27 November 2011

Linking up, more awkward than any first date

Joseph has kept his band alive, moving from place to place, and conducting successful operations for over two years now.  He is a seasoned commander who has been offered a new opportunity; outside help.

An OSS agent has parachuted behind enemy lines to link up with the resistance to prepare operations for the coming invasion by Allied Forces.  Joseph has heard about this operator through the grapevine and is willing to make a small risk to see if this can be a legitimate source of aid.

Word comes down that the man will wear a blue scarf at a certain bus stop on a certain Tuesday at noon.  This is a "far recognition signal."  Once the partisan that Joseph sent to fetch the man has identified him he will ask about the bus schedule, and the OSS Agent will give a deliberately incorrect answer, saying that the bus won't be around again for thirty one point four minutes, this is the "near recognition signal."

They make the man give up his weapon, be blindfolded, and searched.  They move him around randomly to disorient him.  And finally, they bring him to a tent set up inside a barn so that the man can't pinpoint any details.  Joseph talks to the man from the other side of a hung sheet to keep his face hidden.

This man has obviously risked a lot to reach Joseph, so what should Joseph do?  First off every link up requires each side to produce some sort of "bona fides" to prove to the other that they are legit.  The man says that he can get heavy weapons for Joseph, and Joseph replies that with some high explosives his men can take out a supply train scheduled for ten days from now.  The man agrees to provide high explosives and bazooka type rocket launchers.  The man is blindfolded and returned to where he was picked up.

Think of that first meeting as a first date.  You want something from the other party, but you can't really trust them.  The goal of the first meeting is to get a second meeting.

So the man delivers weapons and explosives, and Joseph derails a supply train and destroys the cargo.  These are the tokens of good faith that make the second meeting happen.  This time the OSS agent is allowed to keep his pistol, but Joseph still talks through a sheet hung in the tent.  The man promises trainers, in tactics, weapons use, medical treatment, and demolition.  This is the wrong move for the OSS Agent, telling a seasoned guerrilla that you can "train them" is like telling your Grandmother how to suck eggs.  It doesn't come off well, but Joseph is also a patient man, and he accepts that his band can accommodate two medical trainers.  The OSS Agent participates in a successful sniping operation against a local SS Officer.

This is the second date, the OSS has got an agreement to build rapport and proven himself a Nazi killer.  Once trained outsiders start providing assistance it changes the human dynamic of Joseph's band.  If the OSS agents are smart they will always support Joseph in public and keep any doubts to themselves.  If the OSS agents are stupid they will "armchair quarterback" operations and spread doubt amongst the band.

The OSS Agents have been well trained, they support Joseph and supplement his leadership with added tactical expertise.  If the OSS Agents had been poorly trained, or let their egos get in the way they could splinter Joseph's group and make it combat ineffective.  This is why building trust has to take time.  Only a fool, or someone desperate, gets into bed with a stranger on a first date.

Think about all the things that could have gone wrong.  The OSS Agents could have been Gestapo using the "False Flag" approach to compromise Joseph and his band.  The OSS Agents could have caused dissension in the ranks and made Joseph's band ineffective.  Linking up is a very dangerous time, and going slow is the best way to build a solid operational relationship.  A good link up has mutual risk, if the other guy wants you to risk everything to come to him then he either doesn't respect you, or he is setting a trap for a fool.  Don't be a fool.  The OSS Agent had to risk a lot to get that first meeting, but Joseph risked a lot simply by having that first meeting.

How does this story end?  I'd like to think that Joseph and his band serve as Scouts for the invading liberators, similar to the Filipino Guerrillas.  There is really no telling how much the Filipino Guerrillas shortened WWII by keeping Japanese soldiers pinned down searching the jungle for them.  But in war, every effort counts.

26 November 2011

Hide with Pride

Joseph and his band have been so effective at evading the Nazi patrols that our 1960's alternate Hitler has decided to take assets away from the front lines to hunt down the partisans.  In the real 1940's Nazi Germany the "Vampire" night vision scope came into being, we will assume that the "Vampire" was a First Gen thermal imaging device and that the alternate timeline 1960's Nazi regime is on to thermal imaging systems on par with what anyone can go into a security store and buy today.

So the spy planes are flying, the helicopters are scouting, and Joseph has to work twice as hard to avoid detection.  So, what does Joseph do?

First, move away from historical areas of action.  Joseph has been taking detailed notes of his operations so that he can avoid setting a pattern.  Every time his band conducts and operation Joseph updates his time wheel chart, his map board, and tries to avoid creating a pattern.  But let us say that he has created a pattern, and now that the heat is on Joseph needs to avoid that area because it is likely a "Targeted Area of Interest" or "Named Area of Interest" being watched by the Nazis.  The best way to avoid detection is to be somewhere that your enemy isn't watching.

There is tactical risk in keeping records.  But Joseph figures if he is captured he wouldn't get a fair trial anyways and so he accepts the risk.

Second, move towards a place where you don't stand out like a sore thumb.  A band of thirty resistance fighters in the middle of the black forest stands out.  A band of thirty resistance fighters sleeping in a barn, a farmhouse, tending sheep, is much less difficult to pick out from 2,000 meters above ground level.  Safe houses usually work.  (As a side note to reality, only about 50% of night raids in Afghanistan are successful, so in 1960's Germany Joseph might have even better odds.)

Lastly, Joseph has acquired a "thermal space blanket" for each member of his unit.  The IR reflective properties of the silver side provide some protection from observation.  To further enhance the camouflage properties they use a wool blanket to enhance the IR dispersion and provide some visible spectrum camouflage.

There is increased risk in moving alone when you are hunted.  But a single person moving through the woods draws much less attention than a platoons worth of combat power.  By dispersing his men to move separately and in roundabout ways between rendezvous points Joseph actually increases security for the bulk of his men.

And finally, Joseph pulls back on offensive operations.  Instead of just "waiting" for the heat to die down Joseph uses this time to rest, reset, and prepare for future operations.  A pound of explosive at a time moved to a collection point.  Sniper rifles smuggled into cache points.  Safe house provisions set up.  Target areas scouted.  Intelligence gathered.

Joseph knows that he can't win in a stand up fight.  To win he MUST stay in the game.  Joseph can never succumb to the temptation to "go all in" in this poker match, because the deck has been stacked against him.  Keeping people focused on staying alive instead of fighting for revenge is the hardest leadership challenge that Joseph has right now.  But Joseph is patient, and he reminds his compatriots of the sojourn in Egypt, of the Babylonian exile, and with patience they can see another empire fall.

25 November 2011

Joseph's Choices, an Army moves on it's stomach

Joseph, our hypothetical freedom fighter in an alternate 1960's Germany has found that city life got too hot after he was successful in getting martial law declared.  However the popular uprising he was counting on never came about, the people bought into the propaganda that the security measures were "Temporary" and "Secrecy is the enemy of Security, report Suspicious Individuals" propaganda put forth by the Nazi Regime.

So Joseph has retreated to the forest and farmland regions between cities.  The enemy patrols are more dispersed here as the cities have become the main effort for the Army and Police.

But Joseph no longer has access to supermarkets for food, dry goods stores for clothing, and so his problems have moved from tactical to logistical.  How do you keep a band of freedom fighters from being discovered and still keep them fed, clothed, and housed?

The Nazi Army has food, medicine, munitions, everything a guerrilla band needs to survive.  However those are also the hardest targets to hit.  Through hard experience Joseph has found that warehouses and trucks parked at truck stops are easier targets for food.  Stealing from corporations seemed to bring less public outcry than stealing from farmers or shopkeepers who could be interviewed on camera.

Joseph's shopping list whenever possible?  Meat, rice, beans, flour, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, hard cheeses.  It isn't a varied diet, but it provides the nutrition necessary to survive and keep going.

Occasionally his band will venture into a populated area and "dumpster dive" behind a grocery store for tossed canned goods or frozen meats past the pull date.  This adds variety to their diet with little tactical risk. 

You can't fight when you are starving, and so Joseph's first order of business as a guerrilla is to keep his men in fighting condition.  Logistics will not be denied.

21 November 2011

Urban warfare, use the terrain

Urban warfare is not just "Close Quarters Battle" and "Enter and Clear a Room" that many people seem to think.  That 14.5 inch M4gery with a red dot on top?  Fine for that sort of thing, but if you wanted a 300 meter gun why not just get an AK?

Urban terrain has very long fields of fire along roads, from rooftops to street level, from storm drains to hill tops.  Would you put a machine gun on a rooftop or on street level?  If you said "rooftop" I'm not saying that you are wrong, only that you have now limited yourself to plunging fire.  There may in fact be very good reasons for putting a machine gun on a roof top, but there are equally good reasons for street level.

As our Jewish Resistance Fighters in alternative 1960 Germany are finding out, terrain is your best asset when you can't win in a stand up fight.

Joseph, the leader of our resistance band has found some military manuals listing the characteristics of the offense and the defense.  The German Army has for centuries tried to break down warfare into an exact science.  But Joseph has some insight of his own, and realizes something very important.  The purpose behind military lists isn't to get you to follow the list, it is to get you to THINK about the effects you want to achieve with the assets you have available.  If you have a few rifles and a fair sized town it is different than a backpack full of RPG's and a road running through a canyon.  Joseph begins to take stock of his assets, and of the complex urban terrain that has hid his little band for the last month.

Urban terrain has sewers, tunnels, basements, and sometimes even buildings tall enough to BASE jump off of (as seen in any good heist movie).

Next time you are in a city, stop, look around.  How far can you see in any given direction?  Can you use those lines of sight to set up a snipers firing solution to those distances?  The longest shots in Iraq were not taken in the desert, they were taken in cities.  Cities are challenging terrain for an occupying force, and they are a rats nest haven for an insurgent.  Joseph can walk freely in the city most days, he doesn't look "Jewish" and is known as a hard working handyman.  It is common to see him with his toolbox fixing pipes or replacing an electrical outlet.

Joseph uses his mind like a weapon, analyzing everything around him.  How long does it take to get from Avenue A to Intersection Z?  Where are the police stations, and how often do they patrol?

Joseph is using the "human terrain" to blend in and mask his reconnaissance efforts.  And Joseph is planning to use the physical terrain to his advantage in setting up a long range ambush in an area of the city that isn't his safe house.  By making the Nazi's crack down on a neighborhood that contains no hidden Jews he thinks he can win sympathy for his cause.

Use the terrain, it is like the force, it surrounds us.  If you can't shoot 600 meters you need to learn how, and you need to start thinking in terms of angles of intersections, how to coordinate multiple teams from multiple angles.  Imagine four teams stationed 500 meters from the center of a major intersection.  With accurate fire, how much terrain do they now dominate?  A simple land line phone system and a conference call could let them act as scouts for each other.

And what would the Nazi response be to such an act, a squad of Stormtroopers laying dead in a pool of their own blood?  Would they crack down on that area?  Would they increase restrictions on civil liberties?  Would they alienate the populace?

19 November 2011

Coordinated Defense, use the terrain.

I have written before the words of men smarter than I, "It isn't a silver bullet, but the right mix of weapons that wins a war."  One of the tenants of modern warfare is that "you don't win by withdrawal."

But you can't always be on the offensive, so what do you do?  You become offensively defensive.  Napoleon and Hitler both found out the hard way that "offensive defense" will suck the combat power out of your Army quickly.  Let us set up a scenario, you are a German Jew in an alternate timeline where Hitler's rise to power happened in the 1960's.  You've seen the writing on the wall and decide to be "Defiant" and resist to the end.  You don't have a "silver bullet" weapon that will win your war, but you have access to a few hunting rifles and some captured military hardware.

So how do you get the right mix with what you have?  By choosing the time and place of the fight.  To choose wisely you need to know what you have, and what it can do, and where it can be most effective.

If you have four men with AK's, and four men with bolt action 30-06 Deer rifles, how do you match them up to kill the most of the jack booted thugs who come to kill them?  Do you mate them up as sniper teams?  Not likely, sniping and spotting is a skilled task.  Better to make two teams of bolt rifle men at ranges 400 to 800 meters away from the kill zone, and the short range riflemen between 150 and 250 meters away.  Spread them out so that a mortar round won't kill all four.  Spread the bolt riflemen out so that their sectors of fire provide each other security.

What you do is set them up into three or four positions, so that the men with AK's can use a "reverse slope defense" of their position, and the bolt action long range teams can cover the flanks.  A reverse slope defense is not intuitive, it is staying well behind the crest of a hill so that the enemy comes into view and gets shot.  The downside is that if you lack the firepower to kill the enemy as they present themselves you will be overrun, but the tactical advantage is that the enemy cannot mass firepower against you.

A properly prepared defense is made by the acronym PMSDF.  Preparation, Massing Effects, Security, Disruption, and Flexibility.

Never stop preparing, prepare fields of fire, prepare avenues of egress, prepare obstacles to channel the aggressor.  Massing effects means that you coordinate your assets so that you kill the most of them for the least of you, do this by assigning sectors of fire and priorities of fire.  Security, if you don't have 360 security you are killing yourself and your men, if you don't conceal yourself from the "eyes in the sky" then you are killing yourself all over again, even at night. 

Disrupt the enemies movements, plans, and tempo.  And flexibility, make sure you can flex out of any one position to fight from another.  Even your "go to hell plan" needs to have two or three variations.

But use the terrain, find a slope that you can overwatch with long rifles and defend with shorter range weapons, keep a river or swamp between you and the enemy if you can.  Natural obstacles are just as effective as concertina wire or a tank ditch.  Complex urban terrain requires a lot more planning, and has more risks of civilian interference.  However life is risky, and we reduce risk by planning.

So plan your defense.  Then attack yourself and see if you can flank your planned position, or if you can find an avenue of approach that allows the attackers to set up intersecting grazing fire.  Then adjust your defenses to deny the attacker those advantages.  Accept some risk, but mitigate it to the best of your ability by planning, preparing, and practicing "offensive defense."

17 November 2011

The "Hero Ceremony"

Last time I was on a major FOB there was a "ramp side ceremony" to honor two Soldiers as their bodies began the long journey from Afghanistan to Dover AFB and ultimately to a funeral home in the Midwest.  I can't remember when we stopped saying "KIA" and changed to the term "Fallen Hero" but I have come to understand why the change was made, and why it is important.

The ceremony was held up because thing never go smoothly, but hundreds of Soldiers, Seaman, even DA Civilians and contractors, lined the pathway from the medical treatment facility to the helipad where a UH-60 Blackhawk stood waiting to begin that long journey.

There are two families who will probably never know the people who stood silently, rendering a solemn salute as combat medics moved the litter slowly towards the air ambulance.  The honor that we can bestow does not match the loss they have to deal with.  We took a knee as the Chaplain prayed, and silently dispersed so the journey could begin.

This is my second tour in Uncle Sam's all expenses paid vacation to exotic locations, but it has been my first time seeing one of our own begin that long journey.  As a Rear Detachment OIC I got my bellyful of the final end.  Memorial services, where the family of a Soldier shows up with all their problems, to Funerals where the I joined a good man as we represented our unit while a young man was lowered into the ground.  His wife was beautiful, a real southern belle, and his son had learned how to walk while he was away.

I know a minister, pastor, or preacher, call him by what title you will, who claims that "relationships are all that we can take to Heaven."  While I am here it is as if all my relationships are on hold, but in truth they aren't.  When I go home time will have passed, people will have changed.  Life goes on whether I'm there or not to observe it.

I don't want this to seem like a pity party, my life has been richly blessed and I am thankful for that.  But I have also learned that being sad when you lose a fellow Soldier is normal, and that we can honor our dead, our "Fallen Heroes" without becoming too numb inside to charlie mike.  This time I didn't know the two Soldiers personally, they just happened to work in the same AO.  That makes it a bit easier on me, but it doesn't make it any less hard for those who did know them, and love them. 

Life is precious because it is a limited commodity.  We have to choose how we spend it, but we don't often get the choice in how much of it we get.  So while I feel guilty that I am not at home to be a husband and a father, this is my chosen profession.  My job pays the bills, and I get paid well enough that I'm not in the job market looking for another occupation.  But things that used to be important are nothing now.  Now what is important are two little boys who are growing up so fast that I can only hope to keep up.  And life goes on, pain fades, new loved ones come in to your heart, if there is room for them.

14 November 2011

Absent Dads....

Today I recorded my voice on a Hallmark "read along" book, "The Night Before Christmas" and mailed it back to my family.

I couldn't send a hug, or a Dad, or a husband, or a protector.  The best I could send was a digital copy of my voice, recorded on a cheap circuit made in China.

Thanksgiving is coming up, this will be the third in a row that I've missed because of deployment, training, deployment, in that order.  I've been lucky that I got the last two Christmases at home.  This will be the first Christmas I've ever spent apart from my wife and children.

I feel like I am unable to fulfill my duties as a husband and father while still fulfilling my duty to Uncle Sam.  Torn between two duties that I entered into of my own free will.  I wish I could do a better job at both.  A man can't serve two masters, and my wife knows that and why my family is coming second to my job right now.  I just don't feel very good about it.

11 November 2011

Veteran's Day

Every year the eleventh of November comes around and I wish I were hunting.  I wish I had something more profound to say about service and sacrifice, but I don't, at least not this year.

05 November 2011

So I was reading in Stars and Stripes....

And noticed the burning trash piles on the streets of Oakland caused by "a few rogue elements" in the Occupy Movement....

You know, when it is "a few rogue elements" in the Military there are investigations, Courts Martial proceedings, even Congressional level inquiries...  As it should be really, the Military by the very nature of being a legitimate function of violence has to be held to a high standard.

However, Americans are starting to turn my home into Mogadishu, or Paris with the annual summer riots.

Not sure if I like this development.  However, the Watts Riots and Rodney King Riots are now history, so possibly this will simmer back down into the rumblings of disgruntled leftists.

04 November 2011

The deadliest little guy I know....

LL brought up a point about the physical stature of the Master Sergeant that Michael Yon felt threatened by.  And the description 5'6" with a neck so skinny he can't pass tape made me think of another warrior who fit that description.

SGT John Sutherland.  John died shortly after the last deployment, but John was a true warrior.  Sniper qualified, a true crack shot with anything you put in his hands.  We earned our EIB's together.  If John was pissed at me I would have taken it seriously. 

I'll tell you a funny story.  The Sniper Team stenciled "SYLB" onto their gear and I asked them what it meant.  John told me "Swallow Your Last Bullet."  And I thought it might have been a little morbid but I've heard worse mottos over the years.

When a biker wearing Banditos Red and Gold showed up at his memorial service I looked into that gang, and John must be laughing in the afterlife knowing that I found out "SYLB" means "Support Your Local Banditos."  Maybe it isn't such a funny story, but I think John would be amused.  I guess if Jesse Ventura could hang out with the Hell's Angels it is only fitting that John could hang out with the Banditos.

Rest in peace John.  I miss you, and your smart ass mouth. 

03 November 2011

This Yon thing keeps bringing blogfodder...

Michael Yon may try to sell himself as a warrior's warrior, but at best all I ever thought of him was as a reporter.  I don't have much respect for reporters, there are a few exceptions, but invariably reporters screw up.  Geraldo broadcast battle plans, Dan Rather broke a story with false documents, reporters are out to find a story and get it to market before anyone else.  That is how they make their living.

I am not a reporter, I blog here because I like to blog.

But I'll be damned if people aren't coming out of the woodwork to try to convince me that Michael Yon is an unstable person who is a "parasite" or some other type of undesirable infestation.  Truth be told I don't really care, there are plenty of oxygen thieves on the planet and my opinion won't make a lick of difference in that fact one way or the other.

The facts that I can determine are; a Special Forces MI Master Sergeant lost his temper and told Yon commented on Faecbook that he wanted to rip off his head and piss down his neck.  Yon took that as a legitimate threat.  (I thank LL for his correction, evidently I mushed two episodes into one in my head, turns out Yon has been busy pissing people off all over Afghanistan)

Personally that sounds like a pretty good reason for Yon to feel threatened, after all he is just a reporter.  It seems that since he claims the title of "Green Beret" that the team he was with thought somehow he should have let the comment slide.

What is important to remember is that Yon is just a dang reporter.  I don't care what sort of training a person has, a tab doesn't make you brave.  There are cowards with triple canopies on their shoulders and brave men who might be lucky to wear a CAB.  When a SEAL turned reporter wrote down that a "near miss with a 50 cal" would kill from the shockwave of the bullet I thought he was a faker.  Turns out earning the SEAL Trident or "Budweiser" doesn't make you an expert on ballistics, or a very good reporter.

Getting into a pissing match with an SF team on active duty strikes me as a particularly dumb thing to do on his part.  Like I said before, I don't really care one way or another about the man.  I've got nine years and a few months before I hit twenty active years, I've got a wife at home and two little boys I want to see grow into men.  If I hadn't been pulling someone else's duty while they were on R&R I would have never received that email from ISAF PAO's office revoking Yon's press credentials.

I sort of understand the resentment from the Yon Hate Club, when you earn your way into an elite brotherhood there are rules of conduct that come with it, and Yon has not upheld to those standards.  But what can you expect, the man is just a reporter.  I don't have high expectations of reporters, but that is just me, based on my personal experience.

02 November 2011

Book Review: Monster Hunter Alpha

Good.  Whoever donated it to the MWR, thank you.  A nice change from the OZP series, adds to it and provides more backstory to Earl Harbinger and MHI.