European readers of The Fourth Generation Warfare Handbook may wonder why much of the latter part of the book is devoted to true light (or Jaeger) infantry. The reason is that the U.S. armed forces mis-define light infantry as line infantry with less equipment. This false definition leads the Americans to think they have light infantry when in fact they do not. Because true light infantry are usually 4GW forces’ most dangerous opponents, this leaves the U.S. largely disarmed in this kind of war. Its fall-back of massive firepower literally blows up in its face at the moral level, ensuring its defeat. (The closest thing the U.S. has to true light infantry is probably the Marine Scout/Snipers. According to one report from Afghanistan, the Taliban refer to the Scout/Snipers as “The Marines who are well-trained.” The Pashtun are, and long have been, some of the world’s best light infantry.)
-William S. Lind
Lind, a longtime lecturer to the armed forces on the topic of small units for small wars(and the original codification of the 4GW concept), has explained an interesting point. One that I don’t entirely agree nor disagree with, however one that must be examined from the Patriot’s standpoint.
For all of the hornblowing on “martial law” and the military coming to help the militarized police enforce freedom, a serious observer should sit back and ponder a few key issues.
US Infantry Units exist for manuever warfare.
What does this mean, exactly? They move, as part of a combined arms team, against another force fighting on the same theoretical plane as them. Sure, there’s a few units here and there, USMC SS teams, Army LRSU, and a few others sprinkled in there depending mostly on the flavor of the month, but by and large, Infantry is a very small piece of a larger equation. Still with me? Ok. We’ve been in a counterinsurgency posture for some time, but those lessons are being forgotten as we speak, because true CI is relatively cheap.
True, bottom-up Light Infantry looks more like this:
Than the Top down, Micromanaged Person with a Rifle, seen here:
Before you chuckle, understand that the push has been going in this direction for a long time, and still is. US conventional commanders are obsessed with specific, micro control. And that’s a big problem. There’s lots of justifications, but it all boils down to one thing- trust.
Conventional force commanders do not trust their troops to make decisions at the small unit level.
Sure, they may give lip service to it, but they in reality, they do not. No Commander is willing to risk his brass on men who may be the next ones filmed pissing on a dead enemy’s corpse and touching off a media firestorm. In many ways, we’re still very much figuring out how to fight WWII better and better each time. WWIII(aka 4GW) has been going on since Korea, and our track record is, well let’s say, not as spectacular.
Despite all the lip service to the contrary, they will never figure this out.
Either they can’t or more likely they won’t. True, simple Light Infantry is relatively cheap and effective. I could talk all day about individual successes of small teams given free reign to destroy Taliban and AQI pipelines from personal experience, but in the end it’ll matter little. The US Army is concerned with structuring to fight linear warfare against regional, similarly equipped linear enemies. At the forefront of the issues is the over-reliance upon high tech infrastructure. In my experience, even the equipment that’s existed for the past couple decades is unreliable at best.
Once, during a long duration field exercise while assessing a real-world casualty, was asked to send the medevac request by the Blue Force Tracker. Despite announcing it was real world, and had triaged my soldier myself, I was still relegated to using the BFT(which I ignored, and called BN myself.) The request showed up somewhere in the system some time later, well after the BN level aid station had been notified and my CO and PL had been called to the BN TOC after berating me over the net. I digress; but it’s a stark example of over reliance on technology which works well only in the minds of the designers.
True, genuine Light Infantry thinks and operates on its own, melting into it’s population.
It’s not just the American Army either, all of the 1st World armies suffer from this, including the Europeans. Even in this blog, with Ironbound Concepts’ commentary, illustrates this point with the Russians. Despite Mr. Lind’s assertions, I’ve conducted joint operations with a few nations, and the closest to small autonomous units that any of them gets is the Brits, hands down. Even still, this is not to say that there’s roving bands of troops running amok in the countryside, but rather, effective small teams of Hunters looking for prey.
Why this is important
Traditional Infantry is rigid, and doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. They are reactive, remember this. In addition, with the laughable inclusion of women, they will become largely irrelevant to anyone except the easiest prey. Examine the seams created by the technology and societal gap. We can very easily win this fight, as any Westerner is still three times the fighter an Afghan or Iraqi is, despite the collectivist aim to the contrary. Train hard, think unconventionally.
58 thoughts on “True Light Infantry”
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Is Lind’s new book a worthy work on small unit infantry tactics?
I been planning on ordering it. I think Lind has some good things to say on a number of other topics he has written previously.
After learning small unit infantry skills from MAX and John Mosby, and taking upon further study and history of it, I’m a true believer in how effective and powerful SUT is when used in the small G role. It is the only way to fly for citizen combat fighters. Like those guys say and teach, it is the basis of all effective combat.
Learning SUT as a civilian it has been truly transformative, it reduces so many of the unknowns of combat and turns them into assets.
Imagine 1 million citizen American’s trained in small unit infantry tactics with a cadre of prior small unit trained and combat experienced unit leaders like from SF’s, SEALS, Rangers and such. Wouldn’t be an army on earth could withstand such a force in suitable terrain that advantages the G.
Lind is an excellent resource, as is H. John Poole. I’d search for Poole’s book “The Last Hundred Yards” then Phantom Soldier. Both are excellent.
Genuine Light Infantry soldiering is the most effective weapon on the battlefield, bar none.
Well thanks on the recommendations.
“Genuine Light Infantry soldiering is the most effective weapon on the battlefield, bar none.”
That is a winning goal for men to aspire to if I ever seen one.
Would you have any insights into something I don’t see much mention of in regards territory and how it plays a role in 4th gen warfare. Not so much in a historical record, but in context of possible future events?
Take for example Deash, it’s goals notwithstanding, I suspect it is instructional that without holding territory their agenda of a ruling caliphate is not possible. Not to mention the resources garnered from capturing and possessing territory needed to support a functioning caliphate.
I’m sure there is so much to this and the dynamics take a myriad of forms it is almost unlimited in scope.
Taken in a North American context, I would imagine it is important to at the minimum have an underground or clandestine use of territory, instead of outright controlling it, at least in its nascent stages, as the ideological divides between indigenous population out in the “unsecured spaces” are relatively small and benign, compared to the conflict between various sects of islam, and islam itself as a whole and its ideology of all other peoples as unbelievers.
I’m just throwing my thoughts out here, as I don’t have a lot of understanding, but I do understand territory no matter how it is used is a vital component in any civil war or form of resistance to tyranny and its support.
The control of territory has more to do with areas which you’re at home- “home terf” so to speak. Intimate knowledge of the terrain is important, but what’s many times more important is complete backing of the people. Understanding that a small percentage of folks are actually willing to rock the boat in their own lives and fight, those same folks must at least be willing to bear the ramifications of whatever it is you do. I have a post coming elaborating upon this further. It’s both complicated and relatively simple at the same time, depending on how connected you are with the neighborhood you live in.
Hm. You’re outlining the political progressives’ nightmare.
Imagine several millions of American citizens – reverted to civilian life – who had experienced such training in small unit infantry tactics, even if they have access to nothing but “Saturday night specials,” Biden’s beloved double-barreled shotguns, and bolt-action hunting rifles.
Not that they wouldn’t re-equip themselves right double-quick once the excrement hits the rotary impeller.
“You’re outlining the political progressives’ nightmare.”
More like the existential threat to the cultural marxists and their ilk, and the means to win against the sonofabitches running things.
This is exactly how I feel as well. I have long said that I’d rather start the fight with a boy scout troop armed with .22s than the average Army platoon. In a month, the scouts would have the weapons formerly carried by the conventional troops. And their minds would be completely open to adopting effective tactics.
Indeed. It’s an honor to have you as a reader Mr. Bracken.
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I’m non.mil, so with that said, this post makes me think of when I watched “Restrepo” and saw the squads going out on patrol loaded with every piece of issued equipment.
I thought “that pack is gonna get someone killed.” Can someone tell me why the troop would need the entire kit to make a circular patrol? I get guns, mags and water, but what the heck would be in those packs that is mission critical? I can even see NVD, heck maybe even a cleaning kit, but an 80-100 pound pack when you’re planning to circle back in a matter of hours?
It just seemed to be “procedure” and “it’s how the boss wants it”.
A lot of that has to do with mission essential equipment. Batteries and radios alone get really heavy really quick; add in water and you can have 80lbs on your hands relatively quickly. My ruck as a LRS RTO was usually 100lb+, and that was with another guy carrying batteries. The guys at COP Resrepo(and Able Main, and Honnaker Miracle) always packed for longer duration missions, due to the terrain maybe not allowing you to get home on schedule. One 4hr patrol can easily turn into a multi-day nightmare(and did a few times). Due to the terrain, sometimes getting out your wounded or simply un-assing the X was a hard task. Also, with any Infantry patrol, equipment is crossloaded, such as ammo for your MGs(which also gets real heavy, real quick, especially when you have an NCO like me demanding your team carries 1500+ rnds of beltfed ammo per gun) plus snivel gear, because it’s very cold in Afghanistan, especially at night even in the summer.
I’m rambling now…but you get the idea.
Here are some of my fellow “Manchu’s” back in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Wish I had some of my pics that showed our full load-out back then.
No western nation is ever going to adopt anything like the Selous Scouts.
Israel defeated the entire Arab military in 6 days, with a half-trained, under-equipped, third world military. That we’ve been mucking around for a couple of decades is not a failure of our troops or technology, it is a failure of doctrine and leadership.
Yep. But those half-trained Israelis knew what losing looked like- and that will to win, added with the generally superior organizational skills, easily won the day.
As far as COL Reid-Daly’s men are concerned, no, not in any current incarnation. That’ll likely change though. The whole unit was born of common sense coupled with unconventional thinking and refusal of PC-notions. But of course, many of these guy also learned to fight from several controversial sources as well…WWII wasn’t in the distant past.
Many of the lessons from the Selous Scouts carry on today in many of the more elite US units, including the vernacular for stuff.
I reIember reacting to fire in Iraq as a medic. Let’s just say I weighed 190, with front back and side plates, combat load of ammo for M 4 and M 9, assault bag, and aid bag I tipped the scales at 295. Not maneuverable, in no way light anything and slow reacting to fire and running.
Carrying 105lb! This makes the “laughable inclusion of women” more like the TREACHEROUS inclusion of women (which I have always argued against). They will end up carrying a lot less (duh), so guess who gets to carry more…
I feel the whole point is to make the Infantry irrelevant, but I digress.
Jackal… 1RLI Support Commando and ‘C’ Squadron SAS 1977-79
Study I consulted on…
The study of Fire Force Tactics employed during the Rhodesian War
(This article was published in the Marine Corps Gazette March 2000 issue)
By Major Jon Custis, USMC (now Colonel): Project Manager at the Marine Corps Programs Office, Naval Air Warfare Center-Training Systems Division.
This study provides valuable lessons for unit commanders and highlights the advantages inherent in an air-ground task force.
The reconnaissance team’s SALUTE (size, activity, location, unit, time, equipment) report was concise: An estimated 15 guerrillas occupying a makeshift bivouac site 10 kilometers to the east of the village serving as the primary nongovernmental organization feeding site. Armed with new weapons and wearing fresh uniforms, the guerrillas appeared fatigued (due to the previous night’s forced march from the border) but in high spirits. The recon team first spotted the group as it moved along a stream bank then turned and disappeared into a stand of trees. Smoke from a cooking fire drifted into the heavy morning air, confirming their presence.
The heliborne company commander put the finishing touches on his operation order and made it to the confirmation brief at the prescribed time. His plan seemed simple enough; the company would land 4 kilometers away, and conduct a movement to contact to within 500 meters. Two rip platoons would envelop the position while the third platoon, machinegun, and mortar sections provided support by fire.
He finished his portion of the brief relatively unscathed, until the Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) commander cleared his throat and asked, “Captain, what is your contingency should you get to your assault position, only to find that the guerrillas have moved on?”
This hypothetical scenario highlights the dilemma faced by every heliborne unit commander. Should he put his forces into action directly on the objective, or land them some distance away and rely on stealth and surprise? Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the decision is made more difficult if the opposing force is highly mobile.
Landing on or very near an objective, en masse, does afford the unit commander more control if his unit moves into action immediately. Unfortunately, this practice could subject the unit and its assault support aircraft to hostile fire if shock and fire superiority are not achieved. The noise of the approaching helicopters would also provide warning of an impending attack, allowing the enemy unit time to flee.
Choosing a landing zone some distance away from the objective may mask the sound of the approaching force. The tactical situation, however, can change dramatically in the time required to complete a foot movement that ends with forces positioned to conduct the final assault.
Are heliborne unit commanders restricted to merely these two options? This article proposes that all infantry officers would benefit from a study of ‘Fire Force’ tactics employed during the Rhodesian War (1962-80). While the lessons to be learned do not merit a doctrinal change for all combat operations, they do illustrate the efficient use of limited resources and manpower against a particular type of enemy. Additionally, they provide the tactical foundation for a third option should vertical envelopment tactics be required against unconventional forces in a counterinsurgency environment.
Chimurenga-War of Liberation
The political history leading up to the Rhodesian War is too lengthy to detail in this article, but a brief background is in order. By the mid-1960s, Great Britain had decolonized much of Africa. The white minority of Rhodesia, led by Prime Minister Ian Smith, refused to concede to black majority rule. On 11 November 1965, Rhodesia issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence and broke away from Britain. In the face of this ‘rebellion’, the British Government succeeded in securing United Nations-imposed sanctions against the white minority regime.1
Initial guerrilla activity aimed at destabilizing the Smith government was low level and mostly ineffective until 1973. In that year, increasing numbers of insurgents from two Communist-supported factions began to infiltrate into Rhodesia from enclaves in Zambia and Mozambique. Initial actions centered around attacks on soft targets like white-owned farms. By 1974, insurgent forces had moved to a Maoist ‘hearts and minds’ campaign, consolidating positions in the rural peasant areas. Juxtaposed against the insurgent forces were the 12-month conscripts and regular volunteers of the army, air force, and police units. Some units, like the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) Regiment, were exclusively white. Others, like the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR), were comprised of African troops led by white officers.
Deployed in January 1974, the Rhodesian Fire Force saw its first action on 24 February2. The techniques used to support vertical envelopment evolved over time, and this article details the most successful combination of techniques and assets used to take the fight to Rhodesia’s enemies.
Those enemies, lightly armed with Warsaw Pact small arms, generally operated in small groups of 6 to 12 individuals and attacked targets of opportunity or set ambushes. When engaged by Rhodesian forces, individuals of such groups would ‘bombshell’, scattering in all directions in an attempt to escape. They did so at an average rate of 300 meters per minute.
Fire forces were generally employed in response to three developments. The first would be a reaction to an actual ambush or farm attack. When trackers or cross-graining patrols followed up and made contact, a Fire Force was called in for reinforcement.3 Aerial reconnaissance also detected the presence of insurgents, resulting in a callout. Skilled pilots would recognize a series of radiating tracks, for example, from dense vegetation made by insurgents moving in and out of their concealed camp.4 The highest ratio of success was achieved when Fire Force action was initiated by a listening/observation post (LP/OP). These LP/OPs were established on hills affording observation over known infiltration routes and villages of known sympathizers. Anything out of the ordinary, such as lines of women carrying cooked food into groves of trees or dense bush, received further attention.5
An infantry company of the RAR or a commando of the RLI served as a Fire Force at a forward airfield for an average rotation of 6 weeks.6 By 1977, all of Rhodesia’s regular infantry were trained paratroops and could be deployed by helicopter, parachute, or brought in as reinforcements by ground vehicles. This proved to be a critical capability due to the fact that Rhodesia, for much of the war, was forced to use Douglas C-47 Dakotas of World War II vintage in order to get any unit the size of a squad or larger into action. The main workhorse of the Rhodesian Air Force was the Aerospatiale Alouette III helicopter, modified to carry four troops (referred to as a G-Car) or a 20MM reduced- recoil-cannon (the K-Car).
The Fire Force was, in essence, an air-ground task force. A 1979 Rhodesian Intelligence Corps study concluded that the most successful combination of aircraft was a K-Car, four G-Cars (each carrying four troopers), a Dakota (modified to carry 16 paratroops) and a Lynx (fixed-wing ground attack).7 Since the typical contact pitted a Fire Force against 6 to 12 insurgents, the force level of 32 troopers gave Fire Forces a 3:1 strength ratio on the ground.
The Role of the LP/OP
A typical Fire Force callout began with a sighting called in by an LP/OP. The Fire Force Commander took to the air in the K-Car, which also served as his mobile command post. ‘Sticks’ of four troopers, each stick equipped with a very high-frequency (VHF) radio and 7.62mm FN/MAG (our current M240G), followed suit in G-Cars. If the distance to the target required a refueling stop, the briefing would be held there. This allowed the LP/OP to provide an update on the target’s activity.8 Once airborne again, time was of the essence, and noise was the enemy. The sound of approaching helicopters often gave ample warning and allowed the guerrillas time to flee. Care was taken to approach the target area from downwind, as well as use terrain to mask the sound of arrival as much as possible. The Fire Force Commander also asked the LP/OP when the aircraft could be heard; this averaged about 4 minutes from the target.9 Assuming the insurgents could cover their usual 300 meters per minute, the commander made a time/distance calculation and adjusted his plan accordingly.
It was critical that the personnel manning the LP/OP had excellent map skills. The terrain in operational areas was generally savanna broken by cultivated farmland, low hills, and intermittent streams. The LP/OP was required to identify and brief to the Fire Force Commander all prominent terrain features and their relationship to likely avenues of escape (generally, thickly bushed riverbeds and ravines). Another critical element of information required was the compass heading from the LP/OP position to the target.
Upon arrival of the Fire Force, the LP/OP marked the target with a flare or tracer fire. The K-Car entered the target area first, flying in from behind and over the LP/OP on the briefed heading.10 Considering the orchestration required to manage all of his moving parts, the Fire Force Commander did not want to waste time finding the target during talk-on. Professor .R.T. Wood writes:
Ron Hint, a somewhat flustered territorial sergeant, of the Fifth Battalion, the Rhodesia Regiment, pointed his pencil flare projector and informed the incoming K-Car just behind him: “Marking target NOW!” The pencil flare refused to ignite. Coolly observing the sergeant’s agitated efforts, the K-Car pilot laconically commented from above: “Don’t worry. I can see where your finger is pointing.”11
Once certain of the target, the Fire Force Commander marked it with a smoke grenade or white smoke generator, and set his plan into motion.
Stop Groups and Sweep Lines
The K-Car pilot pulled the aircraft up and into a 60-knot orbit at 800 feet. He and the Fire Force Commander would select the kill zone into which the enemy could be driven, identified where the G-Cars would drop ‘stop groups,’ and planned dummy drops and the positioning of the paratroop drop zone. The goal was to take advantage of the shock from the initial air strike of the K-Car or fixed-wing aircraft. They would also select a rendezvous point for the helicopters to meet with vehicles of the reinforcing ‘land-tail.’
As the G-Cars arrived, the K-Car pilot directed them to prescribed ‘stop’ positions on the escape routes and orbited them individually. If the enemy was spotted, the four-man stick was deployed and then became a stop group. If the enemy proved elusive, the stick remained airborne and available for redeployment. The G-Cars remained in the area to reposition stop groups or evacuate casualties until it came time to refuel. This was accomplished back at an airfield, or at the rendezvous point where the land-tail had brought forward reinforcements, fuel, and ammunition.12 One G-Car remained aloft on the edge of the battle to accomplish any number of tasks. Perhaps the most important one was to act as a reserve command post if the K-Car had to transfer the Fire Force Commander and depart for fuel, or became damaged by ground fire.
Once the escape routes were sealed, the paratroops were flown in to sweep the area. They drove their quarry into the open to be dispatched by the high-explosive shells of the 20MM cannon aboard the K-Car, or into the ambushes set by the stop groups. If insurgents escaped the net closing around them, trackers were used to identify the direction of flight. The Fire Force Commander then leapfrogged stop groups ahead and placed them on the route to cut the guerrillas off.13
Command and control of every Fire Force action was made possible for a number of reasons. First, the Fire Force Commander remained aloft in the K-Car. This allowed him to develop the situational awareness required to keep stop groups and sweep lines from blundering into friendly kill zones. Secondly, the Fire Force Commander had VHF communication with all units through effective radios. If communication was lost, every effort was made to replace the radio with the spare kept in the K-Car, or unite that group with one that had a functioning radio. Finally, Fire Force troops observed very fundamental rules that often resulted in the loss of men when violated.
The first rule was to sweep downhill-never uphill. The second was to never sweep into the sun. The third was to always sweep from cover into open ground-never from open ground into cover.14
Such rigid rules may cause proponents of maneuver warfare and the ‘strategic corporal’ to bristle. It is evident however, that given the terrain, enemy, and friendly situations, they worked. An essential foundation of Fire Force tactics was the fact that the commander was not to expect independent action from units on the ground. Strict guidelines proved to be the best way to de-conflict fires in such a fluid situation.
Though history has shown that body counts can be misleading when used as indicators of success, a comparison may provide perspective. In just 9 months of Fire Force operations in 1979, RLI forces engaged and killed 1,690 insurgents. In all 9 years of the Malayan Emergency, British Special Air Service troops accounted for only 108 of their enemy.15
The Rhodesian Government eventually took the view that its military effort was doing little more than stemming the tide. A cease-fire was negotiated in December 1979, followed by all-party elections in March 1980. Robert Mugabe, head of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), was elected to the presidency. Rhodesia’s name was subsequently changed to Zimbabwe.
The new Zimbabwe Army Commander and former guerilla leader, Rex Nhongo, admitted that Fire Force operations in the final war years had killed his junior leaders and trained men at a faster rate than he could replace them. ZANU’s military arm, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, would have been hard pressed to make it through the 1980 dry season because of Rhodesian Fire Force operations and cross-border incursions.16
Why do the Rhodesian War and Fire Force operations merit further study? As the Marine Corps experiments and prepares for the challenge of the ‘Three Block War,’ it must also keep in mind the fact that future opponents will very likely continue to strike at targets of opportunity. They will attack soft targets and seek to avoid direct engagement with the brunt of Marine ground combat assets until favorable conditions exist.
In any future counterinsurgency operations similar to the Rhodesian War, we can expect guerrilla forces to operate from enclaves in neighboring states. Kosovo and East Timor should come to mind immediately. These insurgent units can be intercepted, targeted, and attacked before they pose a threat to an urban area.
At the least, texts detailing Fire Force operations should be included in the professional military readings assigned at the Infantry Officer, Platoon Sergeant, and Squad Leader Courses. Tactics similar to those employed during Fire Force operations can be utilized, given that similar conditions exist. Again, this article is not an attempt to shift doctrine, but rather to add another tactical tool to an infantry unit commander’s tool chest. Even a single rifle platoon commander could disperse his force sufficiently and increase his odds of capturing or eliminating a small, mobile guerrilla force.
What Is Required?
A MEU composite squadron already provides the fixed- and rotary wing close air support and troop lift assets required to support similar tactics. The MEU itself possesses the full range of highly skilled reconnaissance and scout/sniper assets necessary to identify likely targets.
A reliable and truly effective squad/platoon VHF radio is perhaps the only materiel prerequisite currently unavailable. Without one, none of the communication required to move small, widely dispersed units in concert with each other is possible.
Serious thought needs to be given to what Marines take with them to the fight. Rhodesian troopers had to match the mobility of their quarry with similar mobility. They often dressed in camouflaged T-shirts, shorts, and running shoes, or light boots.17 They carried nothing else beyond the ammunition, water, grenades, medical kit, and rations required for the operation. Regulation denim uniforms would be worn, and light sleeping bags carried, only if they expected to establish an ambush in the vicinity of a contact.18
Unless the enemy situation truly dictates otherwise, ditch the flak jacket and helmet. “A Marine always wears his flak and helmet,” is a common refrain when planning an operation, and usually used as an excuse for ignoring a thorough analysis of the tactical situation. Does the cost (loss of protection afforded by the gear) truly outweigh the benefit of increased mobility and endurance?
The greatest paradigm shift required is a willingness to allow commanders to actually command an action from the air. All too often company commanders are forced to develop situational awareness solely through situation reports submitted by subordinate units. Fire force commanders could talk to, as well as see, their troops. Consequently, they were able to achieve the tempo necessary to outmaneuver and defeat an elusive enemy similar to the type Marines faced during Operation RESTORE HOPE. We would be remiss if we failed to study the modern conflict of the Rhodesian War and ignored the lessons learned.
1. “One Commando: Rhodesia’s Last Years & the Guerrilla War It Never Lost,”
http://www.labyrinth. net. au/ – rli3comm/>.
2. Professor I.R.T. Wood, “Fire Force: Helicopter Warfare in Rhodesia: 1962-1980,” ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/1L-Al Iport/fireforl.htm>.
8. Professor J.R.T. Wood, “Fire Force -2-: Helicopter Warfare in Rhodesia: 1962-1980,” ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/RAI lport/firefor2.htm.
9. Wood, “Fire Force.”
11. Wood, “Fire Force 2”
12. Wood, “Fire Force.”
13. Wood, “Fire Force 2”
14. Wood, “Fire Force.”
16. “One Commando: Rhodesia’s Last Years & the Guerilla War It Never Lost.”
17. “One Commando: Rhodesia’s Last Years & the Guerilla War It Never Lost.”
18. “One Commando: Rhodesia’s Last Years & the Guerilla War It Never Lost.”
Further Recommended Reading
Lieutenant Colonel Ron Reid-Daly. Selous Scouts: Top Secret War. Galago, Alberton, 1983.
Leroy Thompson. Dirty Wars: Elite Forces vs. the Guerillas. David and Charles, Newton Abbot, 1988
Al J. Venter. The Chopper Boys: Helicopter Warfare in Africa. Stackpole Books, 1995.
B. Hoffman, J.M. Taw, D.W. Arnold. Lessons for Contemporary Counter Insurgencies: The Rhodesian Experience. RAND Corporation, 1991.
Capt Custis is currently a project manager at the Marine Corps Programs Office, Naval Air Warfare Center-Training Systems Division. He served as a platoon commander in a heliborne-capable company during his four with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines which included Somalia.
Abstract (Document Summary)
The study of Fire Forces employed during the Rhodesian War provides valuable lessons for unit commanders and highlights the advantages inherent in an air-ground task force. The 1970s war is discussed.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Thank You. That’s an excellent resource, and thank you for your efforts in Rhodesia.
Like our guys defeated the communists in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive… yes you did Viet Nam Veterans… and my soul is still with you.
We defeated the communists in Rhodesia… they just moved to Washington, D.C.
The comments above illustrate the importance of reading “The Soldier’s Load And The Mobility Of A Nation.” Too much gear has been a problem for centuries, and kills mobility.
A reliance on mounted operations in the GWOT has changed the dynamic as well, in terms of what qualifies as a true “Light Infantry”.
These days, there’s no “one-stop” loadout…
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You can have the best soldier in the world and win all your battles, but if you let your enemy define the political goals, you will lose. Rhodesia, Viet Nam, Kosovo, Union of South Africa, etc come to mind. More and more conflicts are fought in the countries but won in the press and at the UN. Given the new decentralized Islamist threat, it is hard to even define who is friend or ally or enemy for the majority of us civilians.
***The closest thing the U.S. has to true light infantry is probably the Marine Scout/Snipers.***
The Alaska Territorial Guard, and the intelligence and reconnaissance platoon sometimes known as *Castner’s Cuttthroats.* come to mind. Such units, assembled due to special circumstances or terrain/climate requirements, frequently do not remain on the books after the conflict in which they were born is ended, but should the need arise, often arise again like blooming flowers in the Spring…and with the example set by their predecessors.
Alaska Territorial Guard at Wikipedia:
While Lind wrote that(and I somewhat disagree with his conclusion) I’ll point out that the Army and Marine Corps DO HAVE Traditional Light Infantry Hunter-types, just far and few in between. Army LRSUs and their Marine Recon counterparts are just that- when used in the intended role. But that’s the catch, and, usually such units disappear in “peacetime” when in actuality their need couldn’t be more prudent.
Thanks for the insight on the Alaskan Units. The Castner Unit seems to be structured very much like a LRS-D works when deployed.
Before everyone gets all bubbly over this (and I do agree with him), light infantry as envisioned by the author only works in a freedom of movement scenario. Terrain (both human and physical) are pivotal for this to work. Get fixed or conduct a defense against heavy infantry and you will see how long your light infantry last. By definition, you will have to remain small (formations), light, and mobile. If anything in that three legged stool does not exist you will most likely get your asses handed to you (sorry to burst your bubbles). If terrain supports mechanized/motorized/armored movement you wont last till the sun goes down. Some of your first acts as a light infantry formation competing against heavy formation is to restrict mobility. In Vietnam light infantry (VC) kicked the shit out of heavy infantry (US) for all the reason stated (ditto in Afghanistan). Helicopters tipped the balance to a large extent, but created their own challenges. In Afghanistan the Taliban could walk away faster than we could move towards them, creating a near impunity (unless CCA/CAS was immediately available, however Taliban TTP’s accounted for this factor). Try that in the Midwest cornfields against mech-Inf w/Bradleys and/or motorized Strykers (ala Operation Barbarossa, Israeli desert warfare) and its gonna be a bad day. If air assets (manned/unmanned) are readily available you can count on being fixed and destroyed, again, unless terrain (human or physical) provides you cover and concealment. Regarding the current degradation of the US military, it is a blessing in disguise. In regards to the Pentagon Cowards caving to the PC culture, bring on your homo’s and females, its a win-win for 3 precenters, trust me.
The fortifications and responses of heavy Infantry always push the people towards the insurgent.
I agree 100% with your assertions. Insurgents and Hunters pick their battles.
“Try that in the Midwest cornfields against mech-Inf w/Bradleys and/or motorized Strykers.”
And that’s why the 1st ID loves Kansas!
“True, genuine Light Infantry thinks and operates on its own, melting into it’s population.”
4gw proponents like to say that the modern military is living in the past. I’m afraid that’s true as well for 4gw. 4gw presumes that the population in which such light infantry hide won’t be eliminated, that moral/economic considerations prevail and make such an action unthinkable. that’s ridiculous. genocide and ethnic cleansing are standard operations for most of human history – one recalls the gauls complaining that the romans “make a wilderness and call it peace”. the allies burned dresden to the ground for no other reason than to prove a point, and america nuked hiroshima and nagasaki and would have continued doing to in order to avoid sending troops against women with spears. solzhenitsyn likes to say that if during the terror of leningrad if the citizens had met the kgb and fought to the death that they would have prevailed, but this is oddly thoughtless for him – stalin simply would have leveled the city and sent every single inhabitant to the gulag. he sent half the city to the gulag anyway just … well, just because.
sorry, 4gw relies upon a thin morality that is neither historical nor well-held. 4gw’s first major victory against a serious opponent will inspire a traditional genocidal response.
You are 100% correct, see Barnhardt’s youtube video on the Vendee during the French Revolution. While the men were out kicking ass and taking names the republic army came in and killed EVERYONE….. end of story.
Something everyone is failing to factor in, big green can afford to lose squads, platoons, companies, battalions, brigades and more. How about your little III percent community? Does your train & equip process allow you to reconstitute and reestablish an effective fighting force?
LeMay wanted to win in Korea and Vietnam. Cheney wanted to win in Iraq.
In each case the President said “no nukes” and we lost
Heavy Infantry, Light Infantry, when SAC & the Navy arrives, they all burn just the same.
I look at it as the glass is half full kind of philosophical perspective.
The 2nd Amendment as written was made possible by armed revolutionary’s who fought 4th generational war, and won.
While General Washington in the “historical record is given the kudos, it was colonial American guerrilla fighters and the auxiliary population which supported them waging insurgency against the greatest empire who won quite successfully.
It is not just possible, but a reality a motivated armed citizenry with the will and mordacity to fight using all means who do win against leviathans and police states.
That is a very heartening thing.
Which to me proves a very important thing about 4th gen war, it isn’t order of battle, or technology, or conventional for the day military might that wins, it is people who win. People who win because they refuse to loose, they do not give up, they have indomitable will to fight and die and live to win for what they believe in.
It is the greatest force multiplier and the most powerful weapon ever devised.
And our forefathers did so. It is not just possible, it is the truth.
And here we are again, because so many of us forgot the past, lost connection to those who went before us, we are faced with the same tribulations. Except this time we do have the past to rely on as a guide.
Like you said ncscout “history is circular”.
I have the will and the spirit. And I take great pride in being a descendent of those who won before. I’m not alone either. I see it in people all the time, that will and indomitable spirit. It is all around this great country.
This is our home. There is no other place like it. It is worth fighting for, if needs be even dying for. I think too the potential in our time in this country to wage 4th gen war against tyranny is unlimited. With the ingenuity and can do industrial nature of Americans, never mind the idea liberty resides in our blood by heritage and culture, God bless those who stand in the way of such an aroused citizenry with the resources and motive power at hand.
I believe nothing could deny or stand in the way of such a thing as American style 4th generation war on home turf.
The 3rd Reich and Rising Sun also refused to loose……
Am I missing something in your comment Mark?
What does two systems of genocidal tyranny who where utterly and righteously destroyed have to do with winning ones liberty?
“While General Washington in the historical record is given the kudos, it was colonial American guerrilla fighters and the auxiliary population which supported them waging insurgency against the greatest empire who won quite successfully.”
This is only part of the story. The patriot cause received considerable financial and material support from the government of France. France provided much of the arms and powder used by the continental army and the militias. King Louis also sent large contingents of his regular army troops to fight with Washington. And most importantly he sent a fleet. A naval fleet, then as now, is the most expensive and technologically advanced ‘system of systems’ in existence. The support of the French navy is a large part of the calculus underpinning the patriot victory.
It appears to me looking at the historical record that all successful insurgencies had several things going for them beyond home turf/local support and the perceived moral high ground. They had a geographic sanctuary of some kind outside the theater of combat and the financial and material support of a powerful nation state actor that shared some common interest with them.
All unsuccessful insurgencies did not have those things.
Just a point that also “must be examined from the Patriot’s standpoint.”
Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
What light infantry is. And what it’s not. Micromanagement and lack of trust are problems far beyond the military. The problem may be the way we educate ourselves and how the top thinks. This problem smells of the same Ivy Covered Snob Factory created problems that corporations are having. The problem is that when you look at everything from a top down point of view you lose perspective. In war that gets good people killed and creates resentments that last decades.
Over at Western Rifle Shooters someone had a great article about the Rhodesian Scouts. Great light infantry fighters, superb warriors. Got it. Not applicable unless you are backed by a nation state. Try purchasing and funding 3-4 cargo aircraft that carry 18pax, heliborne capable units (even if only a platoon) , and some type of generic CCA to destroy after you have fixed the enemy….. aint happening guys. We wont even talk battle damage and parts replacement.
Resistance is futile Mark? Is that what your implying?
Absolutely not, just be very careful what conclusions you draw from TTP’s that work in a specific time and space…… the price for failure is high.
A majority of the men who post approach things from a perspective of a small community, all fine and good, At what level is your enemy (which will dictate his capabilities/resources), nation state, city state, or total anarchy. That is the spectrum that will dictate your tactics. No matter how well meaning, brave, well trained you are, a bunch of independent operators wont last long against a nation state operating in its own turf. I have noticed in a lot of the threads people gloss over the hard things. Stability for the non-combatants that support you, basic logistical and medical needs for you and them, and a host of other details that will either engender you or cause you to be isolated from your support base.
It was posted here as well.
All I’ll say is that the world of toady very well may not be the world of tomorrow.
In addition, I think a lot of folks completely missed the point of the article. .
There are many analogous historical examples to our situation today besides the Revolution. For example, in the Huegenot resistance against the Catholic Church, Spain, and Guises, the Huegenots were seen as a check and balance against other powerful forces (such as SPain, the Catholic church, and Guises) seeking to control the crown. Similarly, there are many parties both within and without the United States that would be interested in funding a resistance movement. Russia and China come to mind.
I agree, for the most part. One of the issues was that in those days, resistance movements sprang up among folks who had little in the way of industries “on their feet”, or rather, the ability to generate wealth.
In the US, these days we do. I totally believe that the reason we haven’t had an upheaval is completely due to many not wanting to upset the apple cart. Those days, as the polarization of political messages demonstrate, are over.
As far as Russia and China are concerned, they’ve been funding a revolutionary movement in the US for a very long time- early Anarchists had NKVD all over them, Alger Hiss comes to mind, and the 60s Counterculture was 100% run from GRU sources.
Historically speaking- they’re not on our side. Putin may seem to be these days more out of pragmatism than anything else however. This doesn’t negate the need for diplomacy to said countries; but know that they have their own aims that are not analogous to ours.
The burgher Huguenots sprung from the emerging middle class: artisans and tradesmen. In addition to the religious reasons, the feudal lords opposed them partially because of their economic independence and the fact that they were the spearhead of a collapsing feudal economic system. The Huguenots fought more-or-less as a regular army of paid volunteers. Pay is essential since plunder isn’t possible. I suppose this brings up the issue of duration of war. I have read 4GWs are generational struggles, but it’s awful difficult to support a family without working.
I can’t comment on the wealth or poverty of the rebelling American colonists. They were sprung largely from the same religious stock as the Huguenots, despite what revisionists say:
I agree that the Soviets have been funding and supporting the United States’ internal enemies for almost a century, though few in this country know it. I don’t think Putin is our friend or that he’s a good guy. I think it could be in his interests to fund internal groups that oppose Washington.
Indeed. These are all problems which secessionist governments would face.
And it’s above my pay grade.
Guerrillas normally suffer a certain amount of poverty for the common ideal- as long as they believe they can win.
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“Conventional force commanders do not trust their troops to make decisions at the small unit level. ”
was not the above concept one of the perceived problems of the former armies of the soviet republic? disconnect the head and the body doesn’t know what to do? is this policy being repeated or instilled into current troops? just wondering. new reader.
Indeed it was, and still is.
It would seem big brother is everywhere, including the battlefield. What remedy
does the individual unit possess to ameliorate the above circumstance of their predicament? Certainly, SUT rely upon their most current situation, and make some decisions independently.
After all, the object is to persevere and survive.
You have one incredible weapon- YOUR BRAIN. Always think outside the box, and make the unpredicted move.
If by “Big Brother” you mean, “our drone and surveillance networks,” I think many will use directed energy weapons and jamming against both our drones or their communications links and satellites. There is also the moral aspect of drone piloting: most pilots don’t want to fly drones because everything they do (ie, deploy weapons) is recorded for JAG to prosecute you if you make a mistake. Then there is the fact that the pilots would be deploying weapons against peoples and regions they come from in the US. Pilots are overwhelmingly middle-American types.
They’re only as good as the folks flying them- from experience with ISR, they’re not as good as they’re portrayed.
of course. also.. improvise, overcome, adapt, to borrow a phrase. thanks for the input.
You’re very welcome…and thank you for reading.
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