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Old 01-20-2008   #1
Rob Thornton
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Default The Importance and Role of Training in Creating/Sustaining the Best Possible Forces

Many times the subject of training has come up here on the SWJ – we’ve discussed it here in regards to COIN skill sets: such as those associated with operating in a COIN environment; the traits, skills and attributes needed to advise foreign forces; how SOF has benefited from DOTMLPF; retention of soldiers and leaders (to include the attraction to PMCs), and we’ve even shared some lessons about training and how to make units good. SWJ member Ken White has written on many occasions that our biggest deficit resides in the funding of, the planning of, the execution of, and the lack of respect for proper training. We have also had many serious and in depth discussions on organizational (ex. best squad configuration, mech vs.light), equipping (materiel –ex. MRAP, small arms), doctrinal (ex. 3-24, 3-0), leader (ex. Best generals, the Yingling article), etc. – but I don’t feel we’ve spent the same quality time on training. It could be because its not so sexy, hot button, or emotional as many others – but the truth is, you can have the best quality folks with the best gear, and with poor training, somebody else will come along and ruin your day. We’ve succeeded because we do have “better” training then most of our opponents, and that when you sum up our efforts across the DOTMLPF spectrum – we do reasonably well as an aggregate.

The genesis of this thread came out of the final chapter of Field Marshal Viscount Slim’s book: Defeat into Victory, his account of the Burma Campaign during WWII. In the chapter entitled “After Thoughts” Slim ponders a number of things that I believe are timeless and as relevant today as when they were penned. Within that chapter there is a section marked “Special Forces”, where Slim ponders their utility based on his own experiences. He certainly had an opportunity to consider them, as he saw various special formation in his AOR, and many times had them assigned to him as part of the campaign plan – most notably for many is probably Ord Wingate’s Chindits.

You have to keep in mind, Slim was a superb trainer - having taken over a Corps in the midst of withdrawal in contact with the Japanese Army back to India, Slim had to face some tough realities – lacking resources, facing tough political pressure, and in the face of a foe that had been attributed bogeyman proportion, Slim grew formations of general purpose forces that eventually became better then their mythical opponents and conducted daily operations of seemingly great complexity under conditions that we’d have to scratch our heads at and wonder how they pulled it off. The terrain and weather in Burma are some of the most inhospitable to large combat operations and the enemy held many advantages at the time – Slim had few resources being among the lesser important areas in comparison to North African and Europe, or even the Pacific theater of operations. Slim had a host of challenges to overcome – he waged Joint and Combined Warfare (working with the Chinese, and the Americans), he had to train and equip indigenous forces from as far away as Africa (a BN, Regiment or Division of this and one of that), he had to overcome politics and egos, he had to overcome insurgent forces that had been brought over to the Japanese side (some Indian and some Burmese), and he had a tenacious enemy who had a great deal of wind behind them – he was not exactly primed for success – certainly not if your in 1942/43 looking forward vs. 2008 looking back! But Slim new he had to start with training – he opened a Jungle School, worked Air Operations (air landings, resupply, parachute, air mechanization, close air support, etc.) - hard given the operational conditions, and he worked staff training – Slim new training was the only thing that would make up for deficiencies in other areas. Slim had a vision and new the path led through some tough training that would prepare the men of what would eventually become the 14th Army for operations that by today’s standards would be those of SOF.

My own experiences lead me to believe that Slims observations are largely correct (since I was not there I’m limited to what I know through command and staff and applying it to what I read). I was once given a largely blank check about training – for 1 year my team of my 1SG, my PLs, my PSGs, and their NCO leadership had a surplus of resources – time perhaps being the most critical followed closely by land and ammunition to take a 100 man light Infantry company and transform it to a 170 man Stryker equipped rifle company – this is not about the vehicle, but it adds a level of complexity to it that requires additional time (and other resources) to train. We had a great team behind us helping us out – the BN and BDE CDRs and their staffs – but largely the task fell on the soldiers and leaders of the company. The rational behind opening up the flood gates fro resources were that a/1-24th of the 1/25th SBCT would be one of two companies to conduct the IOT&E (Initial Operating Test and Evaluation) of the SBCT concept at Fort Knox in the Summer of 2003 and big Army and many others from DoD would be watching to examine the results – there was (and remains) a war on.

So from about August of 2002 following the MAV-CE (Medium Armored Vehicle –Comparison & Evaluation) test at FT LEWIS between a platoon of the improved M113A3 and the Stryker (I was one of the BN AS3s at the time and involved with the observations and AAR of the TTP used by the platoons) back in the South Rainier Training Area – then took A/1-24 to begin NET fielding) – we were off and running. For about 1 year we were given a lion’s share of resources to ensure that training deficit would not enter into the results of how the IOT&E played out. I had lots of ammunition, land and a long, long leash (then LTC Emmet Schaill and COL Bob Brown underwrote allot of mistakes and risk on my part - this is also a good place to mention 1SG Joe House, BN CSM Art McCann & BDE CSM Carlton Dietrich - all critical leaders in the endvour). We went about it I think in a smart manner that addressed the task and challenges associated with the scope of the mission. We were all over the place – all of FT Lewis and Yakima, the only folks we played second fiddle to were 3/2 SBCT preparing for their OIF deployment, 2/75th and occasionally the Washington ARNG as it prepped for its OIF deployment – but even then since time was provided, we found ways to train. We had shared vision from the BDE CDR down, and the resulting training of continuous distributed operations from squad through company (with BN and BDE attachments) was exactly what was needed.

The IOT&E turned out to be a great test – continuous operations across pretty much the entire training areas available (at the time most of it), some mounted, some dismounted, offense, defense, stability, security, etc – for three 14 day iterations with some smaller excursions in between we trained. It was fully resourced and some of the best training I’d ever seen – even when compared to my CTC experiences. We emerged a fantastic company, and I left command of Alpha shortly thereafter to take the BN HHC.

In the meantime LTC Schaill and COL Brown (COL Schaill now has the EBCT at Bliss and BG Brown is out at PACOM) had been refining their ideas about training to extend it to the rest of the BN and BDE. COL Brown and his staff came up with some great ideas and resources to extend the quality of training to the other BNs and special companies in 1/25th and fostered that kind of thinking in subordinate leaders all the way down to lowest PVT (if you Google COL Robert Brown, Lancer BDE, SBCT, Agility and Adaptive Leadership – you’ll probably find several great articles he penned). The 1/25th went on to have two great MRE/MRXs at the NTC and JRTC, then a deployment to Mosul that went up against a tough enemy – for some good reading take a look at Michael Yon’s blog as he covered it.

My point in writing about all this is to inform some of our non-uniformed folks in the SWC about the critical role good training (and there is such a bad thing as “not so good training”) and resourcing training play in creating good soldiers, leaders and formations that deploy and win in the adverse and challenging conditions in the places where we fight our wars. It is also to show what is possible in a relatively short time when “better then adequate” resources are combined with good leadership containing a vision about the challenges that will face that force when it goes from training to facing a cunning and creative enemy that wants to survive and win as much as you do.

I’d also like to ask if we think we could do better? Is the training and resourcing available to our SOF the best we can do, or could we extend that level of training and resourcing to the larger force like I had it extended to me and A/1-24th (and later the whole of 1/25th)? I think the regular forces can achieve a great deal more then given credit for (we certainly see it in Iraq and Afghanistan) on a consistent basis if given the resources and the responsibility/ authority to achieve those results. It’s a case of priorities and underwriting junior leaders so we grow (and sustain) a culture of innovation, adaptiveness and agility that flourishes not only in war, but in our peace time preparations for war – so regardless of where we go or when we go, we can seize and retain the initiative much faster. Some of it is culture, some of it is resources – but the consequences are of vital importance to the health of our armed forces.

Last edited by Rob Thornton; 01-20-2008 at 06:00 PM.
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Old 01-20-2008   #2
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Default A few additional thoughts

Is the thinking that its too resource intensive to provide the quality of training available to SOF to the larger GPF/MPF force pool? Or is it the thinking the GPF/MPF formations can not achieve the same (or close to) standards of the smaller elite force populations? Or is it the idea that only SOF forces require that level of training as they are deployed on a smaller scale, in immature AORs and must be better trained to cope? I'd say with the current challenges ahead to the existing force structure if its the last on we can certainly justify the need.
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Old 01-20-2008   #3
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In educational theory and higher education literature you can make pretty direct correlations between politics and restrictions on education. Basically any time you say training is to time/cost/physically/etc.. intensive there is some political force at work rather than good educational techniques. Basically what I get from the literature of education is there is no such thing as to intensive. The second thing is that cost is truly relative when dealing with education. Spend more now and save over the lifetime of the entities involved. The fastest way to efficiency is to train harder and faster and more realistically.
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Old 01-21-2008   #4
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Default A really good thread Rob!

I think much of the disconnect between the non-uniformed (not meaning uninformed in the least, though) out there who may postulate about the military, technologies, and strategic underpinnings, is the fact that it often takes a uniformed mind to appreciate the impact of training.

The realities of the training grind are often lost on those who would propose wholesale shifts in capabilities, mission, T/O&E, etc. Heck, it's even lost on the procurement folks who at times throw equipment at the troops when it has only been tested by Marines in their formal MOS school.

I concur wholeheartedly that main forces can do so much more (and probably have a baseline of training to do so well) than they currently have the authority for. It's that trust and confidence that's lacking. The opposite attitude rears its ugly head when SOF cannot accomplish some things (I'm currently reading Robert's Ridge) and the more conventional folks start to throw the Rambo moniker around.

When I was in Australia this summer, I had an interesting discussion with one of my counterpart umpires. He mentioned that among the Australian Army, the main forces are generally considered better prepared for COIN, humanitarian assistance, FID, and all-round small wars, while their SOF formations are better trained to execute conventional ops.
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Old 01-21-2008   #5
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Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
I concur wholeheartedly that main forces can do so much more (and probably have a baseline of training to do so well) than they currently have the authority for. It's that trust and confidence that's lacking. The opposite attitude rears its ugly head when SOF cannot accomplish some things (I'm currently reading Robert's Ridge) and the more conventional folks start to throw the Rambo moniker around.

When I was in Australia this summer, I had an interesting discussion with one of my counterpart umpires. He mentioned that among the Australian Army, the main forces are generally considered better prepared for COIN, humanitarian assistance, FID, and all-round small wars, while their SOF formations are better trained to execute conventional ops.
As jcustis pointed out, there is quite a difference of perspective between what Commonwealth Armies (and to a certain extent, the USMC as well) view as properly belonging to Main Forces and Special Forces, respectively, and what the US Army views in said matter. Most COIN and unconventional warfare that the Commonwealth (and for that matter, the USMC) has ever waged, has been done with Main Forces; Special Forces more often than not simply played a supporting role, and in some cases were not even present.

The US Army of course, takes a different view, and has two or three times as many Special Forces troopers as it does Rangers. While that certainly makes sense from the US Army's point of view, from a Commonwealth (and I suspect to a large extent, the USMC) point of view, it's just bizarre. Look at Commonwealth SF - even the UK has no more than a single Regular Army SF Battalion - 22 SAS, and only 2 Reserve Battalions and a Reserve Company (The HAC), plus the Royal Marines' Company-sized SBS. The only US SF of the same calibre - 1st SFOD-Delta (or whatever it's calling itself these days) and SEAL Team Six similarly amount to quite small proportions of the entire Army (or Navy's) force.

And like Commonwealth SF, they do guerrilla warfare very rarely, and only when necessary - if at all. So why all the other Army SF ("Green Berets")? The Commonwealth had its delusions of raising guerrilla armies dispelled over the course of WWII and the 15 years or so following its end; in the end, most of them tend to turn on their teachers. I would suggest that the US experience with the Montagnards/Hmong in Indochina was quite atypical and extraordinary.

So why have thousands of top-notch, highly-trained and experienced NCOs (I know the latter has changed recently) and officers separated from the rest of the Army and placed into Units that rarely get to perform their main mission, the raising of guerrilla armies - a mission with ultimately dubious consequences - and not in the regular infantry? The Commonwealth learned in the decades after WWII that the old way of giving someone 3 or 4 months of "training" (too much of it spent on nonsense and not real training) didn't cut it when you had to perform LIC and COIN in former colonies and still prepare to fight WWIII in Europe, all the while on very constrained budgets.

That's where the 6-month Infantry syllabus for Riflemen came from - necessity in the face of shrinking budgets with attendant lower manpower levels and cuts in equipment procurements. While SF became even more specialized, most of the roles previously reserved for Commando Forces were (sucessfully) taken over by Line Battalions (with vastly improved training), and the remaining Commando Forces concentrated on Mountain, Amphibious, and Airborne Operations (as the Royal Marines and the Rangers do). Fewer troops have to be able to do it all (or almost all), with less.

Rob's right; the SOF-type training that his CO was able to let him pursue in his old Unit was exactly the right thing to do. As the Marines say, a Rifleman can do anything - provided he is afforded and allowed the proper training, and sufficient of it. There certainly is a role for Special Forces - of the SAS/SBS kind, which is in line with what Lord Slim described as being the sort of unit that requires no more than a handful of men for its missions. But realistically speaking, I rather doubt there is a real justification for maintaining seven 1,200 or 1,500-man Groups of first-rate officers and NCOs for a (primary) role that has rarely panned out in practice. Much better to take Slim's advice and put these fine men into the Regular Army and to help assimilate the standards of the Main Forces much closer to that of the US Army Special Forces than those of a draftee mass-army.

The English-speaking Armies are only going to get smaller for the most part, and on even tighter budgets. There's only so many (or rather, so few) troops to go around, and funds to kit them out. One of the main antidotes to this problem is going down the road that Rob proposes: SOF-type training for all Infantry.

Last edited by Norfolk; 01-21-2008 at 01:24 AM.
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Old 01-21-2008   #6
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With all due respect, Norfolk, you clearly don't know what SF does. If "building guerilla armies" was all that we did then we might have ceased to exist a long time ago. We perform a whole series missions, many of which are not for public consumption. We do not simply duplicate what the big Army is already doing. On the contrary, we avoid certain missions because other units are already doing those missions and it would be a pointless duplication of effort and a waste of resources. Much of what we do, we do because no one else is trained or equiped to do it.

I fail to see how MAJ Thornton's training, awesome as it was, could be considered SOF training. SOF training is training for SOF missions it is not simply regular infantry training with more resources. Contrary to popular belief we do not have unlimited budget and resources either. Could regular forces be brought to a higher standard, given suficient budget and resources? Of course, but can they do do the same missions that SOF does as well as SOF? If they could then the conventional Army would have gotten rid of us long ago.

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Old 01-21-2008   #7
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Uboat, I am well aware that the US Army SF perform a very wide range of roles, from Strategic Reconnaissance to Mobile Training Teams to Humanitarian Assistance, et al. But their raison d'etre to begin with was guerrilla warfare, and they would not have been formed in the first place had that not been defined as their primary mission at the time; much of the rest has followed in subsequent years as guerrilla warfare receded into the background for being increasingly unlikely.

And if you had undergone a Commonwealth 6-month infantry syllabus followed by service in a Battalion, you might have found much of it to be suprisingly familiar, and strenuous - and not like what you would have experienced (or expected) in many a regular US Army battalion. One of my old Battalion's (a Reserve Bn) US Army training partners was a NG SF Bn - 3rd Bn, 20th SFG. Perhaps much of Rob's Unit's training was not SOF-type per se, but a lot of it was honing the basics to a much higher level of proficiency, which is essential for handling tasks that in the US Army are typically reserved to SOF. In the Commonwealth, things are mighty different. Get yourself attached to an RCR Battalion or a Royal Marine Commando for a year or two; it's not like the US Army.
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Old 01-21-2008   #8
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Default Training

Rob,

Good thread, as we all know education/training is the keystone of success in both the military and civilian world.

I have been lucky enough to serve in the AUS, ARNG, USAR, & civil service (Army & Navy) as well as having worked a few years in the private sector prior to joining the USG. This experience has shown me that trained individuals (completing training is a mark of the individuals motivation and suitability for the task) who are adequately resourced (and understand the difference between need and want) and who have good leadership are in general more successful at accomplishing the work mission than those who lack these things. Gear is good, but good people are better than good gear.

The US Military, in my opinion, does a good job of balancing societal needs and the requirements of necessary expertise to accomplish its mission of defending the Nation. Teams/Nations benefit from having members/inhabitants with shared experiences and shared education/training. One of the missions of the US military is to provide this training/education to our citizens. On the flip-side of training/educating all-comers our organization still needs experts who can guide the organization to success. To use the bell curve analogy the bulk of a population will always end up in the middle and those at the upper and lower ends of the bell curve are small in number. Adequately educating a population for a required task is a function of limited time and resources and always will be.

Conventional Forces need to accept that full-spectrum operations are the required skill set and ensure that their teams/units are continually and heavily trained. Since the bulk of the Conventional Force will not stay for more than 4 years training time and thus skill developing time is limited. Good NCOs, many CTC rotations, extensive military schooling which teaches full-spectrum operations, and of course operational experience are the keys to training success. The bulk of the US Military can accomplish this. Conventional Forces are more generalists than specialists and need to be assigned missions with this in mind.

SOF needs to accept that the population of participants is limited and true joint operations allow us to maximize our effectiveness. SOF work requires specialized professional civilian skills, advanced infantry skills, language capabilities, and extensive in-country experiences in order to accomplish specialized missions. To acquire these skills requires more time and resources in order to vet and educate appropriate people who are suited to the task. Limited time and resources mean that only a small population will be able to get this type of training and experience. SOF are more specialists than generalists and need to be assigned missions with this in mind.

'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' and 'Diplomacy is the art of gaining strategic advantage through negotiation' are two truisms that always apply and ones that we as a Nation need to revisit regularly. DOS/USAID/Peace Corps needs to be beefed up and placed upon an equal to or better resource footing than the US Military.

DOS/USAID/Peace Corps, SOF, and Conventional Forces all need to refocus and redouble their efforts on training the team/squad, since teams/squads are the building blocks of successful organizations. This means that team/squads must have extensive shared educational and 'real-world' experiences so that they can gel and excel. Both generalists and specialists are necessary to the Nations success. Bottom line? All of us need more training to excel and this requires steady resource streams, extensive planning, and most importantly good people.
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Old 01-21-2008   #9
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Norfolk, I don't think that you are fully aware of what we do given that a good deal of what we do is classified. You seem to be assuming that SF are just extremely well trained infantry but that is simply not correct. Big Army does not, as a rule, like elite formations and would not tolarate any such organiztion that simply duplicates what conventional units already do. We are not simply an elite infantry formation, in fact, many SF soldiers have never served a day in their lives in the infantry. SF is drawn from all branches of the Army. The majority are former combat arms but that is not a prerequisite.

As for the likelihood of needing guerilla warfare skills, 5th Group's actions in the initial stages of Afghanistan are textbook UW. Since then, we have made great use of those skillsets (albeit on a smaller scale) in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Old 01-21-2008   #10
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I am aware that a great deal of what the SF do is indeed classified and for obviously very good reasons. And I am not saying that Line Battalions should fully replace SF, by no means, and certainly not that SF are just well-trained Light Infantry. But I am saying that much of the skills levels - though not all the specific skills, let alone all the roles performed by SF - should be integral to US Army infantry units. Your terms of reference seem to be framed by US Army practice; such practice is not universal by any means.

For example, in the US Army, the Scout Platoon of an Infantry Battalion performs conventional reconnaissance, surveillance, and screening/security tasks for its parent Battalion; a LRS Det or Company handles both the LRRP (to some degree anyway) and surveillance tasks for the Battalion's parent Formation. In The RCR, the Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon (including snipers) had to be, and was, trained and equipped for both roles - tactical and operational reconnaissance tasks of all manner - as well as HUMINT; and whether that meant operating strictly on foot, helicopter, using an assault boat from an O-Class sub (no longer in service - that was a while ago now), or from the back of a Lynx, or whatever, then that's what was done, mission-dependent.

An Infantry Battalion could perform a number of other unconventional tasks. Providing bodyguards for domestic and foreign VIPs, for one - done out of hide - training taken at either Chichester or the Secret Service course in Virginia (a buddy of mine was one of the guys who got the tap for that). A great deal of the Combat Swimmer role was performed either by Pathfinders (not quite the same as their US Army counterparts) or by Combat Engineers. For other, more "strategic" tasks, individuals or certain groups were likewise tapped on the shoulder and received the requisite training (if it was lacking) and detached out of the Battalion to attend to their duties. Since SF have been formally brought back (starting in '92) in the Canadian Army, some of this has since changed. An Infantry Battalion is not an SF Unit, nor am I arguing that it should be; but a well-trained Infantry Battalion is capable of a surprising range of SOF missions, and regular Infantrymen should be, and can be, trainend accordingly.

What I am trying to point out here is that outside of the US Army, there are several Armies where the distinction between Main Forces and SOF becomes decidely blurred. Which is one of the reason why Commonwealth forces prefer SAS and Delta-type SF to handle full-fledged SF missions and tasks, and let the regular battalions handle the stuff on the outer fringers (somewhat as the Rangers do in the US). Many SF units do not have the time to conduct all the myriad missions, some of which are at cross-purposes from a Unit-training standpoint. It's not unknown for one mission or task or set thereof to take up so much time that another becomes neglected, but that's sometimes because a Government sets policies and makes committments - especially to other Governments or actors - that strain available troops and resources.

As SF don't always have enough time to handle all the missions that their Governments thrust upon them, letting Line Battalions train to standards (though anything like the full skill sets) approaching that of SF makes for far more capable and flexible Line Infantry that may be able to relief SF of some of the "fuzzier" stuff on the blurry line that distinguishes between SF and Main Forces, while at the same time making for regular units that are genuinely capable in the "Full Spectrum" of Operations - not like what happened in 2003, when after crushing the Iraqi Armed Forces, the US Army had to re-learn COIN almost from scratch. It did not have to be that way.

If many people, even within the US Army, look down somewhat at regular US infantry and deride them in terms not far removed from the draftee armies of the past, it's not because the US Infantryman is not capable of being more or less of Ranger-quality. It's because the Army, for various reasons, won't let them.

And this is where the present structure of the US Army SF may in some ways be problematic. "Delta" or whatever it's called these days, represents one of the high-ends of US SOF - comparable to the SAS, etc. But the rest of the Army SF (I'm just talking about the SFGs, not CA, PsyOps, et al.) has no parallels in the English-speaking world at present, or even in much of the rest of the world. In the rest of the English-speaking world, the missions that the Green Berets (exclusive of Delta here) perform are divvied up between an SAS-type SF and the regular infantry, with perhaps a few Commando Forces units for more specialized roles (particularly parachuting and mountain warfare).

Strategic Reconnaissance - amongst other missions, is certainly best handled by a dedicated SF unit. No arguments there. But I suspect that Government policy drives a demand for SF aside from SAS-type units to an extent that may be unnecessary. And some other missions presently handled by SF may be handled quite well by highly-trained infantry battalions.
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Old 01-21-2008   #11
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Gentleman,

At the end of the day, US and UK Infantry training still resides in a WW2 paradigm. You all know my views on this from my Patrol Based Infantry paper. To date, no one has really pushed the envelop of what WELL TRAINED infantry can do, because the mind set is still incredibly limited. Assuming you have men with the intelligence to be a carpenter or plumber, then you have vast potential.

What holds the current debate back is culture and the need to protect the status quo. A very good infantry unit is easy and affordable to train. We just choose to things the way that we think they should be done, and not the ways that allow for a real increase in capability.

At the tactical sub-unit level there is vast commonality in so called COIN and Warfighting TTPs if they are rationally and objectively approached.
Quote:
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A. Infantry Battalion is capable of a surprising range of SOF missions, and regular Infantrymen should be, and can be, trainend accordingly.

B. And this is where the present structure of the US Army SF may in some ways be problematic.
A. Correct, and how the hell did these missions become associated with SF anyway? As Rob Thornton points out, Slim was pretty much correct.

B. More than you know. US SOCOM is a hostage to the institutions and events that created it. You always get back to the "I wouldn't start from there, if I were you." Look at all the mucking about in the re-creation of the 75th Ranger Regiment. If you started with a clean sheet of paper, things would look a whole lot different. - same for UK SF.
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Old 01-21-2008   #12
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Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
Norfolk, I don't think that you are fully aware of what we do given that a good deal of what we do is classified. You seem to be assuming that SF are just extremely well trained infantry but that is simply not correct. Big Army does not, as a rule, like elite formations and would not tolarate any such organiztion that simply duplicates what conventional units already do. We are not simply an elite infantry formation, in fact, many SF soldiers have never served a day in their lives in the infantry. SF is drawn from all branches of the Army. The majority are former combat arms but that is not a prerequisite.

As for the likelihood of needing guerilla warfare skills, 5th Group's actions in the initial stages of Afghanistan are textbook UW. Since then, we have made great use of those skillsets (albeit on a smaller scale) in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

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My Dad was an early SF soldier in 1962 Vietnam... He was a nuclear power engineer for the Navy in the civilian world. I bet he was just a grunt too. ...
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Last edited by selil; 01-21-2008 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 01-21-2008   #13
Rob Thornton
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I think Surfer Beetle's post and U-boat's make a good point - we were not training to conduct a SOF mission, and I don't think Slim thought he was either. "Special" I think has a number of connotations - but to me it implies a specialized mission requiring specialized training.

The question that Slim asks I think is appropriate (although it was not really my question) - how much of a "specialized" force is required, and then he ponders the price of creating too many types and in too large numbers - but I think you have to consider his perspective looking back at WWII - what exactly were most "specialized" forces doing - particularly in the Burma and Pacific AORs?

I think his point is that most were operating much more closely to conventional Infantry missions - penetrations, infiltrations, raids, etc. then to some of the missions we now associate SOF with.

Clearly there is a high demand for SOF these days- there is also a mandate to grow (as there is a mandate to grow the regular Army and the Marines). There are a number of good reasons I think why we have made decisions to grow them all, clearly our potential commitments for employment have convinced us there is a need. I also think Surfer Beetle's IA growth comments have strong merit - if you recognize that your foreign policy appetite or inter-action is beyond your capabilities, then you better either take an appetite suppressant (unlikely - and maybe impossible given who we are and what we believe), or grow your capabilities to meet it. The state that only grows its military at the expense of its other elements of power is left with few options to resolve its policy issues. It goes to the ounce of prevention - hard for the bean-counter's to justify in quantitative fashion - but its the truth I think.

Its all inter-related. I also like SB's comment regarding rational for investment:

Quote:
Conventional Forces need to accept that full-spectrum operations are the required skill set and ensure that their teams/units are continually and heavily trained. Since the bulk of the Conventional Force will not stay for more than 4 years training time and thus skill developing time is limited. Good NCOs, many CTC rotations, extensive military schooling which teaches full-spectrum operations, and of course operational experience are the keys to training success. The bulk of the US Military can accomplish this. Conventional Forces are more generalists than specialists and need to be assigned missions with this in mind.
I think William's point:

Quote:
At the end of the day, US and UK Infantry training still resides in a WW2 paradigm. You all know my views on this from my Patrol Based Infantry paper. To date, no one has really pushed the envelop of what WELL TRAINED infantry can do, because the mind set is still incredibly limited. Assuming you have men with the intelligence to be a carpenter or plumber, then you have vast potential.
is really what I was getting at - I've seen what happens when a talented CDR like Brown (and I've met quite a few leaders like him) brings a vision and a commitment to a unit that gets beyond the "we can do only what is written from on high and anything beyond that is beyond us" - it goes to the art of the possible.

The catalyst seems to be either a need, or an opportunity - Slim had a need - get after and destroy the Japanese Army in Burma with what he had - out of this grew the "art of the possible" using the resources he had available - I think while Slim may have been largely convinced it could be done - it must have seemed almost counter-intuitive to many - can you imagine some of these guys scratching their heads at first when the word came down - "we're going to get rid of a great many of our trucks to achieve greater mobility" - anytime an Army re-invents itself there is probably going to be some skepticism. Look at how his Army innovated in its use of Air, and Armor.

I think we've gone through something along those lines recently - War requires the Art of the Possible in ways that Peace Time can never do - Peace Time training does not require that limits be strained, nor does it really encourage it - some of the stuff that Schaill and Brown underwrote for me I heard of CO CDR's getting relieved for under BN and BDE CDRs who were intolerant of risk or mistakes - it was as much a result of their tolerance and understanding our need to learn from our mistakes, as it was the type of training or resources required - the leader plays a huge role in achieving results.

War changes the level of tolerance for many I think - it more clearly identifies the needs and costs of failure - its not like going home from a CTC and saying - well at least we learned something. As such I think we are becoming better at identifying and managing risk, and as such we are becoming less risk averse - its just a condition we must negotiate in War.

I think if we can bring that forward to our training and apply resources against it we will come away with a much more capable force. Are there areas where GPF/MPF are now doing tasks and some missions that prior to 2001 would have been considered mostly SOF proprietary by the GPF/MPF community - I think so - the Advisory mission comes to mind - but a good deal of the COIN mission set as well. Ask many a GPF fellow who he'd have negotiate for his unit in pre OIF and he'd probably say that is what his CA attachment is for - who'd have thought the demand and operating conditions would require the scale of demand that out paced the traditional resources. Now - a well trained CA fellow with language skills is almost always better (but not always) - but the reality is we don't have enough, and in some cases we have guys with natural intuitive personal skill who are born negotiators and who have continuity in the area.

This did not happen overnight - but over the last 5 years. We now can look back and see more of what is possible. While I think that those missions and tasks that require the most specialization must remain largely the property of specialized forces (barring the demand continues to meet available resources), we have an opportunity to re-evaluate what the words "General" or "Multi-Purpose" really mean when it comes to skill sets. However - we will continue to have to put resources against it - ex. many conventional units have est. partnerships with Local LE and Emergency Services as part of their train up, many installations have hired native speakers to add realism to their training events (way beyond only the CTCs - who have done a fantastic job of making the right resources available and in good quantity - at a quick turn since the war began), many medics get to practice on more realistic GSWs in training, we shoot a good deal more in the post 9/11 world, and many other resources that have made the art of the possible possible.

I think we can still do even better - we must sustain what we've been doing, but because we've realized our potential, we should push the envelope a bit more - I believe there is room and I believe there is justification.

Best to all - Rob

Last edited by Rob Thornton; 01-21-2008 at 10:12 PM. Reason: clarified a comment - bolded to show the change
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Old 01-21-2008   #14
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Default A page out of the book

Although not necessarily the subject of the thread - it leads into it. In the last chapter I mentioned Slim has a section on Special Forces - again, he is talking about forces grown, equipped and trained for a specialized purpose:

Quote:
"There is however one type of special unit which should be retained - that designed to be employed in small parties, usually behind enemy lines, on tasks beyond the normal scope of warfare in the field. There will be an increasing need for highly qualified and individually trained men - and women - to sabotage vital installations, to spread rumors, to misdirect the enemy, to transmit intelligence, to kill or kidnap individuals, and to inspire resistance movements.They will be troops, though they will require many qualities and skills not to be expected of the ordinary soldier and they will use methods beyond his capacity (Rob's note - think about what Slim is implying when he says beyond capacity and link it back to some of the possible missions he's outlining). Each small party would study and train intensively for a particular exploit and should operate under the direct control of the Higher Command (Rob's note - we are still learning about this one - and it gets more to unity of effort and purpose then command I think). They should rarely work within our lines. Not costly in manpower, they may, if handled with imaginative ruthlessness, achieve strategic results. Such units based on the Army, but drawing on all Services and all races of the Commonwealth for specially qualified men and women, should be an essential component of our modern Armed forces."
pg 548 of Slim's memoir.

I think Slim has it about right, and I think it is what we have endevoured to do with our own SOF - the mental mindset issue I've tried to address is not on the part of SOF by and large, but with our own (GPF/MPF) mind set - where we sometimes suffer from self-imposed constrained thinking (until War began to change it).

Slim goes on to address control of SOF, but then transitions to a new section on the future - contrast his thought on SOF to these:

Quote:
In Burma we thus developed a form of warfare based more on human factors then on lavish equipment, which had certain characteristics. The chief of these were:
(i) The acceptance of normal of the regular movement and maintenance of standard formations by air (Rob's note - normal means just that - not specialized DIVs, etc.)
(ii) Great tactical freedom for subordinate commanders (Rob's note - emphasis on "what" not "how" and purpose over task)
(iii) The operation, over wide distances, in most difficult country, in tactical independence but strategic combination.
(iv) Reduced scales of transport and equipment, supplemented by ingenuity and improvisation from local resources (Rob's note - we might call this agile and adaptive mindsets- or the agility and innovation piece guys like SWC member TT spend allot of time thinking about)
(v) The high quality of of the individual soldier, his morale, toughness and discipline, his acceptance of hardship, and his ability to move on his own feet (Rob's note - given the conditions and the requirements. I'd also extend move on his feet - to being able to think on your feet - again the agility and adaptiveness issue)
pg. 549

Slim goes on to expand on his chief characteristics as he considers the challenges in the post WWII environment - much in the same way we consider the Joint COE and in the way the Army considers the FOE (There is no FOE currently in Joint doctrine I think). Again I think he had it about right with regard to linking what is needed with what is possible - the interesting part for me is Slim was considering the post WWII commonwealth, and in many ways the U.S. may have inherited (or assumed) many of the roles in which he was considering.

Finally Slim tells a story about an encounter he had as a cadet. He was pouring over Jomini's "Principles" as describe by the Field Service Regulations when along came the SGM:

Quote:
"Don't bother your head about all them thing's me lad, there is only one principle of war and that is this. Hit the other fellow, as quick as you can, and as hard as you can, where it hurts him the most, when he ain't lookin!"
Sound familiar - funny how other leaders in other wars from other countries often divine some of the bare bone truths - Slim's SGM's quote sounds allot like "get there first with the most" - what teacher experience is.

I like that, and also like his thoughts just prior to telling that story:

Quote:
Until the very horror of mass destruction forces men to find more sensible ways to of settling national disputes, war will remain, and while it remains it will continually change. Yet, because it fought between men rather then between weapons, victory will still go, when armaments are relatively equal, to the side which is better trained and has higher morale - advantages- which are obtained neither easily, quickly, nor without the sacrifice of more then money in peace. War remains an art, and like all arts, whatever its variation, will have its enduring principles.
I like this for a number of reasons - Slim gets to the challenges of preparing for the unknown, and the hard choices that accompany those challenges. He also opens up the consideration of comparing different types of advantages - it might not just be in weaponry or technology! He also outlines why people are important - because men go to war to achieve political purposes as defined by other men -but once we begin waging war -the rational for achieving victory is apt to change.

Now I know that is a kind of round-about way to address the topic - but it gets to the value and rational for investing more resources into training the men (and women) who go forward to wage war.

Best, Rob

Last edited by Rob Thornton; 01-21-2008 at 05:59 PM.
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Old 01-21-2008   #15
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Default This is a great thread...

Thanks, Rob. It preempts a blog article I was working on but that's good -- hopefully, it'll get more discussion here. Everyone above has some great points!

Rob asks:
Quote:
"I’d also like to ask if we think we could do better? Is the training and resourcing available to our SOF the best we can do, or could we extend that level of training and resourcing to the larger force"
That is an important question and it gets obscured here and elsewhere because, IMO, the issue becomes not one of roles, missions, capabilities and the attainment of the desired effects for the US but rather a battle of egos, turf, dollars and spaces. Having been on both sides of the Big Army and SOF curtain I have no doubt that BOTH sides are guilty of this.

There is no question of a need for SOF or for SF -- the two are not synonymous regardless of efforts to make them so -- but I believe there are roles and missions questions that will impact training. We are confronted with the fact that a Battalion from the 82d is doing Ranger like missions for a variety of reasons -- and doing them well. We are confronted with the fact that organizations designed for the UW mission (and some of its highly classified adjunct missions) are being employed on ID missions. There are certain skill sets form UW that translate very well to ID; there are also a number of UW skills (to include those adjunct missions) that are not needed for ID.

As Norfolk says, most Armies use their conventional forces for ID and do it well; thus we are confronted with SF being essentially over qualified for the ID mission. We're using Hummers to do pickup truck work. A further concern is the quantity of folks required for ID; the SOF community cannot and should not provide the quantities required, to even attempt to do so will cause a dilution of quality problem in the community. My question is that, accepting the need for a UW mission capable force for a large variety of missions in both peace and war, should that difficult to obtain capability be roled as a primary ID element to the detriment, however slight, of its primary mission?

The Groups are also used for DA missions -- that amounts to using those same Hummers for sports car work. Not that they cannot and do not do the missions well; just that it's misuse and has the potential to do damage as individuals switch between missions. The great guys will cope -- everyone isn't great. The question to me is should DA be a SF mission or are competing skill sets and perhaps a different mental attitude and full time focus required?

Look also at Strategic Recon, an openly known mission. Is SF best for that job? They certainly can do it but in some cases they are again overtrained with regard to total skill sets and perhaps not as well trained in some desired skills as they might be. That mission is so difficult and dangerous that we may be sending that Hummer to do a job better suited to a Motocross bike (IOW, are we spending a quarter mil to train folks for a 60 K job? Can we afford the loss of the hard and long time to develop UW skills to a mission a different training regimen can handle?). The question is should that mission devolve to a new and different sort of unit that is culturally tuned to use extreme stealth?

The issues then for UW versus ID are that the Groups are over qualified and their critical skills are degraded (and this is even more disadvantageous when the DA mission moves to the fore; in the current or most envisioned environments mentoring local Security Forces is perhaps more important than taking down HVTs even if it isn't as much fun), they do not and probably never will have the quantity of people needed for ID in a medium sized nation. Regardless of all that, the question that then arises is can they do it better than conventional forces which have been provided better training? I think not but that is certainly arguable. What is not arguable in that case is that best is the enemy of good enough...

None of that should be construed as SF/SOF bashing, it is not. Been there and done that -- I am merely asking questions that I think deserve honest consideration. This is not the place to answer them in any detail, certainly -- but thinking it through wouldn't hurt.

All that is way off the question that Rob raised; can we do a better job of training our conventional units. I submit that the answer is, emphatically, yes. That we do not is due to habit (we're still operating on WW I parameters), inertia (as Wilf said:
Quote:
"More than you know. US SOCOM is a hostage to the institutions and events that created it. You always get back to the "I wouldn't start from there, if I were you." Look at all the mucking about in the re-creation of the 75th Ranger Regiment. If you started with a clean sheet of paper, things would look a whole lot different. - same for UK SF." (emphasis added / kw)
and parochialism. We really need to take an objective look at what we're doing, realize that the Army of today is not much like the Army of even 2000 -- much less 1918 -- and fix the problem.

Lieutenants today are routinely doing things that the LTs of 2000 in most units could not dream of doing and that's a good thing. Joe today has gear that only some SOCOM elements had in 2000 -- and generally, he uses it well. It's a different Army, it trains better than it ever has before and, IMO, that's still not good enough. It deserves better training, most particularly at the enlisted and officer entry levels.

Another part of the problem is that there are senior people who are not terribly enthusiastic about fighting wars, they'd prefer waxing and polishing combat vehicles, brassoing cartridges, fretting over uniforms and haircuts and worrying unduly about their and their units reputation or mystique -- and I have, unfortunately, worked for folks who did all those things -- instead of truly thinking about how to do the job better and doing what's best for the nation. Those kinds of folks have always been around and probably always will be. There are more of them in the big Army simply because it's bigger; they also exist in elsewhere. They just have to be bypassed.

Norfolk also mentioned the training and employment of Battalion Scout Platoons in Canada and here. I have to agree with him. I've watched Commonwealth Armies do Recon and they have us beaten across the board. Our so-called Recon elements are ideally structured and equipped for Flank Screens, Covering forces and Economy of Force employment and they do those things well -- they are not trained and equipped for reconnaissance and, mostly, do not train for it very well so they naturally don't do it well. That doesn't address the problem of Commanders who do not know how to use their recon elements -- or are afraid to 'risk' them doing their designed job...

I noted the organization for the HBCT Cav Squadron and was happy they had created a true Recon element (except for the M3s, don't get me started on that vehicle) -- until I found out that the new proposal is for three Brad plts and two Tank plts per troop. Great for the combat missions but they ain't gonna be Scouts. Regardless of the fact that both CTCs have nicked most units for poor to non-existent recon work for years and still do so...

Back to the north German plain...

Rob also posts some more of Slim's thoughts, all of which are still totally valid, all of which we also learned in WW II and all of which we too often ignore today. We need to take care of Joe -- and we are not doing that.

Last edited by Ken White; 01-21-2008 at 11:21 PM. Reason: Changed 60 mil to 60 K. :(
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Old 01-21-2008   #16
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Default Return on Investment

Norfolk you have presented some fair challenges regarding our Special Forces. After several years in SF I sometimes wonder how to describe our value, or return on investment without sounding condescending to our conventional force brothers. What makes us unique is not easy to quantify, because it largely based on our culture.

In some ways weíre not much more flexible than our conventional counterparts, for example consider our 12 man ODA concept. The only changes in recent years have been replacing the LT with a Warrant Officer (better for the force), and replacing the Assistant Operations Sergeant with an Intelligence Sergeant (worse for the force).

The ODA organization was designed to support unconventional warfare operation, especially guerrilla warfare which is one aspect of UW, and then under JFK we assumed a key role as advisors in counterinsurgencies, based on the assumption, since we knew how to support an insurgency, who better to fight them? Then seeing the emerging threat of terrorism certain SF units started focusing on the counterterrorism mission (specialized raids), such as Project Blue Light in 5th SFG(A) and some other initiatives throughout the force. However, starting the late 1970's the Department of Defense started forming units that were better equipped and trained to handle high risk CT than SF. UW still had its value, as demonstrated in Afghanistan against the USSR and in Nicaragua when we supported the Contras. It was assumed there was resistance support throughout Europe, should the USSR decide to invade Western Europe (much like the Resistance elements that fought the Naziís), so some SF units were hopefully prepared to support that potential. I would argue that a highly trained Infantry unit is not capable of infiltrating a denied environment and then combat advising a resistance force. A highly trained conventional force can and do support community watch organizations in Iraq, but there is a significance difference. True the Brits were not very good at this, and perhaps because they didnít train for it? An officer who still has the red coat mentality shouldnít sleep well in a patrol base that mostly composed of irregulars.

Unfortunately, to justify resourcing, especially before the formation of SOCOM we had to show value directly to the conventional fight (apparently the conventional army didnít see the value of guerrilla type operations in the enemyís rear, or didnít think they were feasible), so we focused on special reconnaissance and limited direct action missions. What is interesting, at least to me, is that we didn't change our task organization significantly to adjust to each mission. We tried to make the 12 man ODA fight every mission, whether it called for four men or 20 men.

Since 9/11 and especially the perceived SF successes in Afghanistan and Northern Iraq SF is now growing again. The focus now is irregular warfare, and lucky for our old ODA task organization and training seems to be a near perfect fit for this type of war. Whether the rest of Europe, to include England or our friends down under see a need for this type of organization is irrelevant. It is a needed tool for our national strategy.

I could go on and on about what is broken about SF, but the important piece still remains in tact and that is our culture. Despite an occasional dogmatic officer, we still maintain a unique range of skills that can be applied creatively to solve complex problems. Those skills are implemented by our tools, which are our people. While you can give everyone in the Army better, more SF like, training you still can't make chicken salad out of chicken crap. While approximately 50-70% of a good combat unit could probably graduate the SF qualification course (there are two keys to success, first the ability and second the desire), you have the remainder who can't, and majority who don't want the challenge, so in SF you a unique group of Soldiers who are all mission focused. Does it hurt the conventional army to have our best NCOs in these units? Yes and no, I would argue that many of our talented NCOs wouldn't stay in the Army if they didn't have a place like SF to go where they can self actualize as warriors.
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Old 01-22-2008   #17
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Default Yep...

Quote:
"replacing the Assistant Operations Sergeant with an Intelligence Sergeant (worse for the force). "
As a former A team Intel Sgt, I resemble that remark!

Though I'm not sure I agree with it...
Quote:
"It was assumed there was resistance support throughout Europe, should the USSR decide to invade Western Europe (much like the Resistance elements that fought the Naziís), so some SF units were hopefully prepared to support that potential. I would argue that a highly trained Infantry unit is not capable of infiltrating a denied environment and then combat advising a resistance force."
Unquestionably true.
Quote:
"...Unfortunately, to justify resourcing, especially before the formation of SOCOM we had to show value directly to the conventional fight (apparently the conventional army didnít see the value of guerrilla type operations in the enemyís rear, or didnít think they were feasible)..."
Also true and almost entirely due to the latter; that and risk aversion in high places which was due to misreading the leasons of Viet Nam and attempting to go into the "Fight but no casualties" mode -- and much to the chagrin of Joe Cincotti...
Quote:
"...I would argue that many of our talented NCOs wouldn't stay in the Army if they didn't have a place like SF to go where they can self actualize as warriors."
True again and fortunately, the majority of them are good at what they do so everybody wins...
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Old 01-22-2008   #18
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Ken - good point about reconnaissance and how we use it (or not). I think a case could be made that Divisions and Corps also had specialized units for reconnaissance and or enabling type functions - CORPS LRS-D and DIV Pathfinders come to mind. Having an actual person on the ground to assess the situation and feed back information in a manner that "paints the picture" so leaders can make critical decisions on is invaluable. Again, some have a more natural aptitude to not only be able to go forward and thrive, but to show discipline and restraint while being able to pick up on what is really important beyond a staff's standard PIR that sounded right back before anyone began movement. Two of the best guys I ever knew who had a knack for employment of reconnaissance were both OPFOR at the CTCs - one was LTC (R) Daryll Shoening (also the one who coined the phrase for me of "there are no lessons learned, only lessons available"), and the other is Dave Indermuhle (sp?) who is a CAV guy probably either a LTC or COL now) - both understood the value of being somewhere in force where the enemy did not expect, and the value of preventing him from doing likewise to you.

We were wrestling with the employment of plain clothes reconnaissance for our IA counterparts. We knew we wanted to do it - knew we needed more Sunni Arabs for the Scout platoon vs. the Yizidi Kurds who'd been there since its inception to pull it off. The Kurdish scouts were fantastic troops, and damned fine snipers to boot; they could even de-arm an IED (then they'd bring it back to your room and fish the various components out of their pockets), but they could not blend in with the local Arabs in Mosul. As such the BN came up with a good plan to get more Arabs in the reconnaissance business (see that article in VOL 8 of the SWJ on building indigenous forces with regards to METT-TC) - this I think is part of what Slim was advocating about the need for "locals" to conduct reconnaissance - there are few places where we are likely to fight where an Anglo is going to pass for local (I saw a few red-headed Macedonian descendants but they did not share much in common physically with me - lucky for them I suppose).

This is also what UBL and his organization have reportedly been trying to recruit for operations in the U.S. and Europe (or for that matter where ever they wish to conduct operations). I think they understand the need for good target reconnaissance given the resources they have to achieve their purpose - better to make sure something will work (SWC member Davidfbpro has some interesting thoughts on how the enemy is working in that regard).

I think that is an area where our ID and advisory training is going to have to improve. Its all that much tougher because we often don't understand the value of a good reconnaissance, how to go about getting it (other then IMINT,SIGINT or other tech type collection means) in our own "pure" training, or are willing to accept the risks involved with placing men (and could be indigenous women) in harms way without a surefire means to retrieve them, which might mean compromising the mission - it easier just to bring the whole crew (Brads, KWs, Shadows, 1151s, etc.) based off old or incomplete info with little to no analysis then to take the time to develop the networks required to put our enemies operating on home (or like home) turf at a disadvantage.

It took us awhile to figure out why the enemy was executing his IEDs at certain times and his complex ambushes in certain places on 8-10 day cycles - but then we did the reverse planning on how it might go down, and once you figure in the drive time, the planning, the recon, the refinement of the plan, the staging for the ambush - it all worked out - then we were able to adjust our own IA patrols to disrupt his operations and catch him with his pants down - how much more effective we could have been with a large number of plain clothes types collecting around likely sites from Opals, Bongo trucks, mopeds and maybe manning a kiosk that reported back to a good analysis cell that could inform operations and direct uniformed patrols or strike forces with better effect. Again I'm talking about training - because all of the things that go into effective operations require it.

As we wage war in these other places - across the spectrum of conflict - it will pay huge dividends to employ locals to enhance our collection and analysis capabilities (this is nothing new - when we've been smart and able we've (and every other good army operating abroad) has done so)- but we have to train to do so (along with the many other tasks we are going to be asked to do) - and the resources we put toward that training have to match.

Well enough for one day - time to call it a night.
Best, Rob
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Old 01-22-2008   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
K
We were wrestling with the employment of plain clothes reconnaissance for our IA counterparts. We knew we wanted to do it - knew we needed more Sunni Arabs for the Scout platoon vs. the Yizidi Kurds who'd been there since its inception to pull it off.

- how much more effective we could have been with a large number of plain clothes types collecting around likely sites from Opals, Bongo trucks, mopeds and maybe manning a kiosk that reported back to a good analysis cell that could inform operations and direct uniformed patrols or strike forces with better effect. Again I'm talking about training - because all of the things that go into effective operations require it.
The use of indigenous covert reconnaissance (ICR) goes back to biblical times, and recurs constantly throughout history, yet is constantly neglected. It is an essential element of modern operations and you ignore it at your peril.

I have to hand to Rob for starting this thread. It is, after all what I have spent the last 3-4 years working on, and I am still utterly amazed about how limited the Big Army's (US and UK) vision of this subject is.
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Old 01-22-2008   #20
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Thumbs up Good points, Rob.

Quote:
"I think a case could be made that Divisions and Corps also had specialized units for reconnaissance and or enabling type functions - CORPS LRS-D and DIV Pathfinders come to mind..."
Yes, the Corps had and have LRS Companies but there are two constraints on their missions and one big impediment. The constraints are risk aversion on the part of Corps staffs and commanders -- that varies, of course but it is real sometimes. Another that is almost universally true is infiltration and exfiltration. Because they're 'Big Army' the 160th SOAR doesn't even want to talk to them; the USAF SOC types are much the same and conventional Army Aviation units aren't trained or equipped to get the LRS Dets where they need to go. That needs to be addressed.
Quote:
"...Having an actual person on the ground to assess the situation and feed back information in a manner that "paints the picture" so leaders can make critical decisions on is invaluable. Again, some have a more natural aptitude to not only be able to go forward and thrive, but to show discipline and restraint while being able to pick up on what is really important beyond a staff's standard PIR that sounded right back before anyone began movement."
That is, believe it or not, the impediment. For real and in training, I've seen people out miles, literally, in front of major units, rendering good reports -- which are ignored or disputed. I have seen MI types directly refute reports because they have no confirmation from their sources and methods; I have seen Commanders flatly state "Those kids can't see that, it isn't happening." or words to that effect. I think a big part of that is training related -- and about which more in a second.
Quote:
"(I saw a few red-headed Macedonian descendants but they did not share much in common physically with me - lucky for them I suppose)."
Heh. The standard answer in the ME for the Red Hair or blue Eyes is "Al Iskander was here..."
Quote:
"As such the BN came up with a good plan to get more Arabs in the reconnaissance business (see that article in VOL 8 of the SWJ on building indigenous forces with regards to METT-TC) - this I think is part of what Slim was advocating about the need for "locals" to conduct reconnaissance - there are few places where we are likely to fight where an Anglo is going to pass for local."
Too true and we, moving into a new AO with folks that haven't done this before are way too slow in picking up locals for Scouts; we're also too slow, sloppy and inadequate in the HumInt business (before Jedburgh attacks, that's addressed at command attitudes and the quantity of HumInt people, not the quality).

Back to the failure to use our recon assets -- or to put enough stock in what those who are used report, my contention is it's a training issue. We do not train them well; not nearly as well as the Brits do (they don't do a lot of things any better or sometimes as well as we do but they do a far better job on, among other things, recon and intel gathering, far better). Since people know the scouts and recon folks aren't all that well trained, the information they provide thus is automatically suspect.

That tumble down 'trust' -- or lack of it -- aspect plagues us in all spheres. Lieutenants aren't trusted because we all know they are not adequately trained and are still learning. It's pervasive and insdious and our lack of ability to trust subordinate due to perceived shortfall potential or lack of judgment leads to micromanagement, failure to delegate and over centralization. From being one of the most innovative Armies around we have descended into being one of the most hidebound. Fortunately, both Afghanistan and Iraq are changing that; commanders are being forced to delegate to the point of acute discomfort on the part of the commanders -- and it all works out...
Ken White is offline  
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