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Thread: An Airborne Expeditionary Unit?

  1. #41
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    Ken, thank you for your useful observations. I am familiar with the Bradley story, and am aware of the influence of politics and relationship on procurement decisions (indeed, I think it safe to say all procurement decisions). The studies on this aspect of the US military are fairly extensive.

    I have heard somewhere about the story you relate with respect to the command relationships re the 1st Cav and III Corps, but not the other relationship.

    Studying military organizations as I do I have learned, as you say, that politics and relationships are, or can be, very influential, and are always on my list of factors to look for and consider. My chore as a researcher is to discover the particular politics and relationships involved in what I am studying, to see what influence, good or ill, these had. Never easy, as these factors are often neither officially reported (or at least very obscure) nor to be found in public reports or in archival documents (at least that I can view) (but sometimes they can be found, for one of those hallelujah moments). But for the most part these two factors, particularly at the mid and lower levels, exist in the experiences and recollections of those involved.

    Tom and you have made several points/observations I was not aware of so far and I do appreciate your help. I am profoundly aware that what I do not know exceeds very greatly what I do know, and this will always be th case, so I am always willing to listen and learn.

    My apologies to all, for my first interjection in this thread has led the discussion astray (however much I found the digression interesting and helpful). Sorry!

  2. #42
    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Reed may be partly correct but at this time the only way one can transport and deliver several thousand troops several thousand miles to an inland location in order to do anything, including airfield seizure (IF one is lucky enough to have such handy, might not always be one where you need to go...), is with Parachute troops. ...
    Or air assualt or driving. Namely driving. I have a hard time inventing a scenario where not only is the region out of driving range from a friendly county and without a shoreline and lacking in capablilty eneough that an airborne division is needed. If we had big long range VTOL transports, then the idea might have more merit, maybe. Again I like our airborne units and I think that they are under-rated in capability, but they can fly in and land to the vast majority of any missions the future may hold for them. Haite could have been done from the sea, Grenada and Panama as well. Rowanda could have been air-landed, Iran is not paratrooper friendly terain nor is china. Anything I miss?
    Reed

  3. #43
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Well, since you asked...

    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    Or air assualt or driving. Namely driving. I have a hard time inventing a scenario where not only is the region out of driving range from a friendly county and without a shoreline and lacking in capablilty eneough that an airborne division is needed. If we had big long range VTOL transports, then the idea might have more merit, maybe. Again I like our airborne units and I think that they are under-rated in capability, but they can fly in and land to the vast majority of any missions the future may hold for them. Haite could have been done from the sea, Grenada and Panama as well. Rowanda could have been air-landed, Iran is not paratrooper friendly terain nor is china. Anything I miss?
    Perhaps you missed these facts:

    (1) We didn't drive to Afghanistan... Sometimes you want to go places that other people don't want you to go and the driving then becomes sort of a problem but if you can overfly them and get behind them their advantage disappears and a long drive isn't necessary.

    (2) Air assault will be great if you're doing it locally and the opposition has no ADA (or small arms, for that matter). Be nice if we had those big VTOL transports for longer range stuff but they aren't here yet. You lose fewer aircraft in overflying hot spots and dropping loads than you do trying to land on a hot LZ.

    (3) We can indeed fly in and seize an airfield for many missions; just not for all -- probably not for most -- of them. Haiti, Grenada and Panama all had a seaborne operation; Grenada's parachute op was totally unnecessary; Panama's wasn't imperative but it did help because the seaborne capability was limited for several reasons and the drive-in capability from the Canal Zone for several of the same reasons, not least a really poor road net, was also limited. One DZ was for an airfield seizure, the other was to cut off reinforcements. Haiti was an airland and an air assault, even, off a Carrier -- not a jump. Air Assaults from the sea work, the Marines are good at them and the first big batch of troops on the ground in Afghanistan were Marines because the times and location of troops supported that -- and southern Afghanistan was barely in range and that only with the assistance of Pakistan (who might not be helpful another time).The first troops into Saudi for DS/DS, OTOH were parachute infantry flown from CONUS -- due to time requirements and, again troop locations. As I keep saying, METT-TC rules.

    (4) No place is Paratrooper friendly, they take all the girls and the local guys get hacked off. China and Iran, OTOH as really large nations aren't susceptible to seizure by any airborne elements; those are indeed driving operations (which is why we're in Korea and Iraq) -- however, once one is in those two countries and in combat, the possibility of several types of parachute operations not only exists but could be desirable.

    (5) You did notice that, as I mentioned above, Afghanistan was not a drive in operation? Neither would an operation in a lot of places be -- take Bolivia for example. Ah-ah, don't say never...

    (6) In 1949, the then Chief of Staff of the Army, a Five Star General announced there would never be another large amphibious operation. About a year later, I crossed the mud flats in Inchon Harbor on D+1. Several Chiefs of Staff have tried to gut or remove the parachute infantry battalions because they are 'unnecessary in modern war.' Right...

    (7) Tanks are expensive. Parachute units are expensive. A lot of folks would like to get rid of both and spend the money elsewhere. The demise of the Tank has been long predicted. Many armchair strategists will tell you that there is no need for Parachute Infantry Battalions. Note the Tanks are still here -- and so are parachute infantry battalions. That is true in both cases in spite of their expense because they offer a capability that cannot otherwise be had.

    Nah, you didn't miss much.

  4. #44
    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default Sorry Ken,

    ..but I get the feeling that most of those "airborne" operations you sited, had larger then needed troop drops out of politics more then anything else. Afghan was an air-land, not an air-drop, big differance. Deffinetly need some airborne capability, but I think that discusions focused around airborne DIVISIONS (<<--- channeling a little sparky there) are a little silly.
    (4) No place is Paratrooper friendly, they take all the girls and the local guys get hacked off.
    OK now that was funny, even if i disagree with you on the validity of LARGE airborne ops, I am still very proud to be a paratrooper.
    Reed

  5. #45
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Why are you sorry?

    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    ..but I get the feeling that most of those "airborne" operations you sited, had larger then needed troop drops out of politics more then anything else.
    I didn't cite them, you did. I agreed with you that Grenada was purely political and unnecessary; I disagreed with you on Panama, there was an element of politics but the drops did serve valid purposes and were successful. I pointed out that Haiti was solely air land , there was no drop -- and yes, Haiti was pure political theater but the Army just did what it was told.
    Afghan was an air-land, not an air-drop, big differance.
    As I also said -- and I pointed out that it was Marine Air land at that -- and that it could not have happened without Pakistani cooperation.
    Deffinetly need some airborne capability, but I think that discusions focused around airborne DIVISIONS (<<--- channeling a little sparky there) are a little silly.
    Your prerogative. Who mentioned division sized operations? I didn't.
    even if i disagree with you on the validity of LARGE airborne ops, I am still very proud to be a paratrooper.
    Depends on what large is doesn't it? Are five BCTs dropping in to grab five airfields nearly simultaneously a large operation or five small ones?

    Yet again, METT-TC is the driver. Always...

  6. #46
    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Your prerogative. Who mentioned division sized operations? I didn't.
    I inferred it from this statement...
    In order; Reed may be partly correct but at this time the only way one can transport and deliver several thousand troops several thousand miles to an inland location in order to do anything, including airfield seizure (IF one is lucky enough to have such handy, might not always be one where you need to go...), is with Parachute troops.
    Sounds like we just had an argument over...nothing. I feel that ops bigger then reinforced batalion size for a paradrop mission are unwise, but battalion to Brigade is not an argument I care to try and justify. Perhaps we could just go with rock-paper-scissors?
    Reed

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Mett-tc

    covers rocks, breaks scissors and scrawls "Tailor your force to what's achievable and needed" on paper...

  8. #48
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    Default Dynamite answer

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    METT-TC covers rocks, breaks scissors and scrawls "Tailor your force to what's achievable and needed" on paper...
    Whn I was a kid playing rock-paper-scissors, we threw out one finger and called that dynamite. It was trumps in the game just as Ken has shown that METT-TC is, when applied properly in the planning process. But when used improperly, METT-TC , like dynamite, can also blow your legs off.
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. Sydney J. Harris

  9. #49
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    Default 173rd Drop into Bashur, N. IZ

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    We didn't drive to Afghanistan... Sometimes you want to go places that other people don't want you to go and the driving then becomes sort of a problem but if you can overfly them and get behind them their advantage disappears and a long drive isn't necessary.
    Ken, just out of curiosity, do you think the 173rd's Drop was necessary?

    Do you even consider it a real "combat jump"?
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    On my last ODA, the Team Sergeant had been on the drop zone with 10th Group when the 173rd jumped in. The Junior Engineer was in the 173rd at the time and made the jump. Needless to say there was a lot of smack talk but eventually the Engineer did admit that the hardest thing about the jump was that the hot coffee was gone by the time that he got to his link-up point. I would submit that the 173rd jump was unnecessary.

    SFC W

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    On my last ODA, the Team Sergeant had been on the drop zone with 10th Group when the 173rd jumped in. The Junior Engineer was in the 173rd at the time and made the jump. Needless to say there was a lot of smack talk but eventually the Engineer did admit that the hardest thing about the jump was that the hot coffee was gone by the time that he got to his link-up point. I would submit that the 173rd jump was unnecessary.
    I concur. It was Kurdistan, for God sakes!
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Talking How 'bout flying in those M1s???

    Quote Originally Posted by jkm_101_fso View Post
    Ken, just out of curiosity, do you think the 173rd's Drop was necessary?
    Nope -- but we gotta keep Jump Pay going...
    Do you even consider it a real "combat jump"?
    I don't, DA probably will -- as many medals as they kick out nowadays, they'll probably tell the Herd to put a wreath around their combat jump star...

    The M1s were of little benefit -- other than to demonstrate a capability (which no one questioned that we had in any event...).

    Seriously, not militarily necessary, both the drop and the tanks were pure PR -- I don't know when the Army's going to realize that kind of stuff, like poor PFC Lynch, is totally counterproductive -- not least because it cheapens the actuality for those who participate.

    FWIW, the biggest US combat jump in Viet Nam by 2-503 of the then 173d was also militarily unnecessary as was the second jump in Korea by the 187 and Operation Varsity by three divisions in WW II. All IMO, of course.
    Last edited by Ken White; 08-06-2008 at 09:43 PM. Reason: Added FWIW

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    I'm slowly, over the years, coming around to the idea that "purely political" airdrops ARE in fact, necessary.

    They help demonstrate capability, if nothing else.

    As I stated in the other thread, maintenance of airborne units retain true light infantry. I think that without airborne, the US wouldn't have light infantry.

    Also, the "attitude" that accompanies airborne units is important. It might be crucial.

    And now, reading Ken, I'm starting to wonder about the way the Army views airborne, and equating it with their chronic misuse of recon, which I am more attuned to, and seeing parallels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    I'm slowly, over the years, coming around to the idea that "purely political" airdrops ARE in fact, necessary.

    They help demonstrate capability, if nothing else.

    As I stated in the other thread, maintenance of airborne units retain true light infantry. I think that without airborne, the US wouldn't have light infantry.

    Also, the "attitude" that accompanies airborne units is important. It might be crucial.
    Concur on all. Good point.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I would submit that the 173rd jump was unnecessary.

    SFC W
    Of course! So was Suart's ride around McClellan.

    But a good time was had by all.....both times!
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Default Something I'd like to point out:

    We often talk about this airborne operation or that one as being unnecessary. Okay, doubtless that's true. Yet, consider this: might some of history's unnecessary airborne operations still have been the best way to achieve the objecitves?

    We might find many things that are unnecessary for the success of a particular operation; yet, said things are still the best option for success.

    And how come it's usually the unnecessary airborne operation that seems to receive the most criticism? Have we never conducted an operation involving an air assault, amphibious operation, armored thrust, artillery barrage, air strike, convoy, etc., when the operation stood a good chance of success with out it?
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

  17. #57
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Heh. It's an envy thing --

    it's all about jump pay...

    I joke. Well, sort of. That's part of it. It's just that the drops generally -- all of them, necessary or not -- do get truly excessive publicity (that always annoys those who get less) and add in the generally high casualty rate (which is why there is jump pay) plus the likelihood of a partial success and there's plenty of things for picking. Still sort of irrelevant, parachute troopies are for Armies like a gun is for a civilian here in the States, you don't usually need one but when you do you need it really bad.

    For example, consider reinforcing Georgia (the Republic, not the State).

    NOTE: I am NOT suggesting we do that, merely saying look at the map and consider what you can get there and how. Oh -- and add in the complication that the airfield for any airland would become an immediate target for Frogfoots (Frogfeet?) or worse...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    It's just that the drops generally -- all of them, necessary or not -- do get truly excessive publicity.....
    I reckon that's true; yet, the MIKE Force operations in Vietnam got hardly any puplicity at all.

    Incidently, one of my favorite (and one of the more obscure) jump stories comes from one of the MIKE Force jumps. Supposedly, some SF NCOs had to hook up some of the 'Yards. The little fellers just weren't tall enough to reach the anchor line cable! But when the green light came on they went out the door like big men! Nary a jump refusal.

    Airborne!
    Last edited by Rifleman; 08-10-2008 at 05:04 AM.
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  19. #59
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Either that or they were exceedingly happy

    to be leaving a VNAF C-123.

    Not that I'd blame them for that...

    Friend of mine made that 173d jump in VN as JM, Catherine Leroy LINK was on his bird. He always smiled when he said she was short and he had to hook her up...
    Last edited by Ken White; 08-10-2008 at 05:14 AM. Reason: Added link

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    to be leaving a VNAF C-123.

    Not that I'd blame them for that...

    Friend of mine made that 173d jump in VN as JM, Catherine Leroy LINK was on his bird. He always smiled when he said she was short and he had to hook her up...
    The JM inspection would have to be thorough...

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