Dale Kuehl, who posted the "good" question which inspired the last post, has presented a different viewpoint in a comment responding to the response. It deserves to be its own post. Mr. Kuehl (rank unknown) works at the NTC (National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California,) and he feels that the Combat Maneuver Training Centers are doing a good job of preparing units for COIN in-theater. His viewpoint deserves not to be lost in comments.
I have been aware of the progress of the CMTC's in working to provide more realistic COIN training and evaluation. I can also tell you that right this minute, there are PRT's in Afghanistan that are not functioning in conjunction with their maneuver forces. I don't mean coordinating; I mean in conjunction with. I can tell you that there is a unit in Afghanistan right this minute that had a competition going for who could break the most windshields with water bottles during convoys. No shit. I can tell you that after searching for NCOES (Non Commissioned Officer Education System... the people who train Sergeants) curricula that included COIN doctrinal training, I couldn't find any. I think that it's great that the CMTC's are trying hard to make a difference. Hopefully, that will work.
Right this minute, on the other side of the world, there is a man who told the story of being prevented from getting illumination by a battlespace owner a hundred miles away. Right this minute, on the other side of the world, there is a man who witnesses occupation-type disruptive behavior from United States Army troops nearly every time he passes a convoy. My personal experience from the fairly recent past was that American maneuver unit Infantrymen from an "elite" unit couldn't work well with indigenous forces and left a bad taste in many Afghan mouths.
There are very few stories out there of night patrols to secure a village that has been having a problem with night letters, of our forces taking back the night. There are very few stories of COPs set up near a threatened village to provide that 24-7 security and the developing relationship when the Soldiers started to connect with that community. As a matter of fact, Wanat is being used as a cautionary tale against it, and the investigation of the battle at Wanat completely missed the fact that the ANP who were complicit in the attack were not properly engaged prior to the attack. That investigation happened in the past six months.
I'm glad that there are those out there trying to make a difference. I'm glad that Dale Kuehl says that they're doing good things at the CMTC's. That means that we should start seeing effects very soon.
Here's Dale's comment:
I have a bit of a different perspective having spent the past eight months at the National Training Center training units preparing for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Having had the opportunity to work closely with seven different battalions I would say that leadership at all echelons have a pretty good understanding of COIN and not just from reading, but from actually trying to implement our doctrine. I have only seen one unit who had what I would call a counter-guerrilla focus and they had many aspects of COIN within their operational design.
More after the jump... it's worth it
We try to build a scenario for the training unit that requires them to balance both lethal and non-lethal operations. While our scenario includes demonstrations (which I believe relevant since I had to deal with several during my time in Baghdad in 2007) it also includes sectarian tensions, mortar and rocket fire, complex attacks, and of course the various types of IEDs. Units also have to deal with local and provincial government, PRTs, ISF/ANSF, and local police. They have to develop projects along with the local civil leaders and their PRT. We are also placing greater emphasis on partnering with host nation security forces.
We have over two thousand role players to include hundreds of Iraqis or Afghanis depending upon the focus of the rotation to add texture to the environment.
Every battalion commander I have worked with has developed a pretty solid campaign plan which encompasses several lines of effort to include governance, economic development and information operations in addition to security.
We take a hard look at how units are doing on what we have labeled Individual Skills in a COIN Environment which includes negotion skills, language skills, counter IED, counter sniper, and every Soldier a sensor and ambassador.
We also try very hard to stay abreast of latest developments in TTP in theater from both Iraq and Afghanistan and try to incorporate best practices into our training and leader teaches. We try to pull lessons learned from OCs who have just returned from deployment and also try to maintain contact with units in theater. We also send OCs in theater to gather information and best practices. We have included State Department personnel, Law Enforcement Professionals, and the Assymetric Warfare Group to name just a few of the organizations we try to bring into our training.
We have also worked hard along with JIEDO to try to get units to focus not just on force protection to defeat the IED, but to use intelligence and developing relationships with the people to more effectively identify and target the insurgent network.
This training is much more complex and advanced than it was when I came through here with my battalion in 2006 and we seek to improve how we replicate the environment in theater for both Iraq and Afghanistan. Bottom line is I think we have come a long way in understanding the COIN fight and it has become institutionalized in the way we train and prepare units for deployment. While we can't duplicate the environment any unit may face, I believe all the maneuver training centers do a pretty damn good job of replicating many of the conditions units will face and force them to think through complex problems in an ambiguous environment.