On Thursday, Oct. 27, the Military History club along with Dr. Robert Kodosky, hosted a great turn-out for the second lecture in their military history series, “Counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan: Lessons Learned.”
The lecture was led by current students at the War College in Carlisle, Pa., Lt. Col., David Hudak, U.S. Army and Lt. Col., Mike Florio, U.S. Air Force. Both Hudak and Florio have served in leadership positions while in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We’re excited to be here to talk about our experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Florio said, “As well as to interact with you. As much as you want to hear from us, we really want to hear what you are thinking about and your prospective.” Florio and Hudak spoke to their audience about the effects of counterinsurgency and the effects their soldiers had on the populace.
Florio talked about the four things that insurgency tries to do: political change, overthrow the government, resistance against the outside actor, and nullifying political control of an area. “[Overthrowing of the government] is a result of our action. As we took over a government, there really wasn’t a legitimate government in Iraq once we took it down. So how can you have an insurgency against a government that is not even stable,” Florio said. “If you don’t like a situation in your area, how do you overturn that? So that’s what insurgency tries to do and obviously we are trying to keep up with the government and we are interested in doing a counterinsurgency.”
“The civilians are a big part of it. We cannot do this alone,” Florio said.
“There is a reason why the people are upset about the government. Are they providing security? Is the government corrupt? What are those factors that are keeping them from giving their full support to their government?” Florio questioned.
Florio introduced the slogan that is used to make sure that the counterinsurgency will work, clear, hold, and build. “The first two goes into the combat operations; here’s where that military power really comes into play,” Florio said. “We got to make sure we remove that populace from that insurgent group.” Florio talked about how if “clear” and “hold” are not accomplished, then there is no possible way that there can be a “build.”
“In order to do this, you want to develop a campaign plan. This is our strategy on how we are going to get to the state that we want, which would be to establish a stable government,” Florio said.
The campaign that Florio talked about was developed not only by the Armed Forces but also by the U.S. State Department and input from the host nation. “We can’t be thinking ‘we’re Americans, just listen to us and do what we say,'” Florio said. “How would you like it if somebody came in and told you how to run your government?”
A big part of the campaign plan is learning about what is going on, what type of government is set up and help them get to a positive point. “If you don’t add them into your game plan, you are going to lose from day one,” Florio said.
The campaign plan includes security, governance, economic help, and informational help.
“We need security. If you go back to clear and hold, you have to make sure to separate the bad guys from the populace,” Florio said.
“Then there is governance. Do the people trust the government? Is the government corrupt? Is the government doing those things that they need to be doing in order to protect the populace?”
Economics also plays a huge part in the campaign process. “Some regions have been devastated by war, a lot of things need to be looked at, so that the people can back on their feet,” Florio said. “Once you have security, then you can start working on the economics.”
Florio talked about the efforts that were put through when trying to gain security in Iraq such as the construction of access roads and an Iraqi police substation.
Florio also talked about how the military worked with the state to create jobs for the populace in order to bring up the economic situation. In order to help the government, Florio talked about meeting with Mayors, Sheiks, and populace, and listening to their feedback.
“We mentored civil leaders and encouraged informal leaders to participate in the government,” Florio said.
Informational material was also provided, including medical engagement, patrols, and psychological operations.
With all of this happening in Iraq, Florio’s honest opinion is that Iraq is “not there yet” when it comes to being stable.
Lt. Col. David Hudak also talked about his experience in Afghanistan. Hudak works as an operations research systems analysis.
“We look at different techniques using analysis, statistics, etc. and provide predictions into the future,” Hudak said. “What is going to happen next? Where are the trends?”
“So when I went to Afghanistan, part of my job was to find out how we were doing in Afghanistan,” Hudak said. “How can we show how we are doing, whether that’s a decline or an improvement?”
“When I first got to [Afghanistan] we only had four regions; north, east, south, and west,” Hudak said. “We decided that since the southwest was such a key area, we made another command called RC-Southwest.” Hudak described the missions that he was a part of during the lecture.
Hudak was in Afghanistan from Jan. 2010 through Aug. 2010.
Hudak also talked about the female engagement teams ,
“The female engagement teams , whichwere really brand new.” “When we would go out and talk to the villagers, who would come from the Afghan populace? The men, that’s just their culture,” Hudak said. “The women stay back at the house. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have an
opinion, because they do. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have a voice, especially at home, because they do.”
Hudak talked about a Reserve Major that he knew named Maria, who was a part of the female engagement teams and how they would talk to the women in the Afghan population.
“When they would go into the village, they would, with permission and with much humility to the culture, would ask if they could talk to the women,” Hudak said. “One of the things Maria would do was wear a native headdress and dress conservatively and would have discussions with the women.”
Hudak said that with these discussions that the female engagement team were having, they would learn a lot about the populace. “One thing that struck me was when [Maria] spent some time with a particular family whose livelihood consisted of a tea business. They would make hot tea and take it over to where the Afghan National Army base,” Hudak said. “Maria brought them over an electric teapot that doubled their capacity to make a living. From that, she found out the family’s 15-year-old daughter was pregnant.”
Hudak talked about the lack of pre-natal medication.
“However, one of the things Maria was able to find in the Marine Corps system were sanitary birthing mats and she was able to bring those to the village,” Hudak said. “Again, it’s about this relationship building.”
After both of their presentations, Hudak and Florio invited students and guests to a question and answer session.
The Military History Club Lecture series will host two more events. On Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Philips Autograph Library, Lt. Col. Boyd A. Miller, U.S. Marine Corps, will host a lecture on the history of The Marine Corps and another lecture series on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m. in the Philips Autograph Library.
Angela Thomas is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.