RANGER AGAINST WAR: Further on SSG Miller's Medal of Honor <

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Further on SSG Miller's Medal of Honor

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven

--Ecclesiastes 3:1

Man's most valuable trait is
a judicious sense of what not to believe


Further thoughts on SSG Millers Medal of Honor action:

The Special Operations Forces (SOF) MOH's of Lt. Murphy and SSG Miller are similar in that neither team had a realistic chance of fulfilling their mission. Bravado and bluster aside, a mission must be realistically planned and executed, and most importantly, must have a reasonable chance of being successful with assets available and forces engaged.

In Murphy's scenario the team was compromised and forced to fight for their survival. In Miller's scenario the team was sent on a mission with no familiarity training with the ANA forces, lacking translators and solid intelligence. The hunters became the prey; the mission should never have been launched.

Both ODA and ANA small unit elements were sent into contact with a company-sized enemy force; this was a failure of intelligence functions. They either knew this fact or not, and either indicts negligent staff functioning. The ODA Commander should have required firm intelligence prior to kick off.
Both scenarios indicate a lack of professionalism at the command level.

In Miller it is apparent that the friendly elements were never decisively engaged, nor did enemy forces have effective fires placed upon them. While the Afghan Army element was pinned down and lost forward momentum, they could freely move to the rear by whatever route they chose. They, in fact, did so.

During this phase the ODA, possessing vehicles with mounted weapons which provided a modicum protection, were never used for tactical. They had freedom of maneuver to the rear but they did not prudently pull back into hasty defensive positions. The simulated video of the action indicates this was a possibility. The question becomes, why didn't they break contact, which would have been the prudent course of action?

It lacks military sense to expect a small element to attack a
larger entrenched enemy possessing the high ground. One wonders if the ODA Commander had control of the point element at any time during this engagement. One further wonders why the Patrol Leader was not with the engaged element of his patrol (normal combat leadership.)

Further, are the present SOF forces trained to be overly aggressive, and
do only aggressive personnel pass selection to these units. There is a time to attack and a time to defend, and that is what doctrine, training and experience dictate to a leader when engaged in deadly close combat.

As young Infantry officers we were repeatedly indoctrinated to distinguish between effective and ineffective fire, and to temper our actions accordingly. A soldier is not expected to assault overwhelming odds when an escape route is available and no other units will be adversely affected by their actions. Perhaps this is the difference between soldiering and warriorhood.

In Miller's scenario, a fine loyal and dedicated soldier died to what military purpose? Even if all the enemy were killed in this fight we still see evidence that ANA forces were inadequate to the task. Additionally, this terrain could not be held indefinitely, so what was the point of the exercise?

While this is no denigration of SSG Miller's actions, there are questions that should be asked beyond the simple waving of the colors. The U.S. cannot continue to assign missions that lack tactical value and serve no strategic purpose. Simple knock-down, drag-out fights are not military science but rather, mindless wastes of lives.


Ranger does not like to politicize the death of any soldier, but how do insurgents against a corrupt Afghan government equate to enemies of the United States? How does their occupation of their tribal lands adversely affect our freedoms or safety?

Even if the enemy were hard core Arab al-Qaeda fighters the value of this fight is questionable. Killing armed insurgents does not make America one iota safer and surely does nothing to stabilize the created myth that is the Afghan nation.

The Vietnam War was my only experience and this colors my critique. My unit had large numbers of casualties and great bravery and heroism was the order of the day. Yet none of this led to military success. No political success was discernible, either -- How does this differ from Iraq or Afghanistan?

Meanwhile, good soldiers fight and die for what? There must be
meaning beyond the violence; this was not clear in 1970-71 and is still elusive on today's battlefields.

This discussion on SSG Miller's MOH discussed the hows, but perhaps the more important and difficult question is, why?

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Anonymous Choloazul said...

"Meanwhile, good soldiers fight and die for what?"

I believe this was recently discovered scratched on a shard of pottery in some Etruscan ruins.... along with something about the food being crap.

And of course the cynical mind knows 'for what', while the compassionate one doesn't want to dwell on it.

Friday, December 17, 2010 at 2:05:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Further, are the present SOF forces trained to be overly aggressive, and do only aggressive personnel pass selection to these units."

I think this is important. In both Murphy and Miller there was an opportunity - a critical juncture - that was missed, to fall back to a defensible position and survive until exfiltration or the arrival of the QRF. The missed opportunity seems to ultimately have arisen from a Rambo like mentality.

But then again, in both instances the QRF was inexplicably not so quick.

Not so sure I agree with the intelligence failure comment. In both situations (Murphy/Miller) the size and composition of opposing forces was appears to be known as was terrain and other critical elements. SOF decided to go with the mission anyhow; again getting us back to psychology.

One aspect that i think is worth calling more out is that both Murphy and Miller illustrate the persistent problem of trusting - let alone relying on - the locals (wether they be civilians, ARVN or ANA) when involved in an counterinsurgency opperation on the insurgents' home turf. I wonder if some there wasn't some level of collusion between the ANA and the Taliban forces in the Miller incident.


Friday, December 17, 2010 at 3:41:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Juan Moment said...

Thanks Ranger, your insights as always fascinating to read.

Friday, December 17, 2010 at 8:22:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

The issue of intel is central to this discussion.
It's a criminal act to send 24 +/- soldiers against 150 dug in prepared/hostile holding the high ground.
A reinforced rifle company would've had their nuts in a wringer atk this resticted target.
The atk would've been on too narrow of a front.

Why trust the indig?
Why even be there?
Thanks for your inhput, which i respect greatly.

Friday, December 17, 2010 at 11:37:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I like to emphasize that this is my take, but many other viewpoints are also valid.
The questions are just too blatant and serious to dismiss, whether in agreement with me, or not.
I always enjoy hearing from you.

Friday, December 17, 2010 at 11:39:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Underground Carpenter said...

Hi "Armchair" Jim and Lisa,

I fixed myself a pot of coffee and sat down to read all parts. A dense read, especially so because I have zero military experience. I recognize some acronyms, like MRE's (meals, ready-to-eat) and IED's (improvised expletive devices, like F-bombs), but to me a SAW is something to cut boards with. Defilade? Time to hit the dictionary again.

I have the same admiration for your ability to understand that report as I do for someone who can wade through a dense legislative bill to pick out salient points.

Question: who did the counting to decide that SSG Miller killed or wounded 46 fighters? That 1:6 ratio is most definitely "astounding accuracy". Hell, I can't hit a soda pop can at 15 feet with that kind of accuracy.

Needlessness pretty much sums up my thoughts on the Afghanistan "war". I also think that war should never be a planned thing. It should only be in reaction to an unprovoked attack.

The "Armchair Jim" nickname is an attempt at humor, which I realize is in short supply these days. I, too, think you are too polite. I would have wished that asshole a Happy Mother's Day.


Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 5:29:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I talked to a USMC SAW gunner just back from AFGH and he said that they carry 600 rds as a basic load.
200 in the gun assault pak and the rest on the body.
Since SSG Miller was on point i just assume he wouldn't carry the full load.
Being on point requires dexterity etc..But assuming that he had 600rds. then this would change the equation to 1:12 rds per hit.Even that would be amazing shooting , in a war where hundreds of thousands of rounds are required for each dead opposition fighter.
The term Armchair jim is sorta like-Dug out Doug.
I am not gonna attack commenters b/c i need the feed back, even if negative.

Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 10:56:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

I forgot a key point.
The Marine said that the SAW often misfires and is never used in a close assault, even tho you'd want the firepower forward.
The Marines in his unit always used it as a support weapon.

Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 10:58:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SAW acceptes evrything from M16 magizines, to 100 round soft pouches to 150 round (I think) C-Mags to linked belts. So hard to say what would have been carried, but 600 rounds sounds right.

My son (USA 1st Lt) tells me that the SAWs are pretty worn out and need to be replaced.Though I assume the SOF have have new or refurbished guns (since they always seem to get the best of everything). Also, that they are used for clearing rooms and other close combat functions - odd as that seems.


Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 1:48:00 PM GMT-5  

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