Academic journal article Military Review

Combat Advising in Iraq: Getting Your Advice Accepted

Academic journal article Military Review

Combat Advising in Iraq: Getting Your Advice Accepted

Article excerpt


IN THE ONGOING wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, small teams of advisors (e.g., military transition teams, national police transition teams, police transition teams, border transition teams, and embedded training teams) advise, coach, teach, and mentor host nation security forces. They also provide situational awareness for host nation units, helping to shape the operational environment through their counterparts. As coalition combat forces begin to draw down in Iraq, advisory assistance brigades are replacing them. Our Nation's future conflicts will require adept professionals for this crucial advisory mission. Therefore, the U.S. military needs to examine the scope of the advisory mission and determine the methods of effective advising required for mission success.

The nascent democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan need strong, professional militaries and self-policing and self-learning internal security forces. At the national policy level, these forces must support the host nation constitution and the duly elected members of the national, provincial, and local governments. Said another way, they need military leaders who will not instigate a coup at the first sign of trouble. At the unit level, these nations need soldiers who can defeat their enemies, while learning from setbacks and successes. This article strives to define the advisory mission, show a snapshot of advisor reality, set forth some tenets of combat advising, and identify measures of effectiveness to shape the training of future advisors and the expectations of coalition force commanders.

Prerequisites: Having the Right Stuff

From 2006 through 2009, these advisor teams trained at Camp Funston at Fort Riley, Kansas, and deployed to the theaters of war as needed. Soldiers, from the rank of staff sergeant to colonel and from a wide variety of military occupational specialties, served as combat advisor, for approximately 15 months, including their training. However, the training at Camp Funston, seemingly excellent at training advisor survival skills, misses the mark on teaching the fine art of actual combat advising. As one advisor put it, "Camp Funston taught us to survive. The Mada'in (a rural district in Baghdad Province) taught us to advise." (1)

Training at Camp Funston is a mix of Soldier common tasks, collective combat skills training, counterinsurgency (COIN) theory, language and culture training, and team building. The schoolhouse hones combat lifesaver, individual and crew-served weapon, communications equipment, and operator HMMWV maintenance skills. Counterinsurgency is taught as a combination of lectures and readings from counterinsurgency classics such as David Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, John A. Nagl's Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, and U.S. Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency. (2) Language and cultural training involve classroom instruction, presented through a variety of media and concentrating on the specific language and area where the team will be employed. "Leader Meets" training exercises are staged scenarios with role players from the targeted language and culture-simulating situations that U.S. military advisors may encounter on the battlefield. The course ensures that all deploying advisory team members have the requisite skills to survive in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Oddly, though, teaching future advisors the art of how to advise takes up very little training time, lending credence to the idea of learning to advise while on the job. Many advisors literally learn the craft through trial and error while doing it. As the reader can imagine, this leads to a wide variety of results. Many advisors have returned from deployment completely frustrated by the experience and demoralized about the mission's overall chance of success. Yet, others return with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What, we might ask, causes some advisors to return fulfilled, and others disenchanted? …

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