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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part I

Setting the Stage

Chapter 2
The US Army's Historical Legacy of Military Operations Other Than War and the Planning for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM


Soldiering in Stability and Support Operations: The Legacy of 1991–2002

When full spectrum operations in Iraq began in earnest, the US Army could and did make use of the real base of experience with stability and support operations that had coalesced within its ranks. Colonel Joseph Anderson, the commander of the 2d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (101st ABN) in 2003, emphasized the importance of this knowledge base saying that when it came time to conduct stability and support operations in the city of Mosul, he relied on “pure experience.”58 Describing his brigade’s missions to stabilize Mosul in 2003, Anderson added that he “did the same in Panama; did the same in Kosovo; did a little bit in Haiti; and now [in Iraq].”59 For Anderson, success in stability and support operations in Iraq depended partly on “trial and error, and a lot of instinct.”60 However, he added, “The more experience you had coming into this thing, the better off you were going to be. And that could include from the training centers or anywhere else, but that’s what was going to give you the background to do the job.”61

The Army’s experiences in Somalia and Haiti, and its ongoing rotations in Bosnia and Kosovo, created a core group of officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) like Anderson with experience in conducting various types of stability and support operations. Indeed, by the end of 2002, tens of thousands of American Soldiers had participated in either SFOR or KFOR. This fact is important to the understanding of the US Army’s approach to operations in Iraq after May 2003. While not all of the Soldiers in OIF had served in Bosnia or Kosovo, many of the senior leaders in Iraq had deployed to the region. For example, both Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force–7 (CJTF-7), and Major General David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st ABN, had served in the Balkans. Sanchez felt his experiences with peacekeeping in Kosovo as well as supervising US counterdrug operations in Central and South America provided him useful experience in joint, interagency, and Coalition operations.62 Petraeus stated that his time in Bosnia, combined with his earlier experience with counterinsurgency and reconstruction in Latin America and Haiti, helped him considerably when it came time to conduct operations in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.63 Often, experience in Bosnia and Kosovo played a direct role in how commanders and staffs understood and planned stability and support operations in Iraq. For example, in 2004 when Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF-I) began planning elections for Iraq’s National Assembly, the task force purposely used IFOR’s involvement in the 1996 Bosnian elections as a case study to help them understand how to assist the Iraqis in the electoral process.64 The words of Major General Thomas Miller, who served as the chief of operations (CJ3) for CJTF-7, sum up the benefits of having previously conducted stability and support operations. Crediting his time in Somalia and Haiti as the best preparation for his duties during OIF, Miller stated, “It was the general experience of dealing with uncertainty and having to develop consensus in working with the interagency activities, etc., that [helped me most] once I got to Iraq.”65

Perhaps more important than the experience of the senior commanders and staff were the experiences many of the NCOs and officers who led small units in Iraq had conducting stability and support operations in Bosnia or Kosovo. This shared experience assisted units to transition to the new campaign after May 2003. For example, Major General Buford C. Blount III, commander of the 3d Infantry Division (3d ID) in Iraq, strongly believed that his Soldiers’ experience in the Balkans gave them a great deal of preparation for the shift to full spectrum operations after major combat operations ended in April 2003. Blount stated that his units conducted basic postinvasion operations on arrival in Baghdad because “most of my guys had been in Bosnia and Kosovo and had done the peacekeeping mission, so they knew how to do that.”66 Other officers in 3d ID echoed Blount’s thoughts about the Army’s previous experience with stability and support operations. Major Darryl Rupp, an intelligence officer who served in 3d ID’s Division Artillery, describes how he had been impressed by “how quickly the team, squad, and platoon-level Soldiers transitioned from combat operations to stability and support operations.”67 Rupp attributed the 3d ID’s success to his unit’s experience in Bosnia:

They had done that mission [SFOR] and they knew what it meant to do a ‘presence patrol,’ . . . They knew what it was to go in and do a bilateral meeting with a councilman or a tribal leader. Even from the lowest levels, from company and platoon on down, those guys were great and the transition was incredible. You could see it, from one day to the next, the change of the information that was being reported.68

Numerous Soldiers from a variety of units offered similar explanations of how previous deployments to the Balkans improved their ability to conduct stability and support operations in Iraq. Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Gray, an intelligence specialist who served with the 10th MTN in Kosovo, gained significant experience during his KFOR deployment in the gathering and analysis of HUMINT, a form of information that is critically important to stability and support operations. Gray then deployed to Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division (4th ID) in 2003 and used the HUMINT skills he developed in Kosovo to help locate and capture Saddam Hussein in December of that year.69

Gray’s time in Kosovo and the experience of several other Soldiers in the Balkans assisted many units with the shift to postconflict operations. However, as Anderson implied earlier in this chapter, not all American Soldiers and US Army units in OIF had the same amount of familiarity with stability and support operations. The Army’s uneven experience with postconflict operations, combined with a lack of detailed planning and training for those missions, ultimately made the transition from decisive combat operations during the invasion of Iraq to full spectrum operations much more difficult.

Chapter 2. The US Army’s Historical Legacy of Military Operations Other Than War and the Planning for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

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