Fellow Artillerist Captain Brett Friedman has written an excellent article on Operation Serval, an operation being conducted by France in Mali.
Like myself, and the rest of us, he can only read about this in the news, from journalists. Maybe at some point we'll be able to examine reports from the French themselves. Would it not be nice if we could send our own observers to sit and watch the operation unfold? The decisions the French make? The decisions they don't make? If we did this, we could have an after action review written by someone who thinks like a Marine, writes like a Marine, and knows what issues Marines are interested in, simply because the one writing is a Marine.
Crazy idea? Well, another fellow artillerist, LtGen Pedro del Valle, in the late 1930s "participated as an observer with the Italian Forces during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The experiences which del Valle gained as an observer led him to author the book "Roman Eagles Over Ethiopia" where he describes the events leading up to the Italian expedition and the complete movements of combat operations by the Italian Army under Generals De Bono, Badoglio, and Graziani."
Granted, then-LtCol del Valle was the Assistant Naval Attache attached to the American Embassy in Italy. So he was already there, and what else would he do? What else indeed. If there isn't, there should be a program to send Marine observers (just two perhaps) to conflicts our allies have invested ground troops in. Especially if they've committed Marines, or a MAGTF, as the French have now done in Mali. We could see how our allies conduct business, perhaps even learn from their mistakes, or their successes, and bring that back to enhance our own understanding of how we as a Marine Corps can deal with current and future, low and high intensity conflicts. If there is a program, where can I sign up?