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Thread: The neglected stuff

  1. #21
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    May 2007

    Default What you prpose has essentially been done and can again be done

    on a limited basis. That's the problem -- limits.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    ...only if you expect them to be like they are.
    Largely true; organisms evolve and in the process have strands of DNA, cells and bacteria that seemingly have no purpose or that once had a purpose that no longer exists. There will always be a cost for growth.
    ...If civilians can live off the land, so can soldiers (although foreigners may have problems till their bodies adapted).

    Sure, army logisticians and generals would need to survive heart attacks in the process, but it's possible if your junior leadership is good enough.
    Undoubtedly. I agree it's possible. The problem with which you are confronted is that the Mothers or other family of those who had "problems till their bodies adapted" would complain to their Legislative representatives that their Soldiers were not being properly supported. Those politicians would also be accosted by nervous Generals and apoplectic logisticians -- as well as disgruntled Contractors who contribute to political campaigns -- and would call a halt to your plan in about five seconds.
    A 20% tooth + 80% tail force is a CHOICE - it is NOT A NECESSITY.
    I agree -- and it is a political as much as a military choice.
    Look at the stupidity of "pirate"-hunting with warships. The same could be done with some improvisation off some converted auxiliaries (including helicopter operations; a hangar is no technical miracle, after all!).
    I'd go a step shorter and stop at 'Look at the stupidity of pirate hunting.' There are other, better solutions. Regrettably, money to do things comes in discrete pots and pot owners are often reluctant to share, so funds get expended to do things because Party A can afford it while Party B with a better method cannot afford to implement his solution.

    One of the problems affecting your hypothesis is that any military structure today is going to have at least some investment in capital materiel. The Politicians like to see that stuff used in lieu of sitting, doing nothing.

    Ideally, we could develop robotic armies that sat on a shelf, were activated when needed (and only when truly needed) and which could and would clone themselves to desired strength. Unfortunately, instead, we have people.

    People design imperfect structures that take on a life of their own and they also play with the occasional use of inappropriate force where it is inappropriate and unappreciated...

  2. #22
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Oct 2005


    And depending on the AO, the local area may not be able to support both civilians and troops from outside. "Living off the land" is usually fairly hard on the land (and those who live there), and can generate great popular resentment. May be cute in theory, but of doubtful utility in practice.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  3. #23
    Council Member
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    Feb 2007


    Without an excess of words or examples, my general theory would be that you need a certain amount of troops for an action. So you decide how much combat power you needs (tanks, guns and troops) to get the mission done.

    Then you decide how much support they need to operate at the required level.

    Then you trim away the excess.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work that way, although I'm not yet well educated enough to speculate about the reasons.


  4. #24
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Dec 2009
    North Mountain, West Virginia


    "Logistics is the ball and chain of armored warfare." -- Heinz Guderian
    Anyone want to argue with Schnell Heinz?

  5. #25
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Sep 2009


    I did now look at the conflict in Sierra Leone, or better how EO (Executive Outcomes) perfomed as mercenery force in support of the government. The performance of the 32th Battalion is of course also of interest. Both had rather large "political" liberty of action. Some insight

    Not dissuaded by this experience, and facing certain annihilation at the hands of the 4,000-strong RUF, Strasser turned to Executive Outcomes to defeat the rebels on behalf of his government.9 The South African mercenary firm had already developed a formidable reputation during its successful campaigns in Angola against the materially superior União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola and its owners were keen to pursue new business opportunities.10

    It deployed an initial force of approximately 80 soldiers in May 1995, which expanded to approximately 250 personnel at the height of the conflict in 1996.11 From the outset of its deployment, the firm went on the offensive, forcing the RUF away from Freetown, the Kono diamond areas, and virtually all of the territory it had captured since the war began.12 In November 1996, with the RUF reeling from numerous defeats at the hands of EO’s personnel, Sankoh opted to sign a peace treaty with the government, which ended this stage of the Sierra Leonean Civil War.13
    The sad part about this article is that the logistic part is also here ... neglected.


  6. #26
    Council Member
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    May 2006
    Just outside the Beltway


    Quote Originally Posted by SethB View Post
    Without an excess of words or examples, my general theory would be that you need a certain amount of troops for an action. So you decide how much combat power you needs (tanks, guns and troops) to get the mission done.

    Then you decide how much support they need to operate at the required level.

    Then you trim away the excess.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work that way, although I'm not yet well educated enough to speculate about the reasons.

    Didn't work so well in Iraq. In warfare, it is truly better to have than to want and not have. The anchoring bias also comes into play as well.

    In Iraq, the number of baseline troops become 135K. Why? Because that was the starting number for the occupation (and it soon was because that was what was sustainable indefinitely, or at least for a long time). Any more than 135K became an increase in the occupation from the Iraqi perspective (bad) or a sign of failure on the domestic side (bad).

    Had the initial year long deployment consisted of all troops on the TPFDL for OIF (I), then the baseline would have been different and I think many folks would argue that you would have had enough force to actually secure more of the country and made it harder for the insurgency to form. It's open to debate at the Cobra II levels, but if you went it with "Desert Crossing" #s, then I think its a safer bet to claim that things could have turned out different.

    I'm not looking to rehash a Fiasco like debate over Iraq, but I do think it's a ready example of where just enough is too fragile a process to 'Oops, not enough."

  7. #27
    Registered User
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    Dec 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA

    Default Curious about the AEF in 1918

    SethB, I’m trying to come up with the 80% figure you cite and I’m afraid I simply can’t. When I look at the AEF in late 1918, I see two field Armies (each of which had a whole slew of attached non-combat formations like field hospitals, mobile hospitals and the like) plus the Services of Supply which was, in essence, another army devoted to the lines of communication (and had an 11/11/18 strength of 644,540). At the Corps level, all of the corps also had attached non-combat troops (veterinary hospitals, remount depots, motorized transport supply trains, etc.), as did divisions. 1st Division, for example, had 3 combat brigades (2 infantry and 1 artillery), plus divisional troops (MG Bn, Signal Bn, Engineers and the HQ Troop) which they clearly considered combat troops—just under 25,000 in a full division. They also had a number of units (HQ & MP Train, Ammunition Train, Engineer Train and Sanitary Train) that would only be in combat in the most dire situations—another 3,150. My rough & ready estimate would, in all honesty, put the tooth to tail ratio for the AEF in 1918 at closer to 3:2, which is really quite good for that war. Comparable figures for the British Army as a whole were 6:5 in 1916 and, given the cumulative impact of casualties, more like 3:4 by mid-1918. Looking at the BEF itself was more problematic because of how the force’s strength was represented in War Office files, but in all honesty I’d be very surprised to see figures that were wildly different (probably less tooth, more tail in fact for 1918).

    (For sources, I pulled the rough & ready AEF estimate from the Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, volumes 1 & 2. The British numbers come from work I did a number of years back but most of them can be pulled from Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire, 1914-1920)


  8. #28
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
    New Zealand

    Default Relevant doc

    I agree with you Fuchs, logistics is a neglected study. Long may it remain so, too - is anything more uninteresting and boring than a supply officer talking about his problems?

    My main interest in the matter is the extent to which we can 'disown' our logistics chain from our military. Contracting has been a never-ending tale of woe and disaster from what I have heard and seen, yet it remains an attractive course for many reasons.

    I stumbled across this document which is related to the tooth-tail ratio (US specific, mind you): The Other end of the spear : the tooth-to-tail ratio (T3R) in modern military operations / John J. McGrath ( )

    I can't comment on the observations made or conclusions drawn as I have only scanned the doc and lack any real knowledge on the subject. It does deal with the teeth-tail ratio of US expeditionary forces from the AEF through to 2005 for those interested.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

  9. #29
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    May 2008


    A while ago I read a book about "operational logistics", and if that book is indicative at all, my knowledge about the theory of logistics was far more complete than I thought. It did bring order into my thoughts, though.

    One of the most simple (yet useful) parts was the differentiation between supplies
    (I) you get hauled to you
    (II) you carry with you
    (III) you collect where you are

    Ever since our forces got motor craft transportation-rich (trucks, cargo aircraft, trains, container ships) we seem to have overemphasized (I). A Mongol army lived off (II) and (III) entirely, for example. I don't argue for huge flocks of cattle around AFG bases, of course.

    I already hinted back in 2010 in this thread at a greater need for (III) and on my blog pointed out that you can and should do a lot about (II) in regard to fuel. That, btw, has been a recurring theme since at the very least the 80's when the U.S.Army for example realised the need to equip its formations for 2-3 days autonomy at least. A constant tether of supplies was understood to be a too optimistic assumption.

    (II) is of no great help in AFG, especially for infantry. The bases are already stocked for rather long periods afaik.

    (III) is thus the way to go (in the specific scenario).
    # water purification for drinking water
    # solar energy
    # some local food (bought with indigenous cash at normal prices in order to prevent an inflation effect)
    # local minor repairs and craftsmanship in general

  10. #30
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    Berkshire County, Mass.


    A couple of weeks ago NPR ran a piece entitled “Among the costs of war: billions a year in A.C.?” While I thoroughly enjoyed the piece one thing that I would have liked to have gotten but didn’t was how much of the justification for the use of air conditioning was related to the troops’ combat effectiveness and general quality of life and how much was to keep electronic equipment from crashing. The difficulties of petrol delivery are discussed (every invading army discovers the realities of geography anew, apparently) as are the promises and prospects of including solar energy in the mix.

    As to the possibilities of working in “local minor repairs and craftsmanship in general,” can someone on the forum speak to how such would or would not work for American forces in the context of FAR?
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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