That task is more difficult because the 1/12 battalion hasn't exactly had a terrific rotation in Afghanistan. "We've been asked to do a lot of different things," says Major Korey Brown, the battalion's executive officer. "They detached us from our brigade, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, and sent us out here to Zhari district to be storm troopers -- that's what General Vance called us -- and that's what we were trained for, that's what we like to do.To find, fix and finish the enemy." But the mission changed with the arrival of General Stanley McChrystal, as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in the summer of 2009. "It's not about how you engage the enemy so much now. It's how you engage your district governor," says Brown. "That's a huge change for guys like us -- call us knuckle draggers or whatever, but we weren't trained to do COIN."
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.