History Shapes Current Operations

By Mark A. Viney, LTC, USAMay 13, 2011

Quarterhorse M3A2
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Platoon Leader
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In the October 2008 edition of Field Manual 3-07, Stability Operations, Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, characterizes the current era of uncertainty and persistent conflict as a time in which the lines separating war and peace, friend and foe, have blurred and no longer conform to the clear delineations that we once understood. Military success alone will no longer suffice to prevail in today's environment. The challenges before us require strengthening the capacity of other elements of national power, leveraging the full potential of our interagency partners.

In today's complicated global security climate, the achievement of victory will assume new dimensions as the United States strengthens its ability to generate "soft" power in order to promote participation in government, spur economic development, and address the root causes of conflict among populations of the world. At the heart of this effort is a comprehensive approach to stability operations that integrates the tools of statecraft with our military forces, international partners, humanitarian organizations, and the private sector.

This comprehensive approach postures the U.S. military to perform a role common throughout our history, that of ensuring the safety and security of local populations, assisting reconstruction, and providing basic sustenance and public services. Of equal importance, it defines the role of military forces in support of civilian agencies charged with leading these complex endeavors.

FM 3-07 further points out that during America's relatively short history since 1775-1776, our military forces have engaged in only eleven wars considered conventional. Spanning from the American Revolution through Operation Iraqi Freedom, these wars combated significant or perceived threats to our national security interests, where the risk to our nation was always gravest. These were the wars which our military forces traditionally prepared to fight. These were the wars against threats that endangered our American way of life. Of the hundreds of other military operations conducted in the intervening years, most are now categorized as stability operations, in which the preponderance of effort was toward stability tasks. Contrary to popular conception, the military history of the United States is one characterized by stability operations punctuated by distinct episodes of major combat.

Following the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Army began to reduce its force structure with the expectation of reaping the benefits of a new era of peace. However, this "peace dividend" was not to be realized. The strategic environment was no longer dominated by the bipolar relationship between the world's two dominant powers. That environment instead evolved to one of shared responsibility across the international community. In the decade following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US Army participated in more than fifteen stability operations in such places as Haiti, Liberia, Somalia, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Many of these operations continued into the 21st Century. Together with ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they revealed a disturbing trend throughout the world: the collapse of established governments, the rise of international terrorist and criminal networks, an apparently limitless array of humanitarian crises, and crushing poverty. The global implications of such destabilizing factors have proven monumental.

As a keystone doctrinal publication, FM 3-07 institutionalizes the hard-won lessons of the past while charting a path for tomorrow. One of the more recent stability operations that informed this publication was OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR. As the first-ever ground operation conducted by NATO and the largest Western Allied military operation in Europe since World War II, OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR sought to implement a peace agreement concluding a bloody, ethnically motivated civil war in Bosnia. The operation commenced in December 1995 and was concluded twelve months later, followed immediately by OPERATION JOINT GUARD.

The 900 cavalrymen of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry (Quarterhorse) and its attached units were a small but prominent portion of the international task force in Bosnia that numbered at its height over 57,000 NATO Soldiers. Quarterhorse was one of the first combat units of NATO's Implementation Force (IFOR) to enter Bosnia in early 1996. It played a pivotal role in the international effort to mend that nation still smoldering from three and a half years of brutal civil war. Despite the mountainous terrain, bad weather, tens of thousands of land mines, and the periodic threat of terrorist attack, Quarterhorse upheld the peace in one of the most challenging parts of the American sector. For its achievements, the squadron was awarded the Army Superior Unit Award. Five Quarterhorse cavalrymen further distinguished themselves through individual acts of gallantry, for which they were awarded the Soldiers Medal.

The regimental history and lineage of the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment reflect experience with stability operations over the Army's 236 year history. Quarterhorse cavalrymen performed many stability tasks in Bosnia that would have been recognizable to their predecessors during the "Bleeding Kansas" civil strife, Reconstruction, the Indian Wars, the Philippine Insurrection, the occupation of Germany following World War II, and even the pacification portion of operations in Vietnam. Many of the same stability tasks have subsequently been performed by the squadron in Macedonia and Iraq.

OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR was a proving ground for junior leaders who lead battalions and brigades today. The operational doctrine currently employed in Iraq and Afghanistan had its genesis in the stability operations performed by the U.S. Army in Bosnia, Haiti, Somalia, and elsewhere during the period 1989-2001. Stressing the importance of OPERATION JOINT ENDEAVOR in particular, the former Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey, said in 2009, "I don't think we could have done what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan without having done what we did in Bosnia first."

ABOUT THIS STORY: Many of the sources presented in this article are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). The artifacts shown are among nearly 50,000 items of the Army Heritage Museum (AHM) collections. MHI and AHM are part of the U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center, 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA, 17013-5021. Website: www.carlisle.army.mil/ahec

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