December 11, 2010:
The U.S. Department of Defense has developed a new set of skills troops headed for Iraq or Afghanistan (or any other counter-terror zone) must learn in their pre-deployment training. Since World War II, the U.S. has developed special training for troops going to a particular combat zone. The latest addition is a major update on counter-insurgency warfare, called COIN (Counter-Insurgency) Qualification Standards. It consists of nine skill areas, which consist of 52 specific tasks. These tasks were developed by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps (based on current and historical experience), and recently approved by the Department of Defense brass.
Since 2002, troops headed for Afghanistan, and after 2003, Iraq, got pre-deployment training incorporating detailed drills on tasks troops in those areas had already found a need for. But as the body of knowledge has grown, it has been better organized for different levels of command. There are different bodies of knowledge for brigade, battalion and company commanders, as well as troops. The biggest emphasis is on training company commanders and their troops, for the war in Afghanistan is basically a company commander's war.
An infantry company has 150-200 troops, plus a few dozen more temp specialists. The company commander also has on call all sorts of support, from reconstruction and aid groups to air support and specialized logistics, intelligence and technical services. In COIN operations, getting to know the civilians in the area, and their leaders is of paramount importance. The troops also have to know how to deal with the civilians, both the friendly and hostile ones. The COIN training is constantly updated, so there will always be new instructions on how to deal with Afghan police and soldiers, and how to set up defenses against the latest attack tactics being used there. There is also training on movement in general, and how to deal with new mine and roadside bomb threats. It's a lot of information to be taught in a short time, but troops going through it for the second, or third, time are well aware of how important it all is.