Sunday, November 1, 2009


This last week we bid goodbye to 4 "Snowbird" Lieutenants. A Snowbird is a soldier (officer, enlisted or NCO) who has to wait at some location for several months (usually not more than 4) until their next assignment is ready for them. We had four LTs who had been comissioned but their OBC date was not until November. So we got to use them for about 3 months.

We were glad to have them as we are usually short on officers, and they did a great job for the short time they were here. The one thing I very much enjoyed was our OPD (Officer Professional Development) sessions. We had (and still do) have one a week when we do a short battle analysis. The idea is to see what we can learn from a certain battle so that we don't repeat the problem later on. The books I used are "The Bear Went Over The Mountian" and "The Other Side Of The Mountain", both about the Soviet/Afghan War in the 1980's. We focused on the Soviet side and I tried to zero in on things that we are doing now over there (Convoys, raids, ambushes, etc.). The concept is to figure out what both sides did right and wrong, and what would we do as Americans (our TTPs are different so many times our solutions to the same problem are different).

We all learned a lot. I can tell you this much: my estimation of the Soviet Military machine dropped considerably after this study. I knew that the Soviets didn't have much focus on NCOs, but our studies brought home the difference in a huge way (example: for a squad sized ambush would YOU put a MAJOR in charge? In the US, that is the job of a corporal or a buck sergeant, but they Soviets used Majors and even higher several times). But this was all lead up.

Our Capstone study was an analysis of the Battle of Wanat. This was a US action fought last year, 8 US troops died and over 20 were wounded. A COP (Combat Patrol Base) was almost overrun by Taliban. We held them off, and inflicted heavy losses. But the point was I wanted my LTs to see that many simple lessons we thought were absolute in the US Army were not so absolute. I told them this was the "hard look in the mirror" and to not slant their views because these were US troops involved. It was not a pleasant discussion, especially considering these guys were also paratroops and part of a unit considered to be elite by many in the US. But it was a great learning experience. It really hammered home to the LTs that the military is a profession, and in professions you must study and apply what you learn. Lots of folks miss the difference, but I think I have got the point across.

Now we are going to study the Afghan side. Should also be useful.


  1. Neat stuff indeed! How readable for the non-historian-type are those two books?

  2. Very readable. But the real problem is finding a copy. I "aquired" mine at Fort Riley, on Amazon, a copy of "The Bear Went Over The Mountain" is running at $50 last time I looked. Of course, being near to Fort Hood you may have an easier time of it. A nice used Bookstore would be a good place to look too.