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Canadian Military Journal

Junior Leadership in Afghanistan (2006–2010) ‘Testimonies of a Mission’

Jos Groen
Jos Groen
Abstract :

Junior Leadership in Afghanistan is an unvarnished series of personal narratives that takes the reader through the Dutch involvement in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010, with a focus upon the experiences of junior leaders in combat operations, particularly, but not exclusively, those in Uruzgan province. The author, Major Jos Groen of the Royal Netherlands Army, is uniquely qualified to put such a work together as he has served in mechanized infantry and personnel services, studied and taught leadership at the Royal Netherlands Military Academy, and has also deployed to Afghanistan and the Balkans. Junior Leadership in Afghanistan (2006–2010) ‘Testimonies of a Mission’ originated as a series of interviews intended to capture operational lessons over a four year period, and it is much more than the sum of its parts—it is an interesting and informative account of the Dutch tactical experience in Afghanistan.

This book is organized into two parts. The first portion contains individual narratives that are arranged chronologically, and the second is a thematic grouping of various perspectives under the primary headings of Preparation (for deployment), Execution (of the operation), and Reflection (after return to the Netherlands), with corresponding sub-headings. The majority of the testimonies are those of junior officers who served with combat and sometimes staff elements for a succession of deployments—twelve in all. At a more senior level are a number of accounts of those who commanded or served as staff in supporting or enabling organizations. These include the provincial reconstruction team, engineers, operational mentoring personnel, and liaison personnel. Of special interest to Canadians will be the Part One account, “A special mission,” covering the force that acted as the reserve for Regional Command (South) from February to May 2007, and, at times, supported Canadian operations (pp. 299–311). Of particular note in Part Two of the book are the sections that deal with re-adjustment upon post-deployment. Overall, the themes and subordinate topics throughout this latter part are the same areas of concern and focus for other countries, and they are worth reviewing for Dutch cultural, institutional, and individual perspectives vis-à-vis these mutual matters of interest.

While reading this book, one is struck by the commonality of the Afghan mission experience for participating nations. This is manifested in the text through the personal leadership accounts of dilemmas posed by harsh climate and terrain, threats which are difficult to discern in advance, and the nuanced nature of the quandaries posed by culturally unfamiliar human terrain. All this comes through in a clear and unambiguous manner, and it reflects the Canadian experience. Additionally, the reader will be struck throughout by the introspective and self-critical nature of these narratives. They are not only rich in common experience, but are rife with transnational lessons.

Keywords :
Junior Leadership in Afghanistan (2006–2010) ‘Testimonies of a Mission’

Date Deposited : 08 Apr 2015 11:59

Last Modified : 08 Apr 2015 11:59

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Volume 15, Number 1, - 2015

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