Good Company

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

The New Iraqi Army: Building the NCO core

In an older article (Feb 8, 2005) from the Wall Street Journal Mark Bowden (of Blackhawk Down fame) puts his finger right on the most essential aspect of rebuilding the Iraqi army - developing a solid core of non-commissioned officers to lead the Iraqi troops.
"Strong NCO leadership gives units in battle far greater flexibility to respond to unexpected situations and to demonstrate initiative."

In the American military, the NCO's provide the deckplate, ground level leadership to the troops (simplified as "how to fight"), while the officers work on tactical and operational leadership (simplified as "where and when to fight") in pursuit of higher level strategic goals (simplified as "what we are trying to achieve") in line with national command policy (simplified as "Why we need to fight"). A platoon sergeant, a corporal, or Air Force sergeants and Navy chief petty officer and petty officers provide the technical expertise to do the job right and keep the troops on task. It is a hugely important role and development of professional NCOs takes time, patience and a great deal of trust.

As reported in the article, the problem of training for the Iraqi army has not been the soldiers, but the leadership, especially the old Saddam officer corps. This problem can be resolved by professionalizing the NCOs and pushing leadership at that level.

When Senator Kennedy made this completely idiotic statement
When we send over Americans that have had 12 weeks of training, like the nephew of my wife, and is a tail gunner on a Striker--12 weeks--and we have the best-trained American servicemen and the best soldiers in the world, there's no reason in the world that we can't expect Iraqis to be trained with four months, eight months, 12 months so that they are going to fight for their country and they're going to be willing to die for it.  And I think that is what is missing when we hear these numbers batted around like we did today.
(see here) he demonstrated a woeful lack of understanding of how hard that process is.

But it is doable.

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