US Army creates non-lethal platoon to handle reconstruction as violence subsides

When the U.S. Army creates a “non-lethal platoon” in a conflict zone, it can mean one of two things: either the battle is going well enough that soldiers can focus on reconstruction over security – or the Army has secretly reestablished its early 19th-Century policy of alcohol rations for the troops.

With violence down in Iraq, and a complete ban on alcohol use among Coalition troops to boot, the former thesis holds the most weight. US troop deaths reached a five-year low in July, giving Army units opportunities to embrace a reconstruction effort that just over a year ago seemed all but lost.

The 3rd Squadron of the 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, located in the Diyala province north of Baghdad, has created a “non-lethal” platoon whose sole job is to help the local governments and tribal councils register voters, administer micro grants to businesses, and take pictures and biometric data for new members of the neighborhood watch programs.

“At first I thought that it was silly, but it seems to be working,” said US Army Captain Eric Owens, commander of the Squadron’s non-lethal platoon. “I like the flexibility to handle a mission the way I want. The biggest thing for us now is to help these people realize that they are the chief authority and they can ask for things that they need.”

The platoon functions as a hybrid, melding civil affairs and psychological operations troops with crew members of a Stryker armored vehicle that replaces a second gun-mount with a speaker system to make Arabic announcements while traveling down the road. The team is augmented by an Arabic-speaking State Department employee with a background in construction management.

Read more at Long War Journal

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