First, I write this with all respect to Col. Luong and his long experience as a combat commander and Army officer. He was courteous to both Ward and me during our embed and allowed us unfettered access to his units in Paktika (and anywhere else we might have wanted to go in his AO) which demonstrated to us in no uncertain terms that when it comes to the discipline and combat acumen of his troops, he's got them solidly squared away. I appreciated his hosting us.
Col. Luong is right, it is incorrect for any Kit Up! reader to even get close to inferring that any commander of a Brigade Combat Team in a place like Afghanistan -- much less a storied unit like the 101st Airborne Division -- is in any way a REMF. There may be different command styles and ways of approaching a problem, but one thing is for sure, you don't get a job as a BCT commander in such a volatile AO unless you're good at what you do. Luong is out with his troops all the time -- in fact, Ward and I caught a ride with him on a Black Hawk to visit 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry staff for an in-depth briefing and a spin out to some of the combat outposts. As his PA says, Luong "leads from the front" as much as a BCT commander with such a strung out battlespace can.
It is correct to say that the biggest casualty driver in Afghanistan is the IED. And it is also true to say that MultiCam wouldn't have helped any of the IED victims from getting injured or killed. And it's hard to argue with Luong that "the most important thing for MY formation are discipline and standards." But it is short sighted to completely dismiss the issue of concealment in Afghanistan and the shortfalls of the UCP pattern.
I’m perplexed that we are spending time talking about the multicam uniform. It is not all that important compare to other more important issues we have at hand. The multicam will not win us the war. The effectiveness of the multicam is thus far unproven beyond the labs.
This last statement is manifestly untrue as the Army has spent millions to make sure that MultiCam was more effective in Afghanistan by taking it to the field -- in fact the testers (all combat vets and high speed operators) field tested the different patterns right outside Luong's back door at Camp Salerno in Khost province late last year. Again, with all respect, Luong demonstrates his attitude toward this whole argument (which has been reflected by others in the discussions about this whole camo issue in Afghanistan from day one) that MultiCam is more effective in Afghanistan with his "cool guy" comment.
LTs buying coolguy kits is a recipe for disaster. They are the most inexperienced in the Task Force. I’m glad that someone disciplined thes guys...In the end, tenacity, leadership, courage, discipline will win us this war, not a uniform or guys with cool gear, Oakleys and bandannas...I just hate to waste time on such an inconsequential issue.I can understand why Luong feels this is an inconsequential issue and boils down to some Soldiers wanting to look cool. The problem is, the Army found that the current pattern is not as effective in the environment where its units are fighting in Afghanistan and has begun a replacement program. The story I posted was an example of how some units can fall between the cracks of the fielding plan for the OEF FR-ACUs and what some commands deem is the best policy for uniforms in that theater based on what kind of uniform they're going to have. Again, I respect Luong's position on this, but I think most of our readers might not agree with its rigidity.
One issue I do take with his post is with this line:
You see, when you help propagate these types of articles, you are tying down commanders from doing their jobs. You also paint a bleak picture to the American public that this war is being led by buffoons. You are actually supporting Taliban.Now, in my entire career in covering the military as a journalist, which spans a decade and nearly a dozen embeds, I've only been told I support the Taliban twice before. Now this is the third time. I take sharp exception to this notion that posting a story about small unit leaders being reprimanded for wearing MultiCam items by their command which dismisses the Army's new official camouflage for Afghanistan as "cool guy gear" is "supporting the Taliban." That's plain stupid and offensive and I know for a fact that commanders out in the field aren't taking one second away from lobbing 40 mike-mike on bad guys because they're arguing about what uniforms to wear.
And one last point of pride: I don't think there's any doubt that the stories, blog posts, photos, videos and Tweets Ward and I posted during our embed were ignoring the "good things" Luong's troops were doing or leaving out how his units were "taking it to the Taliban." I'm proud of the work we did there and am proud to have been allowed to live and work alongside such great Americans.