2) COL Tunnell was very nearly fired as the commander of 5-2 after the Brigade's NTC rotation just before their deployment. He was obsessed with implementing "counter-guerilla" as the Brigade's overarching strategy, focusing mostly on fire and maneuver at the expense of practically everything else. He was dismissive of COIN (counter-insurgency) as a strategy, as this letter clearly shows. While I won't go into the pros and cons of counter-guerilla and COIN, the idea that a BCT commander was going to shift all plans and operational resources of NATO in Regional Command-South (RC-S) to pursue his accepted doctrine from the 1970s was either completely idiotic or recklessly arrogant. Compound the issue with the fact that the commander of RC-S was a British one-star general who was practically a pacifist (remember the "courageous restraint" medal idea being floated around? That was his) and a tough operational environment was made even tougher due to the constant friction between Task Force Stryker and RC-S HQ.
3) Worst of all was 2-1 IN Battalion. While still in garrison, their Battalion Commander was fired essentially for driving his entire Battalion into the ground by working them relentlessly. COL Tunnell's "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" mentality was wholly embraced by that guy and he kept 2-1 training in the field constantly. With such a high deployment OPTEMPO, garrison, while important for training Soldiers, is also important for allowing some breathing room for Soldiers and their families. There was no breathing room in 2-1. They trained constantly and then they would deploy. Family time was minimal. He was the first Battalion Commander to sentence a Soldier to hard labor since Vietnam (I have to admit, I liked that one). Anyway, he was finally fired, but only after he was raising too many eyebrows from higher levels--COL Tunnell loved his aggression. Well, the aggression paid off with an aggressive unit.
However, there's a problem. From personal experience, aggression and COIN do not mix well. It's dull and frustrating. Very little actually happens when it comes to combat, especially in the Strykers since they're such a hard target. The enemy knows this and, aside from IED attacks, they tend to leave Strykers alone. This aggression and the idle hands led to rampant drug use and the formation of the infamous "Kill Team."
I know that some are loathe to bash a higher-up due to the terrible actions of low-level personnel whom he never even likely had contact with, but, especially in the Stryker Brigades, the joke goes that the chain of command is "God, the President, and the Brigade Commander." He fostered a certain climate, and it backfired considerably in the actions of some of his Soldiers. Added to the post-NTC misgivings about his command ability, it makes him look even worse.
4) This letter was written about a month after he changed command with COL Barry Huggins who was my Battalion Commander when I was in Iraq. COL Huggins is an outstanding officer and a generally brilliant guy. He was tasked with cleaning up the mess COL Tunnell left behind by implementing what amounted to a complete cultural shift of the newly re-flagged 2-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (5-2 SBCT no longer exists, an action that was supposedly unrelated to past sins). This letter was little more than an attempt at justification for his command climate. The actions of 5-2 are why COL Tunnell was hit with a "smear campaign." He never should have remained in command of a combat brigade, yet he was kept on for P.C. reasons (not an official statement, but I'm absolutely convinced that's why he wasn't fired).
OK, that is a very interesting take on this situation by someone who was there, enough so that I’m going to ping my original ping list to your post.
See “To 44” at the bottom of this post, folks.
Now, regarding #1, given a temporary halt and the Brit 1-star in the area of operations, who even you seem to admit was a liability, I can see why Yon may have gotten the wrong idea.
I really appreciate your report, it completes matches other reports that I had gotten from soldiers and officers in the brigade, from sources at the NTC, and other sources at Lewis. But, since I was never on the ground with the brigade at Lewis, NTC, or in the box; I kept my mouth shut.
I took some of this very personally because I had a nephew in 1-5 IN (later 1/2 Cav) for two tours and I commanded Black Watch Company, 2-1 IN in 1971 in Vietnam. My sense was that command climate was a big problem, but I didn’t know the details.
Yon is quite another issue. He’s become a sad case of late, his only sources of income are the donations on his web site and they are drying up since he is reporting from a hotel room in Bangkok.