Sunday, April 01, 2007

Training

I spent the past week in predeployment training that is for personnel on separate duty (meaning they don't deploy as a unit), civilians with the government and certain categories of contractors. For something like this, it is a week spent mostly getting presentations, and some equipment. There is an organization that the contractor that is coordinating my going there works with that is preparing a team of analysts to go to Iraq that is letting us piggyback with their training. This was a good thing, because it means that
(1) The group going through was pretty small
(2) The training was tailored for analysts, and older ones at that (they assumed that we were adults).

Presentations included descriptions of equipment we were getting, CBR (chemical, biological, radiological) training, Law of Armed Conflict (i.e. Geneva convention), what to do if captured, medical information, and some presentations on current conditions in country. Of the group, I was definitely the most junior of the bunch. The four fellow contractors included a retired general and two retired colonels. Lots of experience. And some strong opinions about various topics. In particular, a very practical and realistic approach to war.

Some observations:

1. The military produces some incredible junior enlisted folks. Two of our instructors were probably second term enlisted, but not NCO. Obviously young, but their poise was great, even in the presense of people like the retired generals and colonels. You would be hard pressed to find a 3rd year undergraduate who could do this without falling into the pitfalls of either arrogance or lack of confidence.

2. This is a very thoughtful bunch. There is an understanding that the American focus on this cannot be on the bullets, even if we need to be good at this. The focus is on the population and the economy.

3. These folks like General Patraeus (new commanding general for U.S. forces in Iraq). One presenter was calling him "a poet-warrior." He literally wrote the book on counter-insurgency (his last assignment included overseeing the new Army/Marine Corps doctrinal manual). And he has done this before (he commanded a division in Iraq in 2003, one of the best of the first bunch of post-major conflict generals. Of course, it means we are doing a lot of things the political leadership in the past said we won't do. Something else that many of the people I was with approve of.

4. This group takes very seriously the concept of an American ethos. At a number of points, the fact that the United States is a liberal democracy came up as the reason we do things the way we do. It is not a secret that, contrary to what you hear in the media, historically insurgencies against the great empires fail (basically, almost all instances prior to the Peninsular War, which had the advantage of the British helping against Napolean. Of course, the British were on the receiving end not much earlier so they figured a few things out.). But because the United States is what it is, we don't do it the easy way (the easy way is what the Roman Empire did against the Jews around 70 AD). And that is important to our national identity. Duty with honor is something that has meaning to be taken seriously.
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