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Thread: Thoughts on "Patrol Base Infantry"

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    Default Thoughts on "Patrol Base Infantry"

    The article is seven pages but it's an easy and interesting read by former British Infantry officer William Owen:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...n16346580/pg_1

    As with distributed operations - whether you fully agree with it or not - I think some of his ideas are worthy of discussion and consideration.

    I also see parallels with law enforcement. You could consider a police station a patrol base of sorts. As far as missions and operations go, you usually give cops a goal but not specific orders about how to achieve it and the first core function is "find."

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    He's working on a complete own infantry doctrine book, but that's delayed by his current activity as the editor of some Southeast Asian military journal.

    Afaik he's working with the UK Royal Marines to check his ideas.

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    I must say I tend to agree with the broad thrust of his arguments, biased as I am (that light infantrymen are the highest evolved life form). It is also largely borne by what my company trained for and is currently conducting currently in Afghanistan. Each patrol has a G2 and CIMIC mission, and each soldier is a sensor for every dimension of the operation. The training premium is indeed very high, and we work hard to keep each skill set up to speed. I'm most fortunate in having a sniper section, who are without doubt a force multiplier (don't tell them that - they're cocky enough as it is), and I'm using them to take the rest of the boys through observation skills on a regular basis. We also go for the 'shura' method of talking through issues and new TTPs among the commanders to spread best practice and experiences. It may depend on precisely what role a unit finds itself in, but I basically agree that if each brick or team understands the core functions and what the effect required is, the initiative and determination of the Guardsmen produces truly humbling results.

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    I think this is sound stuff, (Pattonesque) and is a direction we should be heading in... I want to read this a couple more times to flesh the details but my gut tells me a model that stesses observation and initiative as fundamentals can't be bad thing.
    Last edited by Ender; 11-16-2007 at 05:34 AM.

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    This is reconnaissance and security operations by definition. This paper is an 8 page summary of the our own FM 3-20.98 and the duty description of a 19D Cavalry Scout.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Default Interesting Piece.

    Owens' article in enjoyable, but I am uncertain as to the role that he intends Patrol-Based Infantry minor units to undertake. Are they supposed to be classic light infantry - he pointed out the light troops of the Napoleonic Wars - irregular troops that perform reconnaissance, security, raids, and skirmishing, leaving the main battle to others?

    Owen also mentioned a figure of 12 weeks for training someone for this role who has had no prior infantry experience (I am hoping that the unstated assumption here is that the someone has already received about the same amount - c. 12 weeks' - of recruit training). As such, he seems to be speaking of a revival of classic light infantry.

    He also seems to speak of applying all this to the line infantry as a whole, so things seem a little confusing (but it could very well just be me misunderstanding him), and I love both his quote of Lord Wavell and his own assertion that the Infantry needs to consists of said persons, and not be assigned those that may be considered "unsuitable" for other occupations.

    If he does envision applying PBID to the Infantry as a whole, then the 12 weeks he recommends for PBID training will have to come on top of 3 months' recruit training and somehow be integrated with the usual (in Commonwealth at least) 3 additional months' basic infantry training. A basic-trained Commonwealth infantryman, with 6 month's recuit and basic infantry training to his credit, normally would then have to embark on some advanced training, namely 6 weeks' of basic infantry reconnaissance training in order to perform the full range of tasks described in PBID. Given this, and Owen's own Commonwealth Army background, if he were to apply PBID to the entire Infantry Corps, then a total of 7 -1/2 to 8 months' would be required for a PBID basic infantry syllabus.

    I very much disagree with his statement about sniper training: first off, basic sniper training must come after basic infantry reconnaissance training. A sniper must master basic infantry reconnaissance before becoming an advanced practioner - namely a sniper - of that trade. Secondly, skill at marksmanship is something that comes with practice, but even thorough and conscientious fieldcraft training - and that, not marksmanship, is the heart of the sniper's craft - can only go so far. What makes the sniper different from the rest of the infantry, even the recce patrolman, is his unsurpassed skill at fieldcraft, especially tracking, stalking, camouflage and concealment - seeing without being seen. And that is a rare gift. As the old saying about snipers goes, " a man does not choose to be a sniper, sniping chooses him." Being a great shot alone does not a sniper make.

    Admittedly, this is a somewhat intriguing work that Owen has produced, full of possibilities.
    Last edited by Norfolk; 11-16-2007 at 05:05 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    I very much disagree with his statement about sniper training: first off, basic sniper training must come after basic infantry reconnaissance training. A sniper must master basic infantry reconnaissance before becoming an advanced practioner - namely a sniper - of that trade. Secondly, skill at marksmanship is something that comes with practice, but even thorough and conscientious fieldcraft training - and that, not marksmanship, is the heart of the sniper's craft - can only go so far. What makes the sniper different from the rest of the infantry, even the recce patrolman, is his unsurpassed skill at fieldcraft, especially tracking, stalking, camouflage and concealment - seeing without being seen. And that is a rare gift. As the old saying about snipers goes, " a man does not choose to be a sniper, sniping chooses him." Being a great shot alone does not a sniper make.
    After having read this again I completely agree with this point, have my own questions and want to know what he meant by this...

    It takes a considerable amount of time and training to instill an active observer (reconnaissance) mindset into the warrior and sniping is without question a highly advanced application and more evolved form of that basic mindset. I wonder if he said "sniper" and intended more along the lines of a universal DM program? As you said being a good shot does not make a sniper and we know that if we sent all of our light infantrymen to sniper schools one of two things would have to happen, we would either have to lower the standards so everyone could pass or we would have to accept the fact that a large percentage of them would be coming right back to their units.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    After having read this again I completely agree with this point, have my own questions and want to know what he meant by this...

    It takes a considerable amount of time and training to instill an active observer (reconnaissance) mindset into the warrior and sniping is without question a highly advanced application and more evolved form of that basic mindset. I wonder if he said "sniper" and intended more along the lines of a universal DM program? As you said being a good shot does not make a sniper and we know that if we sent all of our light infantrymen to sniper schools one of two things would have to happen, we would either have to lower the standards so everyone could pass or we would have to accept the fact that a large percentage of them would be coming right back to their units.
    Concur. I would add that there is a significant difference between using a Soldier as a surveillance sensor from utilizing a Soldier as a reconnaissance platform. The first is passive and easy. The second requires a lot of training.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    After having read this again I completely agree with this point, have my own questions and want to know what he meant by this...

    It takes a considerable amount of time and training to instill an active observer (reconnaissance) mindset into the warrior and sniping is without question a highly advanced application and more evolved form of that basic mindset. I wonder if he said "sniper" and intended more along the lines of a universal DM program? As you said being a good shot does not make a sniper and we know that if we sent all of our light infantrymen to sniper schools one of two things would have to happen, we would either have to lower the standards so everyone could pass or we would have to accept the fact that a large percentage of them would be coming right back to their units.
    Ender, I found myself similarly confused by Owen's statement about training all the PBID Infantry as snipers. As for myself, I came down on the side of Owen intending that the PBID Infantry were actually to be snipers, not merely sharpshooters. Given that Owen is a former British Army Infantry officer himself, I therefore took it that it would be unlikely for him to use the term "Sniper" when he in fact meant "Designated Marksman". He would undoubtedly comprehend the vast difference between the two. But as you said, it would be nice if we had something from Owen to clarify this point.

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    Talking Lost in translation

    Gents,

    Now I am here I will attempt to make some useful contribution. Not sure where to start though.

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    Default Hi, there -- and Welcome. One thing you could

    do is go to this LINK, hit the "Post Reply" button and give some of your background, that helps everyone relate to where you're coming from...

    After that, just jump in anywhere...

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    Default The Sniper Issue!

    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    Ender, I found myself similarly confused by Owen's statement about training all the PBID Infantry as snipers. As for myself, I came down on the side of Owen intending that the PBID Infantry were actually to be snipers, not merely sharpshooters.
    Obviously I need to address this. It has already cause huge problems when the article was published in the British Army’s Doctrine and Training News.

    1. All I am suggesting is that Infantry need to have a high standard of measurable skill. – and the determination to get it.
    2. These skills should be field craft, shooting, navigation, observation and communication. These are all core sniper skills. They are also core infantry skills, which need to be developed.
    3. Thus “sniper training,” would have a great deal of use to basic infantry training. This is not to say that the same standards that qualify snipers would be applied to basic training. EG- Recruits would only be required to stalk and locate a target unseen, and would not be required to release shots and get out of the position undiscovered, as snipers have to.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Obviously I need to address this. It has already cause huge problems when the article was published in the British Army’s Doctrine and Training News.

    1. All I am suggesting is that Infantry need to have a high standard of measurable skill. – and the determination to get it.
    2. These skills should be field craft, shooting, navigation, observation and communication. These are all core sniper skills. They are also core infantry skills, which need to be developed.
    3. Thus “sniper training,” would have a great deal of use to basic infantry training. This is not to say that the same standards that qualify snipers would be applied to basic training. EG- Recruits would only be required to stalk and locate a target unseen, and would not be required to release shots and get out of the position undiscovered, as snipers have to.

    Would suggest that US Infantry is headed that direction with the squad designated marksman program - it's not sniper skills, just a focus on rifle skills above the normal rifleman.

    I would also suggest that we can all come up with good ideas for what infantry should get training in, finding that time in the middle of back to back 12 month deployment cycles is amazingly tough given all the other requirements in the current environments. Most units don't even get to 90% strength until 3 months before deployment, and that makes advanced team training difficult.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Would suggest that US Infantry is headed that direction with the squad designated marksman program - it's not sniper skills, just a focus on rifle skills above the normal rifleman.

    I would also suggest that we can all come up with good ideas for what infantry should get training in, finding that time in the middle of back to back 12 month deployment cycles is amazingly tough given all the other requirements in the current environments. Most units don't even get to 90% strength until 3 months before deployment, and that makes advanced team training difficult.
    Well if you have someone with a 20 inch barrel and x4 sight with a ballistically matched hold over reticle out to 800m (ACOG TA-32?) then great. The UK now calls (re-branded ) the LSW L86A2 (a very accurate weapon) operator the "marksman". The Israelis do the same. Each fireteam has one. It's a guy that can take a long range deliberate shot, for less equipment and training investment than a full blown sniper. - but what if you have Snipers in the Platoon?

    Yep, that 12 month deployment cycle will screw things up, but how well organised is you normal training anyway, and what I am talking about is pretty basic stuff and not advanced. I am also focussing on recruit training.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Well if you have someone with a 20 inch barrel and x4 sight with a ballistically matched hold over reticle out to 800m (ACOG TA-32?) then great. The UK now calls (re-branded ) the LSW L86A2 (a very accurate weapon) operator the "marksman". The Israelis do the same. Each fireteam has one. It's a guy that can take a long range deliberate shot, for less equipment and training investment than a full blown sniper. - but what if you have Snipers in the Platoon?

    Yep, that 12 month deployment cycle will screw things up, but how well organised is you normal training anyway, and what I am talking about is pretty basic stuff and not advanced. I am also focussing on recruit training.
    Sounds like it's a very similar program. They first tried M-14's and then decided to use M16A2/A4's with 4x ACOG sights instead. Goal was hits in the 600m band. The trained soldiers were 2x per squad and received about a week of advanced marksmanship training. Not snipers by any means, but as you said - a guy who can hit more reliably and farther out than your average infantryman. Kind of like the sniper guy in Saving Private Ryan.

    I know I picked my most experienced shooters/ good ol boys for it and they ate it up, and formed a small group to hone each other's skills and help train the rest of their platoons.
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    I will move off point a bit from the important discussion so far in this threat about the tactics and ttps of infantry and will make a short comment on the broader implication of the thrust of this well-written article.

    From this article the author states:

    Both the reality of current operations as well as the future of warfare and conflict is arguably "light infantry centric." Only light forces can confront all possible adversaries across the spectrum of operations.
    I fundamentally disagree with this point. The dust-bin of history is full of those who said things like "this kind of war will never happen again," only to be proved wrong and left standing on the road with rifle in hand while streams of tanks drove by. Maybe this is how LTC Smith's soldiers felt as North Korean tanks rumbled past their hastily and poorly built defensive positions just south of Seoul in July 1950. The mindset of Americans soldiers in Japan at the time was of occupation duties, wanting to get back home, and not thinking about the possibility of another war in whatever form it might take.

    I also disagree with the explicit point that light infantry are the only ones who can "confront all possible adversaries." This statement by itself is factually incorrect; a light infantryman is at a huge disadvantage staring down the main guns of four tanks even if he has been trained fully in the use of a sniper rifle. Too, I would not want to conduct a movement to contact into Iran or North Korea with infantrymen who have had focused training on this notion of PBI. I would want infantrymen who have mobility in an integrated way with ability to move dismounted, have protection, and can maneuver on the ground with lethality and protection when needed to do so. Training infantrymen with the notion of PBI in mind turns them all into little David Galulas; certainly not what we want from a full-spectrum force.

    I believe that in the American Army we must be vigilant against those who want to fight the next war just as we are fighting this one; as a counterinsurgency only force. Patrol Based infantry smacks of just that. Although certainly a reasonable technique for infantry to have, we certainly should not be building an entire Army around this notion. We all might laugh at such a statement but with the steamrolling effect of Coin doctrine and practice upon us this sort of thing is a distinct possibility that we must gaurd against.

    gentile
    Last edited by Gian P Gentile; 12-14-2007 at 11:42 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    I fundamentally disagree with this point. .

    I also disagree with the explicit point that light infantry are the only ones who can "confront all possible adversaries." This statement by itself is factually incorrect; a light infantryman is at a huge disadvantage staring down the main guns
    I agree and I wrote it! As always language is a problem, and this was written for a UK audience.

    A more useful statement would have been "Skill in dismounted infantry operations, and patrolling in particular, is largely relevant across the spectrum of conflict." I could go on to emphasise why, but I think everyone here has good take on military history.

    I can't see any good reason why you would not want your infantry skilled in these areas.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I agree and I wrote it! As always language is a problem, and this was written for a UK audience.

    A more useful statement would have been "Skill in dismounted infantry operations, and patrolling in particular, is largely relevant across the spectrum of conflict." I could go on to emphasise why, but I think everyone here has good take on military history.

    I can't see any good reason why you would not want your infantry skilled in these areas.
    Agree and you are absolutely right and i did acknowledge this point that of course infantry must be skilled at dismounted patrolling and when need be conducting patrol base operations. But these should be skills that are a part of, and not the base of, a larger capability of infantry to fight across a broad spectrum. As I stated in my post, I am worried about the American Army and where our fetish with Coin is taking us.

    I appreciate the fact that you wrote it for a Brittish audience. My concern, as I have stated, is with the American audience hence my posting.

    I should also repeat what i said in the previous post about the value of this article and its very well written nature.

    good to be in touch with you

    gian

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I agree and I wrote it! As always language is a problem, and this was written for a UK audience.

    A more useful statement would have been "Skill in dismounted infantry operations, and patrolling in particular, is largely relevant across the spectrum of conflict." I could go on to emphasise why, but I think everyone here has good take on military history.

    I can't see any good reason why you would not want your infantry skilled in these areas.
    Wilf,

    Just what were you proposing in PBID: a revival of classic light infantry, or the revival of classic light infantry skills amongst line infantry?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    Wilf,

    Just what were you proposing in PBID: a revival of classic light infantry, or the revival of classic light infantry skills amongst line infantry?
    The proposal wasn't that complicated. It was/is about emphasising the need to be proficient at dismounted operations as a basis for all infantry doctrine. This offers the possibility to make everything simpler and more effective.

    Once you are on foot, Infantry is Infantry or should be.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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