Army Colonel's Memo Foreshadowed Doomed Soldier's Email

Army Colonel's Memo Foreshadowed Doomed Soldier's Email by Howard Altman, Tampa Tribune.

"A gross lack of concern for subordinates," Tunnell wrote, "manifests itself in guidance that 'zero' civilian casualties are acceptable and coalition soldiers may have to be killed rather than defend themselves against a potential threat and risk being wrong and possibly resulting in injury or death of a civilian."

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Two comments on this article:

1. 5/2 SBCT and its CO has taken a lot of flak in the press since before the killings. I remember reading shortly after the 5/2 was relieved of its sector, and sent to guard MSR's, about company-commanders being shut down or relieved when they wanted to be less kinetic in Arghandab. That COL Tunnell disagreed with COIN is clear. That his unit got mawled (by small wars standards) is also clear. That 5/2's presence in sector "seemed" to make things worse is also peculiar. But a lot of this is mud-slinging. I have yet to see an actual assessment that wasn't from Tunnel et al or from his critics. The article's effort to connect Tunnel's letter with the opinions of a SSG is also strange, seems like heart-string tugging. If Arghandab continues to be a problem, that is the problem.

2. On the NTC issues of the 5/2 SBCT. I did an HBCT rotation a month or two after the 5/2 did its pre-OEF run under Tunnel. Our O/Cs complained quite vocaly about a 2ID SBCT that kept screwing up at the platoon and company level lanes. I thought it was a strange thing to bring up over and over again to another unit, but they seemed genuinly frustrated (caviat: this is from a troop level POV). That the 5/2 issues were emerging at the platoon/company level does point the finger at command climate. I find it hard to believe that an AC SBCT would be genuinly incompetent when it came to small unit tactics, so its probably more an issue of their selection of tactics, which is probably more a leadership issue.

dos pesos

In regards to the Tampa Tribune article and "heart-string tugging", I now live in the Tampa Bay area (Largo) and talked to the author, Howard Altman, yesterday. I expressed the same concern to him, he seemed to understand that concern and hopefully we will have a follow-up. Either way, Altman understands both sides of this issue.

It seems fairly evident that Colonel Tunnell 1) operated well outside of the commander's intent; 2) fostered a negative command climate; 3) commanded a unit that was tactically ineffective in Afghanistan. Whether he has been overly-villified for the actions of a few of his Soldiers is open to debate (I do agree that bad things can happen to good units and the logical extension that bad Soldiers serve in good units and can do bad things while in those units). However, if a Soldier does not operate within the commander's intent, fosters a negative command climate, and is tactically ineffective, why would anyone want to promote him or extend his career?

As for the CG vs. COIN debate, from what I saw during my time in Kandahar Province (where 5/2 operated), COIN and VSO has been successful. 1/4 ID (and especially 1-320 FA) did some great COIN (which, by the way, does include killing the enemy) ops driving the Taliban out of Arghandab but then captitalizing upon that by engaging the local population, gaining their support, empowering the local government, and training and empowering ANSF. 2/4 ID took the baton from 1/4 and continued to expand GIROA and ANSF influence. 2/4 ID did especially well integrating with SOF Village Stability Ops to further extend security.

Various concepts of military doctrine each have thier own time and place. From my perspective, COIN (which, again, does include killing the enemy) was by and large the right doctrine at the right time and place in Kandahar Province especially because the right guys were on the ground executing it. COIN might not be right for the next fight and I think it's important to maintain mental agility and not get ideollogically attached to one doctrine as the be-all-end-all.

This may sound a crude to some of the "elite" studied and polished gents who so often write nonsense here. But until we do the below, the above is will going to keep happening. I am going to restate a few things most should already know. If it is worth going to War over, then it is worth WINNING... This will require getting rid of Political Correctness, Politics and pandering to the media. It will also require stopping the investigation of every single stupid thing that happens (if you took all the officers assigned to preform 15-6 investigations, you would have a lot of troops available for something useful, like killing the enemy). We must realize the Fog of War is still present, Murphy's Laws of Combat are funny but true and that we cannot second guess or Monday Morning Quarterback every decision made by a subordinate. We must hold the man accountable for the action, not everyone around him less they be at fault. It will also require getting rid of non preformers and what I mean by non preformers is non-warriors...And I don't mean non-combat arms. I mean those who are most happy counting beans, complaining about uniforms and yes those who don't work. How many non-deployables do you think Al Qaida has? Next it is going to require a mind set of killing the enemy. We must stive to kill the enemy at every single opportunity. We must strive to prevent civilian casualties, but not at the risk of adding to our own. We need to do the best we can and if we smear a some, well you really can't have a bloodless shooting War. Nor can an omelet be made without breaking some eggs. And if I am not killing the enemy, how am I harrassing him? And if I can't do the first two, how and where do I find him so I can continue the first two. We need to make better use of our snipers and turn them loose, make the infantry squad an independant fighting unit again and turn them loose and stay in the feild. Oh and no matter what the clowns in the TOC see on the Predator feed, we are going to have to return full and absolute control to the man on the ground. We are also going to have to realize that those combat arms boys didn't join the military to be safe. They joined looking for adventure and glory and if they didn't we should try to get them another job or thank them for coming and send them on their way. We need not waste their lives in Banzai attacks against castle walls, but they signed up to go places other were afraid to go, and do what others are afraid to do. We keep them safe by giving them world class training, and turning them loose to do what we trained them to do. This is are going to get it done. We have spent billions on artillery development and yet, we get fires less than and they take more time than WWII and Vietnam, WTH??? We spend billions on technolgy to find the enemy and after 12 years we still haven't found them all yet. We spend billions on protection, where the enemy spends less than $100 on the IED that kills a million dollar+ MRAP. We are going to have to get back on the ground, use the parachute and the Helo and just plain old walking it in to move. Then we are going to have to dig them out of their holes, engage them in feilds and mountains and kill them. And keep doing so until, the very sight or sound of a US Soldier causes bowel evacuation and mind numbing fear. This will need to continue til they realize that they can never, never win and give up or die. In the long run we will save more of our lives, more of their lives, spend less treasure and get a desired endstate or at least one closer to what we want. The bottom line is this: The Romans didn't build the Roman Empire by going to meetings, worrying about what other tribes thought, going to pointless meetings and PowerPoint. They did it by crushing all who opposed them, by skill and feats of arms. Until we do this as well, we will drivel along... This is not a "cave man" mentality. It is a course of action. Hope is not.

Right on the money!

Way too much nonsense here in "War & Peace" length monologues. Exactly why the point is not getting through to the Brass/civilian leadership.

Look at this...with the sorry state that our nation's military is currently in & what lays on the horizon as an even dimmer prospect, the time for a drastic re-organization/re-stating our mission is long past due.

It comes down to WTF are we doing getting involved in overseas fights that we have no plan on winning & haven't won since WWII (as Gen Giap put it, winning all of the battles is a moot point, if you do not win the war).

With a reportedly less than 1/2 of 1% of Americans serving in the military & our ranks filled with persons who were not native born, no wonder we have become just another failed social experiment, with less-and-less politicians having served in the military & Lord forbid that their children actually don a uniform, the so-called last bastion of conservancy is fading fast.

Where will all of the leaders of late be when the final curtain is drawn & all we were awarded was an honorable mention for the next war? Still espousing feature length diatribes about the way it should be done?

It is time to Man Up & be prepared to sacrifice all IOT save our way of life, instead of being so worried about your retirement rank or the juicy six figure job after military service & protect our nation's military.

To Hell with COIN, Nation building, HA/DR & all of the other Mission Creep catchy programs & phrases that have gotten us to where we are today. Our military has one goal & one goal only, "To close with & destroy the enemy." Hire contractors to do all of the rest of the touchy-feely programs that you are trying to build a career on.

Until just the threat of sending in our Armed forces is once again enough to turn the bad guys bowels into jelly, we are nothing but a paper tiger & a legend in our own minds only.

GHD it's nice to know that I am not alone in my veiws. The most basic purpose of our Armed Forces is fight an win our nations wars... The State Department can build governments if it wants to. Too much of our leadership has forgotten the most basic purpose for why we exist. Our other problem is that we cannot seem to get around the idea that other people in other parts of the world do not think in the same way we do. I see it as us trying to understand the Japanese during WWII... We didn't. We tried, but in the end we just put them to the sword as fast as we could.

hammer, ghd, I am like minded. Just can't "like" your comments. There is a fundamental failure going on in the military. Principles like selfless service, loyalty DOWN the chain, integrity in all things are damaged.

Then there's the phenomenon of creating new concepts and buzz words to address age old issues in an effort to make things seem much more complicated than they are to showcase one's intellect.

The fundamentals remain the same.

major.rod ---maybe the Big Army should generally stand down and relearn the basics which is the direction that the senior leaders CoS/JCoS have been trying to push forward with the simple word TRUST---you are correct in a number of ways but when you look at the core problems the reasons have been hitting us in the face since 2006-lack of TRUST and massive Micromanagement. Actually the Force currently is trying to maintain an ISAF treadmill at tthe same time it is implenting DATE scenarios and one wonders why there is confusion ie the comments by hammer.

When was the last time a NCO or even an Officer EXTENEDED TRUST to anyone---in order to extend trust one has to believe that the person can deliver to your standards--the old idea of "cover your back". Trust as defined as a person who has both confidence in themselves and has creditability meaning they in fact know their subject matter---how many current officers and NCOs have both?

IE if we really read ADP 6.0 under the concept of prudent risk---can you actually name a BCT Cmdr who in fact weighted the OE and took risks--Cmdrs have become so risk adverse they even jump when they see their own shadows.

If Tunnel had studied ADP 6.0 in fact he could have implemented his concept of CG IF he had defined a clear Cmdrs' intent with a clear Mission Order and if he had taken prudent risk he in fact could have fought a CG in his OE and still remained inside NCA/CENTCOM/COMISAF guidance end of story.

Right now the Force simply does not know what RIGHT is any more---while you might think the concept of Mission Command (ADP/ADRP/ATTP 6.0 is a new theory/buszzword --in fact it is deeply based on the old German term "auftragstaktik" which evolved out of the grandfather Molke. Secondly the Force really does need to openly discuss a concept called "the Five Dysfunctions of a Team"- an eye opener.

What is equally interesting is that when one discusses MC with current German officers they simply grin and say not new for us as we have been doing that since 1954 and it is ingrained in every officer and NCO via doctrine in the current German Army and then when you look at how they tie it into the NATO planning doctrine COPD one sees the results-heck they even plan for a transition---since when was the last time a BCT in their planning process planned for a transition---and I did not mean RIP/TOA with the next BCT.

My concern is the comments by hammer who represents a large number of the younger Force---who see their military service in the simple act of shooting things/people ie that is why I joined the Force and now I cannot do it because of whatever the NCA/CENTCOM/COMISAF reasons/guidance is---tie that to the actions of rouge individuals/units and one can inherently see why the incidents occur and then tie it to poor senior leaders and you can see just why I have heartburn with the Tunnel incident.

We are in the middle of a deep cultural problem within the O5/6 and one and two star levels---every officer of this level should be singing ADP 6.0 but they are not--the interesting question is why not---and my answer is they do not want to come anywhere close to the word TRUST and YET it is now their responsibility to built teams based on collaborative discourse in a fear free environment built on TRUST. Looking for examples of this anywhere in the Force--have only seen a few recenbtly and it was because the Cmdr actually understood MC and were actively practicing team/trust building and pushing collaborative discourse even down to SP/4s.

Recent example---a maneuver BN Cmdr actually has a policy that he tells his officers---all must fear you---that means fellow officers and NCOs and he believes NCOs are fully incapable--NOW just where in the heck does that come from?

Not so sure the Force has the stomach to implement TRUST in the current culture.

Outlaw, I have not been an advocate of just running around and just shooting people. Nor would I tolorate a rogue shooter. My point which a couple of writers here have made more polished than I is that our core purpose is to fight and win our nations war. After 12 years does anyone really think that our plan in Afghanistan is working? Or that it really worked in Iraq? Can anyone tell me the purpose of spending 10 million on a water park in the middle of Bagdad, by Gen P? (yes I am going to be a little flip here for a sec) I haven't seen a chapter in on that in any feild manual and I looked.

The number of useful tools available to us in Afghanistan are few. We have to look at what works and what dosn't. In Afganistan we probably arn't going to starve them, probably are not going to financialy break them (opuim poppies are doing better than ever) and we are not going to reduce there infastructere the way we did Germany in WWII, they don't have any. I don't know the number, and I suspect no one has an exact count, but my estimate is that there is less than two light infantry BDE's worth of baddies running around. So what if it more and so what if its less? It isn't 20 million thats for sure. And I am not talking about second tier support guys, I mean guys with guns. We can't get out there and kill that many? With the billions we spend and all the amazing things our technolgy is supposed to do? We are going to end up ending this thing to no useful end. And all of our brillant minds, billions in technology, world class weaponery etc, will be defeated by a bunch of illitirite, half-assed mountain boys, armed with anything they can scrounge. And this will be the tird time it has happen to us. The brass should have re-evaluted WTH we were doing an how we were doing it years ago. I know a warrior or two in the officer corps we could get in to get it done too. The problem is they would rather be at the range than a cocktail party on the Hill.That would make them unpopular with the politicians both in and out of uniform.

And going after the enemy does work. It isn't always nice, pretty or pleasant, but it does work. The US Army hunted down the plains indian, and kept at it till they gave up (and yes wiped out some of them). What we need to realize is that the average Afghan insurrgent has more in common with the Apache, than he does the average western christian. And since his lifestyle isn't dissimilar, what worked for us on the indian can work on the Afghan.

Major.Rod, you need not like the comments as long as you see the truth in them. And careful, such out of line thinking for a feild grade will get you side lined and create dangerous things like loyal subordinates, who do things without being told to and come to you ahead of time when they make a mistake or do something stupid, because they know you are going to have to deal with it and they would rather you fight for them than get ambushed. Loyalty has been replaced by cronyism, clicks etc. Loyalty down, is nearly nonexistant and when is found is called "favortism" by those who don't know what it is. Lord knows we need you to get promoted as fast as possible and hopefully inject some sense from the top down.

Gen. Lee said something to the effect of "War should be terrible least we grow to fond of it". I am not suggesting we should enjoy killing the enemy, but we shouldn't mind it either.

You are most certainly correct in your assessment on the failures seen in the principles within the military. I really wonder how much of the leadership can look itself in the mirror in the morning. Saying what you do and doing what you say has been replaced by skillful wordcrafting, using things totally out of the intended context and just straight up lying. And don't think it is the officers that only speak. This type of crapola has infected the NCO Corp down to the E-7 level (and farther in the school houses).

As for the phenomenon of buzzwords and concepts that you mention, I too wondered for quite awhile about it. I finally realized what it was... Leaders and troops are not reading the feild manuals, doctrinal manuals etc anymore, nor history. Not that I have ever been a slave to doctrine or the manual, but I always made darn sure I knew what it said or didn't say before I came up with something new. My example: IED attacks... Since when has an inanimate object been able to conduct an attack? A large majority of these IED attacks are what we used to call "mechanical ambushes". The rest are "demolition ambushes". But we took it out of the manuels (decided I guess that it wasn't nice??) and forgot what we called it. Oh and and an IED blast followed by smallarms fire is an "ambush", not a "complex attack". Personally I always thought a complex attack should involve some type of Rube Goldberg device...

Hammer - A humble thanks. I'm retired and I did pay a price for waving the BS flag but mostly for refusing to get ticket punch jobs when I much rather be with troops. I know, WEIRD! I was constantly "afflicted" with NCO's and soldiers who bestowed their sacred trust. It was humbling. Yep, they let me know about problems and issues that were going to come front and center at the next command and staff. I went prep'd. Mistakes were made. Lessons learned. Nobody's dead and we won't make that mistake again... The price of trust.

Buzz words and new "concepts" are camo for rediscovering the basics. Some MC disciples crow about it as the new snake oil that will fix every ailment from a nonuniformed unconventional enemy to gang bangers masquerading as soldiers. Armed with hindsight they seem prophets. It's not new. We've been doing this since airland battle and the commander's intent made its debut. When folks are hollering about BDE commander reliefs for an out of control squad leader/team leader we just became proponents for micromanagement and the resulting lack of trust all along the chain. I'm still getting over commanders above BDE level are determining the level of body armor worn by the squad. What do we pay Co CO's and 1SGT's for? Go figure?

I feel for you and your comrades and don't have an easy answer. The military is suffering from the cancer of self interest and PC and it infects EVERYTHING you do. It's always been there to some extent but we seem to have lost the warrior's way in chasing the latest "managment" model. "Big Army" (a teribly disparging word to anyone that believes in "one team") tends to suffer more from these issues than special forces teams of 12 men. Then again they don't have to worry about training, inspiring and leading the great masses of unwashed.

Unfortunately the US military does not get to pick its wars nor decide (though it has a vote) on the strategy associated with such wars. That said, I agree we have not done well of late and SWJ, which does not condone reckless intervention and half-assed strategy, will continue on doing what we do as an open forum enabling discussion and debate on all things "Small Wars".

What is hurting us, is Leadership thinking like politicians and not like Warriors. That and people and leaders actually thinking COIN will actually work and is a useful doctrine... Which it would be if the other side would just go along with it. All ot this cultural awarness crapola, is a waste of time for this mission. It may have it's place but during a War isn't it.

"zero civilian casualties are acceptable and coalition soldiers may have to be killed rather than defend themselves against a potential threat and risk being wrong and possibly resulting in injury or death of a civilian."

Has this been confirmed that this statement was actually made? If so this dude needs his ass kicked. I guess this goes along with the Courageous Restraint medal mentality.

I apologize for not offering anything of value to this dicussion, but sometimes you just gotta call bull####. COIN, at least in Afghanistan is bull#### and I personally believe it is degrading our force. How can you make headway with a group of people who are offended at everything you do -blow your nose, swear, pet a dog, hold a Koran without gloves on, etc? Let SF, CA, and MPs do COIN in the extreme. Our COIN efforts in Afghanistan kind of remind me of the 90's relationship book called Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus (we are the men:)

COIN reminds me in some ways to Problem Oriented Policing and Community Policing. Both were retarded ideas. It failed because you are trying to reason with unreasonable people.

As far as this colonel - I don't know the guy, but I agree with his letter.

Gute:

Regarding this statement of yours:

"How can you make headway with a group of people who are offended at everything you do -blow your nose, swear, pet a dog, hold a Koran without gloves on, etc?"

Maybe that isn't a complaint but it sure sounds like one. If you are in another guy's country working closely with him and he is offended by the things you list, it doesn't seem like it is especially difficult to try hard not to do those things. It is simple common courtesy and since that guy seems to occasionally get so ticked off as to try and kill you if you don't. it is also simple common sense.

Side note---the good COL does not mention in his letter that he had a number of "walks in the desert" with several GOs as BCT Cmdr when his unit was going through the NTC.

He also does not dicuss the Counter Guerrilla baseball caps he and his staff were wearing during their LTP cycle at Ft. Erwin---the LTP mentors were totally unable to convince the COL and his Staff that COIN was the current doctrine---he believed and still does that it was a counter guerrilla fight.

There were serious discussions about the red lining (and placing them back into the ARFORGEN cycle for retraining)of the unit as their performance was massively sub par to the point that a large number of OCs were constantly shaking their heads with some of the discussions they were having with the COL and his Staff officers.

The good COL set the tune and his Staff followed his led and one wonders about the events that occurred within the unit while it was in AFG.

I would think if NTC was so great at preparing our forces for their combat rotations their performance would be better. NTC is just another organization that pushes the COIN Kool-Aide ad-nauseum despite its noted failures. COL Tunnel makes a good point that conventional forces should be focused on counter-guerrilla operations instead of attempting to transform political and economic systems. NTC instead of pushing dogma would serve the community better if they promoted critical thinking and learning. If more units focused on conducting effective counter guerrilla operations it is possible, though not likley in Afghanistan, that military operations may have created the space necessary for State and USAID to implement effective political and economic programs.

Bill M---just a side comment the NTC/LTP during this specific unit rotation was confronted with a BCT led by a Commander that was not in tune to existing US Army doctrine---with emphasis on being totally out of tune---unless you yourself are arguing that big Army has been totally wrong and COL Tunnel was totally correct in his believe that even the JCoS was out of touch with COIN.

Secondly he was walked into the desert by a 1, a 2 and a 3 star GO not because of his CG views vs COIN but for core basic leadership failures. If we look at that single event he should have been relieved after the third walk into the desert especially if you look at the number of soldiers charged with murdering civilians during his leadership period. WHY was not the Abu Ghraib results in the internal review that pointed to major leadership failures applied to the murders carried out by his BCT---but we send SGTs to jail and leaders walk.

We truely wanted to red line the unit but the COMISAF had stated he wanted a Strykker unit and they were the only ones available during that particular ARFORGEN cycle.

If we then look at his CG fight---rumors have it that the insurgency literally beat up on the unit resulting in higher than normal KIA/WIAs and the BCT had to shift operational areas to recover--so one does have to question if in fact the Commander was correct.

You're attributing the walks into the desert as leadership failures with no details.

Then correlating the tragedy of one out of control SSG squad leader who led his squad to commit war crimes as having some correlation to the BCT CDR's leadership. If a BDE commander is able to exert that level of influence on squads there would be more than ONE in his BDE of over 100 squad size organizations.

I've served for some great and crappy BDE CDR's. They didn't have that kind of influence on a squad leader's morality. You're reaching.

major.rod---not reaching--- or are you negating the results of the final Abu Ghraib investigation that while putting SGTs in jail contributed the event directly to poor leadership at the one star level ie one NG star was retired and the second one star parked at Ft. H until she retired.

Taking your argumentation to the next step then in fact the two one stars from Abu Ghraib should not have been punished based on your thinking that Cmdrs do not influence squad leaders---they in fact set the tone of a unit which I think you can agree with.

As you can recall good and poor Cmdrs set the tone for the entire Staff both at the BCT as well as the BN levels ---the BN tone set by the BN Cmdrs reflects what he hears/sees at the BCT level and he radiates that down to the Company level as well-- the Company COs are dependent on the OER ratings of their senior raters so they will respond to the BN tones---so please do not say there is no such thing as Command Influence.

Walks in the desert is a term used by OCs when serious discussions occur between a BCT Cmdr and say the divisional senior trainer or NTC Cmdr, or Divisional Cmdr and it is not a good thing--you push for details of discussions that never occur in front of witnesses outside of the two officers. Knowing about the walks is in itself an indicator of serious issues and does not often occur. Can be as well a discussion between the senior OC handling BCT Ops usually a LTC (P) or a COL talking with a COL.

That particular Cmdr exhibited poor leadership skill sets while his unit was exercising at the NTC---again look at the losses sufferred by that unit in a short period of time in AFG---much much higher than previous units with little or no effect on the insurgency-in fact the insurgency in their AO picked up to a level not previously seen which one could argue was a result of the CG mindset practiced by the unit.

There was a reason Big Army moved the BCT to a new AO. We had the same thing occur in Iraq with a number of units being moved to new AOs after being beaten up on by the insurgency.

You’re not a simple guy and I’m not putting words in your mouth. Please do me the same courtesy?

I never said there is no such thing as command influence. I said influence. BTW, “command influence” typically applies to UCMJ matters where commanders apply their power as commanders on subordinate commanders to influence their decisions in matters of punishment. You are looking for the term “command climate”. You know this but since you want to be “technical” I’ll oblige.

You say that COL Tunnell was a bad leader with no specifics except that he didn’t apply COIN at the NTC. I won’t quote you the definition of leadership. Not supporting COIN doesn’t make one a bad leader though it might get you fired in today’s Army. Saying his not following COIN contributed to the rogue squad incidents isn’t a logical progression. “B” does not follow “A” and the official report by Gen Twitty with whom I served with as a platoon leader found “no “causal relation” to the incident. What do you know that BG Twitty missed?

Making the case that the Col’s command climate was an enabler in one squad of a hundred is a stretch. Did the 2nd BCT CDR of the 101st enable the rape and murders at Mahmudiyah? I’ve seen bad units. I’ve studied them at length both up close and historically. Leadership/climate impacts the whole unit, not one squad. There was ONE rogue squad in COL Tunnell’s BCT. As an officer he’s responsible for everything that happens in his unit but the correlation is so weak as to be ridiculous.

Abu Ghraib is an entirely different animal. First it didn’t have 3000 troops guarding it. Apples and oranges. The span of control and involvement of field grade and flag officers was much different. You know how span of control and levels of command impact leadership/command climate.

I’m quite familiar with what a walk in the desert means. I’ve been through multiple rotations at our training centers as a rifle company commander and staff officer. I’ve also seen good and bad commanders get their butt chewed for the wrong reasons. The NTCs are not infallible nor are its members though they are HIGHLY competent. They do suffer from the same PCism that infects our Army. Maybe even more so. If COL “T” was as bad as you make it sound he could have been easily relieved. Someone thought he was competent and he was kept in charge until an incident that would have likely reflected on any commander in today’s climate.

major.rod---just a side note while you might understand what the walk in the desert means---when have you heard of three walks each with a rank higher GO? I have not and I have been through 41 BCT rotations while at the NTC--actually very few ever happened with a single GO---it was all about leadership issues-nothing more nothing less. There was serious talk of relieving the Cmdr--but then Big Army has a hard time doing that on an ARFORGEN unit---I have seen S2s directly relieved for poor leadership as well as S3s but Big Army has a hard time with O6s.

NOTE: I have also seen just how the influence/thinking of a BCT Cmdr "colors" that of his Staff and subordinates---a particular BCT was coming through the NTC in 2011 and was looking forward to being a "shooting" deployment and three weeks before the NTC they were notified they were being shifted to SFAT/VSO mission--guess what the senior leadership in their constant bitching and complaining about the change in mission was able to move that complaining all the way down to the Company level to the point that they (virtually all leaders) basically refused to continue along the SFAT scenario that the OCs were trying to pull them through-guess what the OCs simply let them drift through in order to hit the checked blocks and move the unit on as they relized that no one/no amount of effort was going to change the attitude of the senior leadership of that unit---so yes there is a "causal relationship" between senior leadership thinking and the effect of that on subordinates.

NOTE: Maybe we should later in SWJ discuss if you think we do not have problems discuss why officers who seem to have their subordinates under control in a war zone are suddenly losing control over those subordinates in garrision.

Secondly, I go back to Abu Ghraib for a specific core reason---AG after an intensive review boiled down to a failure in leadership at all levels and the decision was made by Big Army to hold GOs responsible EVEN if they did not know what was ongoing. It set the precedent that senior officers could in fact be held responsible for actions of their lower subordinates even down to SSGs/SGTs and even for lateral units under their command. Big Army was attempting to get over it's previous issues of My Lai in Vietnam where the senior leadership outside of a CPT were not held responsible.

NOTE: After My Lai the Army went through a massive retraining of the Force on what was a moral/ethnical command and what was not--with the subordinate openly able to refuse a command if he felt it was morally wrong. Has anything like that happened since the murders starting occurring in Iraq?

Thirdly, there were a total of 700 military personnel in/around AG so in fact what was going on should have been know far faster than a rouge group buried inside 3000 especially since AG was a one hour convoy ride to Camp Victory and had convoys and copters coming and going on a daily basis.

Again I will point out that his unit took above average combat losses when he attempted to transition into CG fighting just after the unit deployed into their AO---and as some have learned in some cases when you apply heavy handed tactics in an insurgency you provoke an equal response from your opponent which he got from the Taliban/Haqqani groups forcing Big Army to reshift his unit to a "quieter" region.

Just because he was absolved of his issues by a GO who if one reads the report the GO did not draw on the AG experience of holding senior leaders accountable for lower subordinates. It actually surprised me as Big Army had made that abundently clear after AG. Again I think big Army has a hard time with overruling O6s as they are normally on a track for one star.

AND yes the Cmdr of the rouge 101st unit should have been relieved as well following the AG example.

MAYBE if senior leaders were 100% aware of the "causal relationship" since AG then just maybe the rogue unit would not have assumed what they were doing was "sanctioned" through the attitude of the senior leadership.

You can continue with your narrative of repeated walks into the desert but details matter. COL Tunnel may have deserved them. The GO may have been trying to mitigate the criticism coming from the OCs who do impact on HIS evaluation. Playing up to OC criticism is part of any rotation. You previously mentioned BCT commanders aren’t Gods, seems to be forgotten that neither are OCs. I’ve always been taught it’s bad form to judge the guy on the ground unless I know the details and have walked in his shoes.

You make much of this BCTs casualty rates (without stating them for comparison but we’ll assume you’re accurate). Using casualties as the primary measure of leadership isn’t reasonable. One could label the commanders of the most costly battles in Vietnam as poor leaders. e.g. Hal Moore in the Ia Drang etc. The enemy gets a vote.

You may consider yourself an expert on how you saw BCT commanders influence their commands. I’ve BEEN in those commands. The BCT commander makes as much difference to the squad leader as if it rains or not. Does it impact? Sure. Do things happen directly because of who it is? No. The PL, CO and BN leadership has an exponentially greater impact that increases as the leader reaches the level of the squad leader.

I was serving during Abu Ghraib. It was not the “be all end all” of how the Army deals with relief or trains on moral ethical situations though the Army does a good job of addressing high visibility events like this. Nor was the Army’s response to Abu Ghraib in any way related to Nam and Mai Lai. You can’t state “stuff” as fact without some evidence of a causal relationship. BTW, ONE GO was sanctioned over Abu Ghraib not multiple as you state and it was because he had much closer supervisory impact of the 700 under her command than the 3000 under Tunnel’s. Oh and maybe Gen Twitty didn’t apply AG standards because the situation was entirely different?

You may want to look at reliefs during the years between Nam and 2004 to build a case that the Army reinvented itself and how it deals with relief after Abu Ghraib. You also may want to look at COL’s Zachar, Dowdy (USMC), Stemple, Johnson, Pappas, Gen’s Karpinski, McCrystal reliefs and contrast them to what happened before AG to justify your outrageous statement. Further I was deeply involved in conducting numerous blocks of instruction on following lawful orders back in the mid 90’s. We’ve always taught subordinates that they not only could disobey unlawful orders but must. This did not start after Abu Ghraib.

Your opinion about how the BDE Commander should have been relieved at Mahmudiyah confirms you don’t know the details of the event or how command responsibility and legal responsibility can differ in the military context. I have severe doubts about your personal experience is in leading large numbers of troops. Idealism has its place until interrupted by reality.

major.rod---may not be a green suiter but in fact I was at AG before, during and after THE incident.

Secondly there was a second GO who lost a career and was parked for the remaining portion of her career at Ft. H and ended her career with no further promotions-GEN Fast.

After six really long years of watching intently BCT/BN staffs, staff functions and the ways staff's behave and who is currently working in Mission Command facilitating where we are attempting to answer those failures of six years--NOW if you want we can get into a discussion concerning a serious lack of Trust in Staffs, serious officer micromangement, serious disconnects between the officer and NCO corps--and or why MDMP/TPL is not working and most why staffs simply go through a checklist instead of old fashionMDMP, or why Design is failing, or we can discuss why CONOPs have replaced OPORDs when the Army has only three forms of orders or how Powerpoint has in fact become a quasi decisionmaking tool or we could in fact discuss why we are seeing increased discipline problems ie alcohol abuse/sexual abuse in garrision.

Would though suggest you spend alot of time reading and rereading ADP/ADRP/ATTP 6.0 concerning the tasks assigned to a Cmdr under the Art of Command and the tasks assigned the Staff under Science of Control which if you read intently 6.0-TRUST drives everything.

All I have simply been saying over and over---did COL Tunnel engender Trust in his leadership, trust in his staff and trust in his subordinates.

BLUF-no to the Trust thing from COL Tunnel

Am old fashion from the brown boot days as a young SF Sp/4 leading a Cambodian CIDG BN---the way a leader leads his troops reflects down to the lowest PVT.

And frankly I have seen way too many Cmdr/staff failures the last six years---down to S2/3s hating each other or refusing to work with other--why don't we discuss that problem.

major.rod,

I think you make some excellent points, high casualties can be due to poor tactics or simply failing to engage the enemy. When I cringe when I hear commanders state their objective or metric of success is bringing everyone home. This reflects our risk adverse culture, and failure to embrace enduring priorities that are in order: the mission, the men, and then yourself. Hopefully no commander desires to lose anyone in combat, but I would also hope they have the moral courage to actually engage the enemy if required to accomplish the mission. I also agree the BDE Cdr only has so much influence at the tactical level, but on the other hand the BDE equivalent in Special Forces is the SF Group, and I have seen toxic Group Commanders impact the morale of the entire organization. On the other hand I have seen great Group Commanders who had incidents on their watch at the tactical level that they couldn't possibly influence, so I do think blaming the BDE commander on the kill squad is nothing more than character assassination.

Outlaw,

One point I do agree with you on is the BDE pursued an independent strategy, but as you implied there is a lot of that going on in Afghanistan. The Marines didn't support GEN McCrystal's strategy, SOF wanted their own chain of command (for good reasons, but it still points to C2 dysfunction), each coalition member has its own ROE, when Battle Space Owners swap out they often pursue different strategies, etc. It is impossible to make meaningful progress this way. We lost the art of getting command and control right.

Where we disagree I suspect is our views on our COIN doctrine. I'm still very much an advocate of using GPF to conduct counter-guerrilla operations to create space for SOF and interagency partners to support the locals effect control over cleared areas. Side lining 90% of our combat power to focus on development before the armed conflict has concluded hasn't proven to be overly effective.

Bill M---then you accept that all serious troop/civilian related incidents in both Iraq and AFG to include those recently of the UK were seldom uncontrollable/unforeseen simple acts of rouge/drunk/drugged individuals and not a single officer or senior leader was responsible?

Do you in fact assume that the lessons learned both from My Lai and Abu Ghriab should have ended with those single NCOs and in the case of My Lai a single CPT who were directly involved?---thus Big Army from the leadership side had absolutely no responsiblity nor should they have any responsibility?

Maybe I am old fashion and maybe I truely believe as does Gen. Dempsey that Mission Command is the way forward and I really do miss in comments from both yourself and major.rod a full understanding of ADP/ADRP/ATTP 6.0---if in fact FM/ADP 6.0 had been in effect during Tunnel's time then maybe both your and major.rod's comments would fall out differently. Or Tunnel could have via ADP 6.0 taken prudent risk and pushed his CG operations as part of his Art of Command---that path is always open to a Commander.

By the way both yourself and major rod were not in the desert as I was with the 5/2 both during their LTP phase and their CTC rotation and thus to a large degree fail to get what I have alluded to a number of times--Tunnel was a poor leader as indicated by three separate GOs discusssing poor leadership issues with him and we should really look deeply really deeply at why his unit was pulled out of their AO and reassigned to MSR duties.

Also not really sure just how many O6s have written the SecDef in the last 10 years--- what 3 or 4 or 6 complaining about the strategic/operational/tactical guidance issued by the NCA, CENTCOM, and COMISAF.

If your still feel after reading ADP/ADRP/ATTP 6.0 and after looking at his units' actions in AFG that my comments are character assassination then so be it.

As to your comments referencing GPF and SOF--currently the core problem with that is in fact as in Viet Nam Big Army GPF and SOF have a somewhat strained relationship at best. And now Big Army is discussing the creation of a potential seventh warfighting function built around the co use of GPF/SF forces which should sit nicely in the halls of SF.

Concur...

On the last sentence I intended to write where the armed conflict has NOT concluded.

Major Rod, you are getting close to crossing a line we enforce here. Keep your commentary focused on the issue, not on those here offering up their opinions. Got it? Goes for anyone else who does the same.

As long as it's enforced on everyone that sounds great to me. :)

You're a bit out of line to correlate what the Rogue squad did with COL Tunnel's leadership. The failure of that squad can primarily be attributed to a weak PSG and PL not supervising their unit. How one can link the perfomance of ONE SQUAD to the BDE CDR's focus can be expected of one looking for a scapegoat.

As for the rest of your assessment at the NTC and after reading the COL's letter (link is listed in another's post below) you either have a score to settle or first hand info you haven't shared. Character assasination? Karma dude.

major.rod---when one sees and hears the results daily from the LTP/NTC engagement with that particular BCT and one speaks with a unusually large number of the NCOs who themselves not sure what to follow--COIN which had been taught to them or CG being espoused by their leadership at the BCT and BN levels.

It first started with their LTP rotation---LTP is taught at the NTC by seriously experienced former MAJs/LTCs/COLs and former senior NCOs---even they were startled by the total disregard for the current COIN doctrine. One can argue over whether COIN is correct or not correct--but a BCT Cmdr still does not have the authority to override TRADCO/CoS/JCoS doctrine, guidance and directives. BCT Cmdrs are not God.

When you saw the actual results of actions (actual daily events) by those BCT/BN leaders and their respective units you would not be using the term character assasination.

Since Abu Ghraib---there can be no argument by any leader at any level that it was a rouge unit---leadership at any level is exactly what it means leadership. If there was a rouge unit then somewhere inside the total BCT there was an attitude in that unit that "allowed" the rouge unit to think that what they were doing was "approved". This Cmdr was lucky he was not charged as his subordinates were--especially since Abu Ghraib.

Secondly check the ADP 6.0 and ADP 6-22 about the role of a Cmdr and his Staff in Mission Command/Leadership and his subordinates and then ask me if this particular Cmdr has cut the limb off he is sitting on.

Core problem was the failures where being seen as well by civilian contractors working the LTP and desert phase all former military but civilians have little to no input authority when it comes to green suiters and the green suiters that saw the exact same thing could not raise their voices higher than a whisper---a typical catch 22 with this particular BCT and we wonder why the murders happened?

Not getting the Abu Ghraib connection.

Connecting what ONE squad did to the BDE commander is ridiculous. If he had that level of influence on squads as a BDE commander there would have been MANY more incidents of improper behavior. Bad leadership doesn't have a selective impact.

A BDE CDR most certainly has an impact down to the squad level when that commander's command climate is toxic and it is well known down to the lowest tactical level that the BDE Commander's intent is to disregard NATO/ISAF CMDR's intent and march to the beat of a different drummer. This started back at the NTC in the work-ups (maybe sooner but I don't have info on that) and by the time boots were on the ground in the AO it was well known what COL Tunnel thought about COIN and his disdain for such. It's not like Tunnell headed a trans-global corporation. Individual Soldiers and Marines do know what the BDE/RCT commander wants from them. And if they do not then that is also a failure of command. Anyway you dice it, Tunnell needs to be held accountable and all this second guessing hindsight damage control is just that, nothing more.

If Tunnell wasn't executing properly it's always in the commander's perogative to fire him. I'm not arguing whether COIN or counter guerrilla is the way to go though others have.

Yep the individual soldier knows who the Brigade commander is. What the rogue squad did can not be attributed to Tunnell as some have said here. Even BG Twitty who did not have a good asssessment of the BDE stated there was no relation between Tunnel's command climate and the rogue squad beating a soldier so bad he had to be hospitalized, smoking dope and killing civilians.

It's bad form for military professionals to judge others when they weren't there. Tunnell deserves his lumps for not following doctrine. Don't understand why it would be cool to just slander someone unless not believing in COIN is considered sacrilege. Drawing casaul relationships betwen Tunnell and the rogue squad had nothing to do with the article, the letter posted here or Tunnell's letter.

SWJ has always seemed to have higher standards.

I came upon this late but this is a fascinating and informative discussion.

SWJED: I know you don't have a lot of time but you should get into these things more often. Your comments add a hell of a lot.

major.rod: Why is it bad form for military professionals to judge others if they aren't there? It seems to me that that can't be helped in any profession if people are to held accountable for their actions and the people best able to judge are members of the same profession.

It's generally bad form to judge someone's decisions because one typically doesn't have the all the info or is doing it from a perspective of 20/20 hindsight.

E.G. anyone can be ambushed. Only a dilletente will condemn a leader for being careless, incompetent or dumb without putting himself in the leader's boots at the time, knowing what they knew.

"Judging" is different than debating, analyzing, or even being critical.

Does that answer the mail?

Yes it does. It is the difference between judging the action and judging the essential worth of the man. When reading aircraft accident reports, I can say to myself "Oh no! Why did he do that?" and the very next thought shouldn't be "Boy was that guy a jerk." No, the very next thought should be "Remember that can happen to you too if you don't pay attention, learn from and remember this." Something like that.

Yes, exactly. It also includes situations where you as an investigator after the fact may have more info than the pilot did at the time.

And as a saved round. Whether or not COIN (as we conduct it in AF) is an appropriate operational and tactical tool to fulfill our ill-defined strategy is not in a BDE commander's lane to decide. COIN operations depend on whole a whole of government approach (which was, is, and looks likes will always be lacking) and depends on unity of command (which we very rarely achieve) and absent that unity of effort. Tunnell's approach became a self-fulling prophecy in that he broke up unity of effort through his actions in his important AO thus pounding one more nail into the coffin of a country-wide approach.

I disagree somewhat. Commanders throughout our history have gone against current thought in the execution of their mission. Our history is full of examples of officers that took doctrine to extremes or even contrary to their higher commander's wishes. Of course their commander always had the authority to relieve the offending commander. It's definitely a "bet your bars" situation.

Oftentimes it's these mavericks that some time stumble on what becomes the appropriate approach. If we always followed doctrine and the current school of thought we'd still be doing linear warfare. Unity of effort is important. Commanders decide how much latitude subordinate commanders can have.

If Tunnell was such a toxic leader and detrimental to the higher mission he should have been relieved. The failure to do so should also result in his commander's relief...

The irony doesn't escape me that the "in vogue" doctrine has such passionate adherents that they sound as strident as their predecessors. Now that's a thought...

major.rod.... you are absolutely spot on. The fact is american history is full of examples commanders and leaders at all levels who took risks of this form. Without sounding flip, these are often the leaders for whom books and movies are written and are used and cited as examples. But only down the road when the history books are written... I have seen the "en vogue" crowd as well and my take is that they are hitching their horse to some higher leader who is a beleiver, because he has done the same to someone above him.

Yes, independent thinking is not the military's forte and hitching one's wagon to a rising star has always been the path to greater rank, the military's measure of success unfortunately.

I've always been more intunned to where the rubber meets the road than the smoke and mirrors that pass for results at echelons above reality.

"Connecting what ONE squad did to the BDE commander is ridiculous."

That connection is called the chain of command.

"The commander is responsible for all his unit does, or fails to do."

Sound familiar?

"Bad leadership doesn't have a selective impact."

It sure does when the recipient of bad leadership is fallible human beings.

The fact that the rest of the Brigade, apparently, was made of sterner stuff doesn't change the prospect that his poor leadership created the environment in which this bad apple squad operated.

duck - No kidding? Maybe you were not trying to be flippant but succeeded none the less.

"The commander is responsible for all his unit does, or fails to do." Yes, I lived it for over 20 years and it's sister law, "Officers are responsible for everything their soldiers do and don't do".

Commanders are always responsible. Where does it stop? Was General Patraeus responsible? The law is there to encourage responsibility throughout the chain of command. That level of responsibility does not always equate to a criminal or even non judicial level of punishment yet it remains so that leaders can never pass the buck (though it does happen at ALL levels)

Ref bad leadership - Leadership typically impacts an entire organization especially when we are talking at the BDE CDR level who probably NEVER interfaces directly with squad leaders. I'm making the case that Tunnell's leadership didn't have a "causal relation" to the rogue squad. Do you know something that BG Twitty didn't find in his report?

Was the BDE CDR of the 502nd responsible for a fire team raping and murdering in Mahmudiyah?

More properly it is called "command climate" and only one person in the chain of command is ultimately responsible for that - the CO.

I agree that the CO at Company and Battalion level are key to setting the command climate, I have never seen a commander at BDE level set the command climate at platoon level. Is the commander ultimately responsible? Yes, but circumstances have to be evaluated. If you're a BDE commander a soldier in your command kills his/her spouse, or gets busted for driving under the influence, etc. that is something you're not going to control by setting the command climate. You react to it when you find out about it. I think it is an extreme stretch to assume a BDE commander created the conditions that facilitated the kill squad, but it is clear the platoon leadership was deeply flawed, and depending upon their disposition I suspect the Company leadership was weak, but that is hard to assess without knowing the particulars.

I realize most SWJ members will defend the COIN doctrine to the end despite its repeated failures, but I surprised how quickly the community simply dismisses counterguerrilla operations. Counterguerrilla operations will always be relevant, and it is an aspect we're missing from our current approach.

COIN now equates political correctness, it can't be challenged, so we continue to pursue a failed strategy to no end and debate has been stifled. If NTC is pushing this doctrine and taking commanders for long walks in the desert when they don't conform to it it is telling. We come closer each year to becoming a communist army complete with political commissars to ensure no one in the ranks deviates from party line.

Bill - Tell it! Agree on all your points and some is to be expected. This is "SMALL WARS JOURNAL". The irony doesn't escspe me that those that have accused the Army of a rigidity in thought demonstrate it themselves.

duck--in some aspects while better late than never---that is really what Mission command is all about especially the Commander's tasks he has as part of the Art of Command.

It is a shame that the leadership standard set after Abu Ghraib ie one star demoted and one star parked did not become the standard for the entire Force as a message to senior leaders---as you rightly state it is a chain of command thing and the commander is the last stop of the buck so to speak. Flip side of that is we have gotten a generation of BCT micromanagers as Commanders for alot of other reasons.

Again what I was pointing out to major.rod---it is really about leadership especially the quality of leadership.

COL Tunnell’s comment on both the employment of COIN methods in RC-South and British leadership are interesting. Regarding the former, it sounds as if COL Tunnell, in response to what he perceived as an extreme application of COIN tactics, responded by going to the other extreme in his application of counter-guerilla tactics which may have led to some of the incidents that occurred during his tour. Ensuring that we incorporate the lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq into unit METLs and our educational institutions may help future leaders at all levels better navigate their way through pop-centric COIN fights.

Regarding the latter, do his comments about British leadership and staff indicate a need for a closer working/ training relationship with our allies? Closer relationship as in more opportunities for more US and UK (and Canadian, Australian, New Zealander) officers (and NCOs if possible) to get exchange assignments to allied militaries and learn about their military cultures, doctrine, and “battle-speak” (for instance, US bubbas on occasion talk of “flexing” forces from A to B….where in doctrine is that? So do we need to go easy on Brits who talk of “discombobulating” the enemy?)? I know of at least one US officer who commanded a UK para company. Do we need to look at doing this more often and with larger units….UK LTCs commanding US battalions? An Aussie commanding one of our divisions?

Should we look at closer integration of our forces, even a permanent coalition element akin to the Franco-German Brigade (the ABCANZ BDE), which should force all contributing members to align their doctrine and integrate operational methodologies?