Murphy's Law: February 18, 2004

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One benefit American troops got out of their service in Iraq was combat experience, and an opportunity to show how well they can solve problems, often life threatening ones. Unlike most past wars, this one saw an American army of professionals sent in for the first battle. This happened for the first time in 1991, but the army noted problems encountered back then and fixed many of them by the end of the 1990s. This led to a much more adaptable and flexible force. This was certainly needed, because American troops found themselves going from a high speed blitzkrieg campaign to a deadly game of cops and robbers within a few months.

Going out in the middle of the night looking for illegal weapons and hostile Iraqi civilians was not something the combat troops normally trained for. But eight years of peacekeeping in the Balkans had created thousands of officers and troops what had done it there, and remembered that they had learned. Aside from the military issues of storming into a house without accidentally shooting civilians, or your own troops, there was also the problem of placating the many Iraqis who were raided, and came up clean. One novel solution was to pick out the most personable guy in a squad, so that when you finished a raid that came up empty, Mr Personality will be the one who apologizes for the inconvenience, thanks the family for their patience and give the family ten or twenty dollars for their trouble. Thats a lot of money for most Iraqi households. Normally, the combat units dont get into the business of making cash payments to civilians. But when American troops stormed into Saddams palaces, they found huge amounts of cash. They got a quick decision from Washington to use this money for reconstruction and building up good relations with the locals. Not too long ago, the brass would not have trusted the troops with all that cash. But another advantage of having an army of professionals is that you can trust them in situations like this.

The Iraq experience will produce a generation of combat experienced NCOs and officers. The NCOs, in particular, will be valuable, because the sergeants are the ones who train the next generation of troops. This kind of experience will save the lives of American soldiers for decades to come by providing proven skills, and the confidence to use them.

 


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