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Old 02-14-2014   #21
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Originally Posted by Kiwigrunt View Post
“Form over function.” - Wilf.

Would it be a shortcoming inherent to the low level, as a result of insufficient contextual insight at that level? Or is it imposed through excessive form from higher levels? My guess, probably a bit of both.
Just a lack of thought. Theorising does not really come into it (the British Army remains largely antagonistic to theorists). The British Army remains a bottom up driven institution for low level TTPs.
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Old 02-14-2014   #22
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Then in our discussions of a few years ago it was evident that much of the discussion comes from 'theorists' with no combat experience at that level.

Of course all this theorising ceases when war finally arrives and the first combat is experienced and the first casualties are taken.

It is then that one can look back at the futility of the time wasted on this theorising.
That's incredibly stupid *******.

You can play the veteran card as much as you want, this doesn't change the fact that it's excessively bloody to figure out everything new during a war only.

There wasn't enough theorizing prior to the First World War, and the Second World War showed the power of theorizing done well. Combat experience is no important ingredient; the combat experience was more often than not largely irrelevant to the new challenges, if not misleading.
The US Navy didn't figure out air-sea battles based on North Sea patrols of 1918, nor did the USMC figure out the need for forced landings based on its trench war experience. Guderian didn't figure out the employment of mechanised combined arms formations based on WWI barrages and infantry assaults. Bloch didn't serve ever, but still proved to be a better seer in regard to military affairs than generals and field marshals with decades worth of small wars on their resume.

Nobody ever said "Let's wait till WW3 before we make up our minds on how to deal with a nuclear battlefield" because that would be an extremely stupid and potentially fatal idea.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-21-2014 at 12:34 PM. Reason: one word edited, PM to author
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Old 02-15-2014   #23
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The British Army remains a bottom up driven institution for low level TTPs.
Interesting comment. Care to elucidate?
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Old 02-15-2014   #24
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A viable scenario, but that does not equate to the tactical defeat of Coalition Forces on the battlefield, more to a flawed strategy. If the strategy had however remained one of simply Counter-Terrorism at arms length then the endstate you infer would be a strategic success.
Been there. In Rhodesia and also the South Africans in Angola there was no question that there was a tactical victory in probably 99% of combat situations. The military strategies - in both cases - were severely limited/confined/restricted by the 'fluid' and ever changing political strategy and policy (much to the frustration of the combat troops).

Now I accept that the RoE have proved to have adversely affected the tactical options available to those actually making contact with the Taliban. Just like street criminals back in the home country the Taliban have exploited the restrictions placed on police/combat troops to their advantage.

Can't win even at the lowest tactical level with opposible restrictions.

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That was 2008. It is hard to inkspot if your pen has run dry. We all know that the UK was overstretched in Afghanistan in 2008, even at the time it was recognised, but the Main Effort remained in Iraq. To expand from inkspots the UK would have had to collapse in to focus combat power and then to expand out. Collapsing in was not a politically viable (in UK or by Karzai), sending more combat power was not politically viable so the only option was to slog it out. Was it a mess? You betcha - but then the Coalition reorganised refocused, surged and 'inkspoted'.
Before you ask for more troops you need to utilize existing force levels optimally. Not sure this was done - given the information available.

I also question this metric that you need a 10:1 ration to fight insurgents. I suggest what is needed is to maintain contact with the Taliban and follow them relentlessly until you have accounted for maximum possible - killed or captured or as a consolation prize escaped but wounded. The Taliban was allowed time and again to "melt away" and fight another day with more combat experience.

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I think they view it more as immensely frustrating at the operational level and disappointing at the strategic level. Corporately I am not aware of any feeling of sad or tragic.
Of course. From the nation that turned Arnhem into a 'victory' (for determination/resilience/dedication/bravery) there is no doubt the official spin will be to turn the whole Afghan debacle into something similar.

In the hearts of the soldiers who fought there the sadness and tragedy of the failed Afghan campaign as the country reverts to a state where there is no evidence of anything having been achieved through the sacrifice of the men involved.
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Old 02-15-2014   #25
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That's incredibly stupid ********.
In your opinion.

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You can play the veteran card as much as you want, this doesn't change the fact that it's excessively bloody to figure out everything new during a war only.
If you had any combat experience you would very quickly identify the nonsense spoken and the time wasted in speculation and guesswork by those who have none.

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There wasn't enough theorizing prior to the First World War, and the Second World War showed the power of theorizing done well. Combat experience is no important ingredient; the combat experience was more often than not largely irrelevant to the new challenges, if not misleading.
The US Navy didn't figure out air-sea battles based on North Sea patrols of 1918, nor did the USMC figure out the need for forced landings based on its trench war experience. Guderian didn't figure out the employment of mechanised combined arms formations based on WWI barrages and infantry assaults. Bloch didn't serve ever, but still proved to be a better seer in regard to military affairs than generals and field marshals with decades worth of small wars on their resume.
You are talking of high level so-called 'new challenges'. OK so let anyone who thinks he has all the answers speculate and pontificate on high level 'new challenges'... but leave the know aspects alone and to those who know through - sometimes bitter - experience.

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Nobody ever said "Let's wait till WW3 before we make up our minds on how to deal with a nuclear battlefield" because that would be an extremely stupid and potentially fatal idea.
Who said 'let's wait'?

Here's an area for the non-combat experienced to get invoved in - cyber warfare... but for heavens sake leave low level tactics alone.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-21-2014 at 12:35 PM. Reason: One word edited
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Old 02-16-2014   #26
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The first problem the armies ran into in 1914 was actually a "low level" tactical problem; firepower either killed or pinned them down if they found no route for flanking, and there was no such route once defensive lines became continuous.

Theorists who knew about the Boer Wars made small notes in published works, pointing out that this was a yet unsolved question - and they did so years prior to the war. No practitioner came up with a solution from previous wars because the problem was new. At least none made a decisive impact. Obviously, his insight would have needed to be distributed through military theory / doctrine, as obviously the NCOs and junior officers who led the men in 1914 did not know how to cope.

A bit more theory progress and armies might have understood before 1914 that the advance to the enemy position not only had to be done with benefit of concealment, but that this actually required small unit manoeuvre instead of unit manoeuvres. This would have saved the bloodletting of the first half of the war, and the war might have ended much, much sooner.

Practitioners know what worked under certain conditions and what not - it takes a theorist to explore what works under different conditions and what not.

The problem isn't the theorizing, but the insufficient quality and quantity of it. Millions of men are employed by Western military forces, but only a few dozen add much to military theory.
Look at the theorist sub-forum; I asked for notable theorists on infantry and other combat arms, and the then still much more active forum knew almost no answers.
THAT is the problem.

Last edited by Fuchs; 02-16-2014 at 03:42 AM.
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Old 02-16-2014   #27
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@JMA

If you check the official manuals for the years 1905-14 you find that the Boer war and the Russian/Japanese war had indeed an impact. However, only for aspects on side of the defender: Better field fortifications, hand granades, etc. ...

The crucial question, how could the attacking force overcome this improved defense was not answered, despite the fact that the war of 1904/5 already showed most of the problems the attacker faced when there were long fortified lines.

The impact of veterans depends on the relevance of their knowledge, if they provide the relevant stuff they are a kind of force multiplier, if their knowledge is not longer relevant they may even become a problem when being higher commanding officers.

Military history shows all facettes of this problem.

The BEF had 1914 IIRC a much higher percentage of officers and NCOs with combat experience compared to the French and German forces, did this translate into better performnace? To my best of knowledge the first attemps -after half a million KIA/WIA on each side - to develope small unit tactics that allowed attacking fortified enemies without crippling losses were made by French and German officers in 1915.
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Old 02-16-2014   #28
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The nearby University of Birmingham has a Centre for War Studies, until recently it was the Centre for First World War Studies, has at least one post-graduate student is working on the themes raised here.

Aimee Fox-Godden - Beneath the Learning Curve: Inter-theatre Knowledge Management in the British army, 1914-1918. From her official bio:
Quote:
My research examines the British army’s use of knowledge as a force multiplier through the identification and examination of formal and informal processes for knowledge sharing between three operational theatres in the First World War: the Western Front, Gallipoli and Palestine. Underpinned by the concept of the ‘early information society’, the efficacy of these processes is examined through engagement with Knowledge Management theory, particularly the work of Ikujiro Nonaka, Gabriel Szulanski and Linda Argote, providing a framework within which the British army’s acquisition, exploitation and adaptation of knowledge can be measured and validated. Knowledge sharing will be considered with reference to key areas such as artillery, logistics and medical services, charting whether there is evidence of best practice from various theatres influencing their development.

Over the last twenty years, First World War scholarship has been driven by the broad concept of the ‘learning curve’ theory. Despite recent re-evaluations of other operational theatres and attempts to position them within the broader experience of the British army, the learning process still remains focused on the Western Front. Manpower and materiel constraints aside, there has been limited research into the relationships between theatres and even less about how knowledge and experience were exchanged between them. My research will address this gap by assessing how operational theatres shared best practice and, ultimately, whether they were successful in doing so. By considering these relationships, my research seeks to show how the British army developed a cross-theatre ‘learning network’ to increase its competitive advantage, thus enhancing its ability to cope with the changing nature of warfare.
Link:http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research...-students.aspx
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Old 02-16-2014   #29
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The whole quote only shows the effect of the language barrier.
It's quite obvious in German literature how the Eastern Front experiences influenced the final offensives against Italy and France:

Bruchmller became famous after the breakthrough at Riga and his brand of breakthrough artillery support proved itself on the Eastern Front.

The Brussilov offensive initially featured several highly effective tactics, and delivered a demonstration of what was at the same time being developed in by the German army on the Western front in limited attacks.

The large-scale advances in the East reawakened the belief of the OHL in the possibility of manoeuvre past the breakthrough.

The success against Italy in the final offensive (half of Italian army was ruined) again confirmed and convinced; the breakthrough and exploitation happened in a high force density battle, more reminiscent of the Western front than almost anything in the East. Equipment and ammunition supply of the Italians were also more Western Front-like. Success was achieved with relatively modest advances, so the problem of supply past the railheads did not seem as importnat as it turned out to be in 1918.


The British forces' learning was particularly poor in regard to the defensive system, since they hadn't been on a large-scale defence since 1914 and the typical German limited attack provoked exactly the opposite defence as required to stop a large-scale offensive without excessive losses (the dilemma about how many forces shall be exposed in the forward defences to stiffen them).
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Old 02-16-2014   #30
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What I did find curious browsing in the RUSI Library, some years ago, was that for at least sixty years up to WW1 it was common to have official military observers missions on both sides, which published volumes of work. One wonders how those missions reported on the Boer War, but more particularly the significant "peer on peer" Russo-Japanese War - which I think signaled many lessons for WW1.

I must look at those volumes one day (if they are still there).

Just as we are being told of a 'foreign fighter' issue, in the limited context of terrorism, it is useful to recall that before 1914 for a hundred years Europeans had fought as private citizens, sometimes liberated countries - Italy, more especially in Latin America. My recollection is that some of this experience was fed back to their home national armies.
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Old 02-16-2014   #31
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Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
Just as we are being told of a 'foreign fighter' issue, in the limited context of terrorism, it is useful to recall that before 1914 for a hundred years Europeans had fought as private citizens,
This happened a lot in Finland 39/40 and in the Spanish Civil War as well. Later on, it was common in Bosnia and Chechnya is actually still in Europe, too.
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Old 02-16-2014   #32
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That's incredibly stupid *******.

You can play the veteran card as much as you want, this doesn't change the fact that it's excessively bloody to figure out everything new during a war only.

There wasn't enough theorizing prior to the First World War, and the Second World War showed the power of theorizing done well. Combat experience is no important ingredient; the combat experience was more often than not largely irrelevant to the new challenges, if not misleading.
The US Navy didn't figure out air-sea battles based on North Sea patrols of 1918, nor did the USMC figure out the need for forced landings based on its trench war experience. Guderian didn't figure out the employment of mechanised combined arms formations based on WWI barrages and infantry assaults. Bloch didn't serve ever, but still proved to be a better seer in regard to military affairs than generals and field marshals with decades worth of small wars on their resume.

Nobody ever said "Let's wait till WW3 before we make up our minds on how to deal with a nuclear battlefield" because that would be an extremely stupid and potentially fatal idea.
This is an interesting and important post in my opinion. I can understand the different views and think they all can be defended by cherry picking historical examples that fit a particular argument. Nonetheless I agree with Fuchs' assessment on the value of military theorizing, and that many valuable theorists didn't have combat experience. Seems the best theorists don't correlate to combat experience, but correlate instead with high intelligence, curiosity, and creativity (regardless of whether or not the theorist had combat experience). Famed and successful insurgent leaders often developed useful theories/strategies to pursue their ends without the benefit of even previous military experience, much less combat experience. Of course they adjusted their theories as they tested them in the lab of conflict. This is something Western leaders often fail to do, and years later those who blindly followed these theories of Mao, Lenin, etc. were often defeated, as were those who embraced theories to counter these approaches. The world always moves on, unfortunately our institutional thinking doesn't always keep pace.

In the U.S. military there was considerable military theorizing prior to entering WWII which included the use of air power, projecting power via amphibious assaults, the use of armor, etc. which ultimately contributed to victory despite some initial tactical set backs. On the other hand, there didn't appear to be much theorizing at the military level during the short gap between the end of WWII and the Korean War, and we sent an unprepared military that the nation underfunded due to the illusionary peace dividend post WWII. I'm not sure about Vietnam, we may have theorized (special warfare concepts and such), but the theories we applied as well as the way we approached special warfare wasn't relevant to achieving our desired ends. That indicates to me that while theorizing is essential, there is no one size fits all theory that we can build doctrine and strategies on. We clearly theorized after in depth after the Vietnam War and saw great success in both Desert Storm and the initial phase of what was later called ironically Iraqi Freedom based on those theories, to include the air-land battle, cyber, and information operations (smart weapons, not psychological or other influence operations). Yet, once we transitioned into an irregular conflict conventional military theories fell short, and our old (relabeled as new) COIN doctrines proved to be irrelevant. Interestingly enough, those with combat experience are both its biggest advocates despite its many failures and it biggest critics. It is the media in our nation that decides who is correct and they have labeled those opposed to our COIN doctrine as a group of anti-intellectuals who simply don't get it. Something appealing about the language of winning hearts and minds in our culture, the illogic behind it doesn't matter when we manage perceptions through sound bytes.

Getting to JMA's point about training, the U.S. Army in many ways was better trained before 9/11 (at least in our combat arms units), but of course once you start fighting you adapt your training quickly to meet the demands of the current fight (the adversary, the terrain, the ROE, etc.), so for executing our COIN doctrine we're better trained now, but today's Army probably isn't as well trained to conduct major combat operations like the ones that defeated Iraqi's conventional military forces. I don't think peacetime is the sole factor that degrades combat readiness, because in many cases we have ample evidence that our forces retained a high degrade of readiness through long periods of peace, but our readiness was impacted at certain times in our history by insufficient funding to sustain combat readiness (training, equipment, etc.) between the wars. Other factors also contribute to ill-preparedness like political correctness, social engineering, and embracing faulty theories (COIN doctrine).

In the end it is all relative, if we end up transitioning to another COIN/stability operation in the next five years the combat experience we have now will be relevant. If we get into a conventional fight, the combat experience we have now could actually be detrimental to our success, but the young bucks on point will quickly identify what isn't working and will once again challenge the wisdom of their irrelevant seniors and adapt at the tactical level.

When I consider readiness, I try to consider ready for what because the answer will be different. I still embrace what a former team sergeant told me, "we don't know where, who, or how we're going to fight in the future, but the basics will always apply. You need to be physically fit and tough (its different), know how to shoot expertly in all types of conditions, be able to navigate, and use your radios." After that it is identifying the right tactics at the grunt level where it counts. I think we sustain all the above during peacetime in the regular army. I have my doubts regarding the reserves and National Guard. Of course there are other things that must be trained to include collective exercises and joint interoperability, etc., but the basics are essential.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-21-2014 at 12:36 PM. Reason: grammar. One word edited
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Old 02-16-2014   #33
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The problem isn't the theorizing, but the insufficient quality and quantity of it.
Yes, but the problem is who are these so-called theorists? There are wat too many people claiming to have all the answers and expecting to be taken seriously.

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Millions of men are employed by Western military forces, but only a few dozen add much to military theory.
Yes, I said that around here years ago. There are indeed very few who are able to contribute to the advance of military theory. That of course should not open the door for any all comers to demand to be heard and taken seriously.

Quote:
Look at the theorist sub-forum; I asked for notable theorists on infantry and other combat arms, and the then still much more active forum knew almost no answers.
THAT is the problem.
That is not the problem. It just confirms the true situation which you and I recognise that there are few competent people within the system who can contribute.

BTW what qualifies you to be 'considered' to be a military theorist?
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Old 02-16-2014   #34
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Yes in deed the Brits learned first hand many lessons from the Boer war.

Coming after the Sudan Campaign 1881-1899 a different enemy in different geography gave the Brits a wake up call.

I would suggest what is important is how the institution - in this case the British military - absorbs these lessons across the board. By who and why are changes resisted? To what extent and how rapidly are the lessons absorbed?

It would be interesting to know how many amendments have been brought into the basic training ciriculum for infantry soldiers (as one example) in the British and US basic training schools since Iraq and afganistan and are the instructors qualified - by experience - to conduct this new training?

So I suggest the 'relevance of veterans' depends on who they are. There are many who have value through their personal experience for as long as they serve... but are not able to transfer that knowledge and experience to those with little or no experience.

So once again it comes down to that select few capable of transfering the knowledge to others and converting it into policy and procedure.

I could go on...


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulenspiegel View Post
@JMA

If you check the official manuals for the years 1905-14 you find that the Boer war and the Russian/Japanese war had indeed an impact. However, only for aspects on side of the defender: Better field fortifications, hand granades, etc. ...

The crucial question, how could the attacking force overcome this improved defense was not answered, despite the fact that the war of 1904/5 already showed most of the problems the attacker faced when there were long fortified lines.

The impact of veterans depends on the relevance of their knowledge, if they provide the relevant stuff they are a kind of force multiplier, if their knowledge is not longer relevant they may even become a problem when being higher commanding officers.

Military history shows all facettes of this problem.

The BEF had 1914 IIRC a much higher percentage of officers and NCOs with combat experience compared to the French and German forces, did this translate into better performnace? To my best of knowledge the first attemps -after half a million KIA/WIA on each side - to develope small unit tactics that allowed attacking fortified enemies without crippling losses were made by French and German officers in 1915.
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Old 02-16-2014   #35
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David, she says:

Quote:
... my research seeks to show how the British army developed a cross-theatre ‘learning network’ to increase its competitive advantage...
If you know her perhaps suggest that she investigates the 'drag' on adopting necessary changes. Little point in exchanging reams of reports and lessons learned if few read them and they never get actioned.


Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
The nearby University of Birmingham has a Centre for War Studies, until recently it was the Centre for First World War Studies, has at least one post-graduate student is working on the themes raised here.

Aimee Fox-Godden - Beneath the Learning Curve: Inter-theatre Knowledge Management in the British army, 1914-1918. From her official bio:

Link:http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research...-students.aspx
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Old 02-17-2014   #36
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That's incredibly stupid ******.

You can play the veteran card as much as you want, this doesn't change the fact that it's excessively bloody to figure out everything new during a war only.

There wasn't enough theorizing prior to the First World War, and the Second World War showed the power of theorizing done well. Combat experience is no important ingredient; the combat experience was more often than not largely irrelevant to the new challenges, if not misleading.
The US Navy didn't figure out air-sea battles based on North Sea patrols of 1918, nor did the USMC figure out the need for forced landings based on its trench war experience. Guderian didn't figure out the employment of mechanised combined arms formations based on WWI barrages and infantry assaults. Bloch didn't serve ever, but still proved to be a better seer in regard to military affairs than generals and field marshals with decades worth of small wars on their resume.

Nobody ever said "Let's wait till WW3 before we make up our minds on how to deal with a nuclear battlefield" because that would be an extremely stupid and potentially fatal idea.
Cant believe nobody has quoted Clausewitz' observation on the importance of theory for critical thinking and as part of historical research into trends in warfare etc (don't have the quote handy unfortunately).

Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-21-2014 at 12:37 PM. Reason: Edited one word
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Old 02-17-2014   #37
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BTW what qualifies you to be 'considered' to be a military theorist?
This is always up to the reader.
I rate my sources based on whether I find gems in their writing. Whoever comes up with gems is good enough to be read in my opinion, even if the majority of what (s)he wrote otherwise was bullocks.
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Old 02-18-2014   #38
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Interesting comment. Care to elucidate?
There are debriefs after every incident, operation and tour. Lessons are identified and where appropriate TTPs and equipment are changed. It is a very dynamic system and allows for very rapid knowledge and lesson dissemination inter and intra Theatre. Key point is that the lessons process starts at the bottom with those at the sharp end and a frank assessment of what worked and did not work.
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Old 02-18-2014   #39
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OK thank you... if you follow my other posts I question how readily and how comprehensively feed back systems such as these are actually carried out if indeed read at all.

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There are debriefs after every incident, operation and tour. Lessons are identified and where appropriate TTPs and equipment are changed. It is a very dynamic system and allows for very rapid knowledge and lesson dissemination inter and intra Theatre. Key point is that the lessons process starts at the bottom with those at the sharp end and a frank assessment of what worked and did not work.
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Old 02-25-2014   #40
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Found this piece online:

The Role of Small Arms in Dismounted Close Combat

I quote from the intro:

"What is the benefit of front-line experience in dismounted close combat? In the first of a regular column, military adviser Colonel David Benest argues why such experience may be more reliable than scientific theories."

Having been there, done that I can't see how those who have not can understand and contribute to training and preparing troops, tactically, for close combat anywhere near equally.

In response to another post we need IMHO to differentiate between 'theory' and 'theorists'.

In this regard Clausewitz expresses it clearly:

"Activity in War is movement in a resistant medium. Just as a man immersed in water is unable to perform with ease and regularity the most natural and simplest movement, that of walking, so in War, with ordinary powers, one cannot keep even the line of mediocrity. This is the reason that the correct theorist is like a swimming master, who teaches on dry land movements which are required in the water, which must appear grotesque and ludicrous to those who forget about the water. This is also why theorists, who have never plunged in themselves, or who cannot deduce any generalities from their experience, are unpractical and even absurd, because they only teach what every one knows—how to walk"

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