RANGER AGAINST WAR: Knocking on Heaven's Door <

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Knocking on Heaven's Door

--Iain Green, The Scotsman

Old Army joke:

Q: What's the difference between
the Army and the Boy Scouts?
A:
The Boy Scouts have adult leadership

The lieutenant's battle was over
His bravery had little impact on the course of the fight.

He could not rescue the men on Topside,

and those who survived would have done so anyway

--Echoes from a Distant Battlefield,

Mark Bowdon


The worst is yet to come

--Arthur Schopenhauer

___________________

Before analyzing the action of latest Medal of Honor recipient, Dakota Meyer, it is important to place it in context of previous Afghanistan engagements.
The U.S. has been fighting a war that looks instead like a series of meeting engagements. At its worst, this looks like blind men bumping into each other in the dark.

The brave yet futile actions of Lt. Brostrom in the gunfight at Waygul (503rd) keeps intruding in Ranger's thoughts because it typifies so much of the warfare being conducted over there.


All Afghan MOH scenarios were gunfights like Waygul -- meeting engagements that could have been developed into a real tactical issue, save they lacked an exploitation phase; they had a movement to contact and a contact phase, and then disintegrated. Battles should proceed well beyond this simplicity of action.


The action at Waygul typifies the Phony War on Terror
(PWOT ©) Afghanistan campaigns, characterized as they are by hubris, accompanied by incompetence and tactical and strategic blundering. Though the soldiers fought bravely, their actions take us nowhere.

Military missions follow statements, which outline goals and methodology for success. They serve a larger purpose which is to win more than just the immediate skirmish. But in Afghanistan we have failed to develop most of these situations (engagements) by breaking contact, thereby violating every military rule for success. At least, that is what the recent Medal of Honor citations suggest.


In comparison, in World War II at Iwo Jima there were 27 MOH's in some of the deadliest ground combat U.S. forces have ever experienced.
However, every one of these acts of bravery took the U.S. one step closer to victory in the Pacific. In the PWOT ©, we can't even define victory, but that does not stop us from expending our soldier's valor in search of that unquantifiable goal.

Adult leadership, be it from politicians or military leaders, should provide something other than the flimsiest of reasons for fighting, killing and dying based on the John Wayne pretext of
"killing bag guys". The soldiers at Waygul and all the other gunfights did what U.S. soldiers always do, they fought as ordered. But where were the adult leaders? Unfortunately, the Army command structure does not ask this question, the answer to which would provide the key to analyzing any action and understanding its success or failure.

The platoon at Waygul was left flapping in the breeze, building a Command Outpost (COP) sans additional support. A platoon whose Company Commander was completing a 15-6 investigation statement rather than addressing the tactical concerns of a unit flung far forward in a dubious tactical environment.


The Commander was covering his ass doing paperwork, and he was doing so with the concurrence of the Battalion Commander. This is the Army. The Company Commander was prioritizing administrative over combat tasks, and therefore could not provide adult leadership. However, the Battalion Commander could have solved the problem by re-assigning the mission to a Company whose Commander was not otherwise occupied with administrative issues.
Men die when priorities are skewed.

Key questions from the Wanat battle:


  • Why even establish a COP flung forward without proper support? This is a kin to putting cannons on the Titanic to ward off icebergs.
  • Did the Brigade Commander, Executive Officer (XO), S-2, S-3 or Command Sergeant Major (CSM) ever walk the terrain or do a map study? Was the feasibility of the venture war-gamed? Where were the adults?
  • Ditto Battalion Commander, XO, S-2, S-3 and CSM.
  • Where was the Company 1st Sergeant?

It is clear that the Platoon was sent on a mission that the Platoon leader was incapable of completing, and his effort was not weighted for success as the iceberg approached. All the adult leaders were elsewhere or otherwise occupied to do more than cast a passing glance at a platoon ground pounding on heaven's door.

If a U.S. Platoon as part of a Company in a Battalion as part of a Brigade in an Airborne unit cannot build a COP, then we must consider seriously what they can do! The same comment applies to the Murphy, Miller and Meyer MOH actions.


All the actions seen in these Afghan campaigns lead one to question the state of training of units and individuals, officers and enlisted men, alike. No amount of valor can trump a lack of technical and tactical expertise. The fights considered here are conspicuously lacking these features.


Waygul, the most discussed small unit action in the Afghan experience, provides a microcosm of the systemic failures eroding an entire Army's ability to fight a nebulous succession of engagements in the no man's land of a tribal society.


The bravery of our soldiers cannot counter these failures.


NEXT: Meeting Engagements

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7 Comments:

Blogger Ghost Dansing said...

treasures r those medals...

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 8:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

All Afghan MOH scenarios were gunfights like Waygul -- meeting engagements that could have been developed into a real tactical issue, save they lacked an exploitation phase; they had a movement to contact and a contact phase, and then disintegrated. Battles should proceed well beyond this simplicity of action.

I have never read a more succient definition of the uselessness of the GWoT and the horror that 10 years and multiple combat zones haven't produced anything other than dead people (and a massive transfer of wealth to the Plutocracy).

Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 10:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

gene,
thanks.
i am trying to present these points in everything i've written in the last week. i will drive on with the concept.
jim

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 9:16:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

To all, the cmts i made on the BDE is also true of the BN requirements for leadership.
I still don't know where the Co. xo was through out this fight;all of this is pertinent
jim

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 9:18:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

@ R.A.W.

I should have also mentioned your points about if the XO or CSM (dang army terms) is also pertinent because as an intel analyst I had the hardest time convincing my Captain to let me out with the patrols until I pointed out the absolute silliness of me telling boots-on-the-ground about an AO which I would never visit...

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 8:08:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Yes, Gene, Ranger is summating his frustration with the conduct of the wars in these distillations.


--Killer, G.D.

Monday, December 19, 2011 at 10:26:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Gene,
i thought i was done with this series , but my sleeping mind told me otherwise.
as a staff weanie by trade and experience i ABSOLUTELY cringe at the lack of staff planning and command guidance/oversight on all of these supposed fights east of nowhere.
what do s2's do these days?
jim

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 10:12:00 AM GMT-5  

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