The key takeaway from UK news about their Ranger Regiment design is that they’re claiming a need to move from training/advisory to “expeditionary” roles that go into the field with the forces they’re training.
Training, advising and accompanying partner forces dealing with extremist organizations and hostile state threats… creation of land regional hubs in Oman, Kenya, Germany and Belize…
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, Chief of the General Staff, actually has the money quote:
…all army capability, matching brainpower with firepower, data and software with hardware. …if you actually want to guarantee tactical success, you’re much better placed operating alongside those troops you’ve actually been responsible for generating and training in the first place.
Matching software with hardware seems… more like standard operating procedure than specialized. Likewise, was firepower being sent into field without any brainpower? And does that sound like training actually had been taking place at all?
I found a message from 1994 (Army Communicator, Vol 19, No 2) by Robert E. Gray, Major General, U.S. Army Commanding, which used similar language in a bitter form of farewell/warning.
It is a myth that technology is an operational panacea and thus requires fewer people to get the job done. Rather, budget constraints and technology require innovative people doing things smarter… We will endure reductions in training, and field units will have to pick up the ball. Also, some technology enhancements will be slow in reaching the field. Despite all these factors, no country in the world can match our might — whether it’s firepower, technology, or brain power.
“Field units will have to pick up the ball” of 1994 sounds eerily like General Carleton-Smith today, no?
Perhaps even more interesting is what was called an “uncomplimentary view of the US military noted by a retired Army officer” (James Mrazek, “The Art of Winning Wars” 1968, p. 53), as cited in “Strategymaking for the 1980s” by Lieutenant General Raymond B. Furlong, US Air Force (Parameters, Journal of the US Army War College, Volume 9, Issue 1, 1979, p. 9)
Except for our first two wars, an overwhelming abundance of economic power has been the deciding factor that has given the United States Army its victories. America has been inclined to rely on raw strength to the neglect of brains.
When you really get into reading Mrazek, you have to wonder why he didn’t call his 1968 thesis the war of art…
The impotence of the American juggernaut in Vietnam has put this problem under the spotlight of history. The one thing the guerrillas have in abundance is imagination, and this seems to outweigh the imbalance in materiel. It is the author’s contention that creativity is what wins battles–the same faculty that inspires great art.
Anyway, back to the 2021 UK message details, their stated move from training to an expeditionary approach signals to me planners admitting failure or obscuring harsh reality by trying to rebrand it as a new opportunity (far more than actually taking a move towards “guarantee” of any success).
It’s almost like when the power of money and technology fails to deliver, there’s a tendency of those charged with power management to grasp longingly at mysticism for solutions — as if art comes from divine inspiration, an individual appeal towards ultimate power, instead of being the expression of collective wisdom and collaboration (inverse to conflict).
Unfortunately, this announcement very much reminds me of an intentional lack of UK intelligence — how under reported SAS history has been (not to mention the role of US Vietnam War veterans), given who actually was sending expeditionary forces into the disastrous killing fields of Rhodesia.
I mean in reality will this really be anything more than a new chapter for the infamous “ace of spades“, or more than a return to the 101 of special forces (roots planted in WWII by the “long lines” of an “expeditionary” Wingate)?