The Army is rethinking how to fight the next warand win the current one
A short way from Medina Jabal, one of the 2nd Infantry Division's battalions has established its headquarters. In the tactical operations center, a large poster shows the interconnections between the people the soldiers have encoun-tered during two-week training. Sifting through intelligence, the battalion has been able to decipher the links between some of the "insurgents" and "townspeople" in Medina Jabal. American units now in Iraq, Petraeus says, have used this type of analysis to make significant inroads against the insurgency. The better a unit understands the insurgency in its area, for instance, the more it can target specific houses and the less it has to search entire neighborhoods with broad sweeps that alienate Iraqis.
The 2nd I.D.'s intelligence poster is the work of Staff Sgt. Shawn Ray. Petraeus leans back, nodding his head as he examines the connections that Ray has made. "All right," Petraeus says. "You've cracked the code here."
"Yes, sir," Ray answers, in a voice made hoarse by the desert dust.
"What would help you get . . . precise, actionable intel?" the general asks. "So you can do a cordon and knock, not a cordon and search. Who has given you the highest-quality stuff?"
"It's company commanders, even Joe on the ground who has someone come up to him," Ray says.
"Yup, yup," Petraeus says, motioning to his aide, who produces a coin. It reads, "Presented by the Commanding General for outstanding performance." Petraeus offers Ray his hand and slips the coin into the sergeant's palm.
Three years on, the Army increasingly recognizes that mistakes were made during the invasion of Iraq and its immediate aftermath. Those errors helped the insurgency to bloom and handed America a difficult, complex conflict. "It is not the fight we wanted," Wallace says, "but it's the fight we got." So the Army has set out to prove it can remake its doctrine, schools, and training centers in the midst of war. "The goal is to help our Army be a learning or-ganization," says Petraeus, "and we think there is a lot of that going on."
Perhaps someday, soldiers will tell stories about the new National Training Center: tales of how their unit took out a sniper before he could shoot an imam, or how they persuaded one sect not to attack another. But for now, of course, there are real stories from a real war.