Contemporary Operations Studies Team
Combat Studies Institute Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
A project of the Combat Studies Institute, the Contemporary Operations Studies Team (COST) archives firsthand accounts from US Army military personnel who planned, participated in and supported Operation Iraqi Freedom from May 2003 through the Iraqi national elections in January 2005.
Interview with LTC Scott Kendrick
13 December 2005
Lieutenant Colonel Scott Kendrick was deployed to Iraq for almost 14 months from January 2004 to February 2005 and was initially the battalion executive officer for the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry, a tank battalion in 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. During his last seven months in country, he served as the 2nd Brigade operations officer. Kendrick begins by discussing the predeployment training his unit underwent at the National Training Center for six weeks in high-intensity combat situations. In the area around Baghdad International Airport, the threat of the insurgency in Iraq was constant, although there were peaks and valleys of activity, including IED and mortar attacks, and some ambushes and VBIEDs. Improving the survivability and crew protection became a major concern and a growing problem. This intensified as interacting with the Iraqi population became more dangerous after the local functioning Iraqi council is integrated under insurgent pressure. Kendrick comments on the rules of engagement and how they were liberal enough to allow soldiers and junior leaders to take care of themselves. He also comments on the collaboration between international forces, as well as between the Army and other US forces, especially the Marine Corps. Finally, Kendrick talks about how important it is for a commander to be clear in their intent and make sure the job is done correctly. He said the current organization of staffs makes it very hard to do so, and he would work on improving that communication problem.
JB: My name is Jim Burke (JB) and I’m with the Contemporary Operations Studies Team at the Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, currently researching for the follow-on book to On Point. I’m interviewing Lieutenant Colonel Scott Kendrick (SK) on his experiences during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The time is approximately 1000 hours, today’s date is 13 December 2005, and this is an unclassified interview. For the record, I would like to say that if you feel at any time we’re entering classified territory, please couch your response in terms that avoid revealing any classified information or simply say you’re not able to answer. I’ll let you begin.
SK: The first thing you want to know are the jobs I had?
SK: I was deployed for 14 months. For the first seven months, I was the battalion executive officer (XO) for 2/12 Cavalry, which is a tank battalion in 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. The last seven months, I was the brigade operations officer (S3) for 2nd Brigade, 1st CAV.
JB: Did you receive predeployment training and how effective do you think it was?
SK: First of all, we deployed in January 2004. Our actual collective battalion and brigade level training occurred the previous summer at the National Training Center (NTC). That’s when we were first notified we were going to deploy. A typical/normal NTC rotation is a month, but ours lasted for six weeks during the height of the summer heat. So in terms of the environment, I guess that was pretty good training. On the other hand, the training scenario was high- intensity combat that pitted our unit against another near peer, if you will, kind of threat. We faced the same problems that during the Cold War era we had always faced at NTC. For example, we were unable to detect and defeat the AT-4. The results were that we repeatedly couldn’t mass combat power at the decisive point and time. My assessment was that during the summer at NTC, 2-12 CAV fought the same type of battles our predecessors did in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
JB: So when you got to Iraq, you had to rethink things? Was there insurgent activity when you got to Iraq? Was it sort of the same stuff we’re hearing today on the television with the roadside bombs?
SK: Yes. I would say the threat was the same: improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mortar attacks, with some complex ambushes. Later the threat evolved into vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). There were peaks and valleys of activity. The situation doesn’t seem like it has changed too much since I left in February 2005.
JB: Did you bring your tanks with you or did you have to retrain as infantrymen?
SK: Let me back up a step. Like I said, we completed the training at NTC and came home in August 2003. While we began to ponder reorganization (and I’m not sure who made the decision), but the decision was that we were not going to take that many tanks because, “We wouldn’t need them.” At the battalion level, we all just kind of said, “Okay.” The division and the brigade told us that each battalion was going to get M1114s and that peace was going to break out at some point in time. So anyway, I want to say that we initially took maybe 25 percent of our tanks or one company’s worth. I will speak later about this, but it turned out to be woefully inadequate. We took all our Humvees. All the wheeled vehicles went. Then the plan was to pick up some number of M1114s when we got there. So I want to say we probably took 10 tanks and 10 Bradleys, or something like that.
JB: When you got in country, did you have enough of the uparmored Humvees to go around or did you have to add armor to your own vehicles?.
SK: Well, units begin adding upgrades in terms of protection shortly after reception in Kuwait. We did add armor shortly before our road march to Baghdad. It’s a long road march. I forget how long. It’s probably 300 or 350 miles, or something like that. But there always seems to be a unit that is redeploying and has just come south and they’re willing to give you stuff. We were there with the 101st Airborne Division and some other National Guard units as they were preparing to redeploy. These folks were willing to give the “incoming” units everything they could. The 101st gave us M16/M4 magazines and all the metal they had on their vehicles, and our soldiers figured out ways to get this improvised armor mounted. Beyond that, a group of contractors outfitted a number of our M998s with the appliqué armor. There were quite a few of them. We probably had 20 M1114s that we drew from somewhere in Kuwait. We had some appliqué and some mix of the kind of makeshift or field expedient armor under the vehicle and on the sides. There were a couple that had nothing, but that was the situation.
JB: When you got to your area of operations (AO), were you able to add armor on to the vehicles?
SK: Improving the survivability and crew protection of our vehicles was a continual process. The corps and 1st Cavalry Division were constantly sponsoring refinements, adjustments, additions or even new vehicles so that process never ended from the time we got there until we left. A corps support group (CSG) was located at Log Base Seitz. This unit was really under employed in terms of its welders and mechanics. Since it was in our area of operations, we were always protecting them from mortars, or at least trying. So the folks there were always willing to help us. If 2-12 CAV needed anything, they would work hard to take care of us.
JB: After you got all the vehicles uparmored, did you leave them in theater or did you bring them back to Fort Hood, Texas?
SK: I want to say we left behind anything that had appliqué and every M1114. I think that’s right.
JB: What about the individual body armor for the soldiers?
SK: Everyone had body armor and everyone had a set of small arms protective insert (SAPI) plates.
JB: As you were there, how did the enemy react? Were they very responsive? If you started up- armoring your vehicles, did they respond with IEDs or change their tactics?
SK: That’s difficult to say because the unit we replaced had all their tanks and Bradleys. Only their scouts had M1114s, so most of the work was done in a tracked combat vehicle system. In terms of being able to attack, we probably posed a lesser threat than the unit we replaced.
JB: Where were you located geographically?
SK: We lived at the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). Our AO was generally the town of Abu Ghraib and west.
JB: So you were inside the Sunni Triangle?
SK: Yes. I think we were in that bottom east corner. I think that’s it.
JB: Over time, did the people or the populace become more accepting of our presence?
SK: No. In fact, the situation got worse. For the Iraqis, it got more dangerous to interact and be part of the stability/reconstruction process, or however you want to describe it. The threat became proficient at identifying, threatening and killing the people who were contracting and working alongside the US forces. When I first got to BIAP, there was a functioning local council. By the end of our stay in Baghdad, the local council was in complete disarray and the threat had killed many of them and had effectively run the others off. Additionally, the threat killed many contractors and interpreters. So I would say by the end of our tour, we probably had maybe 25 percent of the interaction we had in the beginning. Does that make sense?
JB: Yes. It does.
SK: The situation for the local population was much worse in terms of cooperation because it became so dangerous to associate with or have anything to do with the US forces.
JB: Were the Iraqi security forces of any use at any time? The police or Iraqi National Guard, were they present?
SK: The Iraqi security forces were there but, in terms of your previous question, they didn’t foster interaction. Just because the Iraqi security forces (ISF) were there, that didn’t make the people feel any better about interacting with us or about security for themselves. The population continued to avoid US forces in Abu Ghraib and just stayed away.
did your troopers react to the environment? Were they able to adjust to the
hostility? How much reliance did you put on your junior leaders, I guess
assuming that a lot of the operations you did were basically patrolling or presence patrolling?
SK: Yes. Our soldiers patrolled in two- and three-vehicle sections with a lieutenant or senior staff sergeant, or sergeant first class in charge. We empowered them with all the authority they needed to accomplish the mission and take care of their soldiers. There was not a lot of radio traffic asking to shoot back. There wasn’t a lot of asking for permission. After contact, our soldiers would report with, “This is what happened and here’s what I did about it.” The junior leaders liked that trust and they responded quickly and responsibly. I would say that by and large, by granting them the authority and the trust and confidence for them to make their own decisions, knowing that they had the backing of the chain of command, it probably kept a lot of guys alive. Some other units who would be task organized with or adjacent to 2-12 CAV would say, “If that incident occurred to us, we would have had to call up to ‘so and so’ level to get permission.” Well, that limitation doesn’t work. Our soldiers can’t have to ask to take a course of action. Junior leaders have to know they have the authority that if they see a threat/make contact, they can shoot it or take whatever action they deem necessary within the rules of engagement (ROE).
JB: Who put out the ROE?
SK: Well, Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) issues ROE to units as soon as they get to Kuwait. There are two types of ROE, one for in Kuwait and then one for inside Iraq. Introduction to the ROE is probably one of the first briefings 2-12 CAV received.
JB: Were you able to modify them? You were at brigade headquarters. Could you modify the ROE for your subordinate units based on the environment where you were?
SK: I think the ROE was just that. I don’t know what else you would do. It’s pretty fair. It was liberal enough to let you take care of yourself. When you identified a threat, you could respond in time with deadly force.
JB: I have heard some discussions that the ROE seemed to be very restrictive in terms of you had to get somebody higher up in the chain of command to approve your actions.
SK: As long as the leaders and soldiers operated in the spirit of the ROE, I think you were okay. The ambiguity becomes, a lot of times, on the road, during patrols and convoy operations and at traffic control points (TCPs) where you have people who are just as scared as you are driving down the road. They’re going fast, so you shoot at them thinking they’re going to be a suicide bomber. Their natural reaction of course is to speed up. So the 19-year old soldier will shoot again. The ambiguity of the Iraqi driver’s intentions versus the escalation of force within the ROE as applied by a young soldier made room for quite a bit of error, I’m afraid. I think everywhere else like the countryside and urban areas, the ROE are pretty clear. People operate well under it.
JB: How often did you do roadblock missions? SK: I would say they were frequent.
JB: It was routine?
JB: In terms of maintenance, did you notice any problems with wear and tear on the vehicles?
SK: Absolutely. Wear on our tanks was much, much greater. First of all, I told you we didn’t have enough tanks. It became glaringly evident during the April 2004 uprising. Just the complete political and religious meltdown and the fighting everywhere, that was really, to us, a low point. It was clear to me that we didn’t have enough tanks. When I said we went with 10 tanks, I want to say 2-70 Armor, the unit we replaced, had all their tanks but they also had some tanks they had gotten from Kuwait. I want to say we picked up either six, seven or eight tanks, which turned out to be really a watershed. So we had those additional tanks. Then I want to say we probably got about 10 or 12 more. By the end, we had about 30 tanks. I can’t quite remember exactly.
JB: About a half a battalion’s worth then?
SK: Yes. Maybe a little more, 30, 31 or 32, or something like that. There were probably three phases then. There was the one we were in initially. There was the six, seven or eight that I got from 1st Armored Division when they were leaving. Then it was the 10 to 12 more. So, first answer, no there were not enough tanks, but most of the time we had about 20. You were okay if your had 15 or 16 out of 20. You had time to pull maintenance on the ones that were up. But if got down to about 12 tanks out of 20, those 12 ran all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They essentially pulled in, the crews swapped out, and the tanks went right back out. If you couldn’t get back up to 15 or 16, to where you had tanks that you were able to pull maintenance on, you could quickly go from 10 down to about six in no time because you had tanks that just never stopped. As a battalion XO, you had to have your pulse on the tank maintenance all the time. Our current tank maintenance slant was always the next question I was going ask of the staff.
JB: What about the flow of parts?
SK: It wasn’t too different over time. It wasn’t too much different than back here at garrison. There were some things you just couldn’t get. It wasn’t like we couldn’t get an engine. We would never wait too long for an engine. The thing that was unanticipated was all the suspension gear like the road wheels and the hubs and the arms. I had some scientist tell me about the range of vibration on the road or something is what made those things break, and the roads were different from Germany and it was designed for Germany to stop the Russian hordes, so it wouldn’t have happened if we had done this in Germany. But for whatever reason, what really broke and was difficult to get a hold of in the quantities required were the suspension parts for the tanks.
JB: Were you organized with the forward support company attached? SK: Sure.
JB: How did that work out?
SK: Horrible, at least for me. As an S3, XO and later as a brigade S3 the gift of Force XXI logistics kept on giving. Both of my successive battalion commanders hated the idea of a forward support company (FSC). My brigade commander liked the arrangement because he had one subordinate commander he needed to talk to concerning combat service support. As an XO, I had to simply out personality everyone to accomplish the mission. As a battalion and brigade S3, issues of task organization of logistics assets seemed to always get everyone excited. The guy who suffered the most was the brigade XO, who had to keep matters all on track. Having said all that, the forward support battalion (FSB) commander was a quietly brilliant and fine officer who didn’t lose a single soldier in 14 months of combat. The problem always began with the command structure. The poor FSC commander always had to serve two masters. Someone thought up that idea to free up the battalion commander from the requirement of planning and resourcing his own logistics. I don’t think you can ever divorce a maneuver commander from that responsibility. I would say that the FSC commander I had was a good kid. He was a light unit guy from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a quartermaster, who didn’t understand heavy maintenance, nor was he really interested in it. At times he applied himself, but maintenance operations always seemed like a foreign language to him. The support battalion had the mission of a lot of fixed site security. It liberated the brigade to do a lot of other things, but it just seemed to me that the logistics and the tank maintenance were a supporting effort and not the main effort. It all began with the FSB commander’s priorities, which were never my battalion commander’s priorities. I would say in terms of task organization and effort, the support our FSB provided 2-12 CAV was always on the margin. My sense of what our collective FSB sentiment and thought towards 2-12 CAV at Fort Hood and Iraq was: “I will give you just enough support for you to shut up and leave me alone so I can go back to doing the stuff I want to do.”
JB: What about the idea of just-in-time logistics? How did that work?
SK: I can’t really comment. Like I said, it seemed to me for the major assemblies, we got them within a reasonable period of time. I don’t think the big Army understood – and who could predict? – that we were going to need so many suspension parts. The demand far exceeded their ability to supply that. I think that’s my stance on that.
JB: What about the command and control? Were you equipped with the Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade, and Below (FBCB2)?
SK: We had all that. I’m sure from battalion to brigade to division to corps, it was great. I will tell you that it didn’t really help the squads. After you patrolled that terrain for a while, all you did was say, “Hey, I’m near named area of interest (NAI) 27,” and everyone knew where you were. They didn’t have to look at some kind of map screen. They knew you were at the intersection of this road. It just did not help. First of all, it didn’t work that good because they tried to combine the Blue Force Tracker (BFT) and FBCB2. The lag time between what was going on and what you saw on the screen was way, way behind. This is about the twentieth time I have been asked a question like this. I guess my answer is that for battalion and higher, I guess it was okay. It enabled commanders to collaboratively plan and get an idea of where all the forces were. I will tell you that at company and below, it didn’t really help.
here at Fort Hood, were your individual tanks equipped?
SK: Sure. The M1A2 System Enhanced Program (SEP) tanks have it all integrated.
JB: But when you got to Iraq, did the vehicles you picked up have it?
SK: Some tanks did and some tanks didn’t. I had some M1A1s too. We had a mix.
JB: That must have been fun.
SK: It was just the situation and we were happy to have the tanks so you didn’t struggle with it. In the end, the M1A1 was a lot simpler. They had their troubles too, and I wouldn’t say the M1A1 operational ready (OR) rate was any better than the M1A2 SEP, but when something broke on the M1A1, it just seemed like the mechanics didn’t struggle so much to figure out what was wrong with it.
JB: What about the wheeled vehicles? Did they have any kind of FBCB2?
SK: Sure. I would say the preponderance had it. At least half if not greater had BFT/FBCB2. The 1st Cavalry Division was fully modernized with all that stuff. But again, I will tell you, at the company and below, it was not that additive to command and control, especially once you knew the ground. I’ll give you an example. We deal in 10- and eight-digit grids and feel comfortable with that when we are at NTC. Well, that map data never really matched up in terms of what you had on the map and what you were looking at on the ground. It was better to have a satellite shot with the buildings numbered and be able to say, “Hey, I’m at building 11. Go to building nine,” as opposed to giving someone a grid because a 10-digit grid didn’t mean anything relative to what I gave you. If everyone had the map and everyone had the satellite shot and the buildings numbered, you were much more empowered in terms of command and control if you said, “Go to building nine.” The 10-digit grid didn’t mean anything.
JB: How inaccurate were the maps you had over there?
SK: The maps didn’t match up with the precision lightweight GPS receivers (PLGRs). If you gave a 10-digit grid to building nine for instance, you could have easily gone to building 10 or eight. You wouldn’t have known which building to go to if I gave you a 10-digit grid and said, “Go to that building at that grid.” Whether it was FalconView or the map data in BFT or the map data in FBCB2 or the 1:50,000 standard map you had, it didn’t match up to your GPS in terms of how accurate it needed to be if you wanted to say, “They’re firing at me from building eight, or the bad guys are in building 10,” and you knew building 10 was on the street and it was the third building from the intersection and everyone knew that. So the grids became irrelevant in terms of counterfire and that kind of stuff. In terms of maneuver, FBCB2 was not that helpful to company and below.
JB: I saw part of a division capstone exercise at Fort Irwin when the 4th Infantry Division was out there. That was one of the things that was noted that probably at company level it was not as useful as it was at battalion and higher. How did the doctrine work out between what you trained for and what you actually did?
SK: I would just say that operations were driving everything and doctrine was driving nothing, or very little anyway in terms of company maneuver and below. There are some fundamentals like movement techniques. All that still holds true, but all the things you read and all the things you heard about, before we did all this, there wasn’t doctrine about how to maneuver to identify an IED. Operations and current experience drive this.
JB: So you were pretty much pushing it back up the chain saying that this is how we do it on the ground?
SK: You had to because there was not a book to turn to that tells you, “When facing IEDs, do this.” There was a little bit early on, but they were still kind of a new phenomenon, but as you see now, we haven’t gotten too much better. It’s almost like the reverse of the old problem at NTC. The old problem was that you couldn’t see the AT-4 because it was so far away and it was so small and it outranged you. Here, you can’t see the IED before you get too close to it. It’s the same problem, just in reverse. You can’t identify it. If you could see the AT-4, you couldn’t do anything about it because it outranged you. Here, you can’t see it until it’s too close, and when you see it, it’s too close and you can’t do anything about it. Over the years at NTC, no one ever really conquered, or I guess maybe a unit or two, the AT-4 problem, but not consistently. Kind of like we couldn’t consistently say, “There is an IED behind that trash pile. Stop. We need to go around.” Sometimes we would guess and it might be there, but you just didn’t see it.
JB: Did you interact with any other services over there like the Marines?
SK: Yes. First of all, when you say other services, we had other countries’ soldiers. I had the Estonian platoon. There was one maneuver platoon, the Estonians, and they were in 2/12 CAV during the time I was the XO.
JB: How did they work out?
SK: They were fine. They were very professional. They were very good and they were probably handpicked. Their country’s leadership is very proud of that little platoon. But what an American officer has got to understand is that countries place some limitations on what these forces can do. You have to understand each specific country’s ROE before you integrate them. For example, by and large, cordon and searches and presence patrols, all that the Estonians were good with. But their government had some trouble in April 2004 when we had the great Easter insurrection. They came back and said, “Wait a minute. You’re just attacking and fighting everywhere. We’re not so sure our little platoon is going to do that.” So I had to put them on fixed site security because it wasn’t clear what their country was willing to let them so. Does that make sense?
JB: Yes. Political considerations are one answer.
SK: When I probably needed them the most, I didn’t have access to them because the situation changed and we were fighting everyone. We were fighting in all directions. We were basically fighting the whole town for about four days. Well, when I needed them the most, their country said, “Wait a minute. This whole thing is madness. We didn’t sign up for this so we don’t think we want you to throw our little platoon into the fray here.” So we had to just kind of give them a bench mission, so to speak, and they guarded a site.
JB: Did you have to do any kind of retraining for them? I guess my impression of the former Eastern Bloc is a lot of their training was on Soviet doctrine?
SK: Yes, but when you look at these guys, they looked more Scandinavian. They were much more Western than you would think. Yes. That was how they were trained and that’s how they grew up, but they were light infantry. Actually, they had been there operating, so really they were more experienced and further advanced than we were.
JB: They had been in country?
SK: Yes. The Estonians had been there awhile. We had to catch up to them. Their limitation was that they didn’t come with vehicles and we had to give them a two-and-a-half-ton truck. So they rode around in a two-and-a-half-ton truck which made everyone nervous, to say the least. But it terms of other services, in Fallujah, the brigade I was in, 2nd Brigade, we worked for the 1st Marine Division (MARDIV) commander. We also had a Marine battalion that was under operational control (OPCON) to us. We had a Stryker battalion, a mechanized battalion, a military police (MP) battalion and then we had an Iraqi battalion. So we had plenty of flavors.
JB: Was there much of a difference between, I won’t say doctrine as much as training, the training of the Marines and the Army?
SK: I would really emphasize the fact that we spoke the same language. When the 1st MARDIV G3 said task and purpose it was all the same language. It was very clear to us once they gave us their brief, what they were trying to do. It was very clear what they were asking us to do. Our essential task was “isolate.” We had to isolate Fallujah and prevent reinforcements from infiltrating and not let anybody escape/exfiltrate. This was a big lesson from Fallujah I back in early April 2004. So that was our task and purpose. We had all kinds of different organizations we had never lived and worked with prior to Operation Al Fajr, but there was not a lot of friction in terms of, “I don’t understand what you want me to do.” I would say, by and large, that the Marines are easier to work for in terms information requirements by their senior leadership. Their operations orders are either two or three pages. They don’t require a lot of briefs. What they do is they expect, in their culture, just effective, timely, combat reporting when something significant happens. As opposed to recurring briefs, their generals would come around maybe once every two or three days and they would kind of do a gut check. They would look at your body language. When they asked questions, they weren’t really interested in answers. They were gauging how you looked. So they were different in how they commanded and controlled. I found to prepare for their visits was much easier. In the Army, we would make a big deal of it and everybody would get excited, “Hey, the general is coming. Everybody get straight.” Well, after awhile, the Marine CG’s aide would call us and say, “Hey, we’re going to come by. The old man wants to see you all.” We wouldn’t do anything. We would just give the 1st MARDIV or Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) commander whatever the morning brief had been for our brigade commander. We just pulled the latest PowerPoint up and gave that briefing. Then the CG would ask a few questions and say, “Here is the battlefield from my perspective.” I think it was important to the Marine senior leadership that we understand their understanding of the situation. What was different was our preparation for missions. After we craft and issue operations orders and plans, our Army senior leadership expects that we will refine the plan and it will change over time and that subordinates may change courses of action but still operate within their intent. So if I think the enemy is in the south and if over time I find out the enemy is somewhere else, the Army senior leadership would have no problem with that and me changing my objective and changing my scheme of maneuver and go fight the enemy. My experience was when the Marines brief a plan to their senior leadership, it was almost like a contract. They’re not very flexible about changing the plan relative to an evolving situation, “Hey, the enemy has moved.” They would say, “No. We briefed our general. We’re going to go here and we’re going to take this objective. We can’t change.” Marine maneuver and aviation were similar with respect to an unwillingness to change plans. Now, it wasn’t bad. It was just different. If you wanted to “come off” the Marine plan, there was a lot of dialogue that had to occur. So those are three things I remember. We spoke the same language. Their senior leadership was much easier to keep happy I would say, but when you wanted to change a plan or the situation changed after you briefed the plan, changing the plan was a much bigger deal in the Marine Corps than it was in the Army. But once you knew that aspect of their professional culture, it wasn’t that big of a deal because in the end, you knew that all Marines wanted to get in the fight.
JB: I just finished reading Bing West’s book about Fallujah. Have you read that?
SK: No. I heard an interview with him. I think I saw something on the Discovery Channel. JB: He talks about the interactions of the Army and the Marines.
SK: What does he say?
JB: It worked well. I can’t recall if he identifies the Army units involved, but he does talk about how responsive they were to the Marines.
SK: Here’s how we evolved. When we first started this, it was the Marines are going to do this. Army you do this. Iraqi security forces you do this. But you wound up growing over time and figuring out, wait a minute, all these three at brigade and battalion level have a lot of capability and they are unique capabilities. The Marines have a lot of people. They have people everywhere. So we have our itty-bitty mechanized battalion with about 400 people, maybe 500, and a Marine rifle battalion is like 1,200 people. They also have no problem telling their soldiers you are eating MREs because the cooks are going to do something else. Everyone, I mean all 1,200, would be on patrol or in the fight. We just don’t think like that. We have the survivable, fast, mobile, lethal combat power, the tanks and the Bradleys. The Marines don’t have that. We have some people and we have some capabilities in terms of scouts and that kind of stuff. Then the Iraqis, by and large, bless their hearts, they could see the enemy and they have a sense and insight of an insurgent that we don’t. They can look at someone and say, “That is a bad guy.” We would say, “What do you mean he’s a bad guy?” The Iraqi would say, “Don’t contradict me. I’m telling you that that guy is bad. We have to attack or detain him.” So as you evolve, you get down to a company task organization that has Marine platoons, tank and Bradley platoons, and Iraqi security platoons and companies. It’s kind of strange to have a company OPCON’d to a company, but the Iraqis don’t mind that so much. They don’t normally get excited about which US commander they’re working for. So when you get that type of organization doing a company-level operation that is really a capable outfit, I think it really deters a threat. It has all these Marines, all these tanks and Bradleys, and then they have the Iraqi security forces that can see the threat, by and large. That’s where we evolved and that is really a sign of a mature brigade and battalion and division, when you have that at company level. Everyone who has done that or who has been exposed to that, I think, over time, the leadership rose to, “Okay, this is how we have to go and these people can do this.” Our company commanders can manage this and they do well. When we organized that way, we found stuff. We found IEDs because the Iraqis would say, “Don’t go around that corner because that is where they would put an IED.” Well, “How do you know?” They would say, “Well, we just know.” They are good at that. They are simply better at that. The Marines, because they had so many people, I would say for all the caches we found around Fallujah, if there were five that were found, the Marines found four of them when our Army patrol could find one. They just simply seemed to know where the caches were. They were better at that.
JB: So the combined and joint operations worked?
SK: Yes. You have a joint, combined company in effect.
JB: Were the Iraqi security forces effective? Did they become more effective over time?
SK: They want to be good. I’ll tell you what made the difference. Of course, leadership always does. But when they began to all have the same uniform, weapons, body armor and vehicles, and have the right kinds of helmets, there was something about equipping them the right way that made them a completely different outfit. My experience was that when you had good leadership and they were modernized to a good degree, not a great degree, they were a different outfit because they took pride in themselves.
JB: Did you have much interaction with non-governmental organizations (NGOs)?
SK: Sure. I tried over and over to get the folks from US Agency for International Development (USAID) to come out. I thought the town of Abu Ghraib was really at the gateway. It’s right north of BIAP. Let’s say 10 or 15 years from now, when life has settled down, I think that place would be a location that’s going to have all kinds of temporary storage. I want to say that there is a railroad. All the big highways are right there in and around Abu Ghraib. It’s also right by the airport. So our idea was, and we don’t have a great deal of experience in strategic long term economic planning, but those guys supposed to. So we tried to get them to come with us and show them the terrain and say, “What do you think? Look at the airport. Look at the road structure. Look at the railroads. Look at the river. Don’t you think this might be a good place for temporary and long-term storage and warehouses?” But I never could talk to them. They just simply didn’t want to leave the Green Zone. I probably had at least 20 conversations with the senior USAID guys and they were resistant to leaving the Green Zone.
JB: What about organizations like Doctors Without Borders?
SK: I don’t think I ever met them. I heard about them but I never interacted with them. I had two physician assistants and a doctor. If we needed to have a medical clinic out somewhere in the middle of nowhere land, we would just do our own. In terms of interaction with Doctors Without Borders, I don’t think I ever met one.
JB: Did you have, at brigade level, access to the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds?
SK: Sure. The battalion and the brigade had that. We had access to it. JB: Did you make much use of it?
SK: Sure. We used it for contracting and buying stuff. I was in charge both as a battalion XO and a brigade S3 of one Iraqi battalion. You name it, I was on the hook to provide it from feeding it to securing it. A lot of the CERP money went to forward operating base (FOB) modernization and protecting the FOB. They had a pretty good FOB, but they didn’t have a lot of stand-off from VBIEDs, suicide car bombs and whatever else. So we spent a lot of money fixing it up, getting the lights to work, getting the fans to work, and getting some air conditioning. Again, make a place they could be proud of and say, “This is our FOB.” We also did some force protection stuff in terms of access control, stand-off and hardening. So a lot of money went to protecting the Iraqi FOB.
JB: So you didn’t spend much of it that went to the economy? Was the work all done by locals?
SK: We tried that. We tried a myriad of job programs. Probably the most successful one was the canals. There was canal after canal after canal, and they all filled up with sediment and every so often, probably once or twice a year, they have to get cleaned up. Well, the area between Fallujah and Abu Ghraib is just canals everywhere. There was one level-headed guy who I guess used to work for the Irrigation Ministry or something, and he understood irrigation. He would come and talk to us every once in a while. He seemed really educated. He would have a nice dialogue about, “Here is why these people are fighting you.” But anyway, he said, “Look. If you want to put money in people’s pockets, I can get six to eight hundred people working all day long for months on end just cleaning canals out.” That’s not an uncommon thing. That used to be kind of a common thing. That was probably the most successful semi-long term thing where we paid people. I forget the wage, but it was about six, seven or eight dollars a day. It was a good wage. Everybody thought that was okay for cleaning canals out and everybody was happy with it. The best I could tell, on any one day, we had between four and eight hundred guys cleaning canals out.
JB: Did giving them the job seem to change their attitude towards the Americans? SK: No. Not at all. There was no discernable reduction of violence.
JB: I think we have covered most of my questions. Do you have any general comments that you want to make?
SK: Yes. I probably have two points. For the brigade level, what you don’t anticipate are all the additional staff functions. Even when you organize to go to NTC, you have your personnel officer (S1), intelligence officer (S2), S3, supply officer (S4), maintenance guys and medical guys. Sometimes you might in the old days have a psychological operations (PSYOP) guy, but you have an engineer and an artillery guy. But it’s all deemed high-intensity fighting against a near peer. Before you showed up, I kind of thought about all the new functions, because the staff grows more than twice as big and there are many more functions. The functions you really don’t have a grasp on when you get in country are the engineer and public works, like we were talking about. You will be charged with, “We have to provide public services and we want to put people to work.” So if we had a certain amount of money, how is that money best spent? Is it on water? Is it on trash pick-up? Is it on building some municipal buildings so that local governments can stand up? You don’t grow up learning about the engineer and public works aspects. Civil affairs is another one. That’s your money guy. He wants to invest the money to jumpstart the economy. You don’t necessarily know how to manage those guys. Some are very good self-starters and they get it. Some are people waiting around to be told what to do. PSYOP in high intensity conflict is one use, but use of PSYOP in this situation is different. You have to understand where you want your PSYOP and it changes all the time. You have to be able to tell your S3, “PSYOP needs to go here on this mission,” and then have a default mission. The S5 dealt with the local governments, but it just seemed like the Iraqi people knew what was going to happen and knew what the plan was for local, regional and national politics more than we did. They got it from the news and we were waiting to hear it from the Green Zone. It was always behind. Our interpreters and our Iraqi guys who we were having dialogue with told us before we could tell them. We just always seemed behind. Your S5 has got to understand the rules. Here are the rules, here are the plans, and here is what is going to happen in the future in terms of politics. I had some real good guys who did all that, but I will come back to, you don’t quite know that before you get there on the ground. From the time I was a lieutenant to captain to major, you don’t learn that. There are so many books and so many things that a field grade officer has to quickly pick up and read the moment you get on the ground. We did have a real good handoff with 2-70 Armor from Fort Riley, Kansas, but again, they simply can’t tell you everything you need to know to succeed. You have to be a quick study and have to know what is important real quick and get organized real quick, or you will blink and you will have been in country two months and you’ll have made no progress in terms of any sort of contracting, public works and interaction with the local population. So if there was anything I would offer the big Army like you’re going to ask me, it’s that battalions and brigades have to understand that they need to organize, in terms of staff, in a way that is much different than they are in garrison and much differently than they there are in the traditional NTC fight sense. As far as detainee management, you have to have someone who is on your staff who knows the rules and knows what can and can’t happen and what must happen in terms of detainee management, interviewing, the evidence packet, evidence handling and document protection. You have to be able to say, “Here are the pictures. Here is where we have the guy. Here is why we arrested him.” Because if nothing else, our experience is that if you don’t have a very good packet to go with it, he could just walk out. The S2’s management of information, the way he thinks, the way he plans and the way he keeps the boss in the fight is completely different. You go from putting icons on the battlefield to making this crime link kind of thing, where this guy has a little cell in Abu Ghraib and he works for this guy in Gazalea. You have to learn how to manage that.
JB: This concludes our interview with Lieutenant Colonel Kendrick. Thank you very much for your time and your willingness to support the Army’s mission in chronicling its current history of OIF.
END OF INTERVIEW - Transcribed by Kim Sanborn