In the last month our team made a trip to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin California to participate in a mission rehearsal exercise with a brigade from the 25th Infantry Division. The Brigade Combat Team was participate in an Afghanistan scenario in preparation for a deployment later in 2009. Our team was sent in to give the Brigade an appreciation for what it means to have a team of advisors assigned to their coalition partners.
On the surface, we kind of appear as proverbial pain in the ass. We require more support than we have to offer in return. I hear friends of mine in theater complain about MiTTs unable to proficiently walk the line between their Iraqi counterparts and the local coalition force commander. What I think is missed in all the complaining is the realization the difficulty in finding balance between loyalty and 'going native' is grossly under appreciated.
What I learned at NTC with the Brigade is that you have two commanders with two separate agendas. One represents the future and the eventual ticket home. Increasing his capability and competence is what Counterinsurgency is all about. The other commander represents our personal future and holds the careers of the local Transition Teams in his hand. Obviously we are Americans first and foremost, loyal to the U.S. Army and our chain of command.
Fortunately, I see things getting better. From the Transition Team standpoint, the BCT Commander I met at NTC along with his staff 'gets' what COIN is about. They were intent on working through the local Transition Teams rather than just working them. They sought input from the Transition Team Chief on all matters relating to the host nation military. It was a pleasant surprise and raises my expectations for the upcoming year.
The impromptu relationship between the Transition Team, host nation military, and brigade combat team managed to be productive in a very short time despite new relationships and unfamiliar languages and land. I'm positive that had our teams met up downrange rather than in a training environment that the outcome would have been equally positive.
Well, our time here at Riley is quickly drawing to a close. The upcoming weeks will bring some time off and an eventual plane ride back to Iraq. I'll update as I can.