Leadership: The Captain is a Prince


February 1, 2008: Iraq has been forcing more American junior officers to exercise a lot more authority than in previous wars. This is largely because, the tactic of sending combat units out to set up temporary bases in neighborhoods and villages, has made the company commander (usually a captain, in charge of 150-200 troops) the "go-to" guy. In theory, the company commander can bump a lot of requests from the locals up the chain-of-command. But in practice, it's easier to take care of things on the spot, and that's what a lot of company commanders do. Often that means promising something, then going to the battalion or brigade commander to get the goods. But this thinking has also enabled sergeants and lieutenants to step up, and take charge more than they normally would.

This is nothing new. U.S. troops were doing this in the Balkans during the 1990s, and many of those with experience in those peacekeeping missions, put it to good use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Same thing happened in Vietnam, Korea and World War II. That sort of thing never got imprinted on the public consciousness because journalists and historians paid little attention to this boring "civil affairs" type stuff. But there it is, still with us, and still ignored. But, even more so than in the past, it's winning the war.


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