Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Being There is Easy, Not Being There is Hard

We sat in a long conference room staring at a projection of our counterparts' planned mission. It was a brigade level sweep of a nearby area, plagues of late by an increase in violence and insurgency. A few weeks back, insurgents targeted and successfully assassinated a local Sheik and his family with a roadside bomb. Two weeks later, gunfire killed his chosen successor. The pattern was clear: assassinate influential Sheiks with ties to the Coalition and the Sons of Iraq. Reestablish a stronghold for the insurgency in a rural area where Coalition Forces rarely travel.

Different interpretations of events followed and different courses of action developed. The Coalition was in the middle of facilitating reconciliation between the area’s three tribes. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Army planned a large-scale operation intending to break the back of an insurgency operating in the area with impunity. The Coalition plan relied on partnership and finesse. The Iraqi Army’s was the proverbial hammer to the nail.

Both plans were good. Tribal reconciliation would address many related problems: governance, security, and infrastructure. A military operation would show insurgents that although the Coalition would not chase them deep into rural areas, the Iraqi Army would. The coalition aimed to gain support to key leaders in the area. The Iraqi Army plan would take support directly to the populace.

It would be best if interested parties synchronized both plans, but they did not. One was to occur with 72 hours of the other. The Iraqi Army’s plan jeopardized the Coalitions hard-won partnerships of the previous five months. Our team made many attempts to bring the sides to a common table to delay the Iraqi mission and synchronize the two efforts, but for a variety of reason, it failed to happen. The Coalition made in clear to our Iraqi counterparts:

This mission jeopardizes the bigger picture. We will not stand in your way, but if you go, this time you go it alone.

Our Iraqi counterparts conducted their final back briefs, rehearsals, lined up their vehicles, and prepared to move out.

So where does that leave our Military Transition Team? We are the advisors to our Iraqi Army counterparts. This week we put hundreds of man-hours into assisting their planning efforts. It was a good plan based on solid intelligence and backed up with many, many arrest warrants. As Combat Advisors we build credibility and rapport by ‘being there.’ Whatever our counterparts plan and execute, we are alongside them throughout.

When they go to fight, we fight alongside them. As Coalition members, we bring and coordinate the ‘force multipliers’ ranging from additional surveillance to attack helicopters to additional U.S. ground forces. Most important, we are also the conduit to Coalition Medical Evacuation, or MEDEVAC, the air evacuation assets and Coalition Force hospitals that provide the countries best chance for the critically wounded. Many Iraqi Soldiers, or “Jundi,” survive horrific battlefield injuries because of Coalition MEDEVAC brought by their Combat Advisors.

As a Soldier and Combat Advisor, I wanted and needed to be there with my Iraqi brothers. As a member of the U.S. Army and Coalition Forces, I understood the bigger picture and advised them against conducting the operation. We were stuck in a hard place between supporting our counterpart’s tactical mission and supporting the Coalition Forces strategic campaign.

In the end, we voted the only remaining way we could, with our presence. Our boss informed his counterpart, an Iraqi General Officer, that when the unit deployed a few short hours later, his combat advisors and all we bring to the table, would not be in his order of march. In this business, we call it the “Silver Bullet,” something you can only fire once.

It was the last option, and not a pretty one. By sending them off alone, we placed at risk all the credibility we built as Combat Advisor by “being there.” It was the best choice among a collection of good options. Sacrificing the credibility and effectiveness of a ten-man team for the overall security and stability of a region is a small price to pay. With that, we went to bed and waited for Iraqi Army to drive off into the night, hoping they all return in one piece.

This job is hard.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/06/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

membrain said...

Thanks for doing what you're doing and sharing your thoughts with us. Stay as safe as you can.

Cary said...

Glad to hear that you are doing well and looking forward to your upcoming break.

Lisa and I have been working on a care package here and there to send to you...any requests besides beef jerky?

Just wanted to also let you know that we are all so proud of you Ken...it takes allot of courage.

Don’t forget that God is not in front of you, behind you, or above you...He is always right there with you!

Hope you have a great day :)

Later Bro,


Ken said...

Thanks all.

Neneng Hayes said...

Please be careful at all times. I see my BF's husband in your shoes.

Neneng Hayes
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Mike Stinchcomb said...

Having been back from Afghanistan now for just over six months, I am feeling a bit uneasy about what happens next. While deployed, all my thoughts were on coming home and being with the my family. It had been some time since I had spent any real time at home and I was looking for a break. Up until Sep 09, I had been home for six months out of the past three years. So I felt it was time to take a knee and find that "balance" the Army has been preaching to us to find.

But what is balance? Is balance just another catchy buzz-word that the senior leadership is using to describe the mess our personal lives are in as a result of us living in a high-optempo Army with multiple deployments and numerous other requirements pulling us away from home. Or is it a sincere thought that maybe the leadership realizes that a human toll is paid everytime we pack up our ruck and head out the door. Either way, everytime I hear the word balance I want to jump out of my skin and punch someone in the throat. Finding balance to me would be like finding that Utopian place where everything is good...

Since returning home, I too have found life to be harder here in the land of CONUS living. Being there is far easier. For me, being deployed things were either black or white. Right now, I am living in a world of contrasting grays. I have to say that I find myself looking that way and wondering when am I going back.

So, as part of my therapy for reintegration, I have been challenged to capture my thoughts and feelings to share with others. So this is my first attempt. Maybe as I write and express myself more I will find more color in my world of gray...