RANGER AGAINST WAR: Down in the Zeroes <

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Down in the Zeroes

Camp Long Thanh, B53, 5th Special Forces Group,
1970. The bottom shows our DZ for airborne training;
top shows the North Airfield; Main Gate is in the NW corner,
leading straight to Bearcat
Rappelling -- this shows the vulnerability of the
Huey when used as a rappelling platform
CLT team, in training with full equipment, helicopter
is operational. This is how the team looked 21 Jan 71
(all photos from Ranger's private collection)

All greatness, all power, all social order
depends upon the executioner;

he is the terror of human society

and the tie that holds it together;

Take away this incomprehensible force

from the world, and at that very moment

order is superseded by chaos, thrones fall,

society disappears

--Joseph de Maistre

"I wanted an ideal animal to hunt,"

explained the general.

"So I said: 'What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?'

And the answer was of course:

'It must have courage, cunning, and,

above all, it must be able to reason.'"

--The Most Dangerous Game,

Richard Connell


Ranger will discuss the One-Zero School of MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group) in Vietnam as prelude to an upcoming piece.

May 1970 was when Ranger attended the officially-designated "Combat Reconnaissance Course", an innocuous-sounding DD-214 designator for a course which anything but. It was the only Army course ever conducted that had an actual combat mission as a graduation requirement; but that is not solely what distinguishes the 1-0 School.

One-Zero taught its students to perform and to survive while being hunted by superior enemy forces -- it taught its students how to be prey. This is a different thing from the aggressive can-do attitude associated with the combat arms. They were trained NOT to fight, unless running for their lives.

If memory serves, 14 SOG Reconnaissance Teams disappeared from the earth during that war. Teams disappeared because the enemy was so overwhelming while the teams were tight and compact, and not arrayed for action. Additionally, they operated in denied areas. One team member's loss jeopardized the entire group.

This behavior is counter to the civilian's perception of the Infantry, and is difficult even for most soldiers who were not in SOG to grasp.
Many missions were doomed before they were launched. The North Vietnamese Army had trail watchers watching every LZ in the area, so many teams were compromised from the point of insertion. For this reason, Ranger believes that Lt. Murphy's Medal of Honor scenario in Afghanistan resembled the SOG template; it failed because the members of the team were compromised, as was often the case with SOG. They tried to fight when they should have run.

Knowing they would be hunted and trailed by trackers and hounds requires a great deal of reserve, courage and devotion to duty. Ranger has always thought that level of danger to which these teams were exposed unacceptable for a mission; fortunately he has never had to cross that border.

Tomorrow: A requiem for a One-Zero school friend

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

the main gate was in the nw corner.
sorry , i must be dyslexic.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 10:03:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, I think I have mentioned before that i read the book about the Murphy incident, by Luttrel and ghost writer, and that it was given to me by my daughter, who had read it and become a believer in "the one" while she was in C school. In fact, it was the ensuing heated discussions between her and myself that led me to a search for the back story and then to your blog.

My initial thought after the first read was the same as yours; these guys never had a chance. they were compromised from the beginning by the trail watchers you speak to.

Luttrel himself, in his book, states that after insertion they were crashing aqround the mountains making more noise than "the entire Afgan Army on maneuvers". Elsewhere he states that the talibs could hear a pebble rolling down a hill from a mile away or see the glow of a luminous dial from the same distance. Yet it never occurs to his grunt mind that all that smashing around would have tipped of the taliban to the presence of an American team.

He also says that the helo made a couple of false inserts and that confused the taliban. I find that belief ridiculous. If you flew a helo over my neck of the woods and made false inserts, I wouldn't be confused. i would send some buddies to check out each location. That is all. I would find you at one one of them. Moreover, knowing the terrain, I would know where you would necessarily have to go and how to use terrain features to gain a strategic advantage over you. I would also use rational deduction to determine your target and I would concentrate my trail watchers along the routes leading to that target. Finally, i would use available resources, like goat herders, to my advantage, whether or not the goat herders were aware they were being used or not. Just keep eyes on them and see if they bump into anything of interest, then follow and wait to fix your position and then destroy you.

By the time Murphy's patrol ran into the goat herders they were already being followed. Their fate was sealed. Killing the herders would have changed nothing. The Talibs were, at that point, just waiting for the right place to ambush and Murphy handed that opportunity to them on a silver platter by placing his sailors on the low ground with the only way out being the same way they came in.


Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 10:11:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

first of all i must say that i'm glad you found RAW even if it was b/c of this murphy tragedy.
your analysis would be perfect for a staff summary ,or aar. it's exactly concise and covers the field.
as for luttrell he's the sweet heart of the sof crowd and his rodeo travels the country.
i don't buy it!!!! if lutrell could escape then so too the team had an egress route.
it's ALWAYS a sof thing to have an escape route designated before you hit the ground. we call these rally points and also the orp fills this function. WHERE WAS THE ORP in Murphy's action? there couldn't be 1 b/c the team was too weak to keep a safe assembly point protected by friendly rifles.
sog used false insertions as a matter of course, but the terrain was jungle, and the teams could hide. additionally sog teams were extremely light and silent.maybe, just maybe sog was more controlled than are the present forces. these guys actually carried fighting knives as evidenced by BENEVIDES moh CITATION. HE KILLED PEOPLE WITH HIS FIGHTING KNIFE. can you say it any clearer than that.?
Millers and Howards moh citations are good reading to understand sog one zero team employment.
anyway back to luttrell. the story just doesn't wash and is predicated on 1 mans word. usually moh's require multiple witnesses who were on the ground.
i always said , and still do, that it's criminal to put in a team that doesn't have at least a 50% chance of surviving.
i'm turning you into a fairly good army staff officer.
btw- i had to go to one zero school b/c it was required that all staff weinies know the mindset and requirements for supporting the teams. this was a wise move except our camp co and xo were not sf , and DID NOT get one zero qualified. our camp cdr when i was 1st assgn'd was an ARMOR officer junior jumper.god that was fun!
myself, cano and adamietz were very junior and i was a lt when i walked in the door.we later got a sf cdr and he mentored us professionally and personally.
after vn i voluntarily left sf and returned to the 3rd rgr co as an instructor.
so much for my stream of consciousness.truthfully i think of those days every single day of my life.
this is the 1st i've really written on it.
see u tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 10:44:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

back to the killing fields.
a team is arrayed either to fight or to gather intel/recon.
obviously Murphy mission was as a snatch team which means that they were looking for a fight. EXCEPT they were too light for the requirement. a team is armed and trained differently for each mission, and can't do both. EITHER YOU ARE A FIGHTER OR RECON.
you live or die on your task organization which is based on misn analysis to include en forces.
WHY WAS MURPHY SO LIGHT?? an exploitation force is equipped for heavy encounter.
his force was a sacrifice to the pagan gods of war.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:04:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Just curious : are you referring to the "redwing" (sic)/"Lone survivor" incident?

If so, and I apologize if I misunderstood (it's late here), you might want to take a look at what Ed Darack has to say about that :



I have no dog in this fight, as the saying goes, but if he's right, and I'm assuming he's credible enough, then the whole thing boils down to a clusterfuck caused by poor tradecraft (not necessarily by the SEALs themselves, but by the higher-ups who wanted a "piece of the action"), turned into a PR circus by the same people who screwed up in the first place... again, not speaking about the surviving SEAL, though he's part of that process.

Basically, a clumsily-inserted small team that got mauled in an indefendable ambush zone by 8-12 rustics led by a local bad-boy/bandit (fitness and training do not trump superior firepower and higher ground, it seems), hyped-up a posteriori into a "bad ass" epic of a last-stand against dozens, if not hundred, of taliban protecting an "high value target", by a fiction author writing on behalf of the Navy.

This much to the chagrin of the Marines who actually were doing the heavy lifting and the dirty work there (IIUC Darack is close to the USMC)... relegated to the sidelines in the SEAL narrative. Imagine that : out-PRing the USMC.

Ok, all the best.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:07:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Kevin,
Yes, that is what is being referenced.

I have read Darack's piece in the Marine Corps Gazette. It is interesting and informational. He definitely sheds light on the context of the operation and issues occurring at the joint command level that contributed to the tragic failure of the mission.

That said, I think our host, Jim, has the more important angle and it is one that I have never seen discussed elsewhere. Murphy made tactical blunders. The SEAL's command made tactical blunders. This does not detract from their valor. However, there is much to be learned if a fair objective assessment is made. Sadly, instead we have only hero worship. Darack is informative, but does not speak to the tactical issues.

I have seen that many of the hero worshippers criticize Darack and accuse him of propagating lies. The USMC editors published his piece. They approved the material. This includes reducing the number of opposing force down to maybe 20 or so max. But these details distract from the more critical, IMO, points concerning recon missions.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 9:43:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

like you i don't have a dog in this fight either, but i do have a responsibility to discuss the differing scenarios.
unlike Darak i have no sources other than what i read in the news papers etc..and this is disturbing.(i assume that you read my analysis of the Murphy action). taken in isolation the 3 m's (Murphy,Miller,Myer) all sound good, but taken as a group they share some startling similarities.it's like they had a template with all the right buzz words.i won't elaborate as i stand behind all that i wrote on these actions.i am not a historian and not privy to official documents.i just analyze from my experience and available facts.i've been retired a while, but i still can sniff out b------t.
i will read your link today. it's rather detailed and obviously scholarly.
as for luttrell-he states in his book that us librahls are why we are losing the wars.wars???Um!!!
when he talks shit like that then my ass gets up.
wars are lost by lack of strategic goals, and weak tactical ops. even if the tactical ops were perfect there can be no winning b/c we can't articulate, or implement any thing of strategic value in the entire goat screw.
i have no problem with killing if the right people are being killed, and as you say these guys in Murphy were simple ass bandits. same as somali pirates, and as such not really relevant to much of anything.
why are our SEALS doing domestic AFGH gov't policing? how does that address the terror threat to AMERICA? how did my military become a foreign legion serving the welfare of other nations, who don't even like us?
i thank you for participating, and for your professional knowledge and demeanor.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 10:37:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

i read the link and associated links after going to the site.
i believe it's faulty logic to assume that AHMEDS men were only motivated by money, but that's a secondary concern.
the ops officer of 2/3 had a solid handle on the tac aspects of this fight. ultimately it ended up violating the principle of -UNITY OF COMMAND. too many chefs ruin the stew.'if the sniper scouts, augmented, had walked in ,using a tactic approach march, this would've been sound tactical planning and execution.
but my point is -the team leader (murphy)ran the mission even though it was of dubious proportions.
how could 4 men achieve the same results as the marines USING PROPER PATROLLING TECHNIQUES?
Murphies movements after contact were classic, he ran downhill in low ground. i first encountered this phenom. in Gavins book-ON TO BERLIN. when soldiers are scared they always run down hill.
according to the maps provided this was a death call.
again, thanks for the link.
it renewed my faith in the Marines.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 11:45:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

a closing comment.
Murphy's demise was not using the radio recommended by the S3.
in the days of old we utilized radio relay sites and ,or a aircraft as a mobile cite.
this insures commo.
nobody mentions emergency radios being carried by the SEALS. this used to be sop.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 11:54:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Kevin said...


Just to clarify things : the "bandit" aspect I used was from what I had understood and remembered from Darak, any faulty logic about the motivation of the ennemy is mine, not his.
My impression was that he was a small-time 'warlord' and his merry band, protecting his turf, a L.A. gangbanger of the rustic, afghan kind, not an international terrorist.

Believe me, I'm neither professional, and about what could I be professional anyway?!, nor well-demeaned, but I tend to like this blog (and milpub, though for some reason I have had trouble accessing the comments lately without switching browsers), I like its content, I like its feel - for example the following entry about your late friend Kenneth Lovelace is actually quite sober, yet quite moving, very apt.

I'm just trying to behave, not to spoil the a drinking place I enjoy.

Ok, back to lurking again, thanks for your kind response!

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 12:12:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

i got the crime lord/bandit thing from the link that you provided.
imo the only difference between a bandit and a warlord is the size of his operation.
the ANA is a warlord operation that we inappropriately think we control.
they are all bandits.
i have trouble at milpub also-i suggest entering thru mozilla.
btw-i only wrote this art so folks would understand what guys like Lovelace represent.otherwise he and the others killed that day are lost to memory.
we forget rather readily.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 5:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

to all,
we wrote on murphy on
we called up questions before Ricks & Darack.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 5:05:00 PM GMT-5  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home