20 Nov 2011 @ 2:13 PM 
 

Catching Up

 

It’s been awhile, no doubt, and there are many reasons why I have eschewed posting on this site for some time. Not all of them bear exploration. However, there are a couple of cats to let out of the bag. First; I’m going back, yet again, to Afghanistan. Second; I started blogging as a way to keep my friends and family connected to what I was doing. Perhaps Facebook explains why so few new bloggers have entered the fray in the past couple of years. I’ve realized that there are two different readerships that have followed what I’ve written over the past couple of years, and so I’ve decided that I will open a separate blog for the experiential piece, since this blog has become more or less dedicated to COIN theory and practice.

Perhaps I will take up Facebook as well. I’ve found that social media sites take a lot of time. I’ve had lots of encouragement to do so, though.

I’ll announce the address of the new site as soon as I make the first post. But, if anyone’s still out there, please stay tuned and it will come soon enough.

One final thing is to acknowledge some things regarding the lack of writing about what I have seen and learned these past few months regarding COIN, the war in Afghanistan, and what I think about our evolving role in the world. I came back with the strength of my convictions about what I was seeing on the ground in Afghanistan. I came home to find, yet again, a disconnect between the ongoing conversation back here and what I knew that I was seeing in Afghanistan. Here, COIN is being widely shouted down… and anyone who claims to see it work is being shouted down as well. Those who have the bona fides to claim wisdom and analytical superiority are dismissive. There have also been those who made serious prognostications from Kabul about the state of affairs.

I got tired of it.

Much has transpired, and there have been many thoughts that have gone unwritten. It just felt like a waste of time and effort. Between that, the struggle with the general feeling of disconnection due to the amount of time I’ve spent overseas, and the general attitude that experience on the ground is trumped by the theoretical and long-distance analysis of the wise… well… it takes a lot of energy to continually try to rise above the din. It has just seemed a losing struggle. Inertia is carrying us towards what I observe to be a practically inevitable conclusion.

While I was at liberty to discuss the impending deployment, there were those in my life who I care about deeply… my children… whose summer I did not want to spoil. This has been in the works since shortly after I returned a little over a year ago. I was asked by a brigade commander to be his COIN advisor for the brigade’s upcoming tour. I agreed, because I saw that as a call to serve. I also wanted for the Buckeye Brigade to acquit itself well in its mission.

We have been at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, since August, except for a brief break of about a week between Title 32 and Title 10 active duty. What I’ve seen about the pre-deployment training of the National Guard by 1st Army would fill a small book and there are too many big rice bowls; it is well and truly broken and nothing I can do or say will ever fix it. I need to complete this tour and retire before I really detail that or I will surely wind up in very poor condition. No one wants to hear it, anyway; not those who can influence or change it.

Overall, the Army has done a much better job of training COIN. Some do better than others. The stars are the Combat Advisor trainers of the 162nd Brigade, the guys who train Combat Advisors at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and the National Training Center. The quality of training provided by the 162nd, especially the training for advisors deploying to Afghanistan, is light years above the training my team and I received at Fort Riley in 2007. Unfortunately, the advisors attached to this brigade only received 10 days of specialized training from the 162nd here at Camp Shelby.

The National Training Center is the other winner. In early August the leadership of the brigade spent about a week at the NTC being brought up to speed on the expectations and learning about the big rocks they would have to lift there. The NTC provides the capstone exercise prior to deployment. I was thrilled when they briefed the brigade and battalion leaders that they would be expected to assemble a PMESII/ASCOPE analysis of their operational area. When the staff of the NTC laid out the expectation that the units would be expected to use the District Stability Framework during the conduct of the exercise, I almost lost my mind. Good stuff.

It is new to the NTC, but they are working to incorporate it into their insurgency/counterinsurgency exercises.

The secondary effect was that it convinced the brigade leadership that they needed to embrace the DSF, which I had been encouraging them to get trained in for months.

That is less than half the story… so torn about what has transpired in the meantime. This is my first time deploying with a National Guard unit, and it’s been enlightening.

There has also been much that has transpired in Central Asia over the past months. Pakistan has been very active in many ways, and the developments between Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have been fascinating. So much to examine. Soon I will be back on the ground in Afghanistan, seeing things once more having passed through that portal into the reality of that land and events therein.

If anyone’s out there, please let me know. Whistling in the dark is difficult these days. I could use a little encouragement.

Tags Tags: , , , ,
Categories: Afghanistan, COIN, Stability Operations
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 20 Nov 2011 @ 02 13 PM

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Responses to this post » (14 Total)

 
  1. Caitlin says:

    Hey Blue,
    Keep writing! As you say, there aren’t enough voices shouting the ground-view of what’s going on in Af-Pak — it’d be a crime to lose yours.

  2. K-Dubyah says:

    Sometimes, all it takes is just one to make a difference.

    But you know that…

  3. steve says:

    Hey Blue, Looking forward to the ‘experiential’ blog. Don’t leave it to Fuckbook. Make it it’s own blog. While the COIN theory stuff is interesting, i really enjoyed “…Excellent Afghan Adventure.” Maybe we’ll hook up at some point ;-)

  4. Preston says:

    Keep writing. Stay safe. I read you to hear what’s going on because the news media doesn’t report this stuff. I appreciate your updates. Thanks.

  5. JV says:

    Keep writing. Some of us care, and we appreciate the truth.

  6. Max in Paris says:

    It’s reat to see you back here.

  7. Max in Paris says:

    It’s great to see you back here.

  8. SSG A. says:

    Blue, I was wondering why you hadn’t been posting. Operation Homefront deserves your full attention. Salute your sense of duty to go back, man.
    Copy all on people drowning out COIN; please keep writing.

  9. h. maybie says:

    Old Blue, Glad you are writing again. I will be following anything you post, as I appreciate your perspective. As an added bonus: if I end up headed to Afghanistan again, will start a blog this time and blogroll you on it.

  10. anan says:

    Look forward to hearing from you. A lot of new info in recent weeks. There is so much stuff I would love to get your feedback on.

  11. christina says:

    Old Blue, I was a friend of John Stiles. I think of him and the sacrifice he made often. You and everyone with you have my love and support.

  12. KR says:

    Really appreciate your blog! Your viewpoint is important to folks back home, especially those who have no idea and no experience beside what they hear in the MSM. Was deployed in 2007 to Afghanistan and went thru the 1st Army training at Bragg as a Navy IA – wow, so many things to be said about their training and none of them good. Not surprised that none of it has changed. I’ll be interested to hear your take on it in the future, when the appropriate distance has passed.

  13. WOTN says:

    I know of no greater expert on COIN and operations in Afghanistan than you, Ole Blue.

    Yes, there are times when each of us tires of the seemingly endless battle, the feeling that we are preaching only to the choir, drowned out by those that care only for their political positions, and fighting upstream to get the truth out, the objective truth. Or that insufficient numbers care enough about the groundtruth, when it competes with Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen, and American Idol.

    BUT, the world NEEDS your voice on this matter. It needs to have on the record, what you see, know, and hear. Even if the momentum of the political arena pushes this War into premature closure, future strategicians, tacticians, and historians need this reference of what went right and what went wrong.

    As to Camp Shelby, I don’t think I’ve ever heard good things about the place, the training, or the cadre, other than “in some ways, it has improved.” Unfortunately, it also lives on, due to the power of a politician.

  14. WOTN says:

    If you type it, they will read it.

    Your readers may number less than some sites, but they are often of higher position.

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