CGSC team helps Iraqi staff college
October 2, 2006
By Jeff Crawley
When logistics instructor John Brackett heard the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College was looking for volunteers to perform temporary duty in Iraq, he quickly signed up.
In 2003 as a Soldier, Brackett volunteered and served in Iraq and Bahrain. The next year as a contractor he volunteered to go to Kuwait.
"This nation state (Iraq) needs as much help as they can in educating their folks," said Brackett, who works in the Department of Logistics and Resource Operations.
Brackett was part of a seven-man team that went to the Iraqi Joint Staff College to assist its faculty expand the school's curriculum, which was undergoing major changes.
The Iraqi Joint Staff College in Ar Rustamiyah in eastern Baghdad is roughly the equivalent of a combined CGSC and U.S. Army War College because it has junior and senior staff-officer curriculums, said Dr. Jim Willbanks, director of CGSC's Department of Military History and leader of the team.
At the end of 17 days, the CGSC team supported the Iraqi faculty with developing or revising more than 200 hours of curriculum in areas such as tactics, intelligence, leadership, counterinsurgency, logistics and joint operations. It also provided assistance in faculty development, and in simulations and exercise design, according to a presentation by Willbanks.
The CGSC team left Kansas City International Airport July 20 and returned Aug. 5. Before the mission, the team had to go through several hours of online antiterrorism training and area familiarization, said Maj. Michael Tacto, exercise operations officer in the Digital Leader Development Center.
Dr. Claude Bowman, an instructor in Faculty and Staff Development, said he absolutely felt in danger during his stay.
"There were rocket, mortar attacks about every other day," Bowman said. In one attack, a rocket exploded about 150 yards from the up-armored Toyota he was riding in.
The Iraqi Joint Staff College was established in 1928 with the help of the British and had operated until Operation Iraqi Freedom began, when it was subsequently abandoned and looted. The college is now supported by NATO.
After structural renovations, classes resumed in September 2005 with a pilot program. The nine-month pilot program identified that the junior and senior staff course curriculums should be extended to 10 and one-half months and the doctrine needed changes, Willbanks said.
Because the Iraqi Joint Staff College did not have dedicated curriculum developers, that responsibility fell upon the faculty, which consisted of senior Iraqi military officers, including a recent CGSC graduate. It's difficult to write the coursework and also to teach it, Brackett said.
A typical day for Tacto consisted of explaining how the CGSC runs its exercises and simulations and working out any problems the IJSC had running its exercises.
The Iraqis instructors were proactive, he said.
"They're not sitting back waiting for someone to give them everything," Tacto said. "They're wanting to get their school on board."
The CGSC team did not experience many language or cultural barriers working with the Iraqis, Tacto said.
There were enough Iraqi faculty members proficient in English to assist their peers in understanding and also there were interpreters. The Iraqi faculty members' English was better than the team's Arabic, he noted.
Brackett assisted his IJSC counterpart with strategic, operational, and tactical logistics.
"We were able to take some pieces of our courseware and customize them for his country," Brackett said. "Say, instead of our State Department, I would change it to his Ministry of National Defense."
At the end of the typical workday, CGSC team members would don their body armor and helmets, walk the 100 yards to their NATO barracks, and prepare for the next day's work.
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense decided to change the curriculum from NATO doctrine to a U.S. version because many of its units are working side by side with U.S. Army units, Brackett said.
NATO is multinational doctrine compared to the unilateral U.S. Army doctrine, which gets very detailed in how to do operations, Willbanks said.
"For instance, in counterinsurgency you won't find the specificity at the NATO level that you will in U.S. Army doctrine. This is U.S. doctrine on counterinsurgency," Willbanks said, holding up an inch-thick manual.
The doctrine that will be implemented is U.S. "Legacy Force" doctrine.
"It will serve them very well," Brackett said.
The CGSC team commended the Iraqi faculty members for choosing to make the Iraqi forces better. Such a vocation is not only dangerous for them but also their families who become targets, team members said.
"Every day they come to work they put their lives at risk," Brackett said. "I salute these guys."
Willbanks said he believes his team's efforts were very effective. Their curriculum work is being used this school year, which began earlier this month.
Before departing, the team had a chance to dine with IJSC Commandant, who had requested the CGSC assistance. He also presented them with small mementos.
"He's a very forward-thinking individual and he has a real firm idea about what he wants to do with the (Iraqi Joint Staff) college," Willbanks said. "It's very modern, it's very progressive and if we can help that, I think we should."