One thing I've learned is that counterinsurgency (COIN) instruction seems to vary from course to course. Some officer basic courses get very little actual COIN instruction, whereas others get quite a bit of it.
I should note that it seems that my peers in the infantry seem to be getting significantly more COIN instruction than my friends in the aviation community. While I certainly feel that aviators need to understand the counterinsurgency environment, let's face it, we aviators tend to be over-glorified FOBbits.
Rarely will aviators actually have a "chai meeting" with the Iraqi police, or a leader engagement with the Afghan National Army. Interactions with the civilian population only occur when the worst happens--an aircraft shoot-down. Well, either that or getting assigned to a MITT, one or the other.
Indeed, an aviator's "core competencies" are irrelevant to the type of conflicts we are in. No matter if you're in Somalia, Iraq, or the Fulda Gap, pulling up on the collective means that the helicopter goes up and that you have to press the left pedal. (Unless you're one of my fans that flies a Eurocopter, in which case you put in right pedal).
Nevertheless, aviators will never know what types of units they will be assigned to. I personally found myself working as a battalion operations officer in a ground battalion in Honduras, watching Army Aviation from the infantryman's perspective, and was forced to teach myself some rudimentary Spanish and conduct joint airborne operations with the Honduran military. It was grossly unlike anything I had ever experienced, having been an aviation platoon leader and assistant S-3 in the 82nd Airborne Division, and I learned a lot from the experience.
Many aviators have found themselves in similar predicaments as well. With the operational tempo we are experiencing in the 21st Century military, officers will often find themselves thrust into situations they may not have been initially trained for. Even fighter pilots have found themselves riding in HMMWVs through the Iraqi desert!
This is why the "pentathlete" model is so important. We need to school our officers to be prepared for a wide range of potential assignments. That means preparing them to understand the role of the Army in conventional conflict, counterinsurgency, nation-building and disaster relief. To not do so will only set ourselves up for failure.
(The reader will excuse any rambling or incoherences on my part. After all, I'm participating in my favorite Saturday night activity)