Friday, January 23, 2009

Proactive COIN sets behavior standards

FORT DIX, N.J.--Counter Insurgency (COIN) is a working priority and a theme that is being repeated during mobilization training here. It is the standard operating procedure for Soldiers currently active in and deploying to countries which have insurgents. These daily laws to follow are priority for the Iraqi soldiers as well.

Training here for mobilizing Soldiers emphasizes COIN through classes, briefings, lectures and discussions. Training inside the classroom is complimented with plenty of real-life training outside the classroom. Soldiers are engaged in convoys, night fire exercises, land navigation, and plenty of urban environment training.

“War is routine, and then it is terror,” said Lt. Col. Charles P. McCormick, commander of the 332nd Ordinance Battalion, from Redhouse, W.Va. “Soldiers can’t be listening to IPoDs in the gunner’s hatch, and they must always apply the 5 (meters) to 25 (meters) watch. They must look out for any changes of behavior in the population.”

Guarding against complacency and trying not to set patterns are major elements of COIN according to McCormick. He adds that living among the Iraqi people is the basis for COIN and working with the host country is the key.

“No longer are we in a sterile environment, “ said McCormick. “The Army has done an excellent job replicating what it’s like over there. In fact, we are even employing displaced Iraqis as trainers who talk to troops to give real-life experiences.”

McCormick is getting ready for his third deployment to the region. He is working closely with his command sergeant major, who is also preparing for his third deployment to the region, to engage his battalion in COIN-related operations.

COIN allows the leadership to get a better idea of what is out there, said Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny M. McPeek, from Kingsport, Tenn. Preparing the Soldiers to report what they see, changes they see, and any high-value targets to watch are all part of training Soldiers as sensors.

Iraqi soldiers and American Soldiers have trained together to form Military Transition Teams. McPeek has firsthand experience as part of a MiTT, and has additional experience as a graduate from the COIN Center For Excellence in Camp Taji, Iraq, which serves both U.S. Soldiers and Iraqi Security Forces.

“Iraqi soldiers are liaisons,” said McPeek. “We utilize the ISF to use as an assessment of our surroundings.”

McPeek indicated that information gathered by ISF was pretty accurate. It is has been an adjustment for troops to count on information from ISF, but they have used it to their advantage, said McPeek.

A significant byproduct of successful COIN is the ability of Iraqis to work together on teams that include Shiites and Sunnis. Soldiers have made significant strides in mending fences between these groups, according to McCormick.

McCormick says that Iraq is turning more toward what America represents. “It’s the right of all people to worship as they see fit,” said McCormick.

McCormick adds that COIN contributes to helping Iraqis see that tolerance of all religions and points of view can coexist.

“I had Sunnis and Shiites in the same battalion; by the end of the mission’s year, they came together as a collective unit,” said McPeek. “One team, one fight, I’ve lived it and I’ve seen it.”

COIN is a way of life. It is a lifestyle that works by being proactive, vigilant and patient. It is the fabric of the current mission, Operation Iraqi Freedom. COIN means to always be aware of the surroundings and to report any and all suspicious activities that could interrupt progress of the growing infrastructure of the host nation or to inflict violence.  McCormick and McPeek are prime examples of Soldiers living, training and working daily toward making all Soldiers more aware of where COIN fits in the framework of the Global War on Terror.

Photo Caption: Commander Lt. Col. Charles P. McCormick, Redhouse, W.V. and Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny M. McPeek, Kingsport, Tn. of the 332nd Ordinance Battalion out of Kenova, W.V. stand together in front of both the U.S. and Iraq flags to show support and solidarity for the newly formed Iraq government. McCormick and McPeek are leading the efforts to strengthen COIN among Soldiers. “Every Soldier is a sensor. Soldiers must have situational awareness. They must know the surroundings. They must be on watch. They must look for patterns and changes in patterns,” said McCormick.

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