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Thread: Understanding our wartime experiences...

  1. #61
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default Current British Battle Casualty Replacement System

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Not sure how the Brits are working this in Afghanistan but presume with the smaller numbers they are able maintain the rear link to their regimental structures in the UK?
    The regimental system has changed considerably in the last few years, away from a geographic and familial basis and more towards a capbadge centric basis.

    That said a rear link to UK regimental structures is still retained. When a unit deploys it leaves an element behind within its Rear Operations Group (ROG) for Battle Casualty Replacements. The size and composition of this element depends on the operational analysis of prevailing casualty rates. The BCR (indeed the ROG) is not at the expense of the deploying element, but additional to it and the unit is uplifted with manpower in the months preceeding a deployment. The BCRs have largely conducted Mission Specific Training with the unit over the preceeding 6 months and the rank range is from Major through to private.

    Personnel within the BCR cohort are at differing Notice To Moves. As casualties incur in theatre reinforcements flow out to theatre, moving in to a theatre based BCR pool where they conduct acclimatisation and in theatre training prior to being called forward. There is always a pool in theatre ready to be called forward immediately. I do not know how long people spend on average within the in-theatre pool before being called forward, but it is generally a minimum of 10-14 days. While in-theatre they are administered and trained by their parent unit.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

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    Another recent thread discussed the merits of conscription.

    Napoleon had this view:

    Conscription forms citizen armies. Voluntary enlistment forms armies of vagrants and good-for-nothings. The former are guided by honour; mere discipline controls the latter. - Napoleon
    Well its all about selection isn't it. If you sit in a static recruiting office waiting for strays to walk in off the street then that is what you get.

    Both conscripts and volunteers need to be selected for. No army seems to do that well... they just take what they get and the system for selection never improves because of the insane belief that the military make-up must reflect society. If that is good for the military then why does it not apply to NASA, atomic energy, academia and all other specialist occupations? You select the right person for the job right? Wrong, when it comes to the military it seems.

    Lord Moran in his seminal work 'The Anatomy of Courage' (in the chapter on selection) says at the time six-months after WW1:

    The clear, war-given insight into the essence of a man has already grown dim. With the coming of peace we have gone back to those comfortable doctrines that some had thought war had killed. Cleverness has come into its own again. The men who won the war never left England.; that was where the really clever people were most useful.
    Well this is what happens (seemingly) all the time... armies do not learn through experience. Once the particular war is over they clear away all the wartime clutter and get back to real soldiering. Everytime a coconut.



    PS: I thank Fuchs for the heads-up on this article:

    Why Is Getting Out of the U.S. Army So Tough?
    Last edited by JMA; 05-06-2012 at 09:47 AM.

  3. #63
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default All true. Sadly...

    Take a really difficult and dangerous job and allow anyone that walks in the door to apply and serve, no matter their capability.

    Insane -- but that's the way of it. That should really be changed. As you write, no Army really seems to do that totally well and the larger ones will have more problems.

    That linked article you provide from Fuchs is IMO correct in its principal point -- there should be a trial period where one could leave if one discovered that military service was not one's cuppa. That would do several things; get rid of some malcontents (there'[ll always be a few of them about), force the services to put good people in charge of initial entry training instead of just assigning those one doesn't want in an operational unit or whose turn it happens to be (amazing number of designated 'trainers' who are totally unsuited for and do not want the job...) and improve a lot of things to retain people who aren't just trapped in a system (forced contractual servitude even when voluntarily entered is still forced servitude... ).

    As an aside, the author cites no field training in Basic training. US practice is to minimalize that training in the generic, 'this is the Army (or Marine Corps, whatever...)' basic phase and save it for Advanced Individual Training which is job specific. That is a really poor and flawed approach. It is being changed but far too slowly and timidly. There's pressure to not change it on cost grounds -- though IMO, that's specious. Done right, it could be cheaper -- and it could also serve as a weeding-out effort.

    He mentions the Canadian system of easy movement from reserve to active status with varying degrees of commitment. I've long thought we should do that better than we do -- though we are a lot better at that today than we used to be.

    Fuchs told me the Bundeswehr volunteer has a six week trial period in which he or she can leave at any time. That's really smart -- we need to do that. It would be far cheaper (and far less disruptive) than trying to board them out later...

    I suspect he also proves the point that the average intelligent, advanced degree holding person is far happier as a reservist Captain in a small community and tradition oriented Army than they would be as a younger Private in a large, impersonal active Army that treats people as -- and calls them -- 'assets.'...

  4. #64
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    The British Army recruit has the option of discharging himself as well in the first few weeks of training. While that may weed out some the reality is that the British Army suffers very high wastage rates in training, primarily due to homesickness...

    British Army recruits go through an extensive selection process once they have volunteered for service, including psychometric and physical evaluation; but there's no cure yet for homesickness.

    Interestingly (worryingly) defence recruitment in the UK has just been outsourced. Understandably there are a number of concerns with this...
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

  5. #65
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    I've never seen a homesick boy whom I'd have considered promising for the military. Homesick boys are typically very dependant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    I've never seen a homesick boy whom I'd have considered promising for the military. Homesick boys are typically very dependant.
    Not sure I buy this as being the greatest problem facing recruits joining European armies.

    But Fuchs is correct... if mommy's little darling can't stand a few weeks of separation then the army should not keep him. Send him home to mommy.

    That said if the psychological tests are worth anything then the excessively dependent should not even get to the point of starting the training.

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    The British Army recruit has the option of discharging himself as well in the first few weeks of training. While that may weed out some the reality is that the British Army suffers very high wastage rates in training, primarily due to homesickness...
    The British army has always had a problem with recruiting... (read the chapter 'Scum of the Earth' in Richard Holmes' book 'Redcoats'.)

    As with my comments of officer selection (in another thread) the same applies to wastage on recruit courses. Its all about selection.

    Your man Moran (in his book 'The Anatomy of Courage') covers this aspect well in his chapter on selection. Not to be read... but rather to be studied!

    British Army recruits go through an extensive selection process once they have volunteered for service, including psychometric and physical evaluation; but there's no cure yet for homesickness.
    Then the news is bad... meaning the selection process (as with officers) is not as good as one would like to think.

    Interestingly (worryingly) defence recruitment in the UK has just been outsourced. Understandably there are a number of concerns with this...
    Its a horrific thought. Once again the unblooded civilians are tasked with selecting people for duties requiring characteristics beyond their understanding. The certainty is that its bound to fail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    As an old RSM once said, that system is at one time the strength and the bane of the British Army.
    Thats classic British for you. A statement making it possible to be in both camps (for and against) at the same time.

    I would be interested to learn more of these supposed negatives but perhaps they are conjured up by those having no regimental system of note as some form of justification for their own position?

    Meantime I refer to Sydney Jary from his delightful book '18 Platoon':

    Infantry warfare is a wretched business. It makes the physical and the emotional demands on participants that run contrary to all human instinct. The strong minority must quietly help the weak majority. To me that is the essance of good team work and that jewel in the crown of the British Army, the regimental system, is the strong foundation upon which we all, knowingly or unknowingly, relied.
    Then of course sage advice from an expected quarter:

    Remember tradition does not mean that you never do anything new, but that you will never fall below the standard of courage and conduct handed down to you. Then tradition, far from being handcuffs to cramp your action, will be a handrail to guide and steady you in rough places. - Field Marshal Sir William Slim
    ...oh yes, and before the academics and those who have never fired a shot in anger start to get involved in this matter:

    Only infantry officers are qualified to express opinions on this subject. - Lieut.-Colonel B.E. Ferguson, D.S.O., O.B.E., The Black Watch, "The Case for the Regimental System," Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Vol. XCVI, February to November 1951
    Last edited by JMA; 05-12-2012 at 05:34 AM.

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    David,

    Did I ever ask you if you could get a copy of this?

    Lieut.-Colonel B.E. Ferguson, D.S.O., O.B.E., The Black Watch, "The Case for the Regimental System," Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Vol. XCVI, February to November 1951

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    JMA,

    No, not that I recall. Should be able to get a copy soon.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    JMA,

    No, not that I recall. Should be able to get a copy soon.
    Appreciate it if you are able.

  12. #72
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Me too.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    David,

    Received... Many thanks.

    Bernard Fergusson (should be double s) was an outstanding officer and war time commander. I wanted to read this to get his view from 1951 as we discussed some of this stuff in various threads here a few years ago. Happy to say I was (inadvertently) in step with his thinking on the matter.

    You should circulate this on your Brit network including our friend Red Rat.

    Thanks again for going to all the trouble.
    Mark


    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    David,

    Did I ever ask you if you could get a copy of this?

    Lieut.-Colonel B.E. Ferguson, D.S.O., O.B.E., The Black Watch, "The Case for the Regimental System," Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, Vol. XCVI, February to November 1951
    Last edited by JMA; 03-25-2014 at 11:18 PM.

  14. #74
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Case for the Regimental System (RUSIJ 1951)

    If anyone else would like a copy of the article please ask via PM and supply an email address.

    Currently it is over 3Mb so cannot be attached here.
    davidbfpo

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    Came across this book on subject:

    The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War

    Available on Kindle.

    It has received good ratings... but for me IMHO it is written to entertain which for me is a distraction (somewhat like Bing West's 'The Village'). But nevertheless a welcome contribution.

    Another book: Soviet Afghanistan Veterans Share Their Stories, Make Predictions. Comparison of Soviet (1979-1989) and American battlefield experience in Afghanistan (Warfare in Afghanistan: Now and Then) [Kindle Edition]

    Short and sweet and worth the few dollars for the Kindle version.

    Comparing their experience to what they see ISAF/NATO doing:

    Andrei : “This is my personal view. Compared to our military campaign in Afghanistan, they’re effectively just maintaining presence. They don’t carry out any large-scale operations, like we did. They don’t even fight drug trafficking.”
    Andrei has a point.

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    Found this on TED.com and thought I would share it here:

    Sebastian Junger: Why veterans miss war

    I believe he covers the difference between 'friendship' and 'brotherhood' well to provide those who have not shared their most vulnerable moments in combat with others a glimpse into this reality.

    Michael Norman - in his book These Good Men: Friendships Forged from War -sums it up pretty well:

    “One knows why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity.
    I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another.
    I cannot say where we are headed. Ours are not perfect friendships; those are the province of legend and myth. A few of my comrade’s drift far from me now, sending back only occasional word. I know that one day even these could fall to silence. Some of the men will stay close, a couple, perhaps, always at hand.
    As long as I have memory, I will think of them all, every day. I am sure that when I leave this world, my last thought will be of my family and my comrades...such good men.” --Michael Norman in These Good Men: Friendships Forged in War
    and also:

    Wes Moore: How to talk to veterans about the war

    The key part is from 8:05 to 10:30.
    Last edited by JMA; 05-25-2014 at 08:33 AM.

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