From The Washigton Post:
"U.S. commanders in Iraq are for the first time seeking private contractors to form part of the small military teams that train and live with Iraqi military units across the country, according to a notice for prospective bidders published last week.
The solicitation, issued by the Joint Contracting Command in Baghdad, says the individuals that a contractor recruits -- who would include former members of the U.S. Special Forces and ex-Iraqi army officers -- will be trained in the United States with military transition teams (MiTTs) and shipped as a single team to Iraq. The recruits will live on Iraqi military bases "under Iraqi living conditions and participate with operations and convoy duties," the solicitation says."
Since my next assignment is to one of the MiTTs, when a buddy forwarded me this article my career warning light went off like a nuclear bomb. Some of my concerns are selfish, some not so much. Three quick thoughts/concerns:
1. The reality is the military is short on Field Grade officers. We need them in deploying units, we need them in legally mandated non-combat assignments, we need them to help train the Iraqi Defense Force. The Iraqi Army is getting bigger, much bigger so the projected shortage on field grades in MiTT assignments will only grow. There are not enough to go around and you can't grow a Major or Lieutenant Colonel from nothing. I understand that you must fill all three requirements and that the short term answer to that might be contractors but...
2. Contractors are not bound to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This better be on carefully written contract because last time I checked, contractors answer primarily to their employers, not the U.S. Army. Sure, we can fire them or choose not to renew their contract, but as we've seen by the actions of a few select contractors in Iraq, they are not bound by the same ethical standards as Soldiers.
Everyone I have spoken to who has already pull a MiTT assignment has warned me about the troublesome ethical climate when dealing with the Iraqis. There are cultural differences between American uniformed personnel and our Iraqi counterparts. That is not saying they do not love their country or have anything but the best intentions, but there is a certain degree of corruption built into their way of doing business.
It is not usually acceptable to us, but a way of life for them. If not for the ethical standards shown by MiTTs and their U.S. service personnel, the newest version of the IDF would not be much different than the Iraqi Army of old. To place individuals or teams that do no operate under the same ethical framework in such an important role concerns me to say the least.
3. How do I know that MiTTs are important? Because the Army says so. Many smart individuals consider the MiTTs the only true path to our ultimate exit from the war in Iraq. Only through the development of a strong internal defense can we ensure the long term stability of Iraq.
The MiTT Team Chief position is of such importance that it is now considered a "Key Duty" developmental position for Majors alongside Battalion Operations and Executive Officer positions. That means the requirements of the position are so critical and demanding that we will place it on equal footing with traditional power jobs when competing for promotion to battalion command. Now we decide we can contract out the job.
Anyone willing to contract out Battalion Operations or Executive Officer positions? How about a Commander? Yes, I have concerns. Here's to hoping the Army releasing a statement that this is all a figment of the Post's imagination.