What do they tell soldiers leaving for war?
April 18, 2006 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Military briefings. A friend of a friend works as a consultant for the military. This person briefs soldiers before they go off on missions. What goes on in these briefings?

The consultant said that they essentially bare their soul to the soldiers about to go off to a conflict in a foreign country. But just what do these retired soldiers tell the soldiers? Do they tell them about how it feels to see mass graves, people being blown apart, your friends dying, snipers shooting at you like a sitting duck? Wouldn't this erode morale?

Do they tell them the same thing for peacekeeping missions as for war situations? Do all countries do this? What's the aim?

The consultant is under non-disclosure and not able to give more information.
posted by acoutu to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Maybe your "consultant" friend is really a ...SPY! Or you know, just not really a consultant.
posted by michaelkuznet at 5:07 PM on April 18, 2006

Well, maybe, but it seems unlikely that spies would book convention centres and go ahead with briefing large groups of people wearing fatigues. I mean, sure, it could happen, but you'd think the spy would try to keep a lower profile.
posted by acoutu at 5:14 PM on April 18, 2006

There's no easy way to know, without knowing more about the briefer, the audience, etc.

Soldiers get a lot of different briefings prior to deployment. These could include anything from cultural awareness (e.g., religion, customs, etc) to dealing with family issues (e.g., don't get pissed off when your wife takes the car to the rip-off mechanic while you're deployed) to the challenges of driving up armored vehicles to the latest lessons learned regarding enemy tactics (e.g., new methods for detonating IEDs).

You might gain some insight by learning more about what your friend did when he was in the service, and possibly by who his employer (the contractor he works for) is.
posted by i love cheese at 6:30 PM on April 18, 2006

On postview (I missed the soul baring part in my previous answer), I'd bet it is part of a program to deal with PTSD and related issues. One would hope that hearing the stories would help innoculated soldiers to some of the shock, and that it would make them more likely to seek help if they felt the symptoms when returning.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the soul baring is very unique to each vet. They probably tell stories about their actual experiences in combat. So yeah, it may involve all the things you mentioned.
posted by i love cheese at 6:37 PM on April 18, 2006

Military briefings are unique and different in many ways from the standard corporate presentation. In ROTC and officer training school not to mention NCO training includes instruction on how to write a military brief and also how to present that brief.

One of the striking things is length. The usual rule of thumb of less than 10 minutes for an executive presentation is not applicable here;

It depends on the audience on how severe the questioning will be e.g., informational, tactical , strategic...officers. NCOs, enlisted...

A short query gets you this:

Also, that there is a traditional format:
briefing classification, purpose, bottom line, questioning period.

If you want to see powerpoint used in a long briefing try Barnett author of The Pentagon's New Map He has, supposedly, one of the great PowerPoint presentations given to the DoD (Dept. of Defense) and it is 2+ hours long. He also did things in his presentation that break some of the rules taught in presentation courses such as excessive sound effects and busy gifs, but it is all about the audience and what they expect.

There are textbooks on how to do military writing that would answer your question VERY fully not to mention PPTs in various archives of military courses and ROTC files.
posted by jadepearl at 6:44 PM on April 18, 2006

Pre-mission training "briefings" will usually include rules of engagement, procedures for responding to journalists' inquiries, projected length of deployment, etc.

Real honest-to-God briefings just before a mission will be much more to the point: situation, mission, resources, questions. That's oversimplifying it a bit, but those are the main parts.

I was never briefed by a consultant while I was in the military, and I went on only a couple peacekeeping mission deployments, so I don't even want to hazard a guess at what your friend's friend is passing on to troops.
posted by cog_nate at 7:04 PM on April 18, 2006

Jadepearl: thanks for all the info. I wasn't so much interested in how to give a presentation as in what these particular briefings might cover.

I Love Cheese: that's what I was wondering. I got the feeling that it had to do with post-traumatic stress and other awful stuff. Stuff like recurring nightmares and the like. Maybe also about how to deal with the rip-off mechanic and other feelings. But why would they go over this before the soldier leave on a mission? Wouldn't that be part of the programs they use before the people come back? I was just shocked that the military would actually admit that even peacekeeping missions can be horrific.
posted by acoutu at 8:25 PM on April 18, 2006

I spent a year in Iraq and a year in Afghanistan as an airborne infantryman, so I've been to a few of these briefings.

There are numerous briefings for several weeks leading up to deployment, covering topics mentioned by other people here (cog_nate, i love cheese): cultural awareness (don't show the bottoms of your feet to iraqis, don't touch them with your left hand, etc), rules of engagement (deadly force is authorized only when a deadly threat is presented, unless you're on an offensive mission), family readiness briefings (keep in touch, don't expect things to be exactly the same as they were when you left when do come home - especially if you have kids). There is also plenty of paperwork to do - you might have to pack up your house or store your vehicle, you might have to ask your family what they want done with your body when you're dead, etc.

Very few of the briefings are particularly interesting. There is a briefing about the country you'll be deploying to and is basically an overview of the Iraq|Afghanistan Handbook, an unclassified yet not-to-be-distributed handbook which is an expanded version of what's available on the CIA's world factbook. It lists country facts, a brief history, and the types of weapon systems and threats you'll find in the country.

There were only one or two briefings which were classified secret, which always amused me because 99% of the people being shown these secret slideshows did not have a security clearance. These were briefs specific to the area of operations and were always given by soldiers, not civilians, but Your Unit May Vary.

After each redeployment we had seven days of "reintegration". This was everything from finance making sure you didn't have problems with your pay, personnel updating your records, getting a screening at the health clinic for Tuberculosis and HIV, getting a few last doses of anti-malaria medication and making sure your vaccinations were up to date, transportation briefings if you had to get your personal belongings or a vehicle out of storage, and some family related briefings to make sure the wives weren't assaulted when the husbands found out the wife had been cheating for the last 12 months... so for a few dozen after each deployment, a trip to JAG for divorce papers. Whee!
posted by cactus at 6:49 AM on April 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


How does a briefing reduce the odds of spousal assault?!
posted by acoutu at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2006

How does a briefing reduce the odds of spousal assault?!

They don't. I just left the army as a captain who went through the initial invasion and thank god didn't have to go back for a rotation.

The first time I deployed to Kuwait for Southern Watch, we had the same lead up briefings, which basically cover everything cactus mentioned. There are a lot of logistics/small details that have to be taken care of just to move a whole lot of people to a foreign country for a long time. They still have bills to pay and people to take care of back home.

Since the war, the army has gotten a little better about dealing with the Family Readiness question - although most of it comes down to whether or not your spouse really supports your life as a soldier. (Mine did not, and divorced me.) Some of the breifings are just CYA, others attempt to give people some real marriage counseling to prepare them for the hard times ahead. The brunt of this has been put on army chapelains, who receive some counseling training, but are not counselors by any means (IMO).

As for your original question, it sounds like something a local unit might be trying to do to show soldiers what to expect when they come back. Reintegration training has guidelines established by the army, but a lot of it still falls on local commanders. You have some that simply rattle off the prepared powerpoint, and some that try and think outside the box to take care of their troops. This sounds like something like that.

Not every briefing is a mission or informational brief - which is what was described earlier. We just tend to call any organized one-time training in a presentation setting a "briefing."
posted by spslsausse at 3:10 PM on April 19, 2006

why would they go over this before the soldier leave on a mission? Wouldn't that be part of the programs they use before the people come back?

The rationale may be that being prepared for what one will experience in combat may have an innoculating effect.

I was just shocked that the military would actually admit that even peacekeeping missions can be horrific.

What's the alternative? The soldiers are heading over there, its not like you can BS them -- they'll see it soon enough.
posted by i love cheese at 3:52 PM on April 19, 2006

Thanks. This all makes more sense to me now. I appreciate all the responses.
posted by acoutu at 7:28 PM on April 21, 2006

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