Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Giving Advising its Due

Bring back the MATA course at the US Army Special Warfare Center and School:  See page 34 of the Joint Staff Decade of War Report:

Giving Advising its Due

by Carl Forsling

Journal Article | January 22, 2014 - 3:57pm
Giving Advising its Due
Carl Forsling
Almost every conflict the United States has fought since Korea has involved advising foreign forces.  In Vietnam, advising was how we got into and out of that war.  In Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti, Americans have trained foreign units at the tactical level.  In Iraq (the second time around) and Afghanistan, enabling foreign militaries to assume security responsibilities on their own has been a key part of the operational and strategic goals.
The special operations forces doing this mission, such as the US Army Special Forces and the Marine Foreign Military Training Unit, are well-resourced and given wide freedom of action.  However, those units do not perform the preponderance of training and advising foreign forces in major theaters, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That has been the job of an assortment of conventional troops given this extraordinary mission.
The final success in those campaigns does not rest upon the battlefield victories of large American units.  It rests in the abilities of host nation security forces.  Good advisors, increasing the capabilities of host nations, are worth many times their numbers in line units. 
In spite of this fact, the selection, training, and employment of advisors does not reflect either the stated or actual importance of the mission.
For example, most of advisor team leaders assigned to advise Afghan commanders of battalion-level or higher are greatly different from those assigned to command American battalions.  An American battalion commander is board selected, once to be a lieutenant colonel and again to be a commander.  After he completes his tour as a commander, he will likely attend a top level school, be it the Army War College or the Marine Corps War College, followed by another tour in a high-level staff before being promoted to colonel.
By comparison, the advisor to a host nation commander may as well be randomly selected.  He could be an officer just finishing a tour at an operational unit, waiting for the three years he needs to move.  He could be an officer passed-over for promotion.  He could be basically anyone.
The rest of his advisor team was likely also grabbed from units for any number of similar reasons.  His officers were those who, at best, happened to be between assignments, and at worst, were those who were unneeded or unwanted at their home units, be that for them getting out of the military or for being on a commander’s excrement list.  His enlisted were also likely not in key billets or crucial to their home units.
In addition, save for a few select billets, such as logistics or communications, most advisors are not working within their specialties, so they are losing credibility within their community every day they are on the job.  Advisor duty is not seen as a career-enhancing or broadening billet.
As currently designed, advisor duty is not going to attract the sort of individual that the military institution values.  Nor does it promote those individuals within the institution afterwards.  That shows the priority associated with it, and that the grand words given honoring the importance of host nation security forces are just that.  Words.  Making an effort to professionalize advisor duty will greatly increase its effectiveness.
Several steps can be taken to professionalize advisors within the conventional forces of the US military.  Those start by holding the duty in high esteem.  Typically, advisor teams are organized one grade below the unit they are advising—teams led by majors advise battalion-level elements, those led by lieutenant colonels advise regimental-level elements, and so on.  Lieutenant colonels advising large units should be selected for advisor duty by a formal board, just as lieutenant colonels are selected for battalion command.  Only those lieutenant colonels who have previously served as advisors should be considered to lead advisor teams at the regimental-level or higher.  Upon completing a tour leading a regimental-level advisor team, they should be eligible for top level schools and considered for colonel alongside their line commander counterparts.  Over time, having an additional track for assession to the senior ranks will encourage top officers to volunteer for advisor duty.
(Continued at the link below)

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