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Teaching Notes for Leading Healing in a Broken Unit, by Edward H. Powley and Scott N. Taylor.

Source material for this case study comes from the following: the first-hand experiences of an officer embedded within the ground combat element of a Marine Air Ground Task Force; reports on the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan; and first-hand knowledge of military officers recently returned from combat operations. Specific names, dates, and locations have been changed and descriptive background information added.

The announcement of increased deployments meant additional preparations for many military units that anticipated deployment to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations. This case is about one ground combat element for a Marine Air Ground Task Force deployed into the CENTCOM area of operations. Excitement for the mission remained high, but extended deadlines well beyond the return date caused Marines and sailors to become wary. On top of their fatigue, a suicide bomber detonated himself at an entry control point, significantly affecting the morale and welfare of the unit. The blast killed several individuals and severely wounded nearly a dozen others. One of those killed in the blast was the well-known and well-respected senior enlisted leader of the ground combat element. In life, as in death, his presence affected the morale and productivity of the entire unit. Would his loss paralyze the unit? How would the unit rebound, pick up the pieces, and return with honor? How would the officers lead the unit toward healing in the remaining weeks of the deployment? These questions were in the forefront of the officers’ minds as they struggled to keep the unit moving forward.