Command and General Staff College: Who is Sean MacFarland?

Sunday, November 28, 2010
Brigadier General Sean B. MacFarland has served as the deputy commanding general of the Combined Arms Center (CAC)–Leader Development and Education, and deputy commandant of the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) since July 9. 2010. MacFarland also assumed responsibility for Intermediate Level Education at CGSC, the School of Advanced Military Studies, the School for Command Preparation, the Defense Language Institute and various other CAC educational institutions.
MacFarland’s mother, Nancy, has said that, "Our family business is the military.” One of her ancestors, Rowland Stafford, served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Her great-grandfather, David Stafford, fought in the Civil War. Sean MacFarland’s great-grandfather, Archibald MacFarland served in the Spanish-American War and earned a statue in his honor in Albany, New York.
MacFarland’s grandfather, Col. John MacFarland, was a West Point graduate who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. His father, Garth, spent 34 years in the Army, attaining the rank of colonel. Sean MacFarland’s brother, Chris, served in the Gulf War.
MacFarland himself graduated from West Point in 1981 and was commissioned as an armor officer. He served as a cavalry platoon leader and troop executive officer in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. He then served as a squadron logistics officer and troop commander in 3rd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment, in Büdingen, Germany.
After earning a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech in 1990, he returned to Fort Bliss, working on research for the Strategic Defense Initiative (a.k.a. “Star Wars”). He then went back to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, where he served as the deputy regimental operations staff officer in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991).
MacFarland received additional graduate degrees, a Master of Military Art and Science degree from the Command and General Staff College and a Master of Science in national resource strategy from the National Defense University.
Upon graduation from the Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced
Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, he was assigned to 3rd Infantry Division in Würzburg, Germany. There, he served as the directorate of operations plans officer. He then was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, in Schweinfurt, Germany as the operations officer and later, the executive officer. During his tenure as executive officer, the squadron deployed to Bosnia as part of NATO’s Implementation Force (IFOR).
After returning to Würzburg as the deputy operations officer for 1st Infantry Division, MacFarland was assigned to Third Army’s Directorate of Operations Plans Division at Ft. McPherson, Georgia. While there, he deployed to Kuwait as part Operation Desert Thunder and was made the chief of the commanding general’s Initiatives Group. After spending a year and a half as the aide de camp for the commanding general, U.S. Army, Europe, in Heidelberg and commander of NATO’s Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Sarajevo, he assumed command of 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment at Camp Able Sentry in Macedonia, where it was deployed as part of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR).
Following two and a half years of battalion command, he attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair, Washington, DC. After graduating, he served as the chief of future operations for Combined/Joint Task Force 7 in Iraq. He was the operations officer of V Corps from April 2004 to June 2005, training troops to rescue soldiers in combat and recover the bodies of troops killed in action.
He then assumed command of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (the Ready First Combat Team) in Friedberg, Germany. The Ready First Combat Team was responsible for Tal Afar and West Ninawa province. MacFarland characterized his goals in Tal Afar as, "Clean it up, get the infrastructure back, and people will regain their confidence. It's not Camelot, but it's not Gotham either." Four months later, they moved to Ramadi, where they fought as a reinforced, joint Army/Marine Brigade Combat Team for nine months.given relatively free rein to develop a strategy for Ramadi, MacFarland rejected the.overwhelming force approach that had failed in Fallujah and instead worked with local Sunni tribal leaders, some of whom had previously attacked Americns, but who were also hostile to al-Qaeda. "I'm a product of Catholic schools," said MacFarland, “and I was taught that every saint has a past and every sinner can have a future.”
He also used tanks and drones to protect local government and police leaders. MacFarland established combat outposts in and around Ramadi in areas where al-Qaeda was strongest and he insisted that U.S. and Iraqi troops live and eat together rather than in segregated quarters. This led to heavy fighting and U.S. casualties.
Referring to a soldier who was killed by shrapnel from a mortar shell that exploded a few yards away from him, MacFarland said, ''I don't know if this war is worth the life of Terry Lisk, or 10 soldiers, or 2,500 soldiers like him. What I do know is that he did not die alone. He was surrounded by friends. A Greek philosopher [actually it was George Santayana] said that only the dead have seen the end of war. Only Terry Lisk has seen the end of this war.''
Ultimately, MacFarland’s strategy proved more effective than previous ones and became a model for activies elsewhere in Iraq.
After redeploying and inactivating the Brigade Combat Team, MacFarland served as chief of the Iraq Division, Plans and Policy Officer, The Joint Staff, for approximately one year before assuming command in June 2008 of Joint Task Force North at Biggs Army Airfield, Fort Bliss, Texas, the Pentagon’s organization that assists local law enforcement with combating potential threats to the U.S.
In early 2008, MacFarland co-authored a four-page white paper, “The King and I: The Impending Crisis in Field Artillery’s ability to provide Fire Support to Maneuver Commanders,” in which he argued that the increased emphasis on counterinsurgency training was weakening the Army by caused a serious decline in the quality of artillery training.
MacFarland was promoted to brigadier general in September 2008. He and his wife, Lynda, have two children.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
The Gamble: How Sean MacFarland's Tactics Turned Iraq's tide of Violence (by Thomas E. Ricks, The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the American Surge in Iraq 2006-2008)


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