Teach Your Clients Well

June 11th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

It amazes me that the US Army, which seems to understand above all else that nothing (including initial indoctrination) beats OJT at the loving hands of an experienced NCO in a working line unit, could have screwed up as badly as it did in training Iraqi soldiers:

“It hasn’t gone well. We’ve had almost one year of no progress,” said Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, who departs Iraq next week after spending a year assembling and training the country’s 200,000 army, police and civil defense troops.

“We’ve had the wrong training focus — on individual cops rather than their leaders,” Eaton said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Link lifted from Hit & Run, where they ask “Any SLA Marshall Fans Out There?” in reference to this passage from the same article:

Eaton, a plainspoken officer who didn’t shirk responsibility for his role in the problems, said soldiers of Iraq’s 2nd Brigade simply ignored U.S. orders to fight their countrymen.

“They basically quit. They told us, ‘We’re an army for external defense and you want us to go to Fallujah?’ That was a personal mistake on my part,” Eaton said.

Except the issue isn’t anything SLA Marshall has to teach us, since his work dealt with soldiers who were in battle, under fire, and whether or not they’d fire their weapons with an intent to shoot and kill an enemy soldier. If the Army was applying the same doctrine to the Iraqi line soldiers it applies to its own, there’s a better than odds-on chance they’d put steel on target. Marshall’s work was part of what inspired the modern indoctrination process with its emphasis on reflexive annihilation of human-shaped targets. But he had a sample of people who were already in battle.

The issue here appears to be that the US Army set out to train not a free-standing military capable of serving a sovereign Iraq, but a client army that would take its marching orders from a patron state. So when the patron state started issuing orders for the client state’s army, the grunts had an appropriate reaction when faced with leadership that had no authority with them: They walked off the job.

The horrible thing about this is how hypocritical it is. Our military has been remarkably and appopriately resistant to attempts to change its training culture over the years for the simple reason that what we have now, ideological and social niceties aside, is a good system that brings more people home alive. But when it comes to training Iraqi boys, suddenly our best practices are perhaps a little too good for the army we’re bequeathing our latest client state.

As surely as the company operations office scales to the battalion S3 scales to the brigade G3 scales to echelons above, our apparent attitude to our clients scales up from the shiftless way we organized them to the shiftless way we expect the military to behave in our absence. Why bother with solid leadership when they’ll be taking their orders from us?

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