Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rough Men 
Strategery Page has an intriguing account of special operations in Iraq.

The SOCOM intel effort has its hooks into everyone else's intelligence operations, and gets any info related to al Qaeda, and especially al Qaeda leadership. The basic drill is for one of the four smaller Task Forces to grab a likely bit of info and quickly plan and execute a raid. The rangers provide muscle (perimeter security, read guard) , as needed, and keep any other unfriendlies away, while the SEAL, Delta or SAS commandoes go in after the main target. The objective is to capture people alive, if possible, because interrogations and examination of documents starts immediately. The idea is to get fresh information that will lead to other al Qaeda people. Often this is the case, in which the commandoes and rangers are immediately off to another raid. Most of this takes place at night, and several raids may be carried out between dusk and dawn.

The Task Force has been so successful that, except for Zarqawi, there are no more foreigners (Saudis, Jordanians, etc) in the Iraqi al Qaeda leadership. It's all Iraqis, and these guys are proving just as vulnerable to informers as the foreigners (who stood out because of their accent and body language) were.


My own battalion, the 1-124, was involved in a couple of ad hoc operations with these groups. I was not involved in them as the Headquarters Company XO - Actually, I wasn't really involved in any of the raids until we got detainees, so I can't comment on tactics, techniques and procedures. Well, I wouldn't anyway, on this blog. But if you have an AKO account, you might visit the Center for Army Lessons Learned.

The nice thing about using the local unit, though, is you only have to move the Delta/SAS/SEAL element. You don't have to tip your hand moving a company of Rangers into the raid area when you plan a strike.

I don't know what percentage of these raids are air assaults. Terrain would dictate that - as would our level of confidence that we have the element of surprise.

The combination of Rangers and special ops is a potent one. A company-sized element seems just right to be able to execute an inner and outer cordon around a house or city block, is big enough to discourage a moojie counterattack, but not so big as to become unwieldy.

Interesting reading.

Flexibility on the objective is key. The best stuff frequently comes from the second or third operation in a sequence. Speed in the 1-2 punch is of the essence.

The moojies for their part will rely on cell phones to provide early warning to their network in the last seconds before being taken down. Speed is critical - and that fact lends an intriguing electronic warfare aspect to the operation as well.

No, I don't know what the usual procedure is, or the assets usually available to these teams now. And I'd keep it to myself if I did.

I have a better idea of what was available to them in 2003, but that was an eternity ago. Doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures have made quantum leaps since then, as have the microtechnologies made available to our troops in the field -- especially units with (ahem) streamlined material acquisition systems who can buy beta versions and early rollouts of loads of gee-whiz gear.

In the end, though, it still comes down to guts and gunpowder, pounding hearts, and mouths as dry as the desert sand.

Splash, out



"In the end, though, it still comes down to guts and gunpowder, pounding hearts, and mouths as dry as the desert sand."

Now that is an epitaph I'd like on my tombstone. Men with guts, nerves of steel, and the actions and reactions demanded by the harsh desert, unforgiving seas, and fickle fates of the air are the reason we live in safety today. And it is my privilege to support them in whatever way I can.

Press on Men. Your country is depending on you. And we are certain you are up to the task.

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