On August 1, 1990, Col. Bill Ostlund was a lieutenant arriving at his first unit as an Army officer. The next day, Saddam Hussein ordered his Iraqi forces to invade Kuwait. Within barely more than a week, his unit received a deployment order, and just a month after that they were en route to Saudi Arabia. While there, they trained. As a platoon leader, Ostlund was responsible for getting the platoon ready for the mission that would come in January 1991: a battalion air assault mission into Iraq.
In this episode of The Spear, Ostlund recounts his experiences as a junior leader—what it was like to get the deployment order, to be responsible for training his platoon in advance of the mission they knew was coming, and to lead his soldiers. He also reflects back on a number of lessons he learned that he would carry with him through his career as an Army officer.
Listen to the full story of that mission below, and don’t forget to subscribe to The Spear on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Note: This episode was originally released in April 2018.
What happened to all the Lessons Learned in Vietnam? Talk about dealing with civilians, hot LZs, what to carry, etc. – why does it seem the Army continues to ignore Vietnam, especially in Afghanistan?
Overall found this exchange worth listening to. To your question, one aspect of our Army that can inhibit carrying lessons forward is that even if a battalion or brigade remains on the establishment, even for three or more decades, it will likely redesignate one or more times, possibly deactivate and reactivate, but most tellingly the battalion's enlisted, NCO and officer strength will change out by roughly a third each FY and within three FY will hardly have a soldier remaining of the strength assigned three years earlier. Even where the NCO corps in earlier times in the Regular Army and National Guard were a battalion element that extended over a long period, that is not the case today. Even the National Guard has acquired some similar characteristics to the active Arm re: turnover. This mechanism assures that what a battalion learned in earlier situations can rapidly dissipate as institutional knowledge. Another aspect of the question is of course institutional knowledge loss at say the Army schools level which would be another topic.