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Thread: Back to Basics…The Lost Art of Basic Combat Fundamentals

  1. #161
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Range Cards might be one of those 1918 kind of things that remained in the manuals even after Machine Gun Battalions were abolished in the Army and Marine Corps before World War II. They seem like a good idea but they'd take several days to teach to privates, not just an hour or two.

    A few years ago when I was looking at the unofficial British army Ar*se website I was struck by how detailed British army schools are for guys in troop units who attend them in temporary duty statuses. It seems as though in spite of all the force structure and funding cutbacks the British army doesn't want to part with its institutional training base. Up to a point I don't blame the Brits, but they seem to have more doctrine and techniques than can be taught during a reasonable period of time.

    We dumbed down Infantry training in World War II to shorten things-- we taught that one element puts fire on the objective and another goes around and finds a flank -- because we couldn't afford to train people for longer periods of time. The Germans got fancy about tactics -- they had three-element attacks in 1918 but I don't know how long it took to teach them. My impression is that they used mobile training teams to teach combat units that were on rest breaks in rear areas.

    Tactical training can reach the point where there simply aren't enough hours in the day, and something has to go.

  2. #162
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Training is simple and not overly time consuming -- it just requires a lot of work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Range Cards...seem like a good idea but they'd take several days to teach to privates, not just an hour or two.
    Not so. You can teach most kids how to do a range card in a half hour. See below (the graphic is from FM 21-75). The problem is that it is a cognitive skill and you have to initially use it often to embed, retain and improve the capability -- and that means supervision, which is work for trainers and leaders (therefor it gets sluffed...).

    No insult or slam intended but your comment is indicative of an attitude that is entirely too prevalent in the US Army; "... take several days to teach to privates..." That attitude colors too much of what we do and it is a holdover from the days of the Draft when we took in a slew of Cat III and IV folks and dumbed down our training to cope with people who should not have been in the Army in the first place (McNamara has a LOT to answer for... ). Those day are long gone -- since the mid 80s -- and we have failed for over 30 years to adapt personnel and training polices to reflect that.

    Most Privates are capable of doing far more than they are allowed to do and there are too many Officers and NCOs who do not wish to accept that fact because they have become annointed and risen above the primoridal slime. Very counterproductive attitude. The civilian educators, multi-degreed folks who believe they are above anointed and who often spout quite flawed theories of human cognition and learning have not helped the Army in this...

    I'll also note that in the wider Army, most UNITS are capable of doing far more than they are allowed to do. Excessive control is a bug, not a feature.
    A few years ago when I was looking at the unofficial British army Ar*se website I was struck by how detailed British army schools are for guys in troop units who attend them in temporary duty statuses... but they seem to have more doctrine and techniques than can be taught during a reasonable period of time.
    The British and all the Commonwealth Armies do a far better job of teaching the basics than do we. Far, far better. They have schools for everything and it works. Their secret is low overhead and the NCOs do it; our solution calls for more overhead than Instructors and we underemploy Officers to run things -- they seek to be overemployed and do more things and the whole thing spins out of control so we scrub the School...
    We dumbed down Infantry training in World War II to shorten things-- we taught that one element puts fire on the objective and another goes around and finds a flank -- because we couldn't afford to train people for longer periods of time. The Germans got fancy about tactics -- they had three-element attacks in 1918 but I don't know how long it took to teach them. My impression is that they used mobile training teams to teach combat units that were on rest breaks in rear areas.
    That's an important point and it is glossed over quite often. Good training takes time. At the height of WW II, the Germans were still taking almost six month to train entry tankers and their competence was a significant factor in the length of WW II. We short change training to (a) save money to buy techno solutions to improve poor capability caused by undertraining and (b) save time. Fallacious logic, that time saved translates to less competence after joining a unit and excessive casualties due to under trained troops.

    We also 'train' a lot of things that add nothing to military competence and we use troops in training for little details and garrison housekeeping, things that do not exist in combat.

    We foster the absolutely stupid mantra that "We cannot afford to train people for more than their next job." Ludicrous. Most new Pvts will become team or even Squad leaders before they go to BNCOC (or whatever inane name we've hung on the course now) and most entering 2LTs will command Co / By / Trp before they go to an Advanced Course / Career (bad name...) Course.
    Tactical training can reach the point where there simply aren't enough hours in the day, and something has to go.
    Strongly disagree. For the combat arms absolutely nothing is more important than that tactical training, there's plenty of time to do it right -- we're just too lazy and impatient to do it right and we're unwilling to demand the repetition and tedium of drill to build muscle memory and conditioned response because the 'trainers' don't like it and the 'senior leaders' think it will inhibit Recruiting. It will to a slight extent but you shouldn't really want most of those so inhibited in any event...
    Last edited by Ken White; 10-27-2011 at 01:20 AM.

  3. #163
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    In the back of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook there is a whole lecture/class by Col. Wylye that teaches the fundamentals of Tactics in about 25 pages or so including ways to practice the skill by war gaming.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    The British and all the Commonwealth Armies do a far better job of teaching the basics than do we. Far, far better. They have schools for everything and it works. Their secret is low overhead and the NCOs do it; our solution calls for more overhead than Instructors and we underemploy Officers to run things -- they seek to be overemployed and do more things and the whole thing spins out of control so we scrub the School...
    i think there may also be something to be said for the age and skill level of z Commonwealth or Brit NCO, compared to ours. They are more competent, and wayyyyy more confident in many of my observations, due to age and years of service.

  5. #165
    Council Member 82redleg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    i think there may also be something to be said for the age and skill level of z Commonwealth or Brit NCO, compared to ours. They are more competent, and wayyyyy more confident in many of my observations, due to age and years of service.
    In working with the Brits, Australians and Canadians, I haven't noticed a huge discrepancy in the averages (we have some really young outliers, and they have some rally old outliers) when you consider he duty positions assigned. What I mean is that, yes, their Sergeants are much older than ours, but they aren't really equivalent-- their Sergeant is a platoon sergeant, more like our Sergeant First Class; their Corporal is a section leader, about like our Staff Sergeant; When you look at it that way, they aren't nearly as much older or more skillful than our NCOs.

  6. #166
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I get where you are coming at it from, but perhaps I was getting hung up on the discrete difference, in USMC terms, between an NCO and a SNCO.

    Our SNCOs do the lion's share of entry-level and second echelon advanced training, so they are comparable to a Brit NCO in that case.

  7. #167
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default A New British Approach?

    This is what the British Army is looking at as the core basics for every soldier and officer in the 21st Century.
    • Dismounted Close Combat competency for all branches
    • Combat shooting - proficiency and ethos
    • Modernised urban combat skills
    • Unarmed combat
    • Interdependency with vehicles and operating as a system
    • Public Order/Crowd Control
    • Prisoner handling/detention
    • Combat ID
    • Soldier as sensor
    • Soldier and influencer
    • Critical reasoning
    • Risk Management
    • Professional Military Education
    • IT literacy
    • Information Management Skills


    To elaborate on a couple of them:

    Soldier as Sensor:
     Elicitation skills
     Debriefing
     Integrate individual with a range of sensors (sentry duty to include Base ISTAR for example)

    Soldier as Influencer:
     Self-awareness (Emotional Intelligence/Myers-Briggs)
     Communication skills
     Rapport building
     Team building
     Mediation
     Negotiation
     Coaching/mentoring
     Basic media skills
     Identify and interpret a range of motivations, perceptions, emotions and desires
     Understand and work towards Unity of Effort

    PME:
     Wider and deeper and include soldiers
     How to learn (theory and practice of learning)
     Re-institutionalise After Action Review within battle procedure so that all understand their responsilibility in the lessons process and contribute to adaptability.

    There is some good stuff there, there is some buzzword bingo stuff there and there is some stuff that good units have never stopped doing.

    My issue is that if we are going to do all these, and do it properly, then that takes a long time to train in the individual proficencies, even before we start using in a unit context. I do not think it can all be done within the current manning construct and operational construct whereby soldiers serve on average two years in any one post and units operate on a 30 month cycle of training and ops. We will need individuals to spend longer in post with all the knock on impacts that will have.

    I am also not convinced that this is mastering the core basics, it appears to be jack of all trades and master of none.
    RR

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  8. #168
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    i think there may also be something to be said for the age and skill level of z Commonwealth or Brit NCO, compared to ours. They are more competent, and wayyyyy more confident in many of my observations, due to age and years of service.
    Quote Originally Posted by 82redleg View Post
    In working with the Brits, Australians and Canadians, I haven't noticed a huge discrepancy in the averages (we have some really young outliers, and they have some rally old outliers) when you consider he duty positions assigned. What I mean is that, yes, their Sergeants are much older than ours, but they aren't really equivalent-- their Sergeant is a platoon sergeant, more like our Sergeant First Class; their Corporal is a section leader, about like our Staff Sergeant; When you look at it that way, they aren't nearly as much older or more skillful than our NCOs.
    Brits, Americans and Canadians all have different names for each rank level (Canada broke with British tradition in the 60's in a wierd period of our history where we tried to burn all things Brit - meaning, to us, everything) - the important thing to consider is the relative experience of the guy doing the same job - ie: Section Commander/Squad Leader.

    Any comparison will end up being painted with a broad brush, but some generalities can be made. Two big factors at every level that have to be considered are the training that a person at that level gets and how the career structure informs what a person has done prior to being appointed to that position - these are the two gateways of experience and training.

    In Canada, NCOs at the section and platoon level tended to have lots of experience - generally 10-20 years combined with many qualifications within their trade (ie: for infantry, a specialization like mortars, some advanced courses like winter warfare, etc, etc). The general argument is that when compared to their American counterparts, Canadian NCOs were more experienced and had more extensive training. However, with the dynamics of the last 10 years of warfare and changing demographics, we are seeing this "picture" of a Canadian NCO change. We now have lots of younger, less "qualified" (in the formal sense) but more experienced (in the operational sense) NCOs.

    A good example is the Canadian Infantry Section Commander's Course (which goes through a name change every couple of years). A pretty intensive course, this is given to potential junior NCOs (Corporals) to qualify them to be 2ICs of a section, let alone a commander. My understanding of the American system is that squad leaders will not recieve comparable training until they've been in the billet for sometime - is this still the case?

    As for the British Army, as I understand it there are constraints emplaced by the 22-year career model, which means guys get pushed to the next level much faster then here in Canada. One Senior Officer I know, who has commanded both a Canadian and British Company, commented that he'd take a Canadian Company Sergeant Major over a British one due to the relative levels of experience.

    I've also seen a good comment on where skills are truely learned - in the school house or in the unit while on exercise? In Canada, we've had a real "school house" approach; loooong courses to build up skillsets. I thing we'll see a change in things - does a Recce Section Commander develop his skills on an Advanced Recce Course or doing many exercises as a Recce Section Commander in a Battalion?

    Again, these are generalities and there are always exceptions but there are some interesting observations to be drawn from them.

  9. #169
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    My company sergeant major (CSM) had 16 years experience (excluding his pre-18 year old 'Junior Leader' experience (two years)). This means that he is on the 'glide path' for WO1 and has picked up promotion first time every time. Some CSMs will have more experience, very very few will have less (and I cannot recall any in my experience). The enlisted soldier career progression aims to get the soldier to WO1 (Warrant Officer Class One) at the 20 year point and CSMs will have to do at least one further appointment before they are able to be boarded for WO1.

    Not sure how that compares with Canadian or US equivalents.
    Last edited by Red Rat; 11-21-2010 at 06:35 PM. Reason: amplification
    RR

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  10. #170
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Some of the best infantry SNCOs I have ever served with have been German. Experienced and well trained, they are often found commanding platoons. I got the impression that the Germans educated (professionally) their SNCOs much better then we (the Brits) did.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

  11. #171
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    My company sergeant major (CSM) had 16 years experience (excluding his pre-18 year old 'Junior Leader' experience (two years)). This means that he is on the 'glide path' for WO1 and has picked up promotion first time every time. Some CSMs will have more experience, very very few will have less (and I cannot recall any in my experience). The enlisted soldier career progression aims to get the soldier to WO1 (Warrant Officer Class One) at the 20 year point and CSMs will have to do at least one further appointment before they are able to be boarded for WO1.

    Not sure how that compares with Canadian or US equivalents.
    To give you an idea, a Canadian CSM would typically have 20+ years of service. Due to our common heritage, I'm willing to bet career paths are almost identical between the two only in Canada guys will spend more time in each rank level (thus longer exposure on the "experience curve"). Canada does not have any overarching circumtances like the Brit career progression models or the US Up-or-Out system.


    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    Some of the best infantry SNCOs I have ever served with have been German. Experienced and well trained, they are often found commanding platoons. I got the impression that the Germans educated (professionally) their SNCOs much better then we (the Brits) did.
    Interesting - I have no experience with the German Army. The only thing I've heard is anecdotal from early ISAF experience. It isn't flattering (and they probably think the same thing about us), but it's probably the end result of an oversized multi-national HQ in Kabul with nothing to really do. I don't know if its still the case (Fuchs?) but don't German NCOs command 2 of the 3 Platoons in a Company?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    The British and all the Commonwealth Armies do a far better job of teaching the basics than do we. Far, far better. They have schools for everything and it works. Their secret is low overhead and the NCOs do it; our solution calls for more overhead than Instructors and we underemploy Officers to run things -- they seek to be overemployed and do more things and the whole thing spins out of control so we scrub the School...That's an important point and it is glossed over quite often. Good training takes time.
    Sadly I suppose you must be correct. Can't understand this officer involvement in basic training, weapon training, drill and ceremonial and the like. Where do these guys get the experience from to competently fill those positions? I would ask them "So captain you like instructing on medium mortars? Good we can fix that, the position is for a Master Sgt, you want?"

    Steady Ken, don't include ALL or even some of the Commonwealth armies. Many are no more than an armed rabble.

    Certainly in the RLI we had ex-RSMs who were commissioned who were the Training Officers. The only officers who went near that level of training were those recovering from wounds or parachuting injuries and then only to push the paperwork.

    The more I think about it the more I think there are too many officers anyway. Always liked the old German idea of two officers per company.
    Last edited by JMA; 11-21-2010 at 07:36 PM.

  13. #173
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    The more I think about it the more I think there are too many officers anyway. Always liked the old German idea of two officers per company.
    I do not think there are too many officers in command. It is the proliferation of officers in headquarters.

    Since 2003 I have seen:

    • Rank inflation (majors now do what captains did, LTCs do what majors did et al)
    • Hyper-inflation of staff process
    • A proliferation of HQs


    What that means is that not only has everything slowed down, but in order to 'feed the beast' of HQ manning requirements and officer career aspirations we yank officers out of command slots before they are fully competent and effective in their trade and send them onwards and upwards. There with their limited command experience (and in the UK's instance) even more limited PME they are ideally suited to add process and structures.

    Like a turkey volunteering for Christmas I propose a 20% cut in staff officer numbers - focusing on lieutenant colonels and full colonels initially (they always add process!)
    RR

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  14. #174
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    I do not think there are too many officers in command. It is the proliferation of officers in headquarters.

    Since 2003 I have seen:

    • Rank inflation (majors now do what captains did, LTCs do what majors did et al)
    • Hyper-inflation of staff process
    • A proliferation of HQs
    The U.S. Army has always had a rather high officer share, similar to the even more extreme Soviets/Russians.

    I observed rank inflation sine the mid-90's in Germany, and it was the result of two factors:
    * a personnel system too inadequate to offer the right pay without promotion
    * a shrinking of the force without laying off many 8- and 12-year volunteers of even professional soldiers (we could have done it, as evidenced by the firing of ten thousands of Eastern German officers and NCOs!).


    Any hyper-inflation of staff processes in the U.S.army can probably be blamed on Air-Land Battle doctrine which defined a way of war that provokes such an inflation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post
    I don't know if its still the case (Fuchs?) but don't German NCOs command 2 of the 3 Platoons in a Company?
    The ones I saw had anything from Feldwebel (SSgt) to Oberleutnant (1Lt) as leader. I don't recall a regulation or personnel slot rule for it.
    In wartime everybody down to Unteroffizier (lowest NCO rank) could be called upon to lead a platoon to replace casualties. In peacetime practice Unteroffizier is more of an AFV driver job.

    Btw, the standard path for officers requires them to run though several NCO ranks (named differently than normal NCOs, but still NCOs).

  15. #175
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Btw, the standard path for officers requires them to run though several NCO ranks (named differently than normal NCOs, but still NCOs).
    Here we see yet another example of the pervasive influence of that Karl Marx guy, even in that most reactionary of institutions, the German Army.

  16. #176
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Here we see yet another example of the pervasive influence of that Karl Marx guy, even in that most reactionary of institutions, the German Army.
    Class Warfare is hell

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Here we see yet another example of the pervasive influence of that Karl Marx guy, even in that most reactionary of institutions, the German Army.
    The IDF uses a similar model afaik.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    I do not think there are too many officers in command. It is the proliferation of officers in headquarters.

    Since 2003 I have seen:

    • Rank inflation (majors now do what captains did, LTCs do what majors did et al)
    • Hyper-inflation of staff process
    • A proliferation of HQs


    What that means is that not only has everything slowed down, but in order to 'feed the beast' of HQ manning requirements and officer career aspirations we yank officers out of command slots before they are fully competent and effective in their trade and send them onwards and upwards. There with their limited command experience (and in the UK's instance) even more limited PME they are ideally suited to add process and structures.

    Like a turkey volunteering for Christmas I propose a 20% cut in staff officer numbers - focusing on lieutenant colonels and full colonels initially (they always add process!)
    Yes I agree with that. Important to analyse each job an officer is required to do and assess its continued value.

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    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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  20. #180
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Army Rank Structure: "Old King Cole"

    The following is from my Dad's copy of the Army Song Book compiled by the Adjutant General's Office and published by the War Department in 1941. There is circumstantial evidence that this song was stolen from the British Army during the First World War, just like the the Field Artillery slogan about "Lending dignity to what otherwise be an unseemly brawl" was apparently copied from the British Cavalry during that war.


    "The Army's gone to hell," said the generals;
    "What's my next command?" said the colonels;
    "Where're my boots and spurs?" said the majors;
    "We want ten days' leave," said the captains;
    "We do all the work," said the shavetails;
    "Right by squads, squads right," said the sergeants;
    "One two, one two, one," said the corporals;
    "Beer, beer, beer," said the privates,
    "Merry men are we
    There's none so fair as can compare
    With the Fighting Infantry."
    Last edited by Pete; 11-23-2010 at 01:26 AM. Reason: Add qualifying adjective.

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