"So We're Divesting Some Howitzers"

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“So We’re Divesting Some Howitzers”



CPT James R. Richert


1SG Nicholas J. Wisely


Edited by

COL Mark C. Andres


COL Shane D. Celeen


“The SFAB is typically not heavily involved in the organize, equip, rebuild, and build SFA tasks. However, the SFAB does have an interest in the expansion of FSF capability and capacity…”[1]

B Battery (a.k.a. Integrity Battery), 4th Battalion, 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade, culminated their deployment train-up for an artillery advisor mission in Afghanistan by participating in the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) Rotation 19-09. The training leading up to this deployment focused on the D-30 artillery piece and Afghan culture, which also included certification on the D-30 from PMCS through sling load from a CH-47 in preparation for deployment to southern Afghanistan. However, the mission changed after the battery completed their JRTC Rotation, and Integrity Battery would become part of Task Force 300 (Iraq) and assumed the Advise, Assist, and Enable mission begun by B Battery, 4th Battalion, 2nd SFAB. This change of mission would ultimately lead Integrity Battery to execute mission essential tasks they had not previously trained: Organize and Build Foreign Security Forces (FSF).

B/4-2SFAB spent the summer months of 2019 building solid and lasting relationships with the 114th Artillery Brigade, 14th Iraqi Army (IA) Division, and the 115th Artillery Brigade, 15th IA Division. In October 2019, Integrity Battery’s headquarters (TM 3420), comprised of a 13A Battery Commander, 13Z5M Battery 1SG, 13A Senior Fires Advisor, and 68W33 Medic, aligned to 14th IA in the town of Makhmoor near the Qara Chokh Mountains in the Salah ad Din Province. TM3421, comprised of a 13A Team Leader, 13B43 Assistant Team Leader, 13J43 Fire Direction NCO, and 13B33 Gunnery Sergeant, aligned to the 15th IA by the town of Kisik Junction, close to the Badush Mountains in Ninewah Province.

The opening days of 2020 were a tense time for the political-military environment in Iraq. The TF 300 (SFAB) consisted of 171 Advisors in Iraq and 62 attached Infantrymen from 3-21IN “Gimlets”, 1/25 ID. As the threat situation increased, TF 300 received orders to consolidate. The mission changed from persistent advising Iraqi Army counterparts to establishing a Northern Response Force to assist in force protection and reconsolidation of forces in Iraq due to increased threats. The American airstrikes killed that killed MG Qasem Soleimani on 03 January 2020 resulted in an Iranian Theater Ballistic Missile attack on 08 January 2020. TF300 continued to plan and rehearse the Northern Response Force mission displaying the flexibility of the SFAB organization

TF300 also began to plan for their next advising mission; partnering with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s (IKR) Peshmerga Forces. It was at this point that Integrity Battery showed that while the SFAB may not normally be involved in the equip, organize and build SFA tasks, their technical and tactical expertise are suited to improving the outcomes of these efforts.

“So we are divesting some M119A2 Howitzers…”

This was Integrity Battery’s opening introduction to the Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq (OSC-I) Northern Affairs Branch. Responsible for supporting the development of a modern, accountable, fiscally sustainable, and professional Iraqi military capable of defending Iraq and its borders[2] , OSC-I leads an effort to provide Security Assistance in the form of  American equipment to the Ministry of Peshmerga (MoP). OSC-I requested assistance in developing Courses of Action (COAs) for an organizational framework to build around the Security Case of a future MoP Artillery Battalion including M119A2 howitzers and M120 mortars. While the OSC-I staff and FMS Case Managers are highly competent Army officers, they had no artillery experts amongst them. They had the foresight to understand that simply divesting the howitzers without building the required technical and tactical skills would make the howitzers direct fire weapons.

Organize Foreign Security Force - Company (07-CO-7361)

Organize. This includes all activities taken to create, improve, and integrate doctrinal principles, organizational structures, capability constructs, and personnel management. This may include doctrine development, unit or organization design, command and staff processes, and recruiting and staffing functions.[3]

The Training and Evaluation Outline (T&EO) for this task begins with steps to plan the Advisor Company’s involvement in the Host Nation (HN) operation. Following the listing of initial Company internal planning efforts, the T&EO turns to assessing the FSF current capabilities. Integrity Battery competed the initial assessments of the previous FSF organization quickly as no current MoP artillery organization exists. This provided MoP the opportunity to establish the first artillery unit aligned directly to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). The OSC-I Chief of Northern Affairs advised that the MoP should be presented COAs for the organizational force structure and that they be responsible for the ultimate decision, staying true to Security Force Assistance

doctrine that “The partner nation determines the structure of its security forces including approving all organizational designs.”[4] With this in mind, Integrity Battery began researching the cultural and political aspects of the organizational force structure as “The partner nation’s social and economic conditions, cultural and historical factors, and security threats have significant implications for the organizing effort.”[5] Integrity Battery worked with the Kurdish Regional Security Council (KRSC) through the Kurdish Coordination Center (KCC) and OSC-I to gain a greater understanding of the aspects affecting the decisions to be made. Analyzing the issue by looking at the political and social relations, time and space, access to technology cultural domains[6], Integrity Battery learned two major obstacles that would stand in the way of a decision. 

The first would be the strength of the political party affiliations for the Officers within the Peshmerga forces. Although a military formation is subordinate to the MoP for compliance with reform mandates, the leadership positions often split evenly between the PUK and KDP affiliated officers. Politically, the ability to split the leadership of the artillery organization between the two political parties would be an important decision criterion. 

Second, to alleviate financial strain on the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) the majority of MoPA aligned forces are part time Soldiers. The RGBs follow a 10 day on duty, 20 day off duty model; allowing the KRG to maintain a large pool of trained citizen-soldiers that can be called to active duty in times of need. Operationally, this meant that the organization must be able to rotate two-thirds of its force on leave at any given moment.

With the above-mentioned decision criteria in mind and lessons learned from advising operations with Iraqi Army artillery units south of the Kurdish Coordination Line (KCL), Integrity Battery designed three COAs for a MoP aligned artillery organization.

Integrity Battery COAs for the Organizational Design of MoP Aligned Artillery

Upon completion of the COAs, Integrity Battery met with the OSC-I Director for Northern Affairs, Foreign Military Sales Case Manager and the 3rd SFAB Deputy Commander to determine the way forward to gain acceptance of a COA from the MoP. A meeting was set to brief the three COAs to the MoP senior military leadership.

The MoP senior military leadership consisted of the MoP Secretary General, Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff – Operations, Deputy Chief of Staff – Logistics and Admin, General Directorate of Military Accounting, Director of International Coordination and Relations, and the 70s and 80s Forces Military Advisors. This is one of several examples in which the “SFAB commander and advising team leaders work with various ministries and organizations that are responsible for the national security of the partner nation.”[7] Due to the significant nature of this future endeavor, MoPA leadership assembled a large cross-section of the Ministerial Staff to receive the brief. At the completion of the COA briefing, the MoPA Chief of Staff and Secretary General thanked the OSC-I Chief of Northern Affairs and SFAB members present for the options provided. OCS-I and SFAB began planning for future actions as they waited for an official decision to be released by the MoPA.

Support the Rebuilding of Foreign Security Forces for Battalions (71-BN-7364)

            As Integrity Battery waited for an official decision on the Artillery unit organizational design, TM3420 and TM3421 began preparing to provide support for the building of the organization. “The rebuild and build task refers to all activities related to restoring and developing FSF capability, capacity, and supporting infrastructure. This task required an in-depth analysis of the capability, capacity, and structures required to meet the desired end state and operational environment.”[8] The T&EO for task number 71-BN-7364 breaks the planning phase for supporting the building of FSF into Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership, Personnel, and Facilities (DOTMLPF). Integrity Battery chose to focus on the Doctrine, Training, Leadership, and Facilities as planning efforts because the MoP would determine task organization, the FMS case manager would plan material procurement, and the MoP Ministerial Staff would provide personnel.  

Excerpt from T&EO 71-BN-7364

            Integrity Battery began coordinating with outside agencies to build recommendations to the MoP for doctrine to govern the new artillery organization. The Battery coordinated with the Fires Center of Excellence (FCoE) Master Gunner Division to begin building certification programs. Additionally, the battery coordinated with French Artillery Advisors from Task Force Monsabert. Their insights into the ways Iraqi culture affects the adult learning model[9] were key in developing a program of instruction and lesson plans for non-artillery trained Peshmerga Soldiers. Coordination with the FCoE Directorate of Training Development and Doctrine (DoTD) paved the way for recommendations on developing the framework of an artillery institution to train, educate, and develop future generations of Peshmerga artillerymen. Working with the Firing Table and Ballistics (FTaB) division of the Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), Integrity Battery began foreign disclosure procedures for tabular firing tables required by the MoP.

The OSC-I Northern Branch maintained responsibility for the majority of leadership training taking place within the higher levels of the organization. Through the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, select Peshmerga officers have already completed the Field Artillery Basic Officer Leaders Course and Captains Career Course at Fort Sill paving the way for future leadership knowledge and skills. 

The planning efforts for the first MoP aligned artillery organization remain in the beginning stages. During this process, the team identified several shortfalls that MoP needs to address – one of which is facilities. Adequate facilities are required to sustain the organization and planning must start early due to the time required for construction. “The FSF needs facilities for storage, maintenance, training and shelter….These facilities that concern the SFAB operations include barracks, ranges, motor pools…Construction takes significant time; therefore, it is ideal if the partner nation invests early in building or rebuilding key facilities.”[10] Aside from the requirement for motor pool, barracks, and maintenance facilities, building and maintaining an artillery range with associated impact areas is also necessary. While the MoP has experience building and managing many of these facilities, the inherent risks of artillery impact areas requires increased levels of planning and coordination.

Looking ahead, Advisors must prepare to assist Organizing and Building FSF, however, advisor teams will find these tasks difficult to train without assistance from higher echelons. Understanding the cultural environment and learning the nuances of discussing highly technical subjects through an interpreter must be the entry argument for training these tasks. Next, Advisors must understand the institutions that build the Field Artillery Proponent. DoTD, FTaB and the Master Gunner Division are indispensable in filling the institutional level artillery requirements for the Organize and Build FSF tasks. After mastering individual skills, Advisor Teams must understand the coordination required for these efforts. Interactions with Department of State Country Teams, Office of Security Cooperation, Departments of Military Affairs, Security Assistance Management Division, and theater level funding efforts will exist in every effort to complete these tasks. A basic understanding of each of these organizations missions, capabilities, and interactions within the organizing and building FSF process is essential to advisor preparation. Due to the essential nature of this understanding, however, six SFABs cannot manage it independently.

Therefore, we recommend that the FCoE and the Security Force Assistance Command (SFAC) get involved and provide shared understanding of enduring artillery Security Assistance efforts to maximize advisors ability to train supporting tasks. The ability for the Field Artillery community to understand emerging requirements, open projects, and State Department initiatives could give regionally aligned SFAB Artillery Battalions a working knowledge of goals to allow commanders to focus their training objectives.

Incorporating a Security Assistance forum at the annual FCoE sponsored Fires Conference at Fort Sill, Oklahoma will provide an opportunity for FCoE directorates to highlight current interagency projects for which artillery advisors, whether SFAB advisors or conventional artillery battalions performing an advisor mission, can prepare. This forum will also provide insights to the SFAC as they begin regional alignments of subordinate SFABs. The recommended Security Assistance forum would provide an opportunity for SFAC to gain awareness of opportunities to employ artillery advisors in positions to enhance Department of State Security Assistance efforts.

Additionally, we recommend that SFAC conduct an evaluation of these tasks for advisor teams deploying to an Area of Responsibility with active Security Assistance efforts in progress. Combined Training Centers (CTC) have already designed advisor scenarios that could also certify these mission essential tasks. Adding injects with realism provided by inputs from active Security Assistance efforts in the Area of Responsibility to which the teams will deploy will increase the team’s ability to support the efforts with minimal increases to the resources required for the CTC rotation. The immersive nature of the CTC environment will provide the opportunities to simulate levels of coordination that could not be simulated at home station.

As the United States Government (USG) continues to conduct Security Assistance, however, the certification cannot be limited to the artillery teams. Equipment has been, and will continue to be, provided to enable all of the FSF warfighting functions, which Maneuver, Logistic, Signal, Engineer, and Artillery advisor teams must integrally support. For example, in 2018 GAO reported that between 2003 and 2016, the United States provided 600,000 weapons, 76,000 vehicles, 163,000 tactical radios, 30,000 mine detectors, and 16,000 ISR assets to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).[11] To be successful, FSF partners must be technically and tactically competent to integrate their new equipment in a combined arms environment. Advisors must certify as teams prepared to advise across the warfighting functions. Just as CTC rotations certify brigade combat teams fighting across the spectrum of warfighting functions, SFABs must certify to advise the building and organizing tasks in the same manner.

The ability for advisors to provide technical and tactical support for interagency initiatives is a capability for which the Army designed the advisor teams. However, even though the SFAB is not highly involved in these tasks, advisors must be trained to adequately support the building and organizing efforts. The understanding of interagency coordination gained from a Security Assistance forum added to the Fires Conference would ensure artillery advisors are prepared to hear “so we’re divesting some howitzers”. SFAC adding assessments of these tasks into CTC rotations will ensure advisor teams across the spectrum of the warfighting functions can effectively integrate when supporting Security Assistance efforts. Once the advisor teams have properly trained and certified these mission essential tasks, deploying them in support of Security Assistance efforts will demonstrate an unparalleled level of commitment to excellence in new FSF organizations and strengthen relationships between nations.

[1] ATP 3-96.1 Security Force Assistance Brigade

[2] https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-iraq/

[3] ATP 3-07.10 Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Advising Foreign Security, November 2017

[4] ATP3-96.1 Chapter 7 Pg 7-1

[5] ATP 3-96.1 Chapter 7 Pg 7-1

[6] ATP 3-07.10 Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Advising Foreign Security, November 2017 pg 89-93

[7] ATP 3.96.1 Chapter 7 Pg 7-1

[8] ATP 3.96.1 Chapter 7 Pg 7-6

[9] Individual Task 150-SFA-0009, Understand Cross Cultural Learning.

[10] ATP 3-96.1 Chapter 7, Pg 7-6

[11] Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Report 19-39, “Divided Responsibility: Lessons From U.S. Security Sector Assistance Efforts in Afghanistan”, June 2019.