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U.S.-Led Forces Retake Northern Iraqi City
About 2,000 men -- two battalions from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and a battalion from the Iraqi National Guard -- pushed into Tall Afar at 3:15 a.m. to confront what U.S. military officials had expected would be about 200 insurgents who had taken over the local government.
... seemed eerily similar to this one from September 2005: 5,000 U.S. And Iraqi Troops Sweep Into City Of Tall Afar
Jonathan Finer - in the city with the 3d ACR - would produce a fine series of reports on the 2005 battle over the following weeks. But those who discovered and read those stories - consigned to the Post's back pages - could be forgiven if they experienced a sense of deja vu, along with outrage. Barely one year previously the Post had captured a now-ironic quote from an American soldier at the end of the battle: "We don't want to have to go and do all of this again months from now or a year from now."
Still, at the outset of the 2005 battle, the Post noted that the American commander took "...great pains not to criticize commanders who preceded him here, saying they were handicapped by limited resources and manpower."
"We are trying to learn from the mistakes that have been made here in the past."
Many would be tempted to dismiss that sort of comment from an Army Colonel, but few who knew H.R. McMaster personally, professionally, or by reputation would bet against him.
The assignment of a unit to Iraq is rarely noticed beyond local papers from the community near its home base. The 3d ACR was commanded by a former West Point history professor - and one of his former students took note:
At West Point they have a saying- "Much of the history we teach was made by people we taught." While I was there, they could have taken it a step further- "Some of the history we teach was made by people who are teaching right now." One of the most important battles of Desert Storm was the Battle of 73 Easting- we studied it in depth. The Cadets in my class, however, had a unique perspective- our teacher was the key commander during that battle...He also pointed out this December, 2004 Wall Street Journal article:
While he was teaching us about Vietnam, he shared some unbelievable insight based on research he did for book he was writing- called Dereliction of Duty. It's since been published and it's an excellent read. So this McMaster guy is pretty impressive, huh?
Why Should You Care?
Obviously, the Military brass knew they had a winner in McMaster, and so he is now a Colonel in charge of the Fort Carson-based Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. In a few short months, he will be leading soldiers onto the Iraqi battlefield once again.
As Chaos Mounts In Iraq, U.S. Army Rethinks Its FutureAs example - the 3d ACR:
Before the war began, Middle East experts, along with some Army officials, warned that stabilizing and governing a fractious and ethnically divided Iraq would be much harder than toppling Saddam Hussein.
A recent directive, prepared by Mr. Rumsfeld's office and still in draft form, now yields to that view. It mandates that in the future, units' readiness for war should be judged not only by traditional standards, such as how well they fire their tanks, but by the number of foreign speakers in their ranks, their awareness of the local culture where they will fight, and their ability to train and equip local security forces. It orders the military's four-star regional commanders to "develop and maintain" new plans for battle, hoping to prevent the sort of postwar chaos that engulfed Iraq.
Perhaps the most striking changes are taking place on Army posts such as Fort Carson, Colo., where the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment is getting ready for an Iraq deployment early next year. Since taking command of the 5,000-soldier regiment this summer, Col. H.R. McMaster, an early critic of the Army's vision of fast, high-tech wars, has put his troops through weeks of mock raids. He has staged convoy ambushes and meetings with role players acting as local Iraqi leaders. Such training is becoming common throughout the Army.
In a training exercise last month, Lt. Doug Armstrong sat down with two fellow soldiers -- both Iraq veterans -- who were pretending to be the mayor and police chief of an Iraqi village. Lt. Armstrong, 23 years old, quickly asked where the insurgents in the town were hiding. The mock mayor shrugged and demanded food and water for the people. He chastised the lieutenant for parking his Humvee in the village wheat field.
About five minutes into the meeting, Col. McMaster cut it short. "Be a little more personable," he told the young officer. "Ask about the mayor's family. Build a relationship before you ask him where the bad guys are."
Col. McMaster then asked the lieutenant if he noticed anything unusual in the room where he was meeting with the mayor. The lieutenant shook his head no.
"Who is that dude on the wall?" Col. McMaster asked, pointing to the only poster tacked to the small office's walls. The lieutenant shrugged. A sergeant standing nearby answered that it was Muqtada al Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric.
"You've got to notice those things," Col. McMaster said.