May 15, 2009

9 out of 10 Operators Agree: "The Pope" is the Right Man for the Job

One of the most experienced Afghanistan hands I know had this to say about General McChrystal in an email to me yesterday:

All the heavy breathing about him being A Killer Man and not right for COIN is way, way off base.

"Dalton Fury" -- the nom de plume of an old Delta commander (and the brother of one of America's most legendary warriors, if I am correct) -- had much more enthusiastic words for McChrystal. Gang, this piece on Small Wars Journal is the only must-read profile to have been written about General McChrystal since his nomination. It's worth about eight times what those features in the Post and Times are worth. Read this, because this is the no-%$#@ Inside Baseball stuff. (In fact, I am a little surprised anyone is allowed to write about this stuff. One of the reasons I have never written about my time in Iraq, for example, was because of the kind of op-sec stuff talked about here.)

I served as a staff officer under McChrystal in the late 90’s before leaving for 1st SFOD-D. My Ranger peers and I had a unique opportunity to see the good and the bad in the 1976 West Point graduate. I think if McChrystal were wounded on the battlefield, he would bleed red, black, and white – the official colors of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He is 110% US Army Ranger, rising to become the 10th Regimental Commander in the late 90’s, and still sports the physique to prove it. Even with a bum back and likely deteriorating knees after a career of road marching and jumping out of planes he doesn’t recognize the human pause button. Maybe by now this is a good thing as the junior officers of today might be able to keep pace with the General.

As the Ranger Regimental commander, McChrystal was considered a Tier II subordinate commander under the Joint Special Operations functioning command structure. The highest level, Tier I, was reserved exclusively for Delta Force and Seal Team 6. This always seemed to bother McChrystal. His nature isn’t to be second fiddle to anyone, nor for his Rangers to be considered second class citizens to the Tier 1 Special Mission Units.

Terms like “kit”, often used by Delta and Seal Team 6 operators to collectively describe the gear, weapons, and equipment an assaulter carries was banned from the Ranger lexicon. The term “assaulter” or “operator” was also verboten speak within the Regiment. The men wearing the red, black, and white scroll were Rangers, not assaulters and not operators. They also didn’t carry kit. They carried standard military issue equipment.

McChrystal also deplored the idea that the Regiment served as an unofficial farm team for Delta Force, or even the US Army Special Forces Green Berets. In his eyes, the Rangers were just as skilled in their primary mission of Airfield Seizures and Raids as Delta was in land based Hostage Rescue or the SEALs were in assaulting a ship underway. All things being equal, McChrystal was right. The Rangers were, and still are, just as skilled in their Mission Essential Tasks as are the Tier I units in theirs. He believed that losing quality officers and non-commissioned officers to what many considered the true tip of the spear outfits – those granted the most funding, most authority, and given the premiere targets - hurt the Regiment.