Leadership: August 2, 2004

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Theres a war going on in Iraq, and there are three American combat divisions on the ground over there. But this is not a normal war. So what do the division commanders concentrate on?

The division commanders still pay a lot of attention to combat. There are plenty of combat operations, just not a lot of response from the enemy. On a typical day, a division will run 200-300 patrols. In addition, there will be some convoy escort work (which is usually handled by MP units.) The patrols include 5-10 raids. These are described as cordon and search, where a building suspected of containing criminal activity, and hopefully, the criminals, is surrounded and searched. 

In addition to the foot and vehicle patrols, there are also helicopters and UAVs out on patrol. The divisions helicopter gunships also provide reinforcement for any ground units that get into a fight. The division also has ground combat units standing by as reaction forces, to move out and reinforce any patrols or convoys that need some additional firepower. 

The patrols often (several times a day) uncover arms and weapons caches that have to be checked out by engineers and either removed or destroyed in place. There will also be several road side bombs a day to be cleared by the division engineers. In addition, the division engineers and military police are responsible for supervising thousands of Iraqi security personnel who guard key siets (government offices and infrastructure, like power plants and water treatment facilities.) The division combat troops provide back up for these Iraqi security personnel, in case the Iraqis get hit with more than they can handle. Increasingly, however, Iraqi reaction forces are able to provide the needed support. 

But most of the combat units will be involved in defensive operations. Guarding the division bases, and weapons and munitions dumps waiting to be destroyed, or turned over to the Iraqi government requires a lot of people. Much of the manpower for this guard duty is often reserve troops, or even Iraqis, at least on the outer rings of security. American troops handle less and less of the checkpoint duty, with Iraqis taking over this. But most divisions still staff a dozen or two of checkpoints with American troops.

All this activity might lead to a dozen arrests, mostly by the patrols, and 5-15 hostile contacts (ambushes, mortar shells fired at a base, someone firing an RPG rocket or a few rifle shots, and they scooting away). Combat divisions average about half a dozen casualties a day, and a few fatalities a week. The division medical troops (over a thousand of them) spend most of their time treating diseases and the effects of the heat. A lot of effort is also devoted to providing some medical aid for Iraqi civilians and security personnel. This is done as a favor, as there are Iraqi hospitals, and medical operations as part of the reconstruction effort. But the division commander knows that the high quality medical care the division can provide is a valuable asset when trying to get local Iraqi leaders to cooperate. 

The division commander spends some time every day dealing with civil affairs. His division staff will have a dozen or so meeting each day with local leaders, and each of his three brigades will also have about a dozen similar contacts. In addition, the division runs training schools for Iraqi security personnel. This includes, depending on the division, border guards, prison guards, SWAT teams (very much in demand) and even fire fighters.

The troops in the division usually work 12 hours on, and 12 off. You might get a few days off a month. Division commanders can never forget they are in a combat zone, even if it's not the kind of combat they expected when they began their careers. 

 


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