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May 28, 2007


Of course at Fort Irwin, very few people actually die. While there will be some better trained insurgents coming from Iraq, there will also be fewer of them.

And almost all of the benefits that they have in Iraq, such as neighboring countries willing to supply weapons and safety, and the ability to blend in and escape, are fairly non-existent, and the cultural barriers we face here are reversed. I would imagine they are mostly negative lessons rather than positive ones if they intend to export to the West.

For centuries, conventional military wisdom has held that units are basically just placeholders until they have faced actual combat. After, they are deemed to be "blooded", and therefore actually useful.

So really, about the worst thing you can do as a superior power is fight lots of superficial battles. I don't believe we're doing that, but still there is a significant benefit to ragtag enemies when we give them lots of opportunities like that.

"Both the National Training Center and its Opposing Force are, by all accounts, absolutely superb."

Yes. However, that OpFor is the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (Blackhorse). Which in in January 2005 deployed to Iraq.

On 4 July 2004, the Regiment received deployment orders for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously, in June 58th Combat Engineers, Red Devils, was the first to deploy attached to 2nd BDE, 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad, Iraq. 2nd Squadron deployed in December 2004 to Babil Province, to conduct support and stability operations with the 155th Mississippi National Guard. 1st Squadron deployed in January 2005 to Baghdad, Iraq. Over the course of the year they were attached to four different Brigade Combat Teams conducting full spectrum operations in the Baghdad area of operations. The Regimental Headquarters deployed to Mosul Iraq that same month and assumed duty as the division headquarters for Multi National Force North-West.
They apparently returned 17 March 2006, but they've not been doing the work they were previously doing at Ft. Irwin, and will have to retrain.

A major error, though not central, or even important, to your point or post, crept in to your post, I'm afraid, in relying on the Globalsecurity page, because it's 8 years out of date. After 2001, Ft. Irwin was reworked to give training in situations akin to Iraq and Afghanistan; it hasn't been doing those "force-on-force and live fire training of heavy brigade-sized military forces" for quite a while.

But that page hasn't been updated since 2000.

Here is a piece about the Blackhorse being sent to Iraq. Here's a post I wrote a bit over a year ago, on the topic, with various links, including to a NY Times story about it.

The Army naturally downplays it, but there's some question of how much using the Blackhorse is using one's seed corn.

Of course, the flip side of becoming a "COIN army" is that we have a lot less of a fight-with-tanks-on-a-battlefield army, of the sort Fort Irwin used to primarily train units for.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to quote from that National Defense piece:

[...] McNeill defended his decision to deploy both the Blackhorse and Geronimo, by saying that these units are some of the best forces in the Army, and "there ought to be a place for them in the fight."

The two OpFor units are one of the "major reasons for the high quality of Army forces in the field today," military historian Frederick Kagan wrote in an editorial published in the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine. "Both units have served as OpFor for more than a decade, and they have become the premier training units in the world."

According to Kagan, units replacing them will not be able to match the OpFor's level of skill and experience for a long time. "As a result, the level of training in the Army will be degraded, and Army forces deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan will be less well prepared. This decision is incredibly shortsighted."

Not so, argues McNeill. A nucleus of the traditional OpFor is staying behind to help with the training of the replacement units. These units will be monitored constantly to ensure they are performing up to standards, said McNeill.

Oh yeah, the primary benefit of the NTC is that units visiting are not just defeated but *humiliated* by OPFOR units that know all the tricks of both terrain and doctrine. It's pretty major news when the visitors can get them to a draw. This does actually happen sometimes; the game is not that rigged.

The essential message remains: you are soldiers in the world's most effective military. But other people are smart too, and you had better be prepared for that.

A reduction in the ego-shattering rays of the NTC is bad news.

I remember the shock and horror amongst the blogosphere (well, much of the blogosphere) when Blackhorse deployed to Iraq. It seems profound that I'd completely forgotten about it until now, but I'm not exactly sure how.

I think that is one of the decisions that are made based on history and lineage. There has been a pretty strong 11th ACR mafia (not as strong as the 82nd) that tries to maintain its place in history. 11th ACR essentially missed out on the Gulf War and went in as an occupying force in Kuwait. Then it blew up its own motorpool. I think it was quite a blow to the regiment to not be first in line during that war.

NTC OPFOR getting reflagged as 11th ACR was not seen as an honor for the ACR. I suspect there were a bunch of cold warriors in the pentagon remembering the glory of the Fulda Gap that wants to keep the tradition alive.

Ah, Gen. Dan McNeill. The man who earned his most recent star by soaking in blood and calling it a bubble bath.

He reported that the two Afghan men beaten to death in the prison he commanded died of natural causes. He saw nothing unusual or wrong in prisoners hung from the ceiling with chains. He covered up for the massacres of civilians in bombings, a regular feature of the November 2001-January 2002 period in Afghanistan.

So of course he was perfectly suited to sit in judgment on Gen. Byrnes, drummed out for 'adultery'. And his is the kind of discernment needed to reshape the army to Rumsfeldian needs.

Sir! Yes Sir!

Iraq could probably be better equated to a JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, the Army's premiere light operations training center) for terrorists, although as jrudkis noted, when you screw up at JRTC you'd don't actually die. So a lot of our enemies are being weeded out. The problem being that those that survive are the best of the lot. So there is reason to be concerned.

Darwinism in action...

Oh, and this:

So a lot of our enemies are being weeded out.

seems to me misguided. Many people are being "weeded out", this is true; but whether this constitutes "a lot of our enemies" neglects the fact that our actions also create enemies, it's not a fixed number.

The other thing worth noting: Al Qaeda hit America with a conspiracy that encompassed, what, 50 people at most? If our goal is homeland security -- the concept, not the department -- killing "a lot of our enemies" (however defined) is a net loss if it results in enemies sufficiently well-trained to attack the US. Not saying that's what happened here, but it's a real and present danger that I don't think gets adequate attention. YMMV obviously.

That's true, Anarch, and I no way intended to suggest that it is a winning strategy. Indeed, as you noted, and as any student of COIN could tell you, killing insurgents is never suffient for victory.

I think it's not a bad thing to trim them down, but you raise a valid point about improving the quality of the survivors. I suspect the calculus rests on the eventual success of the counterinsurgency. Which I'll not further speculate on in this environment.

"This environment" == ObWi?


The problem being that those that survive are the best of the lot. So there is reason to be concerned.

It's a good thing Al Qaeda's too dumb to think of, you know, training camps or talking to each other about what they've learned. Otherwise we could really be in trouble...

Case in point...

"This environment" == ObWi?

Posted by: Anarch | May 28, 2007 at 02:14 PM


Curses, comrades, we almost had him...

" Then it blew up its own motorpool."

I'm trying to figure out what this means. No luck so far. I mean there's the obvious literal meaning, but it's a perplexing one.

" Then it blew up its own motorpool."

I'm trying to figure out what this means. No luck so far. I mean there's the obvious literal meaning, but it's a perplexing one.

Not so much.
[...] 13 June 1991, only two weeks after the first Blackhorse soldier had arrived in theatre, the Regiment assumed from 1st Brigade, 3d Armored Division the responsibility for defending Kuwait. The Regiment's new base camp was a sprawling complex surrounded by an eight-foot high wall.

The three line squadrons took turns pulling "Z Cycle", a designation that included responsibility for security. Manning gates, towers, the Z Squadron kept a platoon-size Quick Reaction Force (QRF) on alert around the clock, seven days a week. The QRF deployed off the compound without notice at least twice daily, a muscle-flexing exercise.

On the morning of 11 July a defective vehicle heater triggered a motor pool fire in the north compound of Blackhorse Base Camp. Despite valiant efforts to extinguish it, the blaze burned out of control and began detonating ammunition stored in and around the Regiment's vehicle fleet. The resulting shower of shrapnel and unexploded ordnance forced the evacuation of the entire compound and caused extensive damage.

Some fifty Blackhorse troopers suffered injuries that day, a number that would have been far higher had it not been for numerous individual acts of heroism and the Regiment's disciplined response to the emergency. Miraculously, there were no fatalities.

Turns out it means "it blew up its own motorpool."

jrudkis: "While there will be some better trained insurgents coming from Iraq, there will also be fewer of them."

I generally have a lot of respect for your comments, specially considering your particular positioning at this time, but this statement falls into the same category as if we leave they will follow us home.

Fewer than what? Fewer than there would have been if we hadn't gone into Iraq? Highly unlikely. Fewer than if we didn't give them opportunities for training? Again highly unlikely. In fact, a strong argument could be made that there would be fewer of them in the future if we left Iraq now.

If one comes out of Iraq more highly skilled, that is one more than would have been there if we hadn't created and fouled up the situation.


Do you think it unlikely that, out of the many people the U.S. has angered in Iraq by the invasion, that some small percentage won't be willing to try and strike back? I believe that number will be very small, but I don't think it will be zero.

It's true that this is a problem the U.S. largely brought upon itself, but at this point, unless you have the keys to the DeLorean, that's useful for preventing future problems in, say, Iran, but is of little use in Iraq at the moment. So the proper metric would be, will there be fewer than there are right now.

G'Kar, I realize what you are saying, and my personal opinion is that there would be fewer if we left now rather than later.

And of course I realize that some want to hurt us. I have no idea why you would have thought otherwise.

And if you have a spare DeLorean, I would be willing to take it off your hands (free of charge of course).


The phrasing of your comment left me uncertain, so I asked.

As to whether or not the calculus in the U.S.'s favor, that is an argument worth having, although I suspect it would be difficult to resolve because there just isn't enough hard data to answer the question.

And I'd help you out, but the flux capacitor is on the fritz.

There are tiers of insurgents here. At the low end are opportunists who fire a few rounds and run away, then tell stories to their friends about heroic deeds. Some are forced to participate in the same way gangs enforce joining in some communities. Some IED's are very sophisticated, others are childish. At the high end, you have organizers and trainers brought in from outside that are getting valuable hands on experience, as well as prestige and followers. The low end guys are numerous but not sophisticated and are unlikely to be a threat to the US. The high end guys are few, not easily replaced, and when they are killed, I think it reduces the threat of exporting to the West.

So while I think staying here does create more insurgents overall, I think few insurgents have the capacity to harm us overseas, and reducing the number of high tiered enemy further reduces their ability to harm us at home.

"And I'd help you out, but the flux capacitor is on the fritz."

You need to get the Mr. Fusion attachment for it to work properly.

The other thing worth noting: Al Qaeda hit America with a conspiracy that encompassed, what, 50 people at most?

That and about a half million bucks, if I understand correctly. They were really good at what they did, apparently, but the resources needed were not that much.

The high end guys are few, not easily replaced, and when they are killed, I think it reduces the threat of exporting to the West.

Hey jrudkis -

You're there and I'm not, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

But my guess is that the guys who are fighting us in Iraq aren't that interested in coming here to fight us, and if they were, wouldn't be likely to use a military insurgency model to do so.

If they wanted to be here, here is where they'd be. What would stop them?

To the degree we're at risk, the folks we're at risk from are probably already here, or are making there plans as inconspicuously as possible somewhere other than Baghdad.

If and when they do show up, they won't be carrying an Uzi, a gun belt, and an IED. That would be too obvious.

I could be wrong, but my personal opinion is that the relationship between our efforts in Iraq and the security of Americans here at home is zero, zip, nada, zilch, niente.

That doesn't mean our -- your -- efforts in Iraq are not worthwhile. It just means that the threat of the folks you're fighting there now following us home is not the actual problem we're likely to face.

Thanks -

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