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Thread: The Fallacy of HIC vs COIN

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default The Fallacy of HIC vs COIN

    The misleading notion of Nagl vs. Gentile

    The HIC vs COIN debate that has been popularized by personas of LtCol. Nagl and Col. Gentile is erroneous in that it detracts from why we find ourselves involved in two ongoing COIN conflicts. In Iraq, it can be argued that we are involved in a COIN conflict because we handled the initial operations poorly, and failed to win in a matter that destroyed the enemies ability to continue to fight and that we failed to plan for after the shooting. The COIN fight in Afghanistan may have been unavoidable to some degree, but it can be argued that our failure to properly conduct the conventional operations has made the COIN fight harder. No conventional forces in theatre to trap and destroy Taliban and AQ forces allowing many to escape to fight again, and poorly planned operations by US forces later in the conflict such as Operation Anaconda are examples. What types of operations due we as country find ourselves most likely to initially conduct? My review of history suggests that punitive raids and preparing for major wars as a means of deterrence and policy role are the most likely. COIN operational knowledge will have little to do with our ongoing conflict with terrorism (that I predict we will see a resurgence of when the current OIF/OEF operations come to a close) or in our ability to deter aggressive nation states from attacking our allies overseas. In this sense Col. Gentile is right that we can not lose focus on our HIC capabilities. However, I would argue that we do combat operations incorrectly and that some of the fixes for this would lead to better performances in COIN and HIC operations. Properly trained, equipped, and supported forces can do both operations very effectively as has been discussed in depths in other threads on this board. So why do we have this argument about COIN vs HIC? I see three main reasons.
    One, the command environment and culture leads to micromanagement and consolidation of forces. This further affects how we train and how we allocate resources.
    Two, our methods of unit manning and training do not allow for units to develop a depth of combat knowledge and skills needed to operate in multiple conflict spectrums.
    Three, despite vast public lip service, the armed forces failed to ever successfully incorporate the dreaded concepts of stability operations. This last point has dragged us into more COIN conflicts then anything else.
    I will expand on the three points in follow on posts.
    Reed
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    Registered User Steel31968's Avatar
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    Default P III vs PIV and other

    Agree with 2 of 3. The difference of HIC vs COIN has become muted. I view it more as phasing vs level of conflict.

    We can expect most post PIII operations to include a significant COIN or insurgent activity during PIV. This should then allow planners to anticipate both P III and P IV ops.

    On the one hand, someone could argue due to the current fight we are better prepared for P III and IV. On the other, we are less prepared for P III than P IV.

    Add to your three arguments:

    1) Agree, similar to target fixation for pilots etc... The current fight is the only one that matters, not well for a long term strategy. Tied to allocation of resources, MiTT's manning vs. BCT manning, UAV's vs F22's in the budget etc...

    2) One relates to Two in manning. If MiTT's are priority then who suffers, BCT's and other combat functions (Fires BDE's, others) not dedicated to the COIN fight in total. This also applies to the whole of government aspect of supporting the current fight, something most of us have not seen; State DPT on a PRT, or Border Patrol or Customs on a BiTT, not the occasional visit from them.

    3) I disagree on this point, the military has adapted, faster than the rest of government in this area. We now have folks with more experience in reconstruction and governance at the CPT/MAJ level than we even should have had. Unfortunately, many just did what they had to do without training to make it happen. A function better performed at the inter-agency level when talking reconstruction of governments and systems beyond the military. I could argue many CPT's have a better appreciation of border control/customs than our federal agents in the same departments, especially the impacts above the tactical level.

    The doctrine may not have changed, but our leaders, at the tip of the spear have therefore fixing 3, if not due to any other purpose than accomplishing the mission. Nor can we, (military) expect the whole of government. It was not designed that way and we (military) are still the most capable of affecting change in a timely manner. Training in these areas is critical for future success, whoever we all have our limits.

    Look forward to more posts
    John
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    With two thousand years of examples behind us we have no excuse, when fighting, for not fighting well.
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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default Command environment

    Unfortunately I have chosen the topic hardest for me to describe subjectively as my starting point. While the topic has been discussed in some detail in the community at large and our community in particular; I have no real knowledge as to why U.S. military culture seems to lead to micromanagement. All I can see is the obvious results. I have seen Brigade commanders tell individual soldiers were to move too, Colonel’s direct fire teams, a mother may I attitude to initiative, and a focus on operational coordination instead of cooperation. While I am not in a position to know why, I do speculate that it has a lot to do with how the Army does not allow for units to have any long term cohesiveness thru constant manpower turnover and PCS, as I will address in the next post, and from the aggressive up our out policy. Regardless of the reason’s why, this environment that encourages micromanagement hurts our abilities to fight in many spectrums. While we have done ok in HIC with it recently, we have hardly faced world class opponents. I recall reading an AAR on the march to Baghdad that stated that the incompetence of the IA was legendary, and that many opportunities to create maneuver bottle necks, such as blowing bridges across the Tigris, were never even attempted. Many of the more successful tactical practitioners of modern HIC warfare used initiative from the there small unit leaders coupled with strategic directions from higher to direct there operations. This same technique is often sited as a necessary tactic for LIC and COIN operations as well. I would further argue that this trend towards micromanagement has had a significant impact on how our forces are structured and what weapons systems we acquire. Yes, an F-16 with 1,000lb bombs puts awesome firepower available for a squad in trouble, but what if that F-16 is directed to another priority? Why do we not focus more on firepower organic to the maneuver units themselves? Guided Mortars provides precision firepower at the Squad to fire team level, but we chose Brigade assets because they are more “economical”. They are also directed at a higher level, and I feel this is not anecdotal to there priority. Pure speculation of course, but one that has some support. To address this trend would benefit the nations’ combat operations capabilities, both HIC and LIC and even OOTW, but we would have to understand why it exists before we could fix it.
    Reed
    P.S. I am going to have to re-visit this topic at some point, and try to be more clear.
    Last edited by reed11b; 02-04-2009 at 03:29 AM.
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    I think micromanagement is less of a problem now than it was ten years ago - largely because conducting real-world operations has forced it upon us. Prior to 9/11 we trained to fight the OPFOR and safety was more important than training. When safety - caution, timidity, and fear - is more important than training, then training suffers, skills dull, and leaders fall back upon their corporate America risk management concerns. I don't see how a force can avoid being suffocated by micromanagement in such a climate.

    Either I was lucky or we're reversing that nonsense. Leaders cannot be successful in Iraq or Afghanistan unless they delegate to point that it hurts (at least, it hurts for someone who rose through the ranks in the 1990s Army). There were some bizarre cases of micromanagement that I observed in Iraq, but they arose from DIV and higher (example) in most cases and the rest from BDE - and it seemed that the BDE folks slowly learned, over the course of each deployment, to lay off the reporting requirements, stop worrying about minutia, and let us make them look good. The only way that my battalion commanders could have given us more leeway would be to have packed their bags and gone home. When those guys are in charge of the Army in 10 years, I think that training and leader development will get the focus that safety and MILES gear got in the 90s.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Reed,
    I can't quibble with the picture you paint, but I feel there is corner missing from the canvas.

    I don't see the Nagl versus Gentile argument as being constructive or even accurate, but...

    However, there are a number of positions and ideas promoted and advocated by the Post modern COIN Avant garde, that have to be challenged.

    Some are merely eccentric opinions, but others are just plain stupid. It is extremely doubtful that anything written on COIN, since 2003, is original or even useful, other than to re-state insights that already existed. You can make the US army a much better army, without ever mentioning the words HIC or COIN, and that is the approach that I favour, should anyone ask.
    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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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default If you're correct

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    ...The only way that my battalion commanders could have given us more leeway would be to have packed their bags and gone home. When those guys are in charge of the Army in 10 years, I think that training and leader development will get the focus that safety and MILES gear got in the 90s.
    and I suspect you are -- as the micromanaging habits their predecessors learned in Viet Nam forty years ago led to the habit becoming thoroughly ingrained until recently -- then there is hope...

    I also note that both the HIC-centric and COIN-centric communities have become somewhat subdued as it has become fairly obvious that DoD and the Army -- as well as the Marines -- are aiming toward a sensible balance. Now, if we could only get MG Dunlap on board...

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steel31968 View Post
    3) I disagree on this point, the military has adapted, faster than the rest of government in this area. We now have folks with more experience in reconstruction and governance at the CPT/MAJ level than we even should have had. Unfortunately, many just did what they had to do without training to make it happen. A function better performed at the inter-agency level when talking reconstruction of governments and systems beyond the military. I could argue many CPT's have a better appreciation of border control/customs than our federal agents in the same departments, especially the impacts above the tactical level.

    Look forward to more posts
    John
    John, thanks for the feedback and comments and I will comment more in depth at another time, but I want to emphasize that I do not consider reconstruction and governance to be STABO operations, nor are they truly the mission of the military, CA being the exception. STABO is providing immediate post conflict security and insuring the population has access to basic needs; i.e. Food, water, sanitation, medical support and in industrialized countries, electricity. Rebuilding is the job of the population and if the security aspect allows that to move faster then good. This building schools nonsense to defeat or prevent insurgency is a rather poor utilization of military assets and cost effectiveness IMNSHO.
    Reed
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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I can't quibble with the picture you paint, but I feel there is corner missing from the canvas.

    I don't see the Nagl versus Gentile argument as being constructive or even accurate, but...

    However, there are a number of positions and ideas promoted and advocated by the Post modern COIN Avant garde, that have to be challenged.

    Some are merely eccentric opinions, but others are just plain stupid. It is extremely doubtful that anything written on COIN, since 2003, is original or even useful, other than to re-state insights that already existed. You can make the US army a much better army, without ever mentioning the words HIC or COIN, and that is the approach that I favour, should anyone ask.
    I think we may be arguing past each other Wilf. I agree with what you say, I just wanted to address why the debate exists in the first place and what aspects of military culture and doctrine have lead to the belief that COIN and HIC and any other form of warfare are not interchangeable. My conclusion is that certain failings in how we conduct all levels of combat have a greater recognizable effect on our ability to conduct COIN and other LICs then they appear have on our HIC ability, though I suspect this is false as well. Have I completely confused you yet?
    Reed
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm not sure the debate you're concerned with is critical.

    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    I just wanted to address why the debate exists in the first place and what aspects of military culture and doctrine have lead to the belief that COIN and HIC and any other form of warfare are not interchangeable.
    Nor am I real sure many disagree with you on that. Certainly both Gian and Nagl have said we must be capable in operations during both forms of warfare.
    My conclusion is that certain failings in how we conduct all levels of combat have a greater recognizable effect on our ability to conduct COIN and other LICs then they appear have on our HIC ability...
    I agree with that -- and with your comments on micromanagement. Both things are due, I think, partly to a reluctance to change but I think even more so are attributable to a pathological reluctance to admit making a mistake.

    I once worked for a Three Star who was a pretty good guy. However, he had hired an aide who was truly dangerous. Said General quickly realized this -- but he would not fire the Aide and admit he'd made a mistake. That guy was an embarrassment fo over a year. The aide, not the LTG...

    Appropos of that is the ongoing saga of the M4 carbine and it's excessive maintenenance requirements and its pathetic little cartridge. Unit I was in ran the troop test on the then AR-15 back in 1963. We ended up recommending keeping the M14 for worldwide service. Everyone knows the rest of the story but here we are 45 years later with a marginally effective combat weapon that the Army over engineered and that a couple of fast talking GOs hung their hats on...

    Then I ran across this story; LINK. I recalled a number of us who objected to the HMMWV when it was a gleam in TACOMs eye trying to tell them that it was a compromise on too many counts and the Army would be better off buying several different vehicles -- but Lesley J. McNair lives on and the US Army is always trying to buy one GP widget that will do the job of ten. Dumb. The HMMWV was and is dumb vehicle -- I know some say they love it but like the kids (and others...) that say the M4 is good to go, they've never used much of anything else. There's a reason the Pros don't agree with that.

    Point on the M4 and the HMMWV is that the Army bought (well, McNamara forced the Army on the M16. The HMMWV is another story) 'em and they aren't going to admit an error so will hang on to both to the bitter end. As I said, I'm not sure you're attacking the right problem...

    'Course, if it was me, I'd say the Army has a whole lot of good people who sometimes don't do as well as they could or should and that those errors in technique you allude to -- indeed, most of the Army's flaws -- are attributable to poor training over the last 25-40 years...

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default Musical chairs and unit effectiveness

    The individual replacement system is at the heart of much of the Army’s readiness and capabilities problems. For me, this is the key reason why false arguments like HIC vs COIN even get press time. This is the key as to why training is not at the quality it needs to be, this why the Army has to work harder to do less. An example, the National Guard trains one weekend a month, two weeks a year, and maybe a flood or a forest fire deployment. This equals 36 training days to the Active Army’s aprox 256 training days. Yet studies have shown that National Guard units are close to Active Units in effectiveness after a 30 day train up, and some units surpass Active unit standards without a train up! Why is this? I have spent 5 years in the Guard after 4 in the Active Army and they don’t get better recruits, and prior service troops, while they help, they still lose skill sets without training as well. The reason is that the National Guard units maintain unit cohesiveness over years, not months. This means that training stays with the unit and only needs refreshers, allowing for new skills training, and effective use of training time. In active duty, a soldier comes from often subpar basic and AIT training to a unit. In this unit a certain percentage of his leadership will have been in the unit for less then three months. This soldier will immediately start working on basic drills. Eventually the team and squad will get comfortable working together and will be ready to learn new skills. At this time they are likely to receive whole new leadership and some squad shake-up. New leader needs to see if soldiers know the basic skills so unit starts to do drills. New members of the team means that it takes time to get back into the routine. Once this happens, there is good chance that soldiers will again be PCSed, shifted around in the unit and/or new leadership enters the fray. Repeat this process ad infinitum. Now if a soldier does well, he may qualify for special schools. Soldier leaves for months to learn new skill set and returns too….yep new soldiers and leaders. The individual manning system is based on the WWI concept of industrial mass production and the need to mobilize a large number of soldiers for a major combat theatre. This does not apply to a volunteer Army. Officer training is similar leads to knowledge being individual based and not unit based. If the commander has never been to school “X” but the S2 has, does this equal the commander having access to the training set from school “X”? This further complicated by the Army’s false presence of being “always ready, always manned” which really means never ready, never fully manned. A Unit manning and training cycle would allow units to perfect the basics and leave time for continually improving skills and learning new ones. It should also help prevent situations like this…. LINK>>>>
    Another thread that I feel relates to this is here……
    LINK>>>>
    This may be something the Army needs to learn as well.
    I could go on forever on this topic, and I may return to it, but for now I will give everyone a little break.
    Reed
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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Ken, as usual you are probably correct, but I find that by pursuing this thread I increase my own knowledge base quite a bit, and hopefully it provides some benefit others as well. One thing I have learned is that my concept of STABO operations from when it was a minor "buzzword" in the mid 90's is completely different then what it is in FM 3-07. This changes my concept from inability to perform STABO ops to "inability to effectively transfer from combat operations to security operations". For all the good things in FM 3-07, in my mind it is loaded with mission creep and addressed to the wrong echelon, but more on that tomorrow.
    Reed
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    Reed:

    I agree that the coin/hic debate is a false one, at least simplistically in terms of how that label is used as an either or. It is not a zero sum discussion over whether the army should do ONLY coin, or ONLY Hic. As Ken White points out correctly neither John Nagl nor I have ever taken such stark positions. Nagl has consistently said that the Army must maintain its capability to fight large conflicts at the higher end of the spectrum, similarly as I have always maintained that the Army must have a coin/stabo capability and moreover must institutionalize the coin lessons from the last 7 years.

    But let us play with a hypothetical here. Let us imagine that by next year the American Army is completely out of Iraq and the mission in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced to mostly SF with just a couple of combat brigades on the ground. In short the Army has some breathing space to get back into what General Casey calls "balance." So in that hypothetical scenario if you were king for a day what kind of general guidance would you give to the Army in terms of resources and training (having in mind your conception of the future security environment)? In overly simplistic terms, but useful I think, what would be the aggregate percentage dedicated to coin vs Hic? Would it be to focus 70% of our resources and training to coin and the rest hic, or vice versa?

    The problem here is that in principle we all agree that we need balance, but when you get down into the details then things becomes much murkier and where debate and discussion over these issues I think is relevant and needed.

    gian

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    In overly simplistic terms, but useful I think, what would be the aggregate percentage dedicated to coin vs Hic? Would it be to focus 70% of our resources and training to coin and the rest hic, or vice versa?
    I think, there are fairly simple ways to address this. It may just be raising the bar, when it comes to things you have in the toolbox, but I actually think it's about subjecting some fairly common assumptions about COIN and HIC to some fairly serious rigour - and that is something, based on the output of most US professional journals, that most are failing to do. For example, I fear the idea of "Hybrid" enemies is actually set to send people down the wrong route in the same way Manoeuvre Warfare did.

    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    I think we may be arguing past each other Wilf. I agree with what you say, I just wanted to address why the debate exists in the first place and what aspects of military culture and doctrine have lead to the belief that COIN and HIC and any other form of warfare are not interchangeable. My conclusion is that certain failings in how we conduct all levels of combat have a greater recognizable effect on our ability to conduct COIN and other LICs then they appear have on our HIC ability, though I suspect this is false as well. Have I completely confused you yet?
    Reed
    Well I strongly disagree that we are even arguing .... - Ah! I kill me.

    I hear you brother Reed. There are good armies who can do both and less good armies who can do one or the other.
    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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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Sir:
    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Reed:

    In overly simplistic terms, but useful I think, what would be the aggregate percentage dedicated to coin vs Hic? Would it be to focus 70% of our resources and training to coin and the rest hic, or vice versa?

    The problem here is that in principle we all agree that we need balance, but when you get down into the details then things becomes much murkier and where debate and discussion over these issues I think is relevant and needed.

    gian
    That is my point; proper training, unit structure and doctrine is effective across a wide range conflicts, from HIC to IW. I feel that the reason we fail to be effective across broad spectrums is 1) An officer culture (training and promotion system as well)that leads to micromanagement 2) The widespread negative effects of the individual replacement system and 3) a failure to train on how to end combat operations after the enemy surrenders or retreats beyond our AO. Of course the simple answer and the big picture is (as Ken loves to say repeatedly, whether anyone wants to hear it or not) proper training.
    The unique aspects to COIN call for better abilities and cooperation w/ USD and USAID, not USD and USAID like skills in the Army.

    A couple points on the Individual Replacement System (What is the correct term for this?) that I need to cover. I failed to mention that the COHORT test showed improvement in the skills and retention of the soldiers involved. Yet the Army “waited it out” and never implemented it further. Another effect of the Individual replacement system is that initial training is poor for a professional volunteer Army. I have spent some time in a medical support company and I have noticed that non-combat jobs seem to have a better ability to perform there core duties when they arrive at the unit then combat soldiers. A quick look at AIT lengths will also show a disparity between combat and non-combat MOS’s training time. This is backwards. Our Infantry, artillery and combat vehicle crewmen are the core of the Army and the ones facing the greatest risk. They should be trained to a level were they can be expected to perform there duties with competence and confidence upon arriving at there unit. Confidence is a big part of being able to perform independent action and may help reduce some of the tendency to micromanage in the Army.
    I also want to make clear that I am not advocating for a simple regimental system or that soldiers can’t move duty stations. Let’s face it, many young men join the Army to get away from home and look forward to the possibility of travel and adventure. There will always be soldiers that will be willing to travel to get promotions or serve with a better unit. I advocate for slowing it down and not making a move every “X” years mandatory. I also like the concept of rotational readiness, but I know that is a tough sell.
    Reed
    Last edited by reed11b; 02-05-2009 at 06:35 PM.
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    Default The solution was at hand...

    Reed,

    Have enjoyed your post so far and appreciate your position. I did 5 1/2 years active, then spent a stint in the NG, before coming back on active duty.

    The Army had the solution to the personnel turnover problem. It was being implemented when OIF became more than a single 6-month deployment for us all. The Unit Manning process would have locked personnel into a brigade for 3 years. No moves out, and people were going to be encouraged to do a second 3-year stint if the timing was right. This meant that for 3 years, a brigade would have the same people on board. After 6-9 months of a deliberate train-up, culminating in a CTC rotation, the brigade was ready for deployment.

    A brigade, once it had completed training and certified for deployment, was now ready to focus on advanced skills. For a heavy brigade, I can imagine this would have included more advanced fieldcraft, maneuver operations at the battalion and brigade level, large-scale combined arms breaching, MOUT under more realistic conditions, advanced live fire training, etc.

    Not every brigade would be ready as during the early part of the 6-9 months of standing up, a lot of fire team, squad and platoon training would have to be conducted. However, in the aggregate, we would have more units ready. For instance, 4 brigades in a division, spread over 4 different start points, would end up this way: The 'senior' unit, in its 33d month of activity, would, in the event of a major incident, forego standing down. It is ready for deployment right now. The middle unit, at the 24 month mark, is also ready and can deploy immediately, having been conducting advanced training for quite a while. The next brigade, having been together for 15 months, should have just finished its certification training 4-6 months ago. It is also ready. Finally, the 4th brigade, having just started its training 6 months ago, will probably not be ready for at least 30-60 days. This shows a single division's 4 brigades, with 9 months staggered resets. Even with a brigade that just stood down, 3 brigades are ready to go and the 4th must start training with new soldiers/leadership immediately, with a condensed training cycle to get them in the fight in 4 months or so.

    ARFORGEN and OIF killed this. When a brigade is spending 12 months in Iraq, then 12 months at home, before going back again, typical command timelines for BDE and BN commanders became 2 years. This is part of the out-of-sync feeling the Army has right now.

    I will not say this will solve all the Army's woes - an interest in quality training versus lots of watered-down iterations is something the Army hasn't grasped yet. And a lot of the support units won't fall into this cycle. But I think it was going to be a really good start.

    Hopefully the power holders at HRC didn't kill the unit manning concept. Once our optempo slows, we have to get this back. 3ID and 101st did do this briefly before the war kicked in on second tours for them. I love the idea of having Soldiers who are studs and know it, confident in their abilities and the hard, advanced training they have experienced. As an OC at the NTC, I have often (only 1/2 jokingly) referred to the NTC as the National PLATOON Training Center, based on the level of training some units arrived there at. We are starting to get beyond that now as dwell time increases.

    Tankersteve

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    Registered User Clinkerbuilt's Avatar
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    Default First Post

    Greetings All!

    This is my first post here, so please excuse me if I cover overly-trodden trails.

    @Reed11b:

    1. Agreed. There needs to be a holistic understanding of warfare. There are multiple phases in every single operation; it is not simply "shoot 'em and go home".

    There needs to be specialization, but there are seldom enough troops in the pipeline to do everything. Both troops and units need to be cycled through both HIC, LIC and Sustainability training, because as living-memory history demonstrates, the second you shelve one form of combat, you are going to get hit with the next one.

    2. Much, much bigger problem. At its core, this is a failure of "up or out" in an environment of limited resources and money: the fewer the slots, the more talent is forced out -- or worse, encouraged out.

    Changing this is not a simple matter of a mandate from on high -- it involves a fundamental change in political and social culture and will.

    3. See #1. Sustainability operations are fundamental to any war effort. Let me reiterate that.

    Sustainability operations are fundamental to any war effort.

    Ignoring Sustainment operations, in effect, reduces us to blowing the cr** out of some place, destroying their infrastructure and ability to control their populace, and leaving them wide open to being taken over by precisely the kind of people that caused us to blow the cr** out of the locale in question in the first place, who will displace whoever we put in charge (if we even bother) in ten years, or less - probably a lot less.

    What's the problem? Refer to #2. Sustainment is dirty, unglamorous, un-sexy, expensive drudgery that the current MSM will jump on, like starving sharks swarming a sinking ship loaded with whole blood, to offer up for the latest pundit-fest of "If It Bleeds, It Leads".

    Sorry, but that answer is above my pay grade......
    Last edited by Clinkerbuilt; 07-16-2009 at 04:40 AM.

  17. #17
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clinkerbuilt View Post
    Sustainability operations are fundamental to any war effort.
    More detail perhaps? Examples?
    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

  18. #18
    Registered User Clinkerbuilt's Avatar
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    It has long been noted, whether it was Europe in WW 1 or 2, China, Korea, Vietnam or later, if you don't watch out for what is going on in your rear areas, you are in for a world of hurt.

    Physical security is part of it, in the sense of preventing enemy infiltrators from either gathering intelligence or conducting sabotage against your rear/support echelons, but it goes deeper.

    Once you move into and through an area, while you may be able to leave local law enforcement and possibly even local civil government intact, you cannot simply wave on the way by, from then on. In HICO, major damage has likely been done to the national infrastructure, and few towns or villages are truly self-sufficient. As a single example, once the power grid has been successfully attritted, who turns on the lights? When? How? Where does the money come from? The technical expertise? The ironmongery and logistics to get said ironmongery in place?

    The argument can be made that something like that is an unnecessary drain on combat optempo. Granted. What about afterwards? Let me try to counterpoint three examples. (Understanding that I'm currently at the day j.o.b., so my ref's are going to be limited.)

    First: Germany, 1945.

    At the end of WW2, Germany was a wreck. Few cities were even moderately intact, there was virtually no electricity, little running water, and sewage control was spotty, at best.

    At least in the West, and granting the general lack of stay-behind activity, the Allies moved swiftly to not only identify Nazi officials for arrest - if only in a haphazard manner - but more importantly, to start restoring services to the population. It took several years, and required heavy investment, but it paid off with the locals, who realized that the Allies actually cared about what happened to them.

    This both suppressed most potential resistance without firing a shot, and started West Germany down the road to national recovery and ultimate stability.

    Counterpoint: Iraq, 2003.

    I'm not going to try and argue the obviously bone-headed politics behind OIF TOE's, as I'm sure that has been done to death already. Instead, let's look at the situation.

    For 12 years, 1991-2003, Iraq was variously invaded, shelled, bombed and blockaded. In the aftermath, everything looked fantastic - the dictator was on the run, his officers were being rounded up, and everyone could pat themselves on the back and say "Whew! Look's like we squeaked by, despite the problems we shouldn't have had."

    And then? Nothing.

    Combat operations were pretty much over. No one was doing any shooting in most of the country -- they were waiting to see what the Allies - and specifically, the US - was going to do: most areas were without power, clean water, effective sewage control, medical care or education.

    What the Iraqi's saw - whether it was true or not - was US troops standing around as their museums and banks were looted; as people clearly injured by US weaponry were refused treatment and turned away from US field hospitals where the staff were sitting on their hands (there was a PBS documentary, "CASH", IIRC?). There was no plan for getting food distribution going for the locals, nor restoring electrical power, nor water, nor sewage -- Iraqi's quickly got the message: "Sure, we blew the cr** out of your country and tossed out the dictator-guy...What? You want us to do EVERYTHING for you?"

    That does not engender joy-joy feelings.

    Throwing c.250,000 soldiers out on the streets without making sure that they were disarmed was another brain-donor idea. Why weren't weapons policed up, or destroyed in place? Why did the Iraqi Army - NOT the Republican Guard - need to be disbanded? As much as the History Channel may desire it, Iraq is not Nazi Germany - there are vast gulfs in difference between the two, and disbanding the Wehrmacht was a workable solution because there were vast numbers of Allied troops left to guard them, and collect their weapons. Sure, the services eventually started to come back on -- but at a price, as it only started to happen on a formal scale when contracts were let to US civilian contractors, at premium prices.

    Now, granted, I haven't been in a pickle-suit since 1990, but I don't recall any coupling of supply, motor-t and engineer battalions that could not have at least started these processes at a local level. It's not like you're building from scratch: for the Middle East, Iraq is one of the most cosmopolitan and educated states you could operate in.

    It is my opinion that the lack of immediate action at the theatre command and national/allied levels to follow-on with beginning the rebuilding of Iraq as soon as the bullets mostly stopped flying led directly to the events of 2004 and beyond, as that lack of action and planning led directly to the discontent that encouraged both active attacks and active and passive support for such attacks on Coalition forces then and continuing.

    Afghanistan is no different.

    Granting that there is little in the way of news coming out, I don't see a lot of expenditure in infrastructure investment in the country. Most of it seems to be coming from NGOs - which is good - but it doesn't look good when "the most powerful country in the world" can't supply enough notebooks for a 50-student school.

    The fact that a charity can do it is irrelevant - the US should be doing it.

    "Warfare on the cheap" may be the realistic necessity, but it should never be the goal.
    "Hey, Leif?! Where'd we leave the boat?"

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    I've been kicking around similar ideas as reed11b, trying to get a formal article put together on the HIC vs COIN myth. But reed11b just did it, and probably far better than I would have. Bravo, sir. Especially your second point. More people need to start flying the BS flag in response to the personnel system.

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    Interesting thread. I've always thought this argument represented a false dichotomy of sorts, at least at the tactical level. In our Army up here, we use the "A War vs The War" idea to frame it. Guys get in silly intellectual debates about it - as if you can have one or the other.

    What is "A War" anyways - can you peg down the specific characteristics of a HIC? Who's to say that those characteristics aren't just part of conflict in general. Are we basing our idea of HIC off of 1945 or 1951 that may not even exist anymore in today's environment?

    At the tactical level, it is all moot. "Don't fight the scenario, fight the problem", or something to that effect - as long as we have soldiers and leaders being presented with good challenges that force critical thinking under stress, we are prepared for "Any War". It drives me nuts when I pose a tactical problem to my soldiers and I get a "this isn't what happens in Afghanistan/how we did things in....) "

    You can either shoot, move and communicate or you can't. Conflicts possess their unique points (theater mission specifics) and I can train soldiers in the near future to get a gas mask on and shoot with it if I have to. Different environment, different factors and different threats - important thing is the basic soldier skills and don't get killed. Every conflict is so unique that to try and split it on "a war/the war" lines is foolish. Smart soldiers will win any battle.

    My 2 Cents.
    Infanteer

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