Thursday, November 16, 2006

Six Steps to Victory 
Major E.'s ideas for winning the war in Iraq.

Eric Egland seems to be one of those guys who "gets it" when it comes to nonkinetic operations. Military readers should read the whole thing.

Egland's recommendations:

1. Encourage innovation by emphasizing small-scale technological solutions and rejecting peacetime bureaucracy.

Longtime Countercolumn readers will remember a number of posts from the early days of the blog - you know, back when it was interesting and there were a lot more of you - railing against the peacetime bureaucracy. To the Army's credit, they seemed to pull their heads out of their arses around January of 04 on a lot of things, and things did get better. They must get better still. Our Army can be a gazelle when it chooses to be. Or when it's forced to be.

2. Improve pre-deployment training realism and abandon Cold War-era checklists.

He's referring to the ARTEP Training & Evaluation Outlines. It's not that they were bad. They were a terrific institutional tool for standardizing training and doctrine across a global Army - and necessary for ensuring a soldier from Fort Hood could be transferred to Germany and then cross-attached to a unit from Hawaii and still speak the same doctrinal language. This standardization of doctrine was a powerful advantage - magnified by our magnificent corps of professional NCOs, who held the whole thing together at the grass roots level.

The problem wasn't the cold-war era checklists. They were fine. The problem is that as our junior leaders evolved in the crucible of combat, we outgrew them. We developed doctrine on an ad hoc basis that far, far outstrips the ARTEP manuals - many of which haven't been seriously updated since the Clinton era - in quality and detail.

Much of that was captured by the Center for Army Lessons Learned (but not shared well enough between the Army and Marine Corps). Local manuals were developed and gradually accepted and mass-produced. The Camp Doha convoy operations manual - cobbled together from the experiences and ideas gained by combat leaders from OIF I and still in use today, is a terrific example. Junior leaders shared the ideas through the Army AAR process, and more senior soldiers put the ideas together, standardized them, and published them, even ahead of TRADOC.

CENTCOM seems to be getting ahead of TRADOC in developing warfighting doctrine - as is to be expected. TRADOC's task is to take that doctrine, package it, and then unify the Army again on a common warfighting doctrine.

I miss the old manuals, though. I hate having to print out every bleeding page.

Eric wants to abandon the "train to standard, not to time" watchword. I disagree. Combat operations are complicated. The lower the level, the more crap there is to remember, and the less opportunity there is to use checklists, computers, etc. to remember it. Drills must be executed well. You cannot execute them well at combat speed unless you have first executed them a dozen times slowly and correctly. It's no different than training a musician or football team. I am more familiar with training musicians - and at some point, you must rely on motor memory and instinct. There is too much to remember in real time. But you cannot get there without hours of drills. It's ugly and unglamorous, but it's necessary.

According to one soldier in Iraq, his unit spent days going over how to clear a foxhole, something many had already trained to do numerous times in their careers. The problem is that the enemy we face in Iraq is not entrenched in foxholes, but moves fluidly and blends into the civilian population. While clearing a foxhole is an important capability, he acknowledged, "We probably would have been better off taking that time to work on IEDs."

Training requirements for deploying units should be stripped and rebuilt with a focus on the current threat in Iraq and with significant input from the deploying units themselves.

That's not a problem with the doctrine. That's a problem with the judgement of the leaders on the ground. (I'm not familiar with the 'clear foxhole' drill. There's a "clear a bunker drill" and "clear a trenchline" drill.

Clear Trenchline is prohttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.quote.gif
insert blockquotebably a rare occurence in Iraq (Brian Chontosh notwithstanding.) But given the fight in Fallujah, clear a bunker is still a relevant skill, and if I were a deploying infantry company commander, I would drill it. Even if you never clear a bunker, the task exercizes a number of other critical combat skills, such as the ability to synchronize maneuver and supporting fires at the squad and platoon level, the ability to employ smoke, and the squad leader's ability to plan and rehearse his element's role. You also get to practice processing detainees, evacuating wounded, etc., in the same scenario, leading to good multi-echelon training opportunities.

3. Allow local commanders to buy what they need and nationalize the war effort by connecting the American public with the troops and their mission.

Amen. In the early days, we had no way of obtaining something as simple as explosive detection swabs with which to screen detainees for evidence of contact with explosive residue. We had a number of city cops who knew about the swabs (I hadn't known they existed at the time) but no way to quickly obtain them. A simple item, worth its weight in gold.

Same with portable handheld digital cameras. We used privately owned ones. But each infantry company should have at least one good one. They are invaluable for conducting reconnaisance, briefing soldiers on what house to raid, what it looks like, what the back alley looks like, what to look for. They are excellent for the quick documenting of evidence on the ground, to use to ensure that bad guys are kept locked up. But they weren't on the MTOE.

I can't count how many times we were turned down for simple things because "it's not on the MTOE."

Commanders were expected to make do with spartan supply-rooms designed for Cold War fights, well prior to the advent of the digital age - and digital-age troopers.

That attitude was penny wise and pound foolish.

4. Strengthen intelligence sharing between tactical and national levels, and develop a national insurgent database.

Agreed. I'd start with a stylebook for S-2 shops, standardizing the spelling of common Arab names, along with standard spellings for all known tribal names and major family groups in Iraq. A lot of bad guys fall through the cracks because the local unit is searching for the name "al-Duri," while the Regimental S-2 shop lists the guy as "al-Douri."

Simple, but it was actually an important issue in the early days.

5. Take the offensive by reducing predictable patterns on the ground while conducting operations that hunt, rather than chase, the enemy.

Agreed. The temptation at Battalion level and above is to template a standard patrol matrix, and then initiate a compliance-based system for tracking them. This encourages exhausted units to underpatrol and submit false patrol reports when the unit doesn't even leave the gate.

Every patrol should have a purpose and a mission. Eliminate the generic "presence patrol." Commanders should ensure their patrols work together to force the enemy into patterns of his own. For example, a company commander could employ two highly visible patrols to deny the enemy access to two likely ambush or IED sites. But their real purpose isn't to kill the enemy, but to channel him into a third identified likely IED or ambush site. The enemy's likely ambush position on this site is covered ambush of our own, and the enemy's escape routes are covered with direct fire and command detonated mines.

The two high visibility patrols know their role, and work to make the killing patrol more effective.

This is just one example - there are hundreds of variations on a theme. It's up to commanders to work them out. But a compliance-based system won't create commanders who will do that. The temptation to simply 'check the block' is strong and wrong.

The key metric isn't the number of patrols, but the number of armed scalps we take down.

6. Accept the realities of warfare in the media age by decentralizing the sharing of information with both the Iraqi and the American public.


It's ridiculous, for example, to expect small-town newspapers to foot the bill for embedding. It ought to be nearly free, except for payroll costs. The DoD should provide for credentialed media to travel to combat zones on a space-A basis on military cargo and transportation aircraft for free. Housing is negligible. The military should be drawing our reporters out of the Green zone by making it much cheaper to operate in the sticks than out of the Al Rashid Hotel.

Here's Egland: Thus, the Pentagon should abandon its reflexive instinct toward control of information that has led it to seek to ban personal cameras and blogs. Instead, a "unit blogger" approach should be applied across Iraq, with appropriate guidance and training to preserve operational security. Tactical units should each have two members who are trained in public relations and equipped with high-quality cameras and laptops with video editing software, and offered incentives and rewards for effective reporting. They should record unit activities in writing and video, and share them with the American people via sites modeled on wildly successful pro-military websites, such as Blackfive.net and MoveAmericaForward.org.

Also, the embed process that helps journalists visit ground units must be streamlined. The general staff in Baghdad should measure the success of its public affairs effort by how many journos get out on the ground, in contrast to recent reports of the staff making life difficult for proven combat communicators like Michael Yon to embed with units. Yon, a former special operator, does so much to report an authoritative, balanced perspective from Iraq that the generals should instead assign him his own helicopter, and perhaps a limo.

The DoD should provide body armor and kevlar to credentialed media with either a hometown interest in a unit (making embedding feasible for hometown paper freelancers, bloggers, and reporters) or with a history of credible coverage of military affairs without regard to ideology (Vogue magazine would be excluded. But The Nation should be welcome.)

Lastly, the military should help with follow-up medical care to reporters who are injured while embedded with coalition units - provided those injuries are NOT sustained within the Green Zone.

The costs incurred by the military for the few reporters who would be injured is miniscule, amortized across the entire military, compared to the strategic benefits gained by better reporting and a more informed populace.

Splash, out


Good expansion of Major Egland's thesis.

I've linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2006/11/re-six-steps-to-victory.html
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