Archive for Thursday, February 7, 2008

New book guides commanders on surviving deployment

February 7, 2008

— The first 100 days are critical to a soldier deployed in a combat zone.

"The enemy isn't stupid. If they are going to attack a unit, they are going to attack one that is new, not one that's been there 300 days," said Col. Steve Mains, director of the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) at Fort Leavenworth.

CALL recently released the third in a series of handbooks that provide information to soldiers intended to help them adjust and survive the early days of their deployment. The latest book, "The First 100 Days: Commander and Staff," is written for brigade and battalion commanders - usually colonels and lieutenant colonels - and their staffs.

The book, which is not available to the public, describes how command staff should be structured and intelligence should be used so the soldiers under their command can be successful.

"The decisions they make have a dual impact on mission accomplishment and survivability down at the soldier level," Mains said.

Lee Tafanelli, a Republican state representative from Ozawkie, said he thinks the book would have been beneficial to him three years ago when, as a lieutenant colonel, he led a Kansas Army National Guard battalion in Iraq.

"Those first 100 days are very critical, especially when you are talking to the brigade command and the lieutenant colonel command levels, because that's where the rubber meets the road," said Tafanelli, who has since been promoted to a full colonel. "They are the ones on the ground having the greatest interaction with individuals and where the greatest impact on a mission can be made."

It takes at least a month to get a sense of what's going on in a combat deployment, Tafanelli said.

"Walking into a new environment, it's going to take the first two weeks just to figure out where things are," he said.

The information in the books was gleaned from interviews and responses to questionnaires by commanders and staff who have been deployed. It is applicable to either Iraq or Afghanistan, Mains said. The critical issues and key tasks during the early days of deployment are identified, said Milt Hileman, a civilian military analyst at CALL.

The first book, "Soldier Handbook: Surviving Iraq," was printed a year ago, followed by the second, "Leaders' Handbook: The First 100 Days," in late summer 2007. The books address issues of importance to lower-ranking officers and soldiers.

"To us, there were no surprises," Hileman said. "They basically said that if you are well-trained, disciplined and follow your leader, then you'll be successful."

The books tell soldiers not to get complacent, Mains said.

"Don't set a pattern," he said. "Don't go out with patrols configured the same way at the same time on the same route every day. And you don't go back on the same route you go out on."

A fourth book, still in production, will be designed for soldiers in transition teams - American soldiers who train foreign soldiers. It focuses on cultural awareness and being respectful of the other country's soldiers and civilians.

All of the books are paperbacks ranging in length from 75 pages to 100 pages. They are small enough for a soldier to carry in a cargo pocket.

"We want to keep them short enough so you can read and understand them," Hileman said.

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