Adapting Military Education to the Lessons Learned in Iraq
Just back from his duties as the top military spokesman in Iraq, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell is now the chief officer in charge of educating the U.S. Army's best and brightest at what is known as the Combined Armed Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. It is a high-profile job he takes over from Gen. David Petraeus, counterinsurgency guru and currently the commander of U.S. military forces in Iraq.
This week, Caldwell has been in Washington, meeting with top military officials to decide on priorities for educating midcareer officers, the vast majority of them back from multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Strikingly candid about the tolls that soldiering has taken in the past on his own family life, Caldwell says that he will be quick to weave some essential "lessons learned" from grueling deployments into the classroom curriculum, as well as into the student culture outside the study halls.
In his time on the ground, Caldwell came to a few conclusions about ways the Army could better prepare its soldiers for the complex demands of their jobs, which today include ever more involvement in an often frustrating web of political dynamics. To that end, first on the list, Caldwell says, is an effort to get his military officers more comfortable working with "interagency" civilian colleagues from, for example, the Departments of State and Commerce and the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as creating officers who are not simply culturally aware, but culturally savvy. This means officers better able to deal with the complex relationships they will encounter in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, both in the military and within local politics and even tribes.
The Army "has done a good job" training as a joint force with the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, Caldwell says. "But if you look at the interagency and intergovernmental, we're doing just terribly." Caldwell points to a sheet with a breakdown of the incoming class at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. In a class of 794, there are 50 international students and four civilians (two from the Department of State, and two from intelligence agencies). Caldwell says he would like to bring more civilian and international students into the next class.
In discussions this week with Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey (who this year turned over command of U.S. forces to Petraeus), Caldwell says there was agreement that "in the officer development process, we need to have greater amounts of experiences outside the military"—in other words, more interaction with civilians.
In Iraq, he adds, "there's nothing we do in Iraq that you don't turn around and see a civilian." With civilian reconstruction teams now "embedded" in U.S. combat brigades—and under military command—Caldwell adds that there is a greater need than ever to work with civilians. An officer who hasn't had some exposure to working with civilians, he says, "won't understand and appreciate what motivates them, how do you understand and give them care and encouragement."