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Thread: Organizing for COIN at the Company and Platoon Level

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Organizing for COIN at the Company and Platoon Level

    SWJ Blog - Organizing for Counterinsurgency at the Company and Platoon Level by Captain Jeremy Gwinn, US Army.

    In today's military, the requirement to conduct tasks far outside traditional specialties is an accepted reality. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught leaders across the services the need for flexibility and creativity both in action and organization. The recently published FM 3-24 (MCWP 3-33.5) Counterinsurgency (COIN) manual provides an excellent framework for leaders to understand the demands of the COIN environment and draw from recent lessons. With regard to organizing for COIN, the manual makes several valuable recommendations such as establishing a company level intelligence section and identifying a political and cultural advisor. My purpose here is to go one step further, providing additional, specific recommendations for company level leaders organizing for counterinsurgency operations. Some of the ideas presented involve actual changes to task organization, while others involve developing skills internally that, by doctrine, only exist in specialized attachments. These steps are by no means prescriptive, but intended as a starting point for discussion among officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) at the company level...
    One of our longer blog entries - well worth the read...

    CPT Gwinn has commanded an infantry company in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Army's 10th Mountain Division, and is currently attending graduate school en route to instruct at West Point.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Great piece

    Dave and Bill,

    I'll be wanting to double tap this one for CALL. I already have a slot for it in Vol 7 of the Company-level SOS series. Send me the good Captain's email please.

    Best

    Tom

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default On the way

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Dave and Bill,

    I'll be wanting to double tap this one for CALL. I already have a slot for it in Vol 7 of the Company-level SOS series. Send me the good Captain's email please.

    Best

    Tom
    Tom - just sent - Dave

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default

    A good post, well done CAPT Gwinn.

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    Council Member sgmgrumpy's Avatar
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    Great article.
    We have some outstanding leaders growing in our ranks.
    I am glad CPT Gwinn will be in the GO ranks when my little warriors dawn the uniform.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Definitely a great piece!
    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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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Yes...

    ... it was a real pleasure posting this piece - job well done. Tom Barnett thinks so too.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Proving yet again the troops can do the job if

    the old folks will just leave 'em alone...

    Good find and glad Tom's picking that up for CALL.

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Not everyone is enlightened...

    James Joyner at Outside the Beltway - COIN at the Company and Platoon Level.

    ...While the need identified is valid, the proposed solution is unworkable. The tasks in question simply require too much expertise to be handled by amateurs...
    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, critical tasks go unmet - awaiting the pros from Dover to show... tick, tick, tick...

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Thumbs down Thumbs down for Joyner

    Please! We can't always wait for the "professionals" to arrive (assuming that they ever would...). His comment on SF organization is also disingenuous. CAPT Gwinn isn't saying that regular forces should BECOME SF; he's saying that they could use bits of their organization to improve what they have to work with NOW.

    Depending on higher-level attachments as Joyner seems to advocate is a recipe for getting nothing done. Sure, you're not going to have "experts" at the company and platoon level, but recognizing the need and, more importantly, organizing and training to fill what you can is certainly better than doing nothing and waiting for "higher" to take care of it. One of the baseline ideas in COIN is making the "line soldier" aware of what's required and then giving him or her some of the tools to make that happen.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    My favorite from Joyner's apologia pro bureauratii

    Ideally, MOS-trained specialists in these areas would be assigned down to the small unit level. Practically, however, itís unlikely that we can train enough of them to make that feasible. Probably the best that can be done is to beef up the availability at the battalion level and integrate the COIN mindset into everyday training and Professional Military Education for combat arms soldiers.
    Ummm, what is "the COIN mindset" if not what Gwinn is proposing? O, right, sorry I missed it - it should only be made available in "everyday training" and PME - not the field !
    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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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Outside the beltway? How far?

    I guess we should not tell Joyner that small tactical units are in fact doing this and its working!

    Hat tip to CPT Gwinn who has taken the time to write it down in a way that communicates the "how" and "why". Efforts like his help units hit the ground running vs. waiting for higher echelons to provide solutions. It also adds to the larger discussion about what we do!

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I guess we should not tell Joyner that small tactical units are in fact doing this and its working!

    Hat tip to CPT Gwinn who has taken the time to write it down in a way that communicates the "how" and "why". Efforts like his help units hit the ground running vs. waiting for higher echelons to provide solutions. It also adds to the larger discussion about what we do!
    Absolutely....

    We have been working this for some time. CPT Gwinn wrote it in a way that captures much of what we have been training and doing.

    And the comments about the futility of waiting for higher to help out are on the mark, especially when it comes to intel and developing local situational understanding. Joyner misses that point entirely....

    Best

    Tom

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Abu Muqawama

    Organizing Small Units for COIN

    ... Gwinn offers, in good detail, how to organize for COIN at the company and platoon level. This post should be useful -- along the same lines as David Kilcullen's "Twenty-Eight Articles" -- for any small unit leader heading off to Afghanistan or Iraq.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Had never heard of him. Given his

    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    James Joyner at Outside the Beltway - COIN at the Company and Platoon Level.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, critical tasks go unmet - awaiting the pros from Dover to show... tick, tick, tick...
    Exceptionally poor sensing on the Gwinn article, I'm glad he got out and went on to bigger and better things.

    He's obviously unaware that the world has changed since DS/DS. The 11-Bushes today are doing what the mighty Scroll Rangers used to do and said Ringlers are doing what the SF Hot Teams used to do and so on.

    What he misses is that the kids will do what they're trained to do and while the US Army has absolutely mastered the technique of cramming two weeks instruction into six weeks, that is slowly changing and can be changed even more with a slight push.

    Bill Slim said it well; any well trained infantry battalion can do most things the so-called elite units do.

    He obviously doesn't know that many units are in fact doing what Gwin recommends and did.

    As you say, tick, tick -- he offers another excuse for sitting on hands and letting the world fall in around someones ears.

    Whatever happened to "Never explain, never complain, always be five minutes early and do something even if its wrong?"

    He's out to lunch. Outside the Beltway sounds more like the bureaucracy inside it...

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Bill Slim said it well; any well trained infantry battalion can do most things the so-called elite units do.
    And the real definition of elite is a unit which has mastered the basics to where they are second nature but never stops training on them.

    I have seen so many foreign militaries miss that point, usually because their "elite" forces are merely labeled as such because they have a catchy name, a badge that says they can fall out of airplanes, or perhaps a mission to suppress the public.

    Where we advanced in the 80s and 90s from the hollow Army of the 70s was focus on basics. That still applies but the basic set has morphed.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    And the real definition of elite is a unit which has mastered the basics to where they are second nature but never stops training on them.

    I have seen so many foreign militaries miss that point, usually because their "elite" forces are merely labeled as such because they have a catchy name, a badge that says they can fall out of airplanes, or perhaps a mission to suppress the public.

    Where we advanced in the 80s and 90s from the hollow Army of the 70s was focus on basics. That still applies but the basic set has morphed.

    Best

    Tom
    Hey Tom,

    Don't forget tailored skin tight combat fatigues and impossibly 'cool' sunglasses.... no 'developing world' SF would be caught without them.

    Cheers

    Mark

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    Registered User AWS's Avatar
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    Well written, I especially like the part about having a CA specialist position at the platoon level reporting directly to the platoon leader.

    Selecting the individual based on "maturity and organizational skills" does indeed make much more sense than selection according to rank.

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    I would want alot of flexibility, that once these basic skills are attained and working well with some elements, select squads (crews) at the Bn level can be assigned to other sectors of the AO for mentoring/intruction, on-the-spot without running up and down the Command grid - i.e. Cpt of A Co requests Cpt of E Co to send over a crew of his best cultural men, as too many of his men are having trouble mingling with the locals- that sort of thing. If it's going to be from the ground up, the chain of command is going to have to be fractured to a certain extent (probably alot). As the lads on a crew I once ran told me, "we have the time if you have the balls"

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default CALL Newsletter 08-05 Company-level Stability Operations, VOL 7 Organizing for COIN

    Happy to say that CALL Newsletter 08-05 Company-level Stability Operations, VOL 7 Organizing for COIN went up today. It included CPT Gwinn's article as well as imput from CPTs Kranc and Holzbach.


    Best

    Tom

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