When an infantry battalion is operating tactically, its actions rarely have the possibility of directly impacting alliance constructs, foreign policy objectives, and national security strategy. But Dan Leard’s 1-38 Infantry did. As a brand-new battalion commander, he deployed with his soldiers to support coalition operations in Syria in 2021. For Dan, who had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission in Syria was vastly different—and involved vastly different potential consequences.

In this episode of The Spear, Leard talks about his formative experiences as a company-grade officer, his maturation as a leader, and the guidance he gave to his soldiers before they set boots on the ground in Syria. Once there, as he describes, the battalion encountered Russian patrols, Iranian-backed influence operations, and persistent surveillance. It was an environment where one misstep could lead to strategic shifts. Leard’s focus of effort and the battalion’s drumbeats directly influenced his soldiers, including a platoon caught in a prepared ambush in this information war with guns.

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Image credit: Staff Sgt. William Howard