My Commander required all his staff officers go on one of my civil affairs missions.
The villages were located north of Tikrit, near Camp Speicher, a relatively safe area.
I understand why wanted his officer’s to experience the same ‘on the road’, dangerous situations our soldiers experienced when operating convoys. It makes sense for his staff offices to see Iraq, meet Iraqis [in their natural setting] and also understand the dangers of ground convoys; which were usually improvised explosive devices- commonly known as IEDs.
It is hard for soldiers to do something dangerous, such as routinely convoy outside the wire, if their leaders are not willing to do the same.
Officers and NCOs need to lead by example.
My logistics unit with about 3000 service members, had 13 soldiers killed in action and over 150 wounded. The wounded number does not count soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] or the very common hearing loss.
You cannot make soldiers do jobs that you, as their leader will not do; especially if their job concerns danger and the officers do not share the same dangers.
Most of the officers were good sports and looked forward to the trip. Several became almost regulars and traveled with me once a week. Of course some officers bitched and moaned about this requirement: saying it is not my job, I am too busy; my schedule is not conducive to such a mission. Blah, blah, blah. Just shut up and get in a convoy vehicle and maybe I will not leave you behind.
About 10 officers had to go, most were my peers and only a few senior to me. However, rank did not matter; I was the convoy commander, the convoy and outside the wire expert. So if you were in my convoy and part of my civil affairs mission and you did not want to be left behind, do not do anything stupid and do what I say when I say it. Ok? I never really said that, but I did think it on more then one occasion.
However, I felt like a tour guide- look to the left and see an Iraqi family wearing their traditional clothing in their natural state… I know I had to support the Commander and understood why officers had to get outside the wire, but it was a pain in the ass- an extra responsibility.
Most of these officers entrusted in my care had never or rarely traveled outside the wire to villages before. They could not be left alone. My security NCO SSG Ortiz or my #2 SGM Gamache assigned a soldier escort each officer; keeping them from wandering too far and getting lost, eating something that would get them sick or picking up a shiny object that goes boom.
Some officers were very scared. In my opinion justifiably so- everyone is scared when they go outside the wire, especially soldiers who never did this before.
My job was to calm them down and tell them to keep their pistol holstered. We had machine guns, their pistol was not necessary. Usually a just a suggested ‘hey you do not need your pistol out’ worked. On occasion, I directly told them to ‘holster their weapon’.
My concern was one of my team members or I would accidentally get shot by some nervous officer with a sticky trigger finger. I saw how most of these officers shot at the pistol range and knew the enemy had nothing to worry about, my team and I did. I carried a rifle, not a pistol because the enemy would attack beyond pistol range- 25 yards. The touring officers were good sports about following my team and my guidance.
When we returned to Camp Speicher, the officers usually felt good about the mission and learned about Iraq. None had a bad experience.
I did not leave anyone behind.
Hopefully they learned that Iraqis are not much different than we are and essentially want the same things out of life.