out of Charleston); with FORSCOM (Peruvian and Bolivian drug wars in late 1980s); and CINCLANT (Admiral Kelso, the famous Navy pilots party CO) my last 10-12 years in the USAF Reserve, as a part time purple suiter, was computerized wargamming using Star Wars big bucks to set up the and help operate the JCS Wargaming Center at Ft. Lewis, which we later moved to it's current location at Hurlburt Field, FL. We developed the pc gamed scenarios and exercises that led to your battlefield pc fighting technology that helps you win and the enemy loose in firefights and such.

    I am a mean old free thinker, who worked firing programs for Marine Corp artillery with the best of them, as an unusual example. Coordination of Navy ship bombardments and USAF planes bombardment. Computer gamed as well as tried in the field use of rough field ad hoc flying sites using C-130s and C-10s was a snap after dealing with mundane routing of support flights into and out of Peshawar "around K-2" the second highest peak in the Himalayas, by contrast, in 1963-1965.

    I just hope that the Army isn't so short sighted as to "only" give PhDs to West Pointers. Other officers commissioned from other sources are just as bright, and very innovative, too. Not that many West Pointers aren't innovate, but I am biased that many of the West Pointers I knew in years gone by were to focused on their personal career advancement vs. doing the best job possible, whatever it was, for the corporate benefit, as in today's case, of beating back and down a multigenerational fight with radical Islam.

    Serving the cause of our nation and the free world, to me, in my own career, part time though much of it was (only the first 6 years out of total 31 years military service were active duty) should in my book always come before personal ambition. Study the situation, apply your actual experiences, say what you think needs to be said and learned from, and don't worry about whether this will or won't profile you as one of "the boys" of the "ring knocker" old club for career enhancement.

    Not meaning to insult anyone, but you have my blunt opinions.

    Cheers,
    George L. Singleton, Colonel, USAF, Ret. (perhaps too much rank for such a blunt outspoken redneck boy from Tennessee and Alabama)
    GSingle556@aol.com

    PS - Keeping our forces committed to Iraq smaller in number was not a mistake in my view. The mistake to me has been the belated forcing of Iraqis to shoulder as much of the fight as possible sooner, but damn slow elections and constutitional process wasted a bunch of time, in my opinion. Too, I would have and would now find a way to use Turkish troops by the division load! Airlift them over the Kurds. GS.
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 02-06-2007 at 12:56 PM.

  16. #36
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Shek,

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    I thought the "fashion tips" metaphor used by Dr. Wong was quite clever, although the message itself is disheartening. Once again, as an Army, in order to close a gap, we implemented a "fix" by starting to award masters degrees for the war college to show that we were "educating" our officers; however, the war colleges don't provide the broadening experience that a civilian graduate school will, and so some of the value of a graduate degree is lost (this isn't saying that they don't receive solid instruction at the graduate level, but a lunchroom conversation over a particular conflictwith other uniformed members isn't the same as one with fellow grad students who may have been with NGOs working a completely different side of the same conflict and can provide a potentially alien perspective).
    I also thought the fashion metaphor was good - it reminded me of many academics I have worked with .

    I think you are right about the war college acting as an internal reinforcer of perceptions. Maybe they would get a better overall "experience" at a civilian graduate school. Honestly, I think it might be better still if they took degrees in civilian graduate schools outside of the US. That way you would get both a civilian "take"on the issue as well as experience in a different culture. It would be interesting to see what the graduate exchange programs are like. By way of example, a couple of my former students have studied in France, while others have studied in England, Australia, the US and New Zealand. The cultural difference alone does seem to make a lot of difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    As far as "critical thinking," I guess that I am also naive as to its true meaning. What I was trying to get at was the ability to look at a problem at from several angles, especially to include those that you disagree with or may not have otherwise ever thought of (e.g. the conservation with a NGO member) so that you can arrive at a solution that has thought through all the possibilities. Thus, as the proverbial saying goes, not all problems look like nails wanting a hammer to fix them
    Point taken ! One of the people in my Ph.D. cohort defined "critical thinking" as the ability to rip anyone's argument apart - that way you could get easy publications, still be perceived as "critical", and get a rep as a great theoretician. That particular one never really impressed me, but I did see a lot of it .

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Again, my experience with 101st in OIF I was generally positive, while my experience with 4ID was universally negative.

    On Petraeus, I like the fit of his jib. He is both warrior and scholar, while not being a weakened amalgamation of both. There are few Generals I would trust to collect a good group without just "picking names." Petraeus is one of them.

  18. #38
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default An open mind for a new Army

    www.usnews.com
    By Julian E. Barnes
    10/31/05

    The general credits the Army's field training for teaching him to be a creative commander. But his adaptive thinking also comes from his work outside the military. At Princeton, where he earned his advanced degree in international relations, he had a chance to interact with exceptional scholars, many of whom had a very different view of the world and of human nature.

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    Talking Kilcullen's military experience

    I appreciated the article despite it's pandering to stereotypes. Just a small comment on Kilcullen. The Australian army is a small, but very professional. It presently counts six active battalions in its structure, and like us relies upon its reserves to meet all its present commitments. Some of my mates felt that in terms of pure manpower, they had only enough men to fully man four of the six infantry battalions. The Aussie Army also has some unique characteristics which make it different from both the British Army, and our own. First of all, Australian infantry officers spend much of their careers within a battalion. This gives them long term exposure to many different levels of battalion operations. In my day (II Corps MIKE Force, 1968), the typical Aussie captain had been a rifle platoon leader, a mortar platoon leader, and often a recce platoon leader, as well as battalion supply officer, transport officer, perhaps intelligence officer, and assistant training officer, before he became a company commander (a Major's position), and many had already commanded companies. They tended to be a few years older than their U.S. counterparts, whose career patterns had taken them in and out of tactical battalions, schools, and non-tactical assignments. Moreover, as the Australian defence forces lacked the enormous logistical power projection capabilities of the U.S. military, both the officers, and especially the warrants, tended to be far more enterprising in seeking solutions outside the traditional chain of command. The men who trained these officers were inevitably the warrants (senior NCOs), and here I would note that the only U.S. service to have an NCO corps which equates to the Aussie Warrants is the U.S.M.C.. These warrants were likewise highly experienced, having spent many years within a battalion, and having held a similar variety of positions ranging from infantryman to BREN gunner, up through section (squad?) and platoon, in rifle, recce, and occasionally mortar platoons. This gave them a grounding in small unit operations that was, in Vietnam, generally lacking within U.S. battalions once the U.S. battalion's original complement had been filled by replacements. In summary, reaching lieutenant colonel in the Australian Army is as much an achievement as making the 0-6 tactical brigade command list in the U.S. Army, and he should have some very solid small unit operational experience that will assist him in his duties. And he not foreign. He's Australian!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Dang marct, you hit one homerun after another! Perusing the Marine Corps career track webpages, I see several fellowships that put folks into the corporate world for a short tour, as well as graduate learning environments, but am not sure what that gets us.

    How about a fellowship with the ICRC or other relief affiliated agency? I know, lot's of baggage with a Marine infantry officer sitting in on a relief delivery planning session, but perhaps these are just the walls we need to be breaking down.
    J,

    Your NGO fellowships have been proposed within the Army, but I have no idea what traction they've gained. At the cadet level, we run a bunch of summer trips that do NGO work, and are just now expanding the program to ROTC and the other service academies (where there is $$, there's a way!). While several weeks is not the same as a year, I'm sure that this short experience at such a junior part of one's career is a solid formative experience for company grade level ops.

    Cheers.

    Shek

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