04 March 2013

Scenario Training

If anyone has any doubts about why I was gone a month, lets just say that training was involved.

When you go up against the OPFOR at a Combat Training Center (CTC) you get to fight the craftiest fighters on the planet in their respective area.  Different CTC's are oriented to different types of organizations (for example heavy mech doesn't go to Fort Polk, but light infantry can go anywhere).

Veterans who got the opportunity to play OPFOR at a CTC (NTC at Fort Irwin, JRTC at Fort Polk, or CMTC at Hohenfels, Germany) have seen pretty much every way to do it wrong, and at least a couple of good examples of doing things well.

In my career I've had 4 CTC rotations, and the last two have been "COIN" oriented for pre-deployment purposes.

Key things I've learned from this latest round of training.

Successful insurgents get the populace on their side.  This is a "no duh" comment, but it is somewhat profound.  Having the populace on your side means that the BLUFOR is focusing on the populace, instead of focusing on you.  This means that for every good deed an insurgent commits, it pays long term benefits in freedom of movement and logistical support.

One of the better tactics I saw enacted was the "Robin Hood" approach to stealing from the haves (government, international charities, big business) and giving to people who don't have whatever it is you stole (food, medicine, fuel, blankets, building materials, whatever).  It doesn't matter that the insurgent is making everything worse, people remember what it feels like to have someone fighting for them.  Insurgencies aren't about facts and figures, they are about perception and politics.

Now some people will say, "well that's in training, reality is always different."  The answer to that is that training never replicates or duplicates reality, but it is the next best thing to being there.  In my limited experience the OPFOR did a damn good job of using real world tactics.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Muslim world is different than the West, so the tactics of Muslim insurgents are keyed in to that culture.  In a home grown insurgency (ie civil war) the BLUFOR and OPFOR share the same culture, so I would honestly expect the COIN forces to be much more effective in their native country (if they focus on the population to dry up support for the insurgent).  Think about the British ability to utterly penetrate the Provisional IRA.

Every war is unique, but it is always good to train on the basics.


Aesop said...

Somewhere on his "I Love Me" wall, Baby Brother has a nice AAM citation for single-handedly taking out most of a battalion task force while he was a TC at the NTC.

His take away was that it's a bad idea for your sentries on the high ground to fall asleep on post just because you're cold and tired, worse when they get zip-tied in their sleeping bags and carried back as prisoners, and kinda hard on BnCmdr's performance ratings when most of their command, including a hovering gunship in support, gets shot up by a single crew of 20-something cowboys in a Sheridan vismod before anyone of your headless chickens figures out where all the the shooting's coming from.

Hope your training experiences were more useful.

AM said...

I've talked with a few guys who were convinced that they were total killing machines based on their performance as OPFOR. However when those OPFOR units deploy they don't do any better than the units who trained BLUFOR. I am skeptical about how well some things transfer, but it is always worthwhile to train.

Aesop said...

No argument there.
OPFOR at NTC had total hometeam advantage, and did 20+ workups a year on the same terrain vs. 1-2 each for the deploying units. I asked him once to see his maps of the place to get an idea of what he was describing, and he said, "After doing the thing about the 4th time over the same space, we didn't need maps anymore."

As both you and BabyBro pointed out, they saw pretty much every way to do it wrong, plus after 6 months there, he and everyone above Spec4 knew where every wadi, draw, fold, and piece of critical terrain was before they ever left the tank laager.

That skill doesn't transfer well to a new sandbox in a real-world deployment.

But he definitely saw what happens when your OP is asleep (which meant the guys were probably pulling the same thing at Ft. Hood or Ft. Knox), and somewhere there's a pair of very pissed off aviation WOs who learned that if you hover in one spot long enough, you're going to get lit up.

Good training is like rain: it lets you know where the holes are, and usually uncomfortably.

Eric said...

I bristled at your suggestion of taking from "big business", which is actually good because usually when I get pissed at an idea out of hand it means that I'm thinking dogmatically.

Taking a step back and trying to look at it rationally I can see where you are coming from - a lot of people are upset with business as it sits today.

I can see hurting a "big business" if they are in collaboration with the current regime but I think there should be a qualifier to that statement regarding tacit or expressed support for the regime before it becomes a target for such appropriation.

Perhaps I just have too much of Rand's ideals to break myself of but I'd like to imagine there are some qualifications for what a justified appropriation is.

If the "big business" goes out of business or does layoffs the population may see that as a negative which hurts the cause of the insurgency.

I haven't any experience in this so you're free to take this post with a grain of salt.

AM said...


I was describing a tactic that I saw work in a training environment, and to some extent while deployed. I don't endorse any particular tactic or even endorse a shooting insurgency.

Stealing from big business is a "short term gain" in terms of gaining support from the impoverished locals you give the stuff to, but it is a long term loss for the economy. Facts and figures are the stuff of logical, rational people. Politics and perception is what wins an insurgency.

When war is the answer, rationality and logic have utterly failed on at least one side of the conflict.

Eric said...

I apologize if it sounded like I was endorsing a shooting insurgency as that was not my intention.

The lack of reason is one of the harder things for me to let go of when it comes to politics and perceptions, but you are 100% right that thinking it out has little to do with it.

Pretty depressing if you ask me.

Thank you for your posts - I find them interesting and informative.

Jim said...

I am a professional military roleplayer. Part of that is as OPFOR with Sim rounds.

I work for SWC and I'll leave it generic.

Scenario training is as real as it gets while also being really lacking.

One of my favorite tactics is to let the other opfor open up. I wait a bit until they think it's clear then hit them from the backside. Not uncommon to take out 6-12 dudes at a time this way, so yes it's a confidence builder and yes, I could see other opfor guys being a little confident about it.