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Thread: What is presence patrolling?

  1. #21
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    In every endeavor, whether it's establishing a patrol base, conducting a raid, or patrolling, the commander is trying to conduct operations to shape his environment.

    Prior to execution, one must ask:

    1. What am I trying to accomplish? (Purpose)
    2. What do I want my boys to do? (Intent)
    3. What are the likely costs and results of x action? (Intended consequences)
    4. What am I missing? (Unintended consequences)

    To this end, one should neither establish a patrol base just to check off some list of "things I should be doing in COIN" nor send squads out on patrol to "show a presence."

    Purpose and Intent are everything in orders. Patrols can be intelligence driven to answer CCIR. For example, 1. Go hang out at at the barber shop, pool hall, gym to see what the latest intel is on x group. 2. Go talk to y farmer to see how the crops are doing. 3. Go talk to z schoolteacher to find out if she got the books ordered and how exams are coming. The worst thing a commander can do (IMO), is to send soldiers out on missions with no purpose or intent.

    PhilR brings up an excellent point on night operations. In some denied areas, where host nation runs the area by day and shadow gov'ts run it at night, conducting security actions (raids, ambushes, movement to contact) during the night is the best way to take back control of an area.

    Mike

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    Default Excessively conventional

    Prior to execution, one must ask:

    1. What am I trying to accomplish? (Purpose)
    2. What do I want my boys to do? (Intent)
    3. What are the likely costs and results of x action? (Intended consequences)
    4. What am I missing? (Unintended consequences)
    It was this type of excessive conventional thinking that got us in the mess we're in (firebase mentality, while everything outside the base falls apart).

    Yes, we still should the standard 5 paragraph patrol order with associated contingencies, but in general presence patrols, if run correctly, will turn into discovery patrols, which in turn result in FRAGOs on the fly if you have capable leadership at the tactical level and a supporting chain of command that empowers their subordinates to act independently. This mentality that a patrol can only have one purpose sounds too much like drive by COIN, and I hope we're not teaching our counterparts this approach, because it results in a culture of inactivity (thus allowing the enemy freedom of movement) and they only respond to 9/11 calls. You just can't dumb the real world down to fit our ideal doctrinal response. This is equivalent to saying police officers should simply sit in their police stations all day unless they have a specific task and target?

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    but in general presence patrols, if run correctly, will turn into discovery patrols, which in turn result in FRAGOs on the fly if you have capable leadership at the tactical level and a supporting chain of command that empowers their subordinates to act independently.
    Along time ago I had a training officer who while patrolling a beat/district he would continuously ask me what has changed since yesterday. After some frustration I eventually figured out what he meant and I was able to answer his questions because something has most definitely changed since your last patrol, some you can see.....many you can't see but you can learn to ask the people about what is going on. There is no such thing as a routine patrol, there are only things that changed you don't know about.
    Last edited by slapout9; 12-12-2009 at 08:44 PM. Reason: spellin stuff

  4. #24
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    It was this type of excessive conventional thinking that got us in the mess we're in (firebase mentality, while everything outside the base falls apart).

    Yes, we still should the standard 5 paragraph patrol order with associated contingencies, but in general presence patrols, if run correctly, will turn into discovery patrols, which in turn result in FRAGOs on the fly if you have capable leadership at the tactical level and a supporting chain of command that empowers their subordinates to act independently. This mentality that a patrol can only have one purpose sounds too much like drive by COIN, and I hope we're not teaching our counterparts this approach, because it results in a culture of inactivity (thus allowing the enemy freedom of movement) and they only respond to 9/11 calls. You just can't dumb the real world down to fit our ideal doctrinal response. This is equivalent to saying police officers should simply sit in their police stations all day unless they have a specific task and target?
    Bill,

    I think your last post may be the first time that I've ever been accused of being conventional.

    Please expound on the specific reasoning of your point.

    If I send a patrol to see a school teacher to garner information about the schools, and they run into another dude to give info on something else, then that's an added bonus.

    My hypothesis was that they should not drive around for the sake of driving.

    I don't understand how that reasoning is extraneous.


    And please look to my earlier comment- don't put a firebase into an area unless you can justify a reason for it.
    Mike

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    Default conventional is

    If I send a patrol to see a school teacher to garner information about the schools, and they run into another dude to give info on something else, then that's an added bonus.

    My hypothesis was that they should not drive around for the sake of driving.
    The part I put in bold is exactly the result of indoctrinated thinking or a conventional approach. The way you're stating it, any patrol you send out will have to go a "specific location" to do a specific task, which probably means they have a specific route. If someone runs out of the house and talks to them, then that is a bonus. It may be a bonus, but it sure as heck isn't a presence patrol.

    If you tell your guys to drive or conduct a foot patrol around sector E, or neighborhood Y, to show presence, engage the populace to get a sense for what is going on (it will greatly inform your pinpointed operations later), with the over all intent to provide the perception to the public that state forces in are the area and available, and to keep the enemy guessing (denying space by creating greater risk), then you're conducting a presence patrol, the bonus is you really get to learn the lay of the land. As one young Marine posted on the SWJ many months ago, you would ideally saturate an area with several small patrols (you want contact with the enemy so you can kill them, after the initial chest bumping you'll own the ground). That requires that conventional leaders think unconventionally and train their subordinates down to the squad level to act independently and then let them act independently (much along the lines of what Hackworth proposed and did).

    Conventional minded leaders simply can't handle relinquishing control, and unfortunately that mentality has seeped into our special operations community to some degree also. If you want to be agile, then you have to flatten the organization. If you want to deny space to the enemy, then you have keep a presence out there (not drive to a school, talk to a teacher and drive back).
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 12-13-2009 at 01:44 AM. Reason: spelling

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    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    We called "presence patrols" more appropriately "trolling for RPGs." It seemed more akin to chumming when you're fishing for sharks.

    As stated earlier in this thread, task and purpose are the keys and halmarks to a well planned and, consequently, well executed patrol. Providing area security tied to a specific piece of infrastructure seemed to foot the bill much better. And the boys don't feel like they're out there just to pad a briefing stat at the next BUB.
    Example is better than precept.

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    I don't see presence patrolling and task/purpose to be mutually exclusive.

    I gave patrols the task and purpose of gathering a list of PIRs/IRs in a given area, disseminating messages to specific TA's, and, yes, even the much-hated "route clearance." However, these patrols were intended as "presence patrols." If they came back 4 hours later having none of the IRs answered, I still felt the mission was a success if they sustained a lengthy presence in a specific area, put out the messages, and conducted themselves in a manner that reinforced the messages. If nothing else, they were staying familiar with the lay of the land. That familiarity alone was invaluable. Most of the IEDs that we identified were spotted by a Private who noticed that, "something over there looks different." Plus, whenever a platoon of my guys showed up in a locale and showed their intent to stick around for an extended period, the locals would open up their fruit/vegetable/other stands because they felt safe. Very good for earning their trust and cooperation.

    It worked even better if a few team-sized OPs were inserted into overwatch positions near the neighborhood during the prior night. Many foolish d-bags felt the sting of a 72-grain bullet in the back while moving into an assault position in an ill-fated attempt to shoot at the stationary American patrol, not realizing that an 18-year-old American was watching him and impatiently waiting for his team leader to give him permission to deliver the news.

  8. #28
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I don't see presence patrolling and task/purpose to be mutually exclusive.

    I gave patrols the task and purpose of gathering a list of PIRs/IRs in a given area, disseminating messages to specific TA's, and, yes, even the much-hated "route clearance."

    So it was an area reconnaissance.
    Example is better than precept.

  9. #29
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    So it was an area reconnaissance.
    Took the words out of my mouth.

    The planning and preparation needs to be conventional and doctrinal, even if the actual "approach" isn't quite so much.
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-13-2009 at 05:22 AM.

  10. #30
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Took the words out of my mouth.

    The planning and preparation needs to be conventional and doctrinal, even if the actual "approach" isn't quite so much.
    I think/know that is correct and Schmedlap is basically on the money.

    Proper patrol routine from a Coy base, means 3 Platoons working really hard, and it is very demanding, so planning is everything, but it is "conventional" patrolling.

    The most impressive thing I heard in recent years, was how a US Coy planned visits to the market/souk as a "raid" - but without the shooting bit. It's the boards here somewhere. Callwell would be proud.
    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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    Default Armchair comment

    After opening the thread I have kept away as it appears to be 100% military, although Slap adds his mixed wisdom. I really liked how 'presence' became 'presents' and other labels.

    Local knowledge and having an impact on the enemy is my "armchair" view of the goal.

    In the open literature on the Ulster campaign I recall reading how the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) in rural areas became very adept at patrolling and "snap" VCPs.

    My experience with getting the police to think before patrolling has not been good and was invariably considered only at low demand times, which often meant at night. It has got better slowly and talking to the public with purpose is happening, see: http://www.polfed.org/PoliceMag_1109_SupportingRole.pdf

    Gaining 'atmospherics' has featured in Helmand Province, using a different name and was subject of two opposing articles in RUSI Journal sometime ago (unable to readily locate on my bookshelf).
    davidbfpo

  12. #32
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Plus, whenever a platoon of my guys showed up in a locale and showed their intent to stick around for an extended period, the locals would open up their fruit/vegetable/other stands because they felt safe. Very good for earning their trust and cooperation.
    To me that is a very strong metric that you are doing something right. Empty streets are not safe streets they are scared streets. Daily routine activity is a strong indicator of safety, any disruption of that indicates the presence of some threat or threats.

    If it was me I would give everyone a ASCOPE worksheet and the first mission is to fill it out completely. From there on every patrol they would update the changes, especially the events column. This would provide a standard patrol intelligence strucutre to work with. My 2 cents anyway.

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    So it was an area reconnaissance.
    You may be right. "Presence patrolling" is generally done to create a perception of greater security, in part, in order to make the people more willing to divulge information.

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    Default Turning over the terrain to the enemy

    Posted by RTK
    We called "presence patrols" more appropriately "trolling for RPGs." It seemed more akin to chumming when you're fishing for sharks.

    As stated earlier in this thread, task and purpose are the keys and halmarks to a well planned and, consequently, well executed patrol. Providing area security tied to a specific piece of infrastructure seemed to foot the bill much better. And the boys don't feel like they're out there just to pad a briefing stat at the next BUB.
    RTK, I'm a major fan of task and purpose, but hopefully we're flexible enough to allow for more than one task and purpose for each patrol? Additionally, there some things that should become SOP on a patrol in a COIN situation that you wouldn't do in conventional warfare, for example slapout mentioned the ASCOPE assessment. PIR/IR for COIN is obviously different than PIR/IR for a conventional fight.

    Perhaps neither you or MikeF are implying that the only thing our patrols can do are missions with one specific task/purpose, but it can be interpreted this way. Somethings are best debated in a TOC, where each side can make their points clear discussing it over a map, and having a common understanding of the threat. The risk with posts is that we can all be right [and I am right :-)] in the context of the scenario each of is envisioning, but we could be envisioning four or five separate scenarios, so we end up talking past one another.

    With that in mind, I think our military is still overly risk adverse (a by product of the Khobar Towers Investigation, which IMO was unprofessionally done, and resulted in great harm to the force overall). Mission success was still touted as achieving your objective (task/purpose), but the reality was that it was understood it was take no casualties (training or in conflict). Operations were more focused on force protection than accomplishing the objective, which is what I interpret when I read the posts that are opposed to presence patrols. There is a balance, and I argue that we still lean too much towards force protection. Breaking that mind set in 2007 was what some of us believe was paramount (not the only thing) in breaking the insurgency's back (not defeating it).

    If you're on a presence patrol you can view getting shot at as failure or success, but if you're looking for the enemy then a strong argument can made you're successful (especially if you can dominate teh fight and defeat the threat). Over time you'll deny freedom of movement to the enemy in that area (doesn't mean he won't occassionally still get a shot in at you). That is why this type of warfare has been labeled the war of the flea, iti is simply extremely frustrating.

    I'll assume that your post didn't imply we hole up and only depart the base when we had a "pinpoint' task". The Brits actually have some of the presence patrolling TTPs I have discussed in previous posts in their COIN manuals (not available online). You can also call it saturation patrolling. Rather than an area recon I would call it an enemy denial patrol, but for those of you wedded to the book, call it what you like, as long as it achieves the same purpose.

    Do you plan every patrol? Yes, at you better, is it conventional in nature? No.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 12-13-2009 at 06:40 PM.

  15. #35
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    RTK, I'm a major fan of task and purpose, but hopefully we're flexible enough to allow for more than one task and purpose for each patrol?
    Bill,

    It's a start point. For example, let's say that your wife sends you to the grocery store for some ice cream. While at the store, you decided you want some popcorn. After leaving the store, you decide to stop and get a movie. Initially, you had one task (get ice cream), and you ended up conducting three (ice cream, popcorn, movie).

    When guys get real good, they'll actually start telling the commander what they're going to do IOT answer the CCIR. We'd just huddle at night and discuss it.

    The reason that I was a bit adament about this is b/c there are some foolish ideas out there. Here's the worst example. Operation Snakehunter (or snakebite). Division Commander wanted to solve IED problem in AO-North. Solution- For 72 hours, every unit would go sit at the Division's top 100 or so IED hot spot to show a presence. Seriously. Task- sit and show a presence.
    The only memoriable event for us was our opportunity to visit Kurdistan.

    In 2005, during my second tour, I was trying to figure out what was going on so I asked a bunch of units a bunch of questions. In particular, I asked, "what do you do on a daily basis?" Over 50% of the answers were, "we drive around for a couple of hours to show a presence and wait to get hit by IEDs." I thought that was dumb, and I tried never to have my guys do that.

    So, I don't like the term presence patrol.

    At our peak, we had six maneuver units (3 US, 3 Iraqi) conducting 24 patrols a day (4 each for duration of 1-4 hours) all leaving out of the same patrol base. In order to manage the schedule, my IA counterpart, my first sergeant, and I would plan together. At that point, we were simply trying to ensure start points/end points and patrol locations varied and did not repeat. That's an art in itself, and I'd submit that one can't do it alone.

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 12-13-2009 at 07:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    The reason that I was a bit adament about this is b/c there are some foolish ideas out there. Here's the worst example. Operation Snakehunter (or snakebite). Division Commander wanted to solve IED problem in AO-North. Solution- For 72 hours, every unit would go sit at the Division's top 100 or so IED hot spot to show a presence. Seriously. Task- sit and show a presence.
    That sounds like the presence was aimed at the adversary rather than the people.

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Default presence patroling according to UN

    Presence patroling is what my UNMO (UN military Observers) colleages are doing everyday. It is going out, showing to the people that you are here, that you can come to see them and that you are capable to speak to them.
    In practice, because it's the UN, it doesn't bring anything concrete part from the fact that you show you are mobile and there are no "no go areas".
    The problem for us is that we have to be with host nation military observers. Most of the people are affraid of them or, when not affraid, do not have the time to speak with us.
    On paper, it's a nice idea. In reallity we collect intelligence and data about the humanitarian situation and the people needs. But as the UN system is very much disfunctional in Sudan, once you have collected the info you cannot pass it. Well, it's not true, you pass it and then no one act.

    In DRC, the UN came with a solution to that. They integrated the NGO information network through OCHA. Everyday, after approval of the report, it was distributed to the NGOs.
    In a COIN people centric approach, this system had the advantage that the military could at least oserve if the NGO were doing something with the data.
    The other advantage was, in DRC, that military and NGO were integrated at funding level. So the NGO did not have the feeling they were used by military.

    Presence patrolling is useful if there are some benefits for the people who take the risk to speak with the soldiers. Otherwise you end up with low quality information gathering and it's much quicker to straight go to the NGOs to know what is going on.

  18. #38
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    With that in mind, I think our military is still overly risk adverse (a by product of the Khobar Towers Investigation, which IMO was unprofessionally done, and resulted in great harm to the force overall). Mission success was still touted as achieving your objective (task/purpose), but the reality was that it was understood it was take no casualties (training or in conflict). Operations were more focused on force protection than accomplishing the objective, which is what I interpret when I read the posts that are opposed to presence patrols.
    Yes Bill, we run the risk of talking past each other even though we are in fact aiming for the same thing.

    If I were king, the patrol base would only be there for discrete re-arm/refit/reset purposes. Patrols go out and remain out, with resupply and maintenance conducted forward, not aboard the PB. That's what your combat trains are for, but after six years of FOB life, we've lost that skill to a great degree.

    There's nothing hard about that...you take your bivvy with you, aggregate to a large enough force at night to afford a rest cycle and an active defense, and you stay in the field for as many nights as you can. Or even better, you balance day/night operations so you can afford to work a reverse cycle and patrol when knuckleheads like to move around and gather, and go into a defense when you can see better in the day. If you think you are coming back inside the wire, there had better be a damn good reason for it. That's the damn life the infantryman lives and I think it is a shame that so many people forgot that. The only folks holding ground at a COP/FOB need to be the C2 and CSS nodes, as well as any security forces training folks like MiTTs and PiTTs, who need to be with their counterpart force.

    It has taken conscious effort to break that cycle and put Marines and Soldiers outside the wire for any more than 24 hours it seems, and I feel passionately that we lost a lot of young men and women in Iraq because we did not employ this tactic. In turn, it took us longer than necessary to pull the population away from the insurgent, and we gave up too much ground gained the day prior, only to allow someone to drive over an IED at the same spot we had patrolled past in the previous 24 hours (just once though).

    I don't want patrols to be bound by pinpoint tasks before they sally forth. They should be steady-state operations that can transition fluidly from a movement to contact, to an area reconnaissance, then a route reconnaissance, followed by a couple of contact patrols to visit the local chief of police, mayor, and cement plant, and then full circle as information is developed. FOB life kills our tempo, and we tend to walk like Frankenstein in the pursuit of the knuckleheads who oppose us, instead of population security becoming a natural derivative of our presence - while we are already on task.
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-13-2009 at 08:30 PM.

  19. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    If I were king, the patrol base would only be there for discrete re-arm/refit/reset purposes. Patrols go out and remain out, with resupply and maintenance conducted forward, not aboard the PB.
    To use a LE perspective again when one shift goes back to HQ another shift has already taken it's place, in other words there is always a full Presence patrol on duty 24/7. If you don't you have created a time GAP in your security SURFACE and the enemy/criminal will exploit that because he is always watching you even if you aren't watching him.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    I don't want patrols to be bound by pinpoint tasks before they sally forth. They should be steady-state operations that can transition fluidly from a movement to contact, to an area reconnaissance, then a route reconnaissance, followed by a couple of contact patrols to visit the local chief of police, mayor, and cement plant, and then full circle as information is developed.
    JCustis- steady-state operations is probably a better way to describe it. Patrol flexes based-off events on ground as understood by patrol leader.

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    If I were king, the patrol base would only be there for discrete re-arm/refit/reset purposes. Patrols go out and remain out, with resupply and maintenance conducted forward, not aboard the PB.
    Interesting idea and with proper planning, it is definitely feasible in certain areas. One would have to take a hard look at how long the patrol can sustain without burn-out plus keep patrols within artillery range (or priority for CAS/AWT) and within CASEVAC range.

    If they're going in covertly for recon (digging in), then I'd recommend a max duration of 72 hours. After that, brains are fried.

    How long should tour length be in this scenario? I'd probably think 6-9 months.

    Mike

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