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Old 10-24-2007   #1
Rifleman
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Default Abandon squad/section levels of organization?

We've cussed and discussed just about every conceivable rifle squad design on another thread. And I, for one, have really enjoyed everyone's input.

So moving on to a different take on the same issue: should light infantry organizations organize into permanent squads at all?

I'll start the ball rolling with two links to articles by British author William Owen. Owen advocates a small platoon divided into several big fire teams. The platoon leader could control all the teams himself or mix and match the teams into ad hoc squads for operations as he saw fit. So, using that theory, at different times you could have light squads, heavy squads, mixed squads, two team squads, three team squads, and various combinations.

Here are the links:

Quote:
A small amount of study will reveal that the vast majority of the world’s infantry units are organised along roughly the same lines. This is often interpreted as being indicative of certain well-founded principles. Close examination shows this to be less than certain.
Complete article here: http://www.geocities.com/drakonok/Or..._Infantry.html

Quote:
The purpose of this article is to describe an alternate tactical doctrine, training, and organization for light infantry units and subunits. The intended purpose of presenting an alternative is not to criticize current or existing concepts, but to aid thought and understanding by showing an alternative that may have some positive merit, if correctly understood and applied.
Complete article here:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...n16346580/pg_1

It seems to me that Owen's proposals would require the addition of one or two more platoons in a company to keep the end numbers roughly the same.

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Old 10-24-2007   #2
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Default Some good, some bad

First the positive.

He argues that more flexible infantry can be had through superior training, that most infantry units are capable of doing a far higher level of qwork than doctrine currently suggests. I totally agree.

He then discusses a training regimen that has merit.

He advocates as I have for many years a great deal more care in the selection of entry personnel for the infantry and better training for NCOs.

He objects to the process of placing trained infantrymen in support jobs. Good!

Second, the caution.

He essentially espouses elimination of blanket doctrine for local developed TTPs. While I personally have little problem with that, I believe both the Lawyers and the Legislators will have significant problems with the concept. Both of those tribes have great influence and neither is going away.

Lastly, the objections to his organizational proposal

The flaw in his organizational argument is exposed early on in your first link:

Quote:
"This leads to a debate between soldier and accountant, where the soldier states that a section must be eight men, and the accountant then asks “can 6 men with the right equipment, do the same job as 8?”"
My counterpoint to that is to ask the Accountant if he can operate with two fewer Analysts and could better combine his auditing section with his compliance section. I suggest that excessive interference by accountants has already done enough damage to the force structure, no further involvement is needed. Owen then follows that inanity with another:

Quote:
"Few have yet asked, “how do I best organise infantry to perform operations?”..."
That's been asked for at least one hundred years by a number of people -- who not only asked but have rigorously tested some answers. In the second link, he offers this near his summary:

Quote:
" The first is that the majority of Soldiers are too stupid to understand what some believe to be a complex idea, and the second is that any entertaining of such an alternative doctrine would fatally undermine current concepts."
While I acknowledge there are those who would take one or both approaches, I do not believe the majority of professional soldiers would do so. They would look at what he offered, most with at least some acceptance that the Troops are capable of doing far more than we ask of them, we just generally do not train them as well as we should so if the Troops are not operating at full capability, the fault is with the senior leaders, not with the Troops. There will always be those who are reluctant to change -- again, they're a minority. Thus I suggest his postulation is flawed.

He then says:

Quote:
"First, the idea is probably not complex. It is fundamentally simple and logical, as is 90 percent of real world infantry work once broken down into its component parts. It is only the layers of process that we insist on adding that make it appear complex. Stripped of its comic book mystique, sniping is a fundamentally simple skill; however arcane its exponents wish it to appear. It can also be taught and applied simply, and thorough practice and experience will almost always lead to a useful degree of skill. Someone unable to master its most basic knowledge and application probably has no place in an infantry unit. The absolute enemy of PBI is process, as expressed in the proliferation of procedure and drill. The aim of process and drill is to reduce judgement because judgement allows for error. The aim of PB is to require simple and rapid decisions at the lowest level."
Aside from a minor disagreement on sniping -- no mystique to it, it is simply not a job everyone can do and to say any Infantryman can do it is fatuous -- I agree with the rest of that paragraph. Unfortunately, it does not support his prescription, quite the opposite -- it negates it.

Simple and rapid decisions at the lowest level are made by Team Leaders on a daily basis and by Squad Leaders constantly. ant marginally competent Squad Leader -- much less Platoon Leader -- is capable of and often does set up a specific task structure at odds with the TOE.

A five man team is organizationally weak, one absence hurts, two make it inoperative and will lead to a combing teams. Even a nine man squad (inadequate but the Army appears stuck with it for a while) has some staying power, a five man team doesn't. Three days of full bore war would simply destroy the Team.

More importantly, he's missing the educational and training process of being a team Leader and then a Squad Leader and of learning to lead an ever increasing number of people in ever increasingly complex tasks.

Even worse, he's breaking the tight bond at squad level to place people in an amorphous Platoon -- and that's why it's a bad idea
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Old 10-25-2007   #3
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Even worse, he's breaking the tight bond at squad level to place people in an amorphous Platoon -- and that's why it's a bad idea
Ken has hit on the the bottom line regarding the failing of the proposal.

Small units need to be small in order to prpoduce the bonds and interoperabality that makes actions on contact become second nature and instinctive. Even in sports, teams with more than 5 or 6 players on the field subdivide into smaller "teams": Football--5 linemen, 6 backs; baseball--infielders and outfielders; rugby--8 forwards, 7 backs; soccer--3-6 offensive players, 3-6 defenders. Even with these various sub-arrangements, I think they usually further sub-divide into even smaller "teams" that are in the 3-5 person range. As some one noted elsewhere on a thread, three's company.

I suspect a better answer at platoon level would be to keep the squads (although I want 10-man squads--2 5-man teams,one led by the SL and the other by his A/), add a large weapons squad with 3 3-4 man MG teams (gunner, a/gunner, 1-2 ammo bearers at least one of whom could also be a grenadier) that can be tasked out to the squads or held back as a GS base of fire for the Platoon as a whole.
At the company level along with the 3 line platoons include a robust weapons platoon that has both 2-3 MG squads of 3 guns each and 1 or 2 mortar sections with at least three tubes in each, which again can be attached to platoons or used in a DS, GS, R, or GSR role as mission, enemy, and situatiuon dictate/warrant. (Irwin Rommel considers MGs indirect fire weapons in his discussions of small unit tactics at company level and below in Infantry Attacks. I agree with that perception.)
I would probably also add a section equiped with a small UAS (like the Raven) to the Company HQs section.
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Old 10-25-2007   #4
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Thumbs down More Peacetime Doctrine.

Very much agreed Ken.

This does not make for either a cohesive, let alone sustainable, fighting element. Using a four man brick to patrol the streets of Belfast in an Aid to the Civil Power operation is one thing; clearing such a city in an actual war is quite another. Use a 4-man brick to clear houses, and one of the times it goes into one, it will never come back out. That's a squad's/section's job; not a fire team job, not a platoon job. Same thing with clearing an enemy trench position. Sure, a fire team (led in turn by a buddy-team, one man covering, the other grenading/shooting/rolling-in/bayoneting/changing-mag/giving-thumbs-up for rest to move in, etc.) makes the break-in, and then the rest of the assaulting squad moves in; one fire team clears ahead, another guards the break-in point, and if you're USMC, you can rotate the fire teams doing the clearing with hardly skipping a beat - not giving the enemy any let-up. Meanwhile, the rest of the platoon watches your back and suppresses the enemy until they're sent in covered by the rest of the company.

To do the same thing with Owen's organization, the whole 30-man platoon would be required to do what a 13-man Marine squad can do all on its own, and half of that 30-man platoon would be better used elsewhere. One 5-man assault team makes the break-in, covered by the rest of the platoon, fine. Then another 5-man assault team has to follow to either cover the break-in, or to take over the lead during clearing. The rest of the platoon continues to cover. But there's a problem with this.

The 5-man assault team has only 2 riflemen to clear with. You don't clear unless you have to with an LMG, there's often not space, and it's too heavy to bring to bear before someone with a rifle or carbine beats you to the draw. Dead gunner. An LSW is even worse, being longer and almost as heavy - and having to be reloaded as often as a rifle. Dead LSW gunner. The Grenadier is also handling an unwieldy weapon, and if he's the team leader, dying early on would be rather bad form. And so, just because there's 5 men in the trench, doesn't mean you've got 5 guys to clear with. There's only 2, the others amounting almost to dead weight in close-quarters. So, a third 5-man team has to come in to rotate with the lead 5-man team clearing. That leaves a fourth 5-man assault team and a 5-man fire support team and a 5-man Plt HQ team (some Sherry while you wait, Sir?) more or less idle and taking up space, as the other platoons should be covering the assaulting platoon. But there's not enough strength left in the assaulting platoon for even another squad-level clearing. Wasteful.

And if you want to clear houses, you'll have to reorganize the entire platoon before doing so.

So, anything from an 8-9 man Section/Squad or a 13-man Marine Squad, and 3 of each per platoon = 24/27/39 infantry (not including Plt HQ), plus varying heavy weapons. Compare this to 30 per platoon (including 5 at Plt HQ and another 5 are with Heavy Weapons - leaving 20 for digging out and killing the enemy. And this is just at the beginning of a war (and assuming everyone's authorized TOE is full to start with - hehe).

In practice, cohesion matters aside (Ken took care of this once and for all), the 30-man platoon is going to die real fast. The 5-man assault teams will be down to 2 (at most) within a couple days of heavy, sustained battle, whereas the Commonwealth/US Army 8-9 man sections/squad will be down to about 4 men at most - a fire team. The USMC 13-man squad will still muster at least 6-men much of the time. So much for Owen's 5-man "Assault Team" in real-war conditions. Not to mention, with an LMG and an LSW, plus a grenadier, the 5-man "assault team" is left with only 2 riflemen best suited for the actual assault. The LMG is necessary, and so is the Grenadier, and so are the riflemen - but not the LSW.

If you want a dedicated rifleman to take out enemy crew-served weapons and other long-range targets, put a few riflemen with AR's with bipod and telescopic sight (like the LSW) at platoon HQ to do that; attach a said-equipped AR man to squad from platoon if tactically necessary - but don't task the assault team with both the close- and long-range firefights. At section/squad, they may be too preoccupied with suppressing the enemy immediately to their front to be able to deal with enemies further back.

And if the GPMG crews in the fire support team each need 2 guys to carry 2 belts of ammo, they better send their unfit carcasses to the rear and bring the physically fit forward. I carried the GPMG (my pet name for it was the "G-Pig") and not less than two belts of ammo on my person (only about twice did I carry more - one time was out of newbie stupidity [4 belts], the other time was against my will). A couple other guys were to carry three belts each (and this was as a Platoon-level weapon). At Section level, 2 belts of ammo carried by each individual GPMG gunner (so long as they are not assigned SF tasks as well, just the Light Role) is enough to start.

If you are using GPMGs as heavy weapons, and especially in the SF role, you need at least 4 men per gun, preferably 6. Each GPMG gunner (at platoon or company level in commonwealth Armies) is issued with 8 boxes of ammo (1,760 rounds); an SF Kit with Tripod (weighs more than the GPMG), spare barrel, two Tritium aiming lamps, aiming stakes, mortar dial-sight, tool and cleaning kit, spare parts, etc.; spade; plus his own and the team's personal weapons and kit. In addition, the Gun Commander has binoculars, range-finder, and a 1:50,000 scale map. And I'm not even adding a Gun Controller here to coordinate the fires of the guns.

Even without the Gun Controller, the 5-man fire support team is seriously undermanned (and I suspect rather under-equipped and under-supplied) to effectively crew 2 guns - and before battle losses. There are good reasons the USMC holds GPMGs at Company level, and only detaches them out to platoons when tactically appropriate; Commonwealth Armies typically either hold a single GPMG at each Company and Platoon HQ (the Brits briefly experimented with 2 GPMGs at Platoon, and scrapped it), or hold them all in a MG Platoon at Battalion. I have doubts about the US Army practice of 2 GPMGs at Platoon level.

What these articles don't seem to grasp is that the 8-man Commonwealth Section was too small for the jobs it had to do; it used to be 10 in practice and up to 11 in theory. Likewise for the 9-man US Army Squad; Army testing determined that a 13-man Squad was best, but an 11-man squad was cheaper and could still do the job - but for a shorter time than the 13-man squad, and once that squad reached 8, it could no longer function effectively as a squad. Turning around and saying that 5 men can do an 8-9man job is dubious; it is downright erroneous (attributable it seems to ignorance - Owen gives no indication that he is aware of what the size of the Commonwealth Section/US Army Squad was in fact intended to be in order to carry out its tasks) to say that 5 men can do the job of what has been found to require 11-13 men. Both the Commonwealth Armies and the US Army determined that not less than 11 men were required for the Section/Squad - not 10, not 9, not 8, and certainly not 5.

What Owen is describing is a reinforced Section, but calling it a Platoon.

Finally, Infantry NCOs should receive formal, thorough training at all levels. Owen is alright here. In the Commonwealth, each private infantryman should have six months of good solid basic infantry training, and in his first year in his Battalion, have received an additional 3-6 weeks advanced infantry training in either reconnaissance, machine-guns, mortars, AT, or assault pioneering. After about 3-4 years in the Infantry, he should go on his NCO course. In the Commonwealth, this may be either an Infantry Section Commander Course of about 14 weeks (qualifying the new NCO for command right through platoon sergeant), or separate Junior and Senior Leadership/Command Courses, taken a few years apart; either way, an NCO's basic NCO training should amount to 3 months of good, thorough training. And before anyone thinks that this is excessive, the Wehrmacht used to make its sergeants undergo as little as 3 and up to 6 months of NCO training.

I apologize for this long post, it's a fault of mine.

Last edited by Norfolk; 10-25-2007 at 01:28 AM.
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Old 10-25-2007   #5
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I'll offer these two points, as you guys are demonstrating a grasp of minor infantry tactics that is making my head swim right now.

First it seems that Owen wants a number of absolutes; with more sub-units a coy commander can constitute a full reserve. While I can see he point, a reserve need not be a complete platoon.

Take the movement to contact scenario, for example. Depending on the likelihood of enemy contact, a company commander could assign the flank security task to a platoon and pull a full squad from it and make it the reserve. I've established a small, but capable, reserve in the past. Committed properly, it can seize the day without the need for the entire 40+ man platoon to lumber into the attack.

I'm glad that the business of task-organizing is so ingrained into Marine infantry that we don't need neat structures to facilitate it.

Secondly, we'd have to bring in a former member of the RLI to confirm for me, but IIRC, the Rhodesian equivalent of a platoon in modern sense (for organization purposes) was a "troop" of 16 men organized into four 4-man sticks. These folks were definitely PBI, and for almost no other reason than COIN naturally drives the skill sets to focus on recce patrolling and observation.

The business of organizing in such a fashion could have come as much from the means of mobility as it did the abilities of the troop leaders. We must note that the Alouette could only carry 4 men, and the DC-3 Dakotas (carrying paratroopers for the follow-up sweeps) carried up to 16 men. We are no doubt re-organizing our infantry forces in Iraq due to their mobility. It makes sense to do so because it definitely makes no sense to have Jones from 2nd team in a vehicle manned by 3d team, but reporting to the 2nd team leader.

I think Owen is on point with the training aspect. I think any leader worth his rank has complained about those things limitng his ability to traing, whether it be ammo, batteries, equipment, or "area beautification" details. It hasn't changed much, although I must admit that the current goings-on have openend peoples' eyes and reduced the bull#### to a manageable level.

Permanent squads make the business of assigning subordinate tasks a bit easier because you are dealing with the rule of 3s. I can attest that the more maneuver elements you have, the more friction you inherit. While a looser organization may have some merit, I can only imagine certain tactiacl scenarios where we'd benefit from a more distributed structure.

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Old 10-25-2007   #6
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I remember reading in James McDonough's excellent book Platoon Leader that his first platoon in the 173rd Airborne Brigade consisted of three six man "squads." I've read elsewhere that many Vietnam era rifle squads were in reality big fire teams of 5-7 men. There was no squad fire and maneuver, only fire and movement forward or back. Enveloping attacks didn't begin until platoon level.

Since companies seem to arrive at small platoons divided into what amounts to large fire teams I thought it was worth considering having it as doctrine, as long as the company's total strength was the same. It would be the same number of troops, just broken down differently.

Look at it this way: a nine man rifle squad has to organize into a single fire team at about six men, or after about 33% casualties; a six man fire team has to combine with another fire team at about three men, or 50% casualties. I thought there might be some advantage to that.

All things considered, I like traditional squads best - at least when they're big squads. The only reason I thought Owen's proposals should be discussed is because the Army rifle platoon often arrives at something similar after sustained combat.
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Old 10-25-2007   #7
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Since companies seem to arrive at small platoons divided into what amounts to large fire teams I thought it was worth considering having it as doctrine, as long as the company's total strength was the same. It would be the same number of troops, just broken down differently.
You know, I read what I wrote again and realized that I didn't even believe it myself.

COIN, LIC, OOTW, etc., seems to be more of a platoon and squad fight, so it probably won't matter if the company end numbers are the same. Platoons, squads, and fire teams need to be where the robustness and sustainability is.

Here's to Owen's big five man fire teams.....grouped into big platoons and squads.
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Old 10-25-2007   #8
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Thumbs up The 5-man Fire Team Reborn...

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You know, I read what I wrote again and realized that I didn't even believe it myself.

COIN, LIC, OOTW, etc., seems to be more of a platoon and squad fight, so it probably won't matter if the company end numbers are the same. Platoons, squads, and fire teams need to be where the robustness and sustainability is.

Here's to Owen's big five man fire teams.....grouped into big platoons and squads.
Especially in BIG Squads and Platoons.

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Old 10-25-2007   #9
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Default More Paternalism, Less Maternalism

Small group/unit cohesion and bonding that starts with a boot camp platoon should be disrupted by totaling reasigning everyone, completely mixing them up about half ways through and then again in infantry training. Granted, bonding is critical but small group bonding is familial in nature, maternal, and family roles can assume at times importance and status almost equal to the mandates of command and control, doctrine and discipline. You are putting people into an alien environment and they form family roles, very subtle things to understand, and I am only suggesting that C&C, D&D, which is paternal, has to intially take absolute precedent over the hearts and minds of the green weenies. Once they get into the real life of the military and direct application, they will bond with their brothers. 7 is a magic number when it comes to crew size IMO.
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Old 10-25-2007   #10
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7 is a magic number when it comes to crew size IMO.
goesh, how would this 7-man element be organized? Somewhat akin to the SEAL squad, or something else?
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Old 10-26-2007   #11
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I believe the standard SOG spike team was a seven-man element as well. Three Americans and four or so indigs (either 'Yards or Nungs) was common, although there were some larger teams and other elements on occasion (CCC tended to make heavy use of Hatchet Force companies if memory serves, although all three Command & Control elements had them).
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Old 10-26-2007   #12
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I believe the standard SOG spike team was a seven-man element as well. Three Americans and four or so indigs (either 'Yards or Nungs) was common, although there were some larger teams and other elements on occasion (CCC tended to make heavy use of Hatchet Force companies if memory serves, although all three Command & Control elements had them).
Ah...I see. Steve, how was the SOG team kitted out? My understanding was that they were typically organized for/as Recon (with some exceptions perhaps), so usually "light" on the heavier weapons (typcially no LMGs/GPMGs, etc.)

As I recall, the SEAL squad organization was more akin to a conventional fire-and-movement infantry squad (albeit smaller to fit entirely into assault boats): a squad leader (a junior officer), and two 3-man fire teams, each with an LMG, a grenadier, and a rifleman. Two such squads made up a SEAL platoon (the senior squad leader commanding the paltoon, the junior squad leader as 2i/c). Of course that was a few years ago now, and things may have changed.

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Old 10-26-2007   #13
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SOG teams tended to travel fairly light (so you're correct there)...basic weapon was the AK or CAR-15/XM-177E2. The Hatchet Force was obviously heavier and did carry LMGs. SOG did have tons of air ordnance on call, so that to a degree offset their light organic weaponry (note that it's to a degree, but their basic mission was recon/targeting).

During Vietnam the SEALs tended to operate in teams ranging from 3-7 men, if memory serves. They had heavier weapons, in part due to their use of the Stoner system that allowed for a fairly light LMG-type weapon. SEALs didn't tend to do tons of long range patrolling, so they could go heavy on weapons and light on other stuff. Platoons tended to break into two sections for operational purposes...one "on" and one "off" if memory serves (although I could be suffering from CRS, so any corrections are appreciated).

On a related note there was a fascinating article that came out a couple of years ago (don't remember the journal title, but I do have a copy of it in the files) that involved a conference of old SOG 1-0s (team leaders) meeting with current SF personnel at Bragg. Some very interesting "compare and contrast" stuff in there, including the SOG guys feeling that they had much more control over mission planning than units do today.
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Old 10-26-2007   #14
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On a related note there was a fascinating article that came out a couple of years ago (don't remember the journal title, but I do have a copy of it in the files) that involved a conference of old SOG 1-0s (team leaders) meeting with current SF personnel at Bragg. Some very interesting "compare and contrast" stuff in there, including the SOG guys feeling that they had much more control over mission planning than units do today.
Hmmm...Steve, that last is rather intriguing...if you had time, some time, to dig it up and either post it or PM/E-Mail it, I would be most grateful.

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Old 10-26-2007   #15
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Hmmm...Steve, that last is rather intriguing...if you had time, some time, to dig it up and either post it or PM/E-Mail it, I would be most grateful.

OH PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE, WITH SUGAR AND A CHERRY ON TOP!
I'll dig it up. They didn't go into tons of detail because it was an unclassified forum, but there was some sweet stuff in there.

The sad part is that no one had bothered to do this until only a few years ago. Some of the 1-0s indicated that no one had EVER talked to them in an attempt to gather some lessons. And these are guys who were running the Trail at the height of the Vietnam War....
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Old 10-26-2007   #16
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I'll dig it up.

The sad part is that no one had bothered to do this until only a few years ago. Some of the 1-0s indicated that no one had EVER talked to them in an attempt to gather some lessons. And these are guys who were running the Trail at the height of the Vietnam War....
Thanks Steve!
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Old 10-26-2007   #17
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It's in the Summer 2000 issue of Special Warfare. The title is "One Zero Conference." I've got a pdf version if needed.
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Old 10-26-2007   #18
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On a related note there was a fascinating article that came out a couple of years ago (don't remember the journal title, but I do have a copy of it in the files) that involved a conference of old SOG 1-0s (team leaders) meeting with current SF personnel at Bragg. Some very interesting "compare and contrast" stuff in there, including the SOG guys feeling that they had much more control over mission planning than units do today.
I wonder if CSM (Ret.) Samuel Hernandez was one of them. CSM Hernandez was with both B-52 Project Delta and MACVSOG CCN. I know he was on RT Florida for the first HALO jump. I don't know what other teams he went "over the fence" with.

I'm just asking out of curiosity, since he was my battalion CSM from '84-'88, both at Ft. Bragg and Vicenza.
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Old 10-26-2007   #19
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Default Aside from the fact that SWC took too long to

talks to those guys, the even more devastating item is your comment that I highlighted below. The trend is, apparently in the direction of OVER control -- when it should be just the opposite.

Sad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
...
. . .
... Some very interesting "compare and contrast" stuff in there, including the SOG guys feeling that they had much more control over mission planning than units do today.
(emphasis added / kw)
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Old 10-26-2007   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
I wonder if CSM (Ret.) Samuel Hernandez was one of them. CSM Hernandez was with both B-52 Project Delta and MACVSOG CCN. I know he was on RT Florida for the first HALO jump. I don't know what other teams he went "over the fence" with.

I'm just asking out of curiosity, since he was my battalion CSM from '84-'88, both at Ft. Bragg and Vicenza.
I'm actually not sure. The article didn't go into much detail, and didn't discuss the 1-0 participants in terms of names. It's certainly worth a read, though. Some very good stuff.
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