Latin American Coalition Support: Lessons Learned in Iraq

Article excerpt

DELEGATES to the 2005 Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) Conference and students of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Officer Course (CSGCOC) gleaned several lessons learned from the deployment of four Latin American task forces (TFs) during Operation Iraqi Freedom? Their analysis arrived at several recommendations for the desired end state for filling capability gaps and for improving their operations in support of Coalition forces during the Global War on Terrorism. Their approach was to detail the experiences of Latin American allies using DOTMLPF domains (doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities) as learning points.

Doctrine

A new doctrinal concept should include the means for providing full-time U.S. military liaison support and formalized advance reconnaissance doctrine. When two or more armed forces work together, they inevitably generate friction when they come into contact. Assigning full-time liaison officers (LNOs) helps reduce such friction. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, for example, interactions of U.S. and Central American TF logistical systems created friction. Nicaragua's task force could not obtain enough medical equipment to treat Iraqi civilians as planned. As another example, the Dominican Republic's task force was reluctant to use the tactical vehicles they received because low maintenance levels presented a real possibility of stranding soldiers in the desert. In another instance, El Salvador's task force received M16A2 ammunition that was unusable in their weapons. And, Honduras's task force eventually received promised new radios, but radio operators needed extensive home-station training to maximize the radios' capabilities. None of the task forces received their uniforms and boots on time, and when they did arrive, they were too large. Honduran soldiers also endured 10 days of extremely low temperatures before their cold-weather gear arrived. (2)

These friction points did not prevent Latin American soldiers from completing their missions, but even so, valuable time and energy were lost. These and other friction problems could be alleviated by assigning full-time LNOs to coalition units from pre-deployment to redeployment. A split operational detachment from the 7th Special Forces Group or teams of Latin American foreign area officers would make excellent LNOs. In addition, U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG) and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) units (specifically US/CR civil affairs units, Puerto Rico ARNG and US/CR units, and engineer units) have spent significant time in Latin America. They would also be good sources for obtaining LNOs. Where the LNOs come from, however, is not as important as what they know. Liaison team members must understand Latin America and be fully conversant with its militaries and cultures. Each team should include a commander, an operations officer or noncommissioned officer (NCO), an engineer or logistics officer or NCO, and a communications specialist. An experienced LNO could--

* Show the TF S4 the fastest way to order replacement parts to maintain TF vehicles.

* Help the S4 navigate the Byzantine U.S. logistics system to obtain difficult-to-find parts.

* Prevent delay in delivering cold-weather uniforms.

* Provide knowledge of a country's capacity to make its own uniforms.

* Explain key differences between various types of apparently similar ammunition.

* Show a task force how to use sophisticated communications equipment.

With Latin American militaries fulfilling new missions outside their countries' borders, it is important to establish policies for successful deployments. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Latin American task forces identified advance reconnaissance as a positive measure to repeat in future deployments. Advance reconnaissance supports mission analysis, identifies organizational shortfalls, and helps define necessary training. …