Where are the true warfighters?

Where are they? Will someone tell me? Will someone please point them out? Apparently most of the true war-fighters are in the company grade ranks and below in the Active Army, and very few are in the Battalion or higher ranks.

You may be asking yourself “Bouhammer, what are you saying? Are you bashing the military leadership?”

I am calling it like I see it, and it is up to the reader to define what it looks like to them. If you listened to last week’s You Served Radio show hosted by CJ and myself, then you heard us talking to Scott Kesterson. Scott talked about some of the things he saw over the last three months while embedded as a reporter in the southeast of Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. There are a couple of points Scott brought up that I want to highlight which are very disturbing.

The first is his statement (and Scott had told me about this while he was in country) of a Brigade Command Sergeant Major using high dollar and high-tech surveillance drones to watch his troops in the field on combat operations to see if they were out of uniform. If this is true, and I must say I could see this happening, then it is a gross violation of the Army’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse policy. More importantly it would be a terrible testament to how mis-guided some of the leadership has become. It is one thing for your soldiers to be protected and disciplined, it is something else to use the highly sought after and expensive commodity of unmanned aerial drones in order to spot uniform violations while the soldiers are in combat.

Another point Scott brought up was the Rules of Engagement (ROE) he saw when he was there. The 0% collateral damage ( a result of Hamid Karzai running his mouth about how we save his country and make it stable and keep him in power….ohh I hate that tool) standard that is placed on the soldiers in Afghanistan. It is an impossible goal and causes soldiers and leaders to second guess themselves. When soldiers second guess themselves when it is time to pull the trigger, then our soldiers die. The end result of all the training we do in the army over our entire career is focused on that moment that if you ever have to make a life and death decision on pulling a trigger. When that split-second comes, the training and automatic reflexes kick in and each soldier is responsible for their actions, or in-actions. If we are trained how to spot, positively ID and eliminate an enemy, then that is all there is needed to it. The last thing we want soldiers to do is pause for even a second and re-evaluate the situation to decide if they are going to get in trouble or not. There are some other parts of the ROE that Scott discussed which are also very disturbing, but I won’t repeat them here. I encourage you to go give it a listen yourself.

I asked Scott about the differences between this 3 month tour and his first 12 month tour when he and I were both in Afghanistan. In my frequent conversations with him, I knew this one was tough on him. When asked why, his response was simply he had never seen the American fighting man so demoralized when it comes to the mission and the leadership.

Take a look at the case of 1SG Scott and Cpt Hill and the charges they were brought under. I blogged about this and in fact have been in personal contact with Cpt Hill and I can tell you that their situation is another great example of the higher leadership failing them and their soldiers.

So where are the true warfighters? Where are the field grade officers that put the mission before their own OER? Where are the senior NCOs that have not forgotten what it is like to be a grunt in the trenches? I know they are out there as I run into them every once in a while. If you are reading this blog and you think you are a real warfighter that puts men and mission first above your own self-interest, then I would like to hear from you in the comments. If you are offended by my blog, then you are probably one of the people I am talking about and I invite you to comment also. Maybe we can chat and I can remind you of the term selfless service and putting the Army’s needs in front of your own.

OER-Officer Evaluation Report

9 thoughts on “Where are the true warfighters?”

  1. As a recently returned ETT, I can say without a doubt that 90% of Field Grade officers
    that were in Afghanistan from 2007-2008 are risk averse, have no concept of being audacious,
    wouldn’t know what situational awareness means if it hit them in the head and screamed
    “here’s your situational awareness brief Sir” and worst of all they were not Warriors.

    Scott was with my team, the Vampires, for several weeks in Bermel. During that time he
    witnessed the most frusterating two day mission of my entire year in Afghanistan. Here we
    are in an abandoned village made up of qalats and mud walls along a wadi leading to Pakistan, we are less than 8 Km from the border. We’ve searched this village with our ANA, we know its abandoned. We have the civilian vehicle traffic blocked off and have eyes on them. We take direct
    fire contact from 4-6 enemy fighters, the ANA have them on the run. We see them running up
    a hill.

    On our ETT we had a highly competent Active Duty Field Artillery branched Captain
    who was also Joint Fire Observer(JFO) qualified and had already called in a dozen successful
    call for fire missions in Afghanistan and used to run the big guns in Iraq. So my teammate
    calls for fire on the enemy, we had some 155 Howitzers back at our FOB that could kill these
    guys. Next thing we know the 2-506IN Battalion commander is requesting more information
    and is holding up our fire mission for a collateral damage assessment. Apparently from his
    TOC 100 miles away he noticed on imagery that there were qalats in the area(the abandoned
    village we had already cleared). Instead of listening to the guys on the ground and taking
    our word for it, he commences a collateral damage assessment that takes 10 minutes. Then,
    we spend the next 20 minutes arguing with 2-506IN about our brackets and we have their TOC
    second guessing what we are seeing. Its absolutely fricking insane. We have armchair
    quarterbacks in their TOCs that think they can make a better decision for us based on what
    they are hearing on their TACSAT or seeing on their UAV feed. Then this battalion commander wants to tell us what our ANA can or can not do eventhough he has absolutely no authority to do so.

    The 506th Infantry Company with us in Bermel were a great bunch of Soldiers. Highly dedicated, but they were so hamstrung by the rules from higher that they couldn’t be offensive. They couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. We don’t need a surge of combat troops in Afghanistan, we just need to let the ones we have their already do their job. 4th BCT 101st ABN is a horrible unit, not because the Soldiers, NCOs and Junior officers suck, but because their Commanders are a bunch of risk averse, micromanaging chickensh!ts.

    I just got done reading a book by COL Pete Blaber (ret.) The Mission, The Men and Me. Anyone whose going to lead troops in combat needs to read this book and adhere to the principles he kays out. I won’t go into them all here because, well, it takes a book to explain them, but here’s one that stuck out in my mind and one that I internalized long before I even deployed to Afghanistan.

    Always Listen to the Guy on The Ground – If you don’t have context, if you don’t know what the situation is, if you can’t hear the bullets whizzing by or feel the fight….then you aren’t in position to make a good decision. UAV doesn’t give you context, its just a 2 dimensional picture that often isn’t very clear. A BFT icon is not situational awareness, its just a grid coordinate. If you’re a commander in a TOC 100 miles away, the first thing you should do when your subordinate radios you for support is ask the subordinate, “what do you recommend” and that subordinate leader, that guy on the ground, is going to tell you what he thinks he needs. As a commander you then should look at your assets available, make sure the subordinate wants something within the overall commander’s guidance and that it fits the mission….then make it happen. Your job as a commander 100 miles from the fight is not to second guess and play games with your subordinates who are in a fight.

    You can’t win a fight if you’re not willing to accept the fact that you will have to take some type of measured risk in doing so because the enemy always has a vote and chaos theory is always in play. These perfumed princes sitting in their TOCs trying to orchestrate the fight are preventing intelligent, creative and tactically competent company grade officers and NCOs from prosecuting the fight and defeating our enemies in Afghanistan.

    1. Nemesis, You don’t comment much but when you do they are great comments. You had danced the same dance that I have and I am proud to call you a brother in arms. Enshala.

  2. Ya know, I could let this get me all a’tizzy. Because the more I read of what is going on in Afghanistan, the madder I get. I know this may sound stupid to y’all, but what can be done to correct this problem? And yes, I see it as a problem. Is there a clue bat we can use on those battle commanders sitting on their arse miles away from the fight? And one more thing, why in the hell are they called battle commanders if they aren’t there where the battle is? Seriously!

    Last night I was reading an old blog written from Afghanistan, and the problems that were there in 2004 are still with us today! It boggles my mind, that we have been in country for going on 8 years and we can’t seem to get it together.

    In my civilian mind, I think something should be done to make the higher pay grades sit up an dpay attention! I know the wheels of Big Army move slowly, but good Lord, this is beyond stupid…

  3. Target. I think you just completed that fire mission. It’s a hell of a thing to have to hold your fire for so long till they impact. There should, by all rights, be some secondaries after that barrage. Unfortunately, that TOC is buried deep and the rounds probably can’t even be felt within it.

  4. I agree with KY Woman (and everyone else!) in that something HAS to be done. I think that ALL members of the Army (or whatever branch is there) should have to spend time in the “boots on ground” position, regardless of their rank, for an entire tour, like the other soldiers put in. Give them a vivid reminder about the actual life of a soldier in a war. Make sure that they are stationed on one of the small FOBs/COBs where there are no amenities and they have to live ruggedly, possibly with no running water or electricity. Maybe even give them a taste of what it feels like to have some s$$$head of a commander 100 miles away 2nd guessing or negating their request for support.

  5. You cannot blame Bn, Bde and higher leaders for wanting to make checks before they let loose with
    something they will be responsible for.

    Innocent people getting killed in Afghanistan is the single biggest problem we face in turning hearts and minds towards us. You just cannot kill innocent people in the name of protecting them. Insurgencies are hard to win, and this is why.

    But I think you make some very good points. Leaders on the ground need to be able to act. And throwing technology into the mix, how it is depersonalized, and blind, by people who are not taking the risks, then something is wrong.

    The shocking thing to me, call me naive, is how people in the army who are completely out for themselves, do not care one iota about training, about others, they rise to the top. And good people find the exit, lots of them, people who are smart and have skills, skills that the army spent years paying for them to learn. That is what my 23 years of military experience has led me to thinking about.

    Wait until you are in an SF Bn that is disfunctional, full of people who do not know their jobs at all and are uninterested, shoot some innocent people for fun, steal some antique rugs, sell some baseball cards (don’t laugh–they made a lot of money), fail in combat, and then watch the BC get a stellar OER and move on, etc. That is the army, and that scares the shit out of me.

  6. How can we get Bouhammer’s Afgan Blog into the hands of Barack Obama? For all the newspaper and mainstream media reports I read, watch or listen to, he’s the only one who makes sense. Rich with fact and insight, he’s got to be one of the new administration advisors.

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