With post-deployment leave over, I thought I’d wrap up the end of war with a single post, pulling in whatever was significant over the past year, and some thoughts that seem relevant.
Of course, the actual deployment started long before actually deploying. Once the word came down that we were going, there’s an instant gravitational pull to start reading and studying. I began the End of War Reading List as an attempt to get a grasp on what one might expect as the end of a war nears. Before deploying, I wrote about how strange it was to be preparing to deploy to a war that we knew was coming to and end, all while other officers were being handed pink slips and the writing on the wall told of a coming smaller force.
Pre-deployment musings generated this popular post on “why we fight.” The answer: force protection.
Keeping with the Game of Thrones theme, the Battle of Castle Black seemed remarkably familiar to what a deployment to a small outpost can feel like.
And then, the deployment actually began.
I wasn’t really sure if I was going to be able to post while overseas. My last deployment was in 2005, and I quickly learned that things had changed significantly and war in 2014 comes with a 3G data plan for your smartphone (not really, you have to pay for it). I had my own room and I had nearly 100% reliable WiFi from my quarters. And if I didn’t, there was always a green line somewhere nearby. It became clear, rather quickly, that the standard model of soldier morale (chow, mail, pay) was changing.
I read a lot about Major Gant.
I also read about the careful balancing of humanity and iron discipline in maintaining a lethal force.
After almost 20 years, I finally finished Tactics Ogre, and continued to pull amazing lessons from it.
Working for 9 months straight confirmed to me why deployment experience actually matters, and why it is so valuable.
The M9 continues to serve as the Army’s vanity weapon (I’m not saying I didn’t have one, I’m just saying).
I published a longform version of the Battle of As Samawah after it was rejected somewhere else.
9/11 in Afghanistan was like any other day.
FOBs are kept running by an unseen, mysterious bevy of small green insect looking creatures.
I thought a lot about drones – and how they are our Magitek Armor.
I tracked down Richard Johnson while passing through Bagram, and he graciously drew a sketch of me, which was rapidly corrected.
I got seriously good at PowerPoint.
The absurdity of war continued to fascinate me. The axiom “pics or it didn’t happen” became ultra-apparent, and I was pleased to learn that the Taliban follow the same general guidelines.
Nostalgia floweth over.
I discovered my new favorite military force, and pondered the role of “hate” in war.
I got really, really sick and then the war ended (over and over again).
The platoon leader is responsible for all the platoon does or fails to do.
American Sniper came out. I still haven’t seen it.
We all feared the reaper.
As the deployment came to a close, the Universal Truths of Relief in Place were once again, confirmed.
We waited and waited. And waited.
And then we came home, and the adjustment period began.
Last week, the May-June issue of Military Review was released and a piece that I co-authored was published there highlighting some of the steps our platoon took in operating resiliency at the platoon level.
Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, our NTC experience and all of the troubles and gripes that accompanied it, was actually validated by the deployment. Of course, we were only at NTC for a month, but it did a good job at replicating a lot of the problems we would face in Afghanistan. In many ways, it was easier to accomplish some things in Afghanistan than it was at NTC – which is good.
I’m not sure it’s all over. There are no clean breaks.
Leave is over, work begins, and everyone is still adjusting.