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Thread: 60 Minutes special on SF in A'stan

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default 60 Minutes special on SF in A'stan

    Thought I'd pass this on. Looks interesting.

    60 Minutes spent over two months with a Green Beret unit, as they trained a group of Afghan soldiers, and then went into battle with them against the Taliban.

    Lara Logan's report, examining a strategy requested by the president to train more Afghan troops, will broadcast this Sunday, January 31, at 7 p.m. ET/PT, on CBS.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A review of this TV programme

    Found on:http://blog.freerangeinternational.com/ and in this report today Babatim reports: http://freerangeinternational.com/blog/?p=2610 (please ignore the photo of the intrepid reporter).

    Here is a taste:
    Of course the segment has all the annoying crap one associates with Special Forces – only using first names, wearing sunglasses to “protect their identity,” and digitizing all who do not have sunglasses on, as if the Taliban has an arm in America which is going to hunt these guys down some day. The Taliban do hunt down ANA Commandos in their home villages and kill them, but none of the ANA commandos have their faces digitized or identities hidden.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Tim tends to get irritated with the rock-star status of the ODA guys in Afghanistan. He's a man who favors substance over appearance and I'm with him there, but I think he carries it a little too far sometimes.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
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    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

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    Lara Logan report on Green Berets. I will watch it for the entertainment value.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    Yep, definitely many lessons on what not to do in that clip.

    The Free Range International post is humorous, but still spot on.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Far more about the reporter than the report

    – only using first names, wearing sunglasses to “protect their identity,” and digitizing all who do not have sunglasses on, as if the Taliban has an arm in America which is going to hunt these guys down some day.
    ...and did not protect their identity. All those guys were recognisable to anyone taking an actual interest.
    Where I come from, if you talk to a camera, you're simply disqualifying yourself from the description of "quiet professional." There is no good reason to do it. Nothing wrong with USSF, but this was mistake.
    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.
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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default What is a quiet professional?

    Here's the link if you missed the initial viewing.

    I thought the report was odd if not disturbing. One thing that I would submit that transcends the color of your beret- if you don't live in the area where you operate and don't know the people, then everything will appear a threat.

    I was left considering the question-

    What is a quiet professional? I used to think it was the Hy Rothstein's in El Salvador and the Jim Gants in A'stan.

    Mike
    Last edited by MikeF; 02-02-2010 at 03:31 PM.

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    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    I thought the report was quite underwhelming. The focus was on beards and glasses, 2 incidents of friendly fire and two children getting shot.

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post
    I thought the report was quite underwhelming. The focus was on beards and glasses, 2 incidents of friendly fire and two children getting shot.
    Agree. Two months of embed with an ODA and this is the story they got? It’s a failure for CBS from a journalistic perspective and a PR failure for SF.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    This piece was in no way representative of what SF is doing; and was not approved by the SF community for that very reason. Freedom of the Press at work. Unfortunate, because there are some great stories that could have been told just as well.

    Not in my lane, but when CBS crossed this bridge and burned it behind them, they made it harder for for their peers to get it right in the future as well. Perhaps that is where the saying "Twice cautious once burned" comes from...

    This simply misleads the populace, misrepresents some of our finest soldiers, and some of Afghanistan's as well, and makes life harder for all the real media pros out there. (I had Richard Threlkeld embedded with me for the Arab Coalition push into Kuwait back in '91 and he was both honorable and professional. He could have filed a much sexier story by ignoring my request to not mention our presence within the Coalition. Thanks Dick, whereever you are.)
    Last edited by Bob's World; 02-03-2010 at 07:44 AM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    This piece was in no way representative of what SF is doing; and was not approved by the SF community for that very reason. Freedom of the Press at work. Unfortunate, because there are some great stories that could have been told just as well.
    The funny thing is, from the interviews and the title of the piece ("The Quiet Professionals"(!)), I got the definite impression that Lara Logan was more than a bit starstruck by the team members and wanted to produce a positive story. The video told a different story. As FRI noted - if this was the most positive vid they could put out, what got left on the cutting room floor?

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This piece was in no way representative of what SF is doing; and was not approved by the SF community for that very reason. Freedom of the Press at work. Unfortunate, because there are some great stories that could have been told just as well.
    That's good to hear. I realized what this report reminded me of- the Army of One recruiting video from 2000-2001 where some dude ran solo through the desert without wearing a blouse.

    On a serious note, sir, can this mentality be a by-product on the hyper-infantry teams that solely do training in rear areas and conduct targeted direct action raids instead of living amoungst the populace?

    Mike

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This piece was in no way representative of what SF is doing; and was not approved by the SF community for that very reason. Freedom of the Press at work. Unfortunate, because there are some great stories that could have been told just as well.

    Not in my lane, but when CBS crossed this bridge and burned it behind them, they made it harder for for their peers to get it right in the future as well. Perhaps that is where the saying "Twice cautious once burned" comes from...

    This simply misleads the populace, misrepresents some of our finest soldiers, and some of Afghanistan's as well, and makes life harder for all the real media pros out there. (I had Richard Threlkeld embedded with me for the Arab Coalition push into Kuwait back in '91 and he was both honorable and professional. He could have filed a much sexier story by ignoring my request to not mention our presence within the Coalition. Thanks Dick, whereever you are.)
    It was a high-profile media embed - certainly coordinated through ISAF PAO at least. I don't think SF can claim "no approval". I think the FRI commentary was spot on.

    However, this seems to be a recurring theme - media crews shadowing "un-representative" units. Do we just poorly select where we send media or is it truly more representative of how we operate and we prefer not to see our faults. I got the impression that Lara Logan was so awestruck by her 6'1" benchpressing stud that she probably cut it in the least bad way possible.

    There were enough WTF moments in that video to make me pause.
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    Council Member TYR's Avatar
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    Ok, I didn’t like the piece either. I also saw a lot of things that I didn’t like. To say that the reporting of the SF team was somehow not “blessed off” on just doesn’t make sense. Of course it was blessed off on. The Special Forces leadership for quite awhile has been trying to generate publicity to sell itself. This piece was just as bad as the piece that was done by National Geographic a couple of years ago, only the team didn’t get the TV crew and some of their team members killed. As a Special Forces soldier who recently retired I can tell you, and it pains me to say this, but this was an accurate portrayal of today’s Special Forces. What is and has happened in the Special Forces community is very complex. The Special Forces community since 9/11 has gone through major transformations. No longer do you have seasoned NCO’s on a team who are experts at what they do and who are truly the “seniors” in their respected MOS’s. I have seen teams where both “juniors” and “seniors” have graduated the Q-course at the same time, neither of them will get the mentorship they deserve. Now compound this with a new Team Leader who just graduated along with some of his NCO’s who by the way could very well have been 18X’s and who don’t have any true military back ground or leadership experience except for what they received in the Q- course or should I say “AIT”. For a Team Sgt this is a huge problem, because he is now not just trying to mentor a new Team Leader that doesn’t know a whole lot but now he has to treat his team like an over glorified Infantry squad. Not what Special Forces was meant to be. I truly believe as others have expressed that 60 minutes probably tried to do their best to make the team look good and for the average viewer with no military background they probably thought it was a good report. However, for those of us who know and understand what we saw, this piece was truly an embarrassment to Special Forces. I could go on but wont, the whole subject saddens me because I care so deeply.
    "Soldiers who are lacking in basic training, discipline, poor leadership and inadequate command and control will not be able to win wars with technology and firepower alone. When their technology fails, they will find themselves in a vacuum they cannot easily extricate themselves from."- Eeben Barlow

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default

    I watched the video. While I wish that there had been some structure that portrayed the effort to develop the Afghan Commando, the video did relate how challenging this mission is. That this SF unit is somewhat optimistic about the AN Commando unit's prospects and determined to see it through speaks well for their training and selection.

    Some thoughts:

    The FSF unit in question is supposed to become relatively elite by Afghanistan standards. Given what you can draw on their performance (the ND that resulted in the fratricide and the follow on ND) they have a long way to go to get to a standard that they can perform their tasks adequately. While this raises some issues about what the assessment criteria for these future commandos may be, it does not change that the difficulty of the mission for the ODA. That they are able to perform it at all says a great deal both about our (U.S.) capabilities and willingness.

    While video shows the result of the warning shots, it probably does not tell all. We don't know what the threat was, all we know is that it was an operation and he was establishing a blocking position I believe with one other Afghan commando. He stated he fired 2 warning shots into the road in front of the oncoming truck. I suppose he selected that aim point as to give a visual signature where the driver (watching the road) would probably best see it. Allot of guys I know in similar conditions would not have fired any warning shots - most of the FSF I've met at that level of development would very well have unloaded a belt of PKC - especially if the likelihood was they were related to the enemy, an enemy who may very well have been handing them their lunch for some time.

    In my view the SF soldier showed restraint and set a good example. Further when the 2 boys were wounded, treating their injuries would appear to have become a priority - I believe it would have been regardless of if the cameras were there or not. My guess is there was still a threat, and bringing in a MEDEVAC bird can be a risky event. But he did it, and in the process showed how U.S. forces take responsibility for their actions, and again set an example for the FSF unit.

    If ISAF wants a detailed look at what it takes to generate, employ and sustain the ANSF to a point where they can carry the load on their own, then they need to make an offer to a news network that produces an objective look at the subject. My guess is the 60 minutes crew negotiated a deal that they thought would boost their ratings. Looking over the average comments on the piece on the 60 minutes site, there is some good and some not so good. While the piece may not be as we want it, it does show American soldiers as dedicated, optimistic, willing to endure wounds and return to the same ANSF unit. Given how things sometimes go down in the real world, I'd say it is good to at least give the 99 + % of Americans who do not serve some idea of how hard it is to do this job.

    Best, Rob

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    When I was with a JSOTF, the BN Commander blessed off on every single photo and approved or vetoed every embed ( usually more of the latter).

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    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Here's the link if you missed the initial viewing.
    I finally got to watch it myself... I thought it was okay, but as some have mentioned, Lara seemed incredibly enamored with "Martine" (sp)...

    I imagine Martine is now embarrassed about this little exchange:

    Lara: "Is that burning sensation... commonly described as pain?"
    Martine: "Yeah... but it's only pain if you acknowledge it... you don't have the luxury of self-pity."

    That was a little over-the-top.
    And I agree that it's sad that this is all they got out of over two months... I hope there are future segments coming out.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    To clarify, yes release was approved; but there was much about how the story was gathered and shaped that was not above board and professional. Likewise the story it tells is not accurate. They had an opportunity to tell a sensational story about what has become the pride of the ANA and a very competent, self-suffienct SOF unit. Instead they shaped their focus to tell a sensationalized story. Judging by the commnets above, one that most are quite happy to take the baited hook and run with. That's too bad, because winning the war of perception is everything in COIN.


    I have nothing else to say about that. I will stick up for the CDOs though. Once you've gotten to know their commanders, have visted their compounds, have seen them in action against the enemy, and seen how they plan, rehearse, execute, and AAR their own operations with tremendous professionalism; the way they engage the populace they encounter on the objective to ease their fears while competently and confidently conducting actions on the objective and sensitive site exploitation; I think the professional soldiers out there would assess that this is a major success. Not for SF, who conceived and built this capability; but for Afghanistan. I know I did.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Okay, but these are elite soldiers, right?

    Warning shots with a suppressed M4? Who is supposed to see or hear that? So very Iraq 2005 .... <sigh>
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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    Neil,

    This is not a dig at SF, but I would just say that "Elite" and "Special" are not synonymous. "Special" is about a set of capabilities. "Elite" is a degree of skill or proficiency.

    Speaking of 2005, I recall doing a joint op with my Infantry unit and an ODA. My Soldiers were a little more motivated than normal because they were working with an ODA. After the mission ended, they were all extremely disappointed and I asked what the problem was. They thought the SF guys were going to be doing some crazy, hollywood super-Jedi-knight-elite crazy stuff. But, "sir, they did the same thing we do. They just have better equipment." The look of disappointment in that Soldier's eyes made me think of how a child feels when he learns that Santa isn't real.

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