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Thread: Combat Participation

  1. #21
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    A friend many years ago said there are no better warriors than the Americans, Brits, Aussies and Canadians, there is just something in those cultures that produce men who like to fight.
    That may be an Anglophile prejudice - and even if it was true, the cultures changed a lot even during the past 15 years. Past observations from past wars may be entirely irrelevant in this regard.

    Nevertheless, the assumption is quite questionable with a look at the 20th century: Judging by performance / men the English-speaking armies weren't exactly the most efficient during the 20th century. The before mentioned Finns and Germans were much more efficient during the their first three war years (afterwards exhaustion took its toll).
    The examples of Crete and Narvik show that this isn't purely attributable to organizational advantages.

    Oh yeah, and he forgot the Gurkhas who certainly have a favourable reputation as 'warriors', just as many other nationalities/tribes.


    Assertions about quality of soldiers linked to nationality are generally very tricky.
    The French built their doctrine till 1914 on a perceived national preference for the offense, in part because it was assumed that the French soldier was (the) best in the tactical offense.
    The Germans meanwhile had at the same time the opposite view on French soldiers.

  2. #22
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    Default Concur

    Agree with the jist of the counter arguments, but still wanted to see if there were any studies out there or if this assertion was largely urban legend (which it appears to be).

    Further agree with Fuchs that the variables that shape whether or not culture will produce warriors (which I believe it largely based on socio-political factors, since they tend to create the mythologies and social norms, read expectations) vary over time. While the Germans may have been great warriors during WWII, there is little indication that is the case today.

    This is an important topic for our efforts to develop effective security forces in partner nations. We can continue to run them our force production processes we have developed and then field equipped security forces with the right technical training (I don't think we do these as well as we could), but they key to success is engraining the fighting spirit. That can't come from us (I don't think), but rather their leadership. It doesn't do any good to field forces that won't take the fight to the enemy. Probably need a social-anthrologist to tell us where we need to connect the dots.

  3. #23
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I think you may be referring to his opinion that infantrymen need endurance and "sufferance."
    I interviewed Jary for 4 hours and a lunch in the Officers mess at Sandhurst back in 2004. Two thing stuck with me:

    a.) He mentioned that in a fire fight there will be not shortage of volunteers to tend wounded, and haul ammo. This has been consistently confirmed by others, and I even found Marshall references it.
    b.) That the most important component of courage was love of and loyalty to others. - this would speak to good NCOs and strong group cohesion.
    Your right, I was thinking about Jary's concept of sufferance. The quote from page 117 of 18 Platoon is relevant to this discussion:

    There is a mathematical formla: aggression increases the further one goes behind the lines. Opposing infantry, with a few exceptions like the SS, are joined by a bond of mutual compassion which but few of the battlefield aristocracy can understand... Had I been asked at any time before August 1944 to list the personal characteristics which go to make a good infantry soldier, my reply would indeed have been wide of the mark.

    Like most I would have suggested only masculine ones like aggression, physical stamina, a hunting instinct and a competitive nature. How wrong I would have been. I would now suggest the following. Firstly sufferance, without which one could not survive. Secondly, a quiet mind which enables a soldier to live in harmony with his fellows through all sorts of difficulties and sometimes under dreadful conditions. As in a closed monastic existence, there is no room for the assertive or acrimonious. Thirdly, but no less important, a sense of the ridiculous which helps a soldier surmount the unacceptable. Add to these a reasonable standard of fitness and a dedicated professional competence, and you have a soldier for all seasons. None of the NCOs or soldiers whoc made 18 Platoon what it was resembled the characters portrayed in most books and films about war. All were quiet, sensible and unassuming men and some, by any standard, were heroes.

    If I now had to select a team for a dangerous mission and my choice was restricted to stars of the sportsfield or poets, I would unhesitatingly recruit from the latter.
    Last edited by Chris jM; 02-01-2010 at 12:06 AM. Reason: spelling...
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

  4. #24
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    You need some aggression -- and thus some aggressive people; currently, some actions would not be won unless you had at least a few who would go through brick wall if told to do so. More importantly, that aggression needs to be focused by a competent leader who will search for and find a window to go through with everyone else while some batter that brick wall.
    I completely agree. In an ideal situation the decisions would be smart, logical and demand only minimal courage of those executing. However when the so-called 'fog of war' descends, aggression and the aggressive type would assist in creating action. I like the idea of audacity as it tempers aggression with smart application, however I would always favour aggression over the quiet, non-competitive type alongside me.

    And yes, my views on this matter do diverge with that of Sydney Jary. The obvious discalimer is that he's a little more authoritive in this area, given that my CV doesn't include platoon-level command in WW2!
    Last edited by Chris jM; 02-01-2010 at 12:14 AM. Reason: syntax fix
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

  5. #25
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    I've noticed no hesitation to take part in firefights - everyone wants to get their "TIC", especially the young Privates. After how many of these does the enthusiasm fade? The NCOs, most who have "seen the elephant", seem to enjoy the challenge with that bit of reservation.

    Here's a good article by a former CO who fought in Kandahar in 2006.

    http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/caj/doc...l10.1_03_e.pdf

    Once we had found him, we would attempt to fix the enemy with fires and finish him in close-quarter combat. Neither of these things was easy. It required us to stay within 100-150 meters of the enemy and coordinate fires before physically moving to clear his positions. Doing so was contrary to human nature. The degree of success we had in close quarter combat became personality-dependent. The majority of soldiers, when fired upon for the first time, would seek to disengage back toward the “last safe place” they occupied. After several encounters they repressed this urge but would be very reluctant to advance in contact (especially when separated from their LAVs). Forward movement or sustainment of our presence on the close-quarter battlefield after night-fall depended upon the continued command presence of battalion and company commanders, supported by the “natural fighters” in our ranks. It became evident to me in May that the number of true fighters we had was a small minority. By fighter, I mean those men and women predisposed to keep fighting regardless of violence and danger; those who repressed fear not just because they wanted to remain with their primary group, but because of an overwhelming desire to beat the enemy; those who truly wanted to hunt the enemy and make him the victim. I would estimate that there were only 6 or 7 such individuals in every forty-man platoon. Yet, their stalwartness almost always became the psychological pivot point for the action of a section or a platoon engaged in intensive battle. I believe that the very essence of the western tradition of sections, platoons, companies and battalions (dating as far back as the Marian reforms, which produced Roman maniples, cohorts, and centuries within a legion) was founded on the premise of ensuring a critical number of true fighters were spread throughout fighting forces. I came to rely upon the courage of commanders and this small number of fighters in each platoon and company to override the inherent fear of close-quarter battle and to ensure that we kept the enemy fixed before closing to finish him.
    Last edited by Infanteer; 02-01-2010 at 01:59 AM. Reason: Formatting

  6. #26
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    The majority of soldiers, when fired upon for the first time, would seek to disengage back toward the “last safe place” they occupied. After several encounters they repressed this urge but would be very reluctant to advance in contact (especially when separated from their LAVs).
    Very interesting to note, as I'm sure you understand why. I've noticed that for sure in training. Not so much yet in the true fight, but I'll be keeping my eye out for it.

  7. #27
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default That is one reason I'm not a vehicle fan.

    They tend to offer a 'safe haven' or cocooning effect that requires strong leadership (not always present) to overcome. I realize vehicles are needed for mobility in some terrain and situations but good training is required to break the umbilical to vehicles for dismounts. They also give a false sense of security or lessened vulnerability that is misleading and sometimes causes crews to take undue risks. Tactical handling, parking and dismounting are in my experience not at all well trained. Drivers have to be good at terrain appreciation and distance and height estimation yet few take the time to train them on those topics.

    Combat vehicles where the crew remains aboard like tanks and some scout vehicles (real ones, not HMMWVs or Brads -- or LAVs) are a different matter altogether.

    The cited 'last safe place' is a very natural reaction but, as noted, disappears for most with a little exposure to fire. So too is the remark on the fighters versus the bulk of a unit, most of whom will do generally well even if they are not 'go-getters.' The cited 6 or7 out of 40 -- 15 or so percent -- may be a bit low, there are usually some very tenacious guys who don't make a big deal of it, it can run as high as 35 to 50 percent, unit dependent, in my observation, norms at about 25% + I think. The greater the net experience the higher the percentage of aggressive folks. I have seen Platoons where there were literally no sluffers -- rare and a couple. Good leaders build that...

  8. #28
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    This is an important topic for our efforts to develop effective security forces in partner nations. We can continue to run them our force production processes we have developed and then field equipped security forces with the right technical training (I don't think we do these as well as we could), but they key to success is engraining the fighting spirit. That can't come from us (I don't think), but rather their leadership. It doesn't do any good to field forces that won't take the fight to the enemy. Probably need a social-anthrologist to tell us where we need to connect the dots.
    This raises an interesting topic. Tradition in the Alps at least had it that the formations were formed by specific regions. The Italian Alpini as well as the German and Austrian mountain divisions were raised that way. This made for formations with usually very considerable tenacity even against the odds. Fuchs already raised the example of Narvik. Of course the same system was also used in a lot of different places and regions.

    Given that Afghanistan has very strong regional traits, using it might knit tighter Afghan units with possibly greater combat participation by the individual soldiers. After all you don't want to perform badly in front of your third cousin or your mate from the next village. It is no magic wand and has quite some drawbacks, but it might be a risk worth to be taken.

    An now I wonder just how the Afghan army recruits


    Firn
    Last edited by Firn; 02-01-2010 at 06:29 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    Kiwigrunt, Wilf, - unfortunately the document isn't available online, however I do have access to it as a word doc at work. I'll try and get it uploaded early in the week (the worst case being if I can't upload it to the board, I'll email to those interested). I may have access to some other unrestricted docs on the history/evolution of the RNZIR/2NZEF that could be of interest you, too, Kiwigrunt.
    Hi Chris

    This site is an easy place to upload .pdf and .doc files to:

    http://www.scribd.com/

    For those of you who haven't read Kippenberger's classic memoir Infantry Brigadier it is available here:

    http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-KipInfa.html
    Last edited by baboon6; 02-01-2010 at 08:19 PM.

  10. #30
    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by baboon6 View Post

    For those of you who haven't read Kippenberger's classic memoir Infantry Brigadier it is available here:

    http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-KipInfa.html

    Thanks for that. I've been looking for this book for years.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
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    ONWARD

  11. #31
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Apologies for the delay gents, however I have now uploaded the word doc 'Infantry in Battle' for general interest. baboon6, thanks for the heads-up - I would have been at a loss had you not id'd that link for me - thanks.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/26351328/050

    Abstract: The training note (1) is the product of battle experience in the New Zealand Divisions in World War II. It is based on research conducted by the New Zealand War History Branch under the direction of the Editor-in-Chief, Major General Sir Howard Kippenberger, KBE, CB, DSO, himself an infantry soldier of wide experience. In 1947, a book (2) was published in the United States, attempting to explain the reaction of the average American to battle experiences. Major General Kippenberger wished to know whether the well-authenticated conclusions reached by the author were of equal application to the New Zealand soldier. Accordingly he addressed a detailed questionnaire, based upon the book, to some fifty officers who had given distinguished service with infantry units of the 2nd or 3rd New Zealand Divisions. Their findings were collated, and are contained in the pages that follow. In order to give point to the opinions stated, many individual examples drawn from all campaigns are quoted in the text. These are set out in italics throughout and are the words of the experienced officers who participated in these events. As the replies to the original questionnaire were not made with a view to publication, personal names have been omitted from all examples.
    Kiwigrunt, I've got another few word docs that relate to NZ history. Should you (or anyone else) want to have a look, PM me.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

  12. #32
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    Default Aggression, suffrance, etc

    My next-to-last combat job required a lot of driving through Afghanistan, usually in a 'single-vehicle convoy', at most with one other vehicle. I was usually driving with Canadians or Germans in relatively unarmored vehicles, much of the time in urban areas. I did not have to do this every day, or for a year. The reason I bring this up is it made me reflect on the special stress of patrolling in urban areas and how soldiers adapt to it.

    Patrolling in an urban area in an environment like Afghanistan presents to the soldier an unending stream of possible threats. Potholes, trash heaps, narrow roads, suspicious looking men in bulky cloaks, single guy driving a trashed sedan a little too close, abandoned acetylene tanks, kid driving crazy on a motorbike - the stimuli are constant. If you are mounted, you may literally be encountering possible danger signals two or three times a minute. Reacting as you have been trained to do is impossible - most times you can't investigate, mark, avoid, survey possible threats if you want to accomplish whatever your larger mission may be.

    This seems qualitatively different from patrols in other terrain. Danger signals occur less often, or are less intrusive on your conscious mind, or are easier to avoid. Moreover, when you are humping through the jungle/swamp/hills, the physical challenge soon preoccupies and dulls the mind to danger. You don't have that distraction riding in a vehicle in an urban environment.

    It seemed to me that soldiers coped with this constant low-level stress in one of two ways. They either became very aggressive - driving fast, waving their weapons, shouting, wearing their war face - or they adopted a 'Buddah will decide' attitude and basically ignored the danger signals. The best ones remained alert while accepting the tension, like a soldier who stays functional during an extended barrage. But, as I said, I wasn't trapped in that environment day-after-day for months on end.

    Any thoughts?

  13. #33
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    Default Unplanned vacation

    I've spent the last five days at Aspirus Keweenaw's Laurium Resort - bilateral pneumonia (which I guess can kill you). Being pumped full of oxygen, steroids and antibiotics - along with the inhalation therapy sessions - didn't leave any time for the Net.

    Anyway, they fixed me without too much damage - after extracting my promise of no more tobacco products for the rest of my life. Seems that sort of deal (threat to withhold medical services absent a promise of future co-operation by the detainee) violates the Geneva Conventions.

    Well, it was a good run - 50 years of cigarette and cigar smoking - but, the iron lungs are no more. As I write this and pause between sentences, I keep reaching over for the butt that ain't there - phantom limb syndrom.

    As to the substance of this post, it expresses the sound concept of "Do not f*ck with the Finns." Why that is so, I don't really know. My speculation would be that the Finns figure they are going to be wiped out anyway, if the fight goes to the bitter end. So, why not take as many of the other guys to heaven (Taivaalliselle) as you can in the meantime. Another factor might be the Finnish inclination (at least in my ancestral regions) to engage in fights, not really serious fights (not to the death), but to determine pecking order (or just for the hell of it).

    Regards

    Mike

  14. #34
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Glad you got that out of the way...

    More glad that it ended well...

    I can sympathize with the 50 years. Had the same time racked up and had my last Pall Mall bout 18 months ago.

    This state of having just one vice is not kewel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    OK, I know this is a touchy subject, but Ken White's post here, does merit further examination in my opinion.

    There have been numerous, quite well researched opinions, data and papers, that not everyone fights, when required to do so.

    What we seem to know is
    • Most men will fight, given good leadership, thus good leaders and NCOs make a huge difference.
    • In the absence of such leadership, they will simply revert to doing the minimum required by appearances.
    • 3-5% will run or simply play no useful part.

    I do not want anyone to start airing dirty laundry, but I think this issue might be usefully discussed.
    William,

    In my experiences in first person interaction with American men of the last three Generations (roughly: WWII, Viet-Nam, GWOT, for sake of example), I find that their personal Christian, or other, faith has in the aggregate fallen off since the normalization of Atheism as establised by statute in the US, circa: Sputnik through the removal of prayer from Public School, via Darwinism & Socialism.

    Together with these symptoms of lost faith comes a self centeredness that leads to disregard for all cultural sacrifice and leads eventually to sociopathy. Essentially I fear that not only will modern Western men increasingly not die for anything, they will not live for anything.

    Predictions; cowardice, self-preservation to the detriment of Nation-State, malinvestment, creditory depletion, corporate greed, poor stewardship, poor planning, wasteage, faithlessness, non-church attendance, marital infidelity & suicide
    will continue to increase.

    Does that make sense to anyone in regards to combat participation, or the lack thereof?
    Last edited by Bullmoose Bailey; 03-03-2010 at 04:37 AM.

  16. #36
    Council Member Red Leg's Avatar
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    In addition to the other variables that play into aggressiveness and/or duty performance while under fire, e.g. fire and maneuver on the enemy to destroy him in close combat, one needs to examine the conditions upon which soldiers enter and leave the combat theater.

    Regardless of the overall national strategic goals, most soldiers will tell you that they want to, in order, 1. survive their time in combat and go home; 2. perform well in front of those they respect, mostly peers, but also superiors and, in the case of leaders, subordinates; and 3. win.

    As you compare the conditions upon which a soldier can go home, disregarding medical or disciplinary reasons, look at WWII vs Vietnam vs GWOT. In WWII soldiers went home when the war was won, thus they had a personal stake in victory. In Vietnam, under an individual year long rotation system, and GWOT, under a unit based yearlong (in most cases) rotation system, the personal stake of the individual soldier is survival for a year. Leaders recognize this and, as anyone who has been deployed recently, try to combat both complacency and the reluctance to engage the enemy when terms of victory are ill-defined at best.
    "The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple"
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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    For the life of me I cannot understand why Grossman is still being seriously discussed. He came to speak to my battalion right before OIF V. At the time what he had to say was interesting but not overly so. He was a pretty good speaker though one of my friends in attendance started referring to him as the Tony Robbins of combat stress lectures. Just the same I decided to read his book "On Combat" for a report I had to write for a Psych 101 class. As was mentioned, his chapters on the physical effects of stress were interesting but hardly profound as most if not all of the information is readily available elsewhere. It goes downhill from there. As was also mentioned, despite being called "On Combat" there is a very clear bias towards Law Enforcement, not that there is anything wrong with that per se but it is not marketed that way. It is marketed as a book about combat stress. Also sprinkled throughout the book are numerous little sales pitches for his other products (lectures mostly). I most certainly would not recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in its supposed subject matter.

    As for which country produces the best soldiers, I can't really say but I imagine that it depends on just what you are talking about. Just like you can find some units that perform certain tasks better than others based on their experience, composition and leadership, I imagine that you will find that whole military forces can vary based on those same factors. I can say this from personal experience, in all the different units I have trained or trained with around the world, I have never yet encountered one that I would consider a top rate force that did not have a strong NCO corps. So if you want to decide who produces the best soldiers then the first thing you have to do is eliminate those countries that do not have a strong NCO corps.

    Now I, like Ken, don't buy into the supposed superiority of airborne/air assault units. I have been light infantry and I have been airborne. I never saw that airborne units were more competent than "leg" units though I have noticed that they are far more relentlessly obsessed with uniform regulations and policies. Also from personal experience as OPFOR at the JRTC for 18 months I can tell that my impression was that the 82nd guys tended to be a bit more aggressive, but recklessly so. The 101st apparently believed that their helicopters made them invincible and so tended to air mobile small forces (company size or smaller) deep enemy held terrain where they would be picked apart and destroyed before they could be reinforced. The 10th Mountain, on the other hand always impressed me. They did not train for a MILES fight the way some units did, they trained for war. They were a bit less aggressive than the 82nd units that I saw but ultimately more successful, I believe because they focused less on sexy things like airborne and airmobile ops and more on the basics, after all, it’s what you do on the battlefield that wins wars not how you got there.

  18. #38
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I can say this from personal experience, in all the different units I have trained or trained with around the world, I have never yet encountered one that I would consider a top rate force that did not have a strong NCO corps. So if you want to decide who produces the best soldiers then the first thing you have to do is eliminate those countries that do not have a strong NCO corps.
    This is true from my experiences of ABCA armies, where the NCO corp is required to compensate for the inexperience of the junior officers. Does it hold true, though, in an army that has a different command system - for example the IDF, where the NCO corp directly feeds into the junior officer corp? I also seem to recall that German junior officers spend some time initially as a section commander - someone correct me if I am wrong - so they may hold up as another exception. I'd also be interested in knowing how the Baltic and Scandinavian armies work in this regard, if anyone out there has information on this topic?

    I have always been taught (informally!) to quickly assess other armies with the term of 'swimming' nations vs 'non-swimming' nations. If the average population can swim they will make good soldiers - if not, they're rock-fish and will be more or less operationally ineffective. I'm sure there is absolutely no scientific basis to this criteria, but a swimming status does tend to favor the developed world where quality of life, fitness, individual competency etc pushes families to have their children participate in sports and outdoor activities. Causation vs correlation, or complete irrelevance??
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

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    I think that pondering which country produces the best Soldiers is kind of like pondering who would win in a fight between Captain America and the Punisher or, to use a more common example, whether Soldiers are "more elite" than Marines or vice versa.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    For the life of me I cannot understand why Grossman is still being seriously discussed.
    I agree. He had some worthwhile things to say but he's still way overrated.

    As was also mentioned, despite being called "On Combat" there is a very clear bias towards Law Enforcement, not that there is anything wrong with that per se but it is not marketed that way.
    Agree again. He's very popular with cops; the whole "warrior" thing and all that. I don't want to hijack this tread and turn it into a discussion about the role of police in society but maybe that mindset is not all bad, since studies and interviews show that most violent gang members think of themselves as "street soldiers."

    Also from personal experience as OPFOR at the JRTC for 18 months I can tell that my impression was that the 82nd guys tended to be a bit more aggressive, but recklessly so.
    Curious, did you find the 75th Ranger Regiment to be likewise?
    Last edited by Rifleman; 03-07-2010 at 02:22 AM.
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