The Mission and Plan of an Iowa National Guard Division during the War in Afghanistan

Colonel Ben Corell, Iowa National Guard, talks about how fighting the war in Afghanistan went beyond just the battles and skirmishes with the enemy. It also involved coordination among several groups on both sides.


Colonel Ben Corell: “The only way to be successful is to bring our partners in with us.  We were partnered with an Afghan National Army brigade. So all those subordinate units of that brigade were linked up with my battalion level commanders and linked up with company level commanders across the spectrum of where we were; you've got to bring them into the mix as well.  You’ve got to then tie into that then the Afghan government piece of it. What is their responsibility?  You've got to tie in the, I mentioned earlier about the State Department folks, I had a senior State Department civilian that was partnered with me in my headquarters and subordinate to that senior civilian,   they had a staff of USAID, U.S. Department of Agriculture, you take the PRTs, provincial reconstruction teams, plus my staff that had the dollars to go in and you've got to synchronize it.”  

“We did something called a campaign plan shortly after we got there and that is really the blueprint of how each organization is going to go in, at the brigade combat team level. As a combat space owner, I go back to my boss, hey General Campbell, who has his own campaign plan, ‘this is how I see me helping you achieve your in-state goal of your campaign plan within my time working for you.’  And it is done by phases.  You can't go in and say ‘we're going to kill our way out of this.’ You've got to tie it all together. That's an aspect of it.” 

“And the hard thing is you've got to ‘lead with your chin’ with your soldiers as you do this.  There's some deliberate military operations that you can plan. Some of them, you know, are going to have to be ‘kinetic’ but really what you focus on is dealing with the village elders, dealing with the local government, whether it is a district governor, a sub-district governor.”  

“You know, I mentioned I had four provinces that I was responsible for and with that means I've got four provincial governors that I'm on a first name basis with that I'm dealing with as I'm not only going out and visiting my soldiers, and everything else that is going on, I’m building a relationship with these governors to really help them understand what it is that I can do for them.  That is, that I can do for them to help, number one; secure their people, number two; help accomplish their goals and objectives for the future of their province and their people. And that's tough stuff because it isn't what you typically see people in a military uniform being good at.  But I'll tell you that we're really good at it.” 

“And so much, you know, I remember as a young officer growing up through the ranks we'd get to phase-four of an operation, which is really what we've been in, in a lot of cases for the majority of the time here. And it's kind of like what happened in Iraq when we first got done there, it was like well ‘somebody else is going to pick up and take care of it.’  Well, ‘somebody else’ turned out to be the military for quite a while and until we got the additional elements of what we call ‘doing United Operations,’ where you put all of those elements of national power together to do combined operations -- with the State Department, USAID, all those different players -- to not only fix a small problem but it's kind of like ‘let's not just give them fish and feed them for one day, let's teach them how to fish so they can feed themselves for many days’ and that's really what we're trying to do.”

“I see that as a long process and, obviously, it has been. And there's many ups and downs within that process as well. And you have some bad days just because there's an enemy involved in this as well who really wants to, number one; kill the coalition forces if they can. They want to drive, from a national command authority from the viewpoint of the American people, to turn that tide against them that has been successful in our history before and that is one of their goals, to get us out of there.  So, it is very tough.” 

Excerpt from "Iowa Soldiers Remember Afghanistan," Iowa PBS, 2011