Saturday, October 07, 2006

The rest of the story......

For the past two months I have been down in Shouz with a segment of my company Weapons Company. I have worked with the 2nd Infantry Company in this battalion, and the slice of my own company that handles mortars and scouts as well as a recoilless rifle that is something to see shot.

As an Infantry officer I am perhaps in the most rewarding position I could be in; in a situation that grants me as much autonomy as I can handle, with support available if it should become necessary. There is a reason that this would be called living the dream. Each day our units conduct operations that are designed to add to the stability and confidence of the people in the area. This area has become increasingly stable; you can see it on the reactions of the children who run up to talk as opposed to run away to hide. I have had the opportunity to work with some soldiers who really should make their families and states proud, they are working to do good things for the Afghanistan National Army, and they try and do them as well as circumstances allow. I am very proud to be associated with them. We have a team with people of different skills; I am not the most aggressive person on the team. I don’t have the most combat experience. However it is my job to attempt to present a strong even hand to the people around us. We do that well. On our team we have guys at the physical peak of performance, we have people who can fix anything at all, we have people who provide for our collective security and do an excellent job of it. We have a couple of guys who do what ever needs to be done, when needed. You don’t have to look for them very far; they are where they need to be, doing the right thing. We have two interpreters who understand that they are part of the team, and act with a brain as opposed to just translate the words they interpret the intention, and as a result we have very good relations with the surrounding population.

Immediately following our cache find last week we had mortars lobbed at the position in Shindand, as well as other attempts to cause injury through more mine laying, so one thing is clear, we didn’t get all the mines in the country. That is too bad. The teachers went straight to AK and turned out to not be such great guys, and I learned that aggressive mistakes are better than passive mistakes again. It is very easy for me to see why people who are successful in conducting operations in a war also might have difficulty with the change when conduction civilian or even handed operations in any other situation. Our excitement level here is lower than it is in Kandahar, they may well compress what we have done in two months into 1 month, and as a result learn more rapidly out of necessity. While I thought that I was being reasonable with the teachers, and didn’t run into any opposition as to my handling of them, I have come to realize that I may well have let supporting players slip through our fingers, only to need to be caught again. In the interim, they may cause problems for us. Not a great thought. In some situations being cautious and prudent would dictate that you treat the civilian population with as much respect and courtesy as possible while maintaining your personal safety. In this situation, caution and prudence seem to me to dictate that while you treat people with respect, you detain them perhaps unreasonably until you can make the determination that they are okay. Some people reading this will think I am nuts; who cares what the teachers might think or feel? Some people will put themselves in the teacher’s position in their country, and be irritated at being stopped and searched for merely being within a kilometer of an event. Finally still others will not understand why it was necessary to stop them in the first place. I have taken all of those positions, but the one that I am going to take forward, is that it is easier to keep positive control of people in your custody if you just hang on to them longer, and ensure that they are okay to release beyond a shadow of a doubt. You only have to capture them once, so your risk is minimized, and your ability to potentially act on intelligence gained is increased.

I keep thinking of the song, “No More Mister Nice Guy”, people who have been in Iraq already understand that there is no place for him here on the field of battle. That doesn’t mean you become the opposite, just move the mark a little off center towards the more conservative end of the spectrum.
Okay, that ends today’s thoughts, one day older, hopefully a little wiser.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

First, call in an airstrike on AK and take him out of the picture.

Second, arrest the teachers and send them to Gitmo. Obviously they need some interogation.

Third, when you get some spare time, please educate me as to when the last time the United States effectively "nation built". The Marshall plan does not count.