Thursday, June 18, 2009

No, No, A Thousand Times No

Over at The Captain's Journal, Mr. Smith* analyzes a paper by Jonathan Kay summarizing the findings of a conference of experts on how to handle the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan held in...the Bahamas (okay, maybe there's a good reason for that, but every time I try to think of it, "boondoggle!!" keeps popping into my head. Weird, eh?). I guess that Mr. Smith has been an advocate of closer SOF/GPF integration, to the extent that SOF ends up attached to (read "operating under") conventional forces. Here's one of Kay's paragraphs, followed by Smith's assessment:

In addition, Special Forces (and special operations troops in general) will get more resources. This is part of a trend, as commanders have found that efforts are more successful when Special Forces personnel are taking the point. This has led to some special operations troops getting special privileges, like wider authority to call in artillery fire and air strikes. Thus this “unleashing” of the Special Forces and other special ops units (SEALs and foreign commandos) will lead to some interesting situations.

Smith: They’re listening, and we’re partly there folks. No special privileges though. Re-attach them to infantry, just like Force Recon is attached to Marine infantry. Just another billet to do specialized things. The Army is dumbing down their expectations and taking the vast majority of their fighters out of the fight while also taking their SOF fighters out of the counterinsurgency operations. Time to end that nonsense. Get back to the basics.

Let's talk basics. Conventional Forces, represented here by the Infantry, are regimented, hierarchical, and inflexible. SOF operations and culture--where merit, competence and aptitude often win out over rank--is anathema to CF. As for "no special privileges" like greater authoritiy than CF to call in indirect and air support: those "special privileges" are generated because the force receives special training and has special capabilities. What do you think the S in SOF is for? Is the argument that a 26-year old squad leader should have the same access to the wide array of US effects as a 44-year old, specially trained operator?

If, in our current COIN fights, SOF/GPF integration is so all-fired important, let's turn the paradigm around: let's attach infantry companies (commanded by captains) to SF companies (commanded by majors). Better yet, let's attach infantry battalions to SF Groups and SEAL Teams. That would ensure that the forces are integrated. Of course, the infantry guys would be ruined forever (from thier commander's point of view) because they'd learn to think for themselves, would prioritize mission accomplishment over placating the command, and would go to the gym and do PT in any clothes they wanted (the horror, the horror).

Starbuck pointed out the case of a sergeant major who admitted to using a multi-million dollar unmanned aerial vehicle to covertly inspect the uniforms of Soldiers at remote combat outposts. Yeah, the organization that promoted that guy and put him in a position of such responsibility and authority could properly utilize SOF. You know what, on second thought assign a bunch of SOF guys to that unit; they'll chill that motherfucker out muy pronto.

*My apologies to Mr. Smith for not being able to send him my comments directly. Couldn't successfully register, maybe because of the Iraqi IP address, maybe because I'm technically retarded (Mongo no like magic box, magic box make Mongo angry).


  1. For once someone has hit nail on the head. Put the CF under SOF command. Stan the Man is probably the only who can pull it off. Let us wish him well.

  2. "Conventional Forces, represented here by the Infantry, are regimented, hierarchical, and inflexible."

    First of all, we're talking degrees here. The CF might be less flexible than SF, but there is no reason to paint them as being useless or unable to adapt.

    We'll never have enough SF to cover the entire war, so using SF is the paradigm is always going to be an awkward fit.

  3. Trashhauler,
    I am in no way calling CF useless or unable to adapt. My hyperbole was meant to convey that, until CF does adapt, I do not advocate placing SOF under CF control. I also am not convinced that our current C2 configuration needs to be changed; it's ugly but it works.
    Two other quick points:
    I poke fun at CF (via the Infantry) for its leadership style, but I'll be the first to admit that exercising command and control over an infantry company is totally different than exercising the same over a SOF unit. Let the Infantry figure out the best way to accomplish its mission--but allow SOF the same latitude.
    Second, watch how many CF guys who would calmly proclaim "mission first" at getting SOF put under their control would turn apoplectic at being told they were losing "their" guys to go under SOF control.
    Wasn't trying to disparage anybody (well, except for that fuckstick SGM), just kicking back a little at a concept I oppose.