More on Door-Kicking, Aggressive, Unnecessarily Escalatory “Peace Officers”


From that urbane sophisticate, LTCOL P over at Op-For, where he references WAPO, via SurvivalBlog:

The culture that encourages police officers to engage their weapons before gathering information promotes the mind-set that nothing, including citizen safety, is more important than officers’ personal security.

Worth the read, both LTCOL P’s cogent commentary and the original article.

Police officers should understand the risks in their jobs when they enroll in the academy, as well. That means knowing that personal safety can’t always come first.

Very tired of Police Officers asserting that their “safety” trumps Constitutional liberties.  Especially when they are more aggressive toward law-abiding American citizens than I was ever allowed to be toward Iraqis.  Sadly, as LTCOL P points out, they behave like Volkspolizei because we have allowed it.

Boyd, and Patterns of Conflict, Now with Video!

To say that John Boyd has a following would be an understatement. There’s the followers, and then there’s the cult. I’m a follower.

Jason Brown, studying Boyd during his professional military education, not only read everything he could find on Boyd, he also uncovered video of his Patterns of Conflict briefing. For you who aren’t terribly familiar with him, Boyd didn’t write essays or white papers, or books. He gave presentations. That had a great impact on the audience, and was of immediate impact. But it also meant the written record of Boyd’s thinking was somewhat lacking.

Several years ago, I tracked down a rare video of Boyd delivering “Patterns of Conflict,” the famous (and lengthy) briefing that framed his theory of warfare. At the urging of some junior officers (and a little technical coaching), I recently uploaded the video to YouTube. While my views on Boyd have matured over the years, the videos reveal the sage discourse I sought from him, as well as prudent counsel appropriate for today.


I think it would be fair to say the Marine Corps bought into Boydian concepts, most importantly the OODA Loop, more than any other service. And that’s fine.

My frustration has been that over the years, not a few cult members have chided the Army for failing to simply rewrite all its doctrine based on Boyd’s OODA Loop briefing.  Mind you, this was back in the day when AirLand Battle was still, essentially, the operative doctrine guiding the US Army.

Almost invariably, further questioning of the cultist would reveal that while they could say the words Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, they knew little or nothing of AirLand Battle (ALB), or its evolution from the previous doctrine, Active Defense.

There is little evidence that Boyd had anything to do, even indirectly, with the genesis of ALB. Interestingly, though, we can see some very clear parallels between the OODA Loop and the fundamentals of ALB. The fundamental concepts of Initiative, Depth, Agility, and Synchronization easily harmonize with the concepts of the OODA Loop.

That’s not to say OODA Loop and ALB were competing, but rather that a grounded understanding of the OODA Loop and Patterns of Conflict made grasping the true precepts of ALB much easier, and led to better implementation.

XBoX and the Obstacle Breach

One of the most difficult tasks an armored force can face is breaching an obstacle.

Obstacles on the mechanized battlefield typically consist of an anti-tank ditch, concertina wire, and one or more minefields. Obstacles themselves aren’t expected to stop a force. Instead, they are intended to delay a force.* That imposed delay tends to leave the attacker bunched up, and vulnerable to the defenders fires, both direct and indirect.

Not surprisingly, the US Army has published quite a bit of doctrine on just how to breach such an obstacle. Also not surprisingly, for many years every brigade that went through the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin performed at least one obstacle breach mission, and usually more than one.

The problem is, it is hard to learn the complexities of a mounted breach just by reading a book, and it’s expensive as heck to get the entire brigade (or BCT today) out in the field to practice.

The Army way of learning is often described as crawl/walk/run. Crawl might be standing in a field with the manual in your hands and simply walking through the steps of a task on a very reduced scale. Walk then becomes doing it on a full scale, mounted, but at a leisurely pace, and against no opposition. Run, of course, would be the full up, full scale, full speed exercise.

The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command has established a small cell to produce training video.  The graphics are produced on a variant of XBoX games, and are used to recreate various battles or training tasks. And one of them is the Obstacle Breach.


Obviously, a 2o minute video won’t replace actually reading the manuals and then going out and practicing. But it does give a decent visualization of what the discussion is about. As a supplement to to the various training aids available, it can help ensure that time and resources are not wasted in later stages of training.

H/T to :



*Actually, they are also often intended to turn a force (as in seek another avenue of movement), or channelize them on terrain of the defenders choice.

The Army Operating Concept

We shared a copy of the Army’s Operating Concept a while back, but never got around to reading it. A slightly updated version came across our desk this week, and we’ve finally started delving into it.

The AOC isn’t the current Army doctrine. What it is is a framework to look to the future and make best guesses as to what future conflict will look like in the near term, and how the Army should be shaped to best suit that.

Spoiler alert- the first parts, the prefaces and first chapters are pure word salad, a cornicopia of buzzwords that would make a shyster business consultant blush.

Somewhat surprisingly though, the second part offers a blunt assessment of our potential adversaries, with only the minimum of jargon. Just as a slight taste, here’s the assessment of Russia:

(2) Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and use of conventional and unconventional land forces in Ukraine suggest that Russia is determined to expand its territory and assert its power on the Eurasian landmass. Russia deployed and integrated a range of diplomatic, information, military, and economic means to conduct what some analysts have described as “non-linear” operations.32 Russia conducted operations to pursue its war aims below the threshold that would elicit a concerted North Atlantic Treaty Organization response. In addition, Russia used cyberspace capabilities and social media to influence perceptions at home and abroad and provide cover for large-scale military operations. While the long-term results of the incursion into Ukraine are not yet certain, Russia demonstrated the centrality of land forces in its effort to assert power and advance its interests in former Soviet states. Without a viable land force capable of opposing the Russian army and its irregular proxies, such adventurism is likely to continue undeterred.33 Russia’s actions highlight the value of land forces to deter conflict as well as special operations and conventional force capability to project national power and exert influence in political contests.

The Obama administration, having done nothing to deter Russia from invading Ukraine, simply pretends the situation doesn’t exist. The Army, however, has to at least acknowledge reality. It’s not suggesting the US should undertake any actions here, just noting both the methodology that Russia has used, and that such a similar “non-linear” approach, having worked once, will likely be used again, and the Army had better start thinking about ways to respond.

Another theme that is showing up is, in as the Navy and Air Force posit AirSea Battle as the key to the pivot to Asia, the Army is attempting to show the centrality of land power (that is, the Army) to any theater of war. First, that’s where the people are. Second, the Army provides capabilities that the other services simply cannot. Intelligence, command and control, interface with other nations command structures, engineering and logistics are all areas that either the Army alone has sufficient capacity, or where supplementing the other services with Army assets is likely a best practice.

My own way of describing the Army’s vision for a future theater is this- the Army sees itself serving as the prime contractor, and then subcontracting out the various warfighting elements to the component services, be it Army, Air Force or Navy.

Still not done reading the AOC, so I’ll probably babble on it some more later.

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Firepower Vs. Maneuver

This won’t be an extended treatise on on doctrine, but I came across a brief passage in a paper (that I’ll expound on in a later post) that I wanted to share with you:

Further the tension between firepower and maneuver-based doctrines
often appears as more of a false dichotomy than self-styled maneuver theorists might allow. As DePuy stated in partial response to critics who accused him of being an attritionist, “maneuver warfare is not a doctrinal choice, it is an earned benefit.”

Put aside the COIN vs. Full Spectrum Operations (or whatever the hell the Army is calling it this week) argument, for decades, there’s been the tension between the advocates of attritional firepower versus the advocates of maneuver warfare.

To which I say-

You need firepower to give you freedom of maneuver, and maneuver to effectively place firepower.

Big Army, especially the armored and mech infantry side of the house, are frequently castigated as the attritionists. That’s fairly odd, because DePuy, supposedly the head attritionist in chief, was the guy that strongly encouraged the revisions to the ‘76 version of FM 100-5, inviting input that eventually lead to a far more “maneuverista” approach, eventually enshrined in 1982 as AirLand Battle Doctrine.

On the flip side, the Marines, famous for frontal assaults throughout history, are currently seen as a hotbed of maneuveristas, holding it as the high holy grail of doctrinal thought. Heck, they named their doctrine Operational Maneuver From The Sea. Maneuver is great, but at some point, you need firepower. You can dance all around put eventually, if you gotta land some punches.

By the way, let me get definitional here for a second- maneuver is not movement. It usually involves movement, but is more than that. One dictionary definition of maneuver, as a verb, is:

carefully guide or manipulate (someone or something) in order to achieve an end.

“they were maneuvering him into a betrayal of his countryman”

intrigue, plot, scheme, plan, lay plans, conspire, pull strings

“he began maneuvering for the party leadership”

Movement simply implies the effect on your own force. Maneuver is intended to have an effect on the enemy force. Indeed, every action our forces take should remember that. The goal of operations is to induce an effect on the enemy towards achieving our desired end state. The flip side of the coin, firepower, well, it too must be harnessed. But as LeMay once said, if you kill enough of them, they quit fighting.

Artillery Organization

When the Marines defend their huge investment in Close Air Support, it’s largely because they need it. They simply don’t have a lot of tube artillery available for support. Why? Because they will never have enough amphibious shipping to move it.

The Army, on the other hand, has since the middle of the 19th Century had a long tradition of excellence in artillery, and accordingly places a lot of faith in a lot of guns.

Let’s compare some of the fire support available to a division. Organic to the Marine division is an artillery regiment. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this regiment had three battalions of light artillery, 105mm tubes, and one battalion of 155mm artillery. All four battalions had towed pieces.

At first glance, Army artillery seems quite comparable.  A light division had “Division Artillery”~ effectively a brigade, with three battalions of 105mm guns, and one battalion of 155mm guns, all towed.   Seems pretty comparable.

But if we leave the light divisions, and look at the Army’s heavy divisions, we see a somewhat more robust organization. Each mechanized or armored division had a similar organization, but different armament.

Heavy divisional DivArty had three battalions of self-propelled 155mm guns (each with a self-propelled ammo carrier). It also had a battalion of self-propelled 203mm (8”) guns. Eventually, the 8” battalion would be replaced by a single battery of MLRS 270mm rocket launchers.

But the story doesn’t end there. Army divisions in Europe were intended to fight as a part of a corps, and indeed, as a part of a field army. And a great deal of the combat power of a corps or field army is located in units outside of the divisions. Each heavy corps typically had two separate artillery brigades, each with four battalions, usually three of 155mm and one battalion of MLRS, as they phased out the 8” tubes.

One of the key precepts behind US Army artillery doctrine has always been concentration. If it’s worth shooting at, it’s worth shooting at a lot. So it would be typical for the main effort of a corps operation to receive the support of both corps artillery brigades. And within that main effort  division, it would be typical for the maneuver brigade forming the main effort to receive the support of all the guns of both the division and the corps artillery, or at least a priority claim to their fires.* Conceivably, one maneuver brigade of three battalions would have the support of 12, or even more, battalions of artillery. That’s a level of fire support a Marine regiment commander could only dream of. And that doesn’t count the attack helicopter and Air Force tac air support our notional Army brigade might receive.  And because all these heavy artillery brigades were self-propelled, they could rapidly shift support from one area to another.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Army no longer faces the spectre of a single division having to stem the onslaught of an entire Russian tank army. And the past decade of limited warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a much smaller need for massed artillery fires.

Instead, today’s artillery has shifted emphasis from massing fires to longer ranges and greater precision, via such tools as rocket assisted projectiles, guided unitary warhead MLRS rockets, and guidance kits for conventional 155mm artillery that permits a limited “boost/glide” profile.  The battlefield a single maneuver brigade occupies is much larger than in years past, even as little as 20 years ago. And simply to cover that area, the supporting artillery either needs a longer range, or the greater lethality of guided rounds (that way, smaller units of artillery, such as a battery or even just a platoon can disperse over a wider area to support more units and cover more battlespace).

*I’ll leave it to URR or Esli to explain the doctrinal niceties of attached, OPCON, Direct Support, General Support, or General Support Reinforcing.

Leadership Lesson of the Day

While I enjoy poking fun at the Air Force as much as the next guy, the fact is, they are a military service, and they face many of the same leadership challenges that the other services struggle with.

While this post focuses on the cultural problems of the Air Force, I’d say the lessons, particularly regarding centralized execution, are universal across all services.

Doctrinally, each and every service preaches devolving authority to the lowest possible level.  Mission orders describe an end state that a subordinate must achieve, allowing him the flexibility and initiative to achieve that state by the best means.

But in fact, virtually no commander at any level is willing to grant his subordinates the true freedom to execute without micromanagement. No supervision (which is a good thing) but detailed micromanagement. And if you micromanage your troops, they’ll let you assume more and more responsibility for how things are done, and the outcome good or bad (and it’s usually bad).

I’m a “company guy.” I’m not a bold, outside the box thinker. I spent a lot of time reading and understanding doctrine and thoroughly bought into the concepts. I wasn’t going to be the guy that invented a new way of doing things. On the other hand, our Army had a couple centuries of experience, and had bothered to write down what worked  in the past, so I saw no sense in reinventing the wheel, or learning the hard way what someone else had already taken the time to write down as “ the right way, AND the Army way.”

But there is a difference between understanding doctrine, policy, management practices and  processes, and forgetting that those policies, practices and processes are merely tools to achieve a mission. Following them is not the mission itself.

John Boyd And The OODA Loop

I was reminded today that Hugh Hewitt still hasn’t returned my biography of John Boyd that I loaned him a decade ago. I’m starting to think it won’t be forthcoming.

John Boyd went from  a brash young fighter pilot, to a tactical thinker who (with others) greatly changed the way the US thought about, and trained, fighter tactics. He also, based on his tactical thought, had a good deal of influence in the decision to design and purchase the F-16, a plane optimized to fight using his E/M(or Energy/Maneuverability) theory of fighter combat.

That alone would have made him a pretty memorable fellow. But building on his tactical thought, he leveraged that to an operational and strategic level theory that has been popular in both military and civilian circles for some time now. His theory became know as the “OODA Loop.”

Boyd posited that we respond to any situation or environment via a process with four elements.

  1. Observe
  2. Orient
  3. Decide
  4. Act

We observe a situation via our senses, or other methods of gathering information. We orient this information this information based on past experiences, culture, analysis, an our heritage. We make a decision based on this orientation, and then act to fulfill the decision.

But the process is not linear, as read above, but rather continuous, with each element generated feedback in the process, hence the term “loop.”

Click to greatly embiggenfy.

The goal of consciously using an OODA loop in combat is to speed up the process of making a decision. By running through the cycle faster than an opponent, his previous observations, orientations and decisions are rendered useless by the newest observations (that is, the results of your decisions and actions). By continuously operating inside an opponent’s decision cycle, his level of chaos and confusion is greatly increased, and the validity of his own OODA loop is degraded until such time as it is worthless.

The Army has never specifically, doctrinally endorsed the OODA loop, though virtually every field grade officer is familiar with the concept. In AirLand Battle, the term of art used was “agility” which, rather than a purely physical concept, was very much a mental one, sharing the same goal, the ability to adjust to conditions and make and execute decisions faster than the enemy.

The current Army capstone doctrine no longer lists agility as one of the tenets of warfare, but does list adaptability:

28. Army leaders accept that no prefabricated solutions to tactical or operational problems exist. Army leaders must adapt their thinking, their formations, and their employment techniques to the specific situation they face. This requires an adaptable mind, a willingness to accept prudent risk in unfamiliar or rapidly changing situations, and an ability to adjust based on continuous assessment. Perhaps equally important, Army leaders seek to deprive the enemy of the ability to adapt by disrupting communications, forcing the enemy to continually react to new U.S. operations, and
denying the enemy an uncontested sanctuary, in space or time, for reflection. Adaptability is essential to seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative based on relevant understanding of the specific situation. For example, Army leaders demonstrate adaptability while adjusting the balance of lethal and nonlethal actions necessary to achieve a position of relative advantage and set conditions for conflict resolution within their area of operations.
29. Adaptation requires an understanding of the operational environment. While impossible to have a perfect understanding, Army leaders make every effort to gain and maintain as thorough an understanding as possible given the time allowed. They also use the Army’s information networks to share their understanding. Understanding a specific situation requires interactive learning—intentionally and repeatedly interacting with the operational environment so to test and refine multiple hypotheses. Army leaders expand
their understanding of potential operational environments through broad education, training, personal study, and collaboration with interagency partners. Rapid learning while in combat depends on life-long education, consistent training, and study habits that leaders had prior to combat.

You don’t have to dig deep in those two paragraphs to find analogs to the four processes of Boyd’s loop.

For a theory first applied to the realm of jet fighter combat, where 90 seconds is an eternity, it actually found its greatest fanbase in the Marine Corps, where he is often credited with helping (along with a great many others) reviving Marine interest in maneuver warfare.

And while the OODA loop is a popular subject among many business managers, they tend to be the of the fad of the moment type presentations. Boyd, on the other hand, was very much a numbers guy. He and two other folks, dubbed the “Fighter Mafia” developed much of the theory while working on the LFX program, that later became the F-16 and eventually spawned the F-18. Of the two other members, one was a fighter pilot and the other was a civilian statistician. Boyd himself was an industrial engineer.  They approached the theory from a systems analysis point of view.

Interestingly, as one of the more influential strategists of the second half of the 20th Century, Boyd never wrote a book on strategy. Rather, he spread his gospel via a series of briefings. These slide decks are a good resource, but sadly, without the context of actually having Boyd brief them, much is lost.

Boyd died in 1997.

A collection of his briefings can be found here.

The Maneuver Brigade as Unit of Action

Just had a thought pop into my noodle. In the decision to shift to a brigade based organization versus a division based one- I wonder how much of influence the maneuver training centers had.  NTC at Fort Irwin, CMTC in Hoenfels, JRTC at Ft. Polk, PCMTC south of Fort Carson, and YFC in Washington state. All are sized to provide training to brigade sized elements. In fact, I can’t think of a single site that the Army employs that can routinely accommodate units larger than brigade sized. So if the Army spent the last 20 years of the Cold War doing its major exercises at the brigade level, even when its doctrine was based on the division, is it a surprise that the field grade officers that actually write doctrine were far more used to brigade level operations?

Mission Command

We’ve touched a couple times in the Army’s latest capstone doctrine publication, ADP 3.0.  Mostly we’ve discussed the Army’s vision of a future hybrid battlefield that simultaneously encompasses high intensity force on force mechanized warfare, security operations in the vein of COIN, and stability operations providing assistance to host nation security forces and civic institutions.

The other half of ADP 3.0 describes HOW the Army intends to cope with that difficult environment- Mission Orders.

Mission Orders aren’t a new concept to the Army. They’ve been the doctrinal standard since long before I joined up back in the 80s. Basically, Mission Orders is the concept of telling a subordinate what to do and why, without telling him how to do it.  For instance, a battalion commander may assign one of his subordinate companies the mission to seize a hilltop to deny the enemy the chance to attack the main body of the battalion as it passes through a valley. Other than broad constraints as to timing and boundaries, the exact scheme of maneuver and plan of attack are up to the subordinate company commander.

To be honest, to a goodly extent, the concept of mission orders has also been honored more in the breach, especially in this age of high bandwidth for information. It’s extremely tempting for a commander to use that bandwidth to micromanage. That’s hardly a new problem. How many times have we read about company commanders on the ground in Vietnam being directed by the battalion commander overhead in a Huey? But as the Chairman of the JCS notes in his guidance below, the illusion of perfect clarity is just that, an illusion. Further, in a perfect world, that same battalion commander would be focusing his energies on achieving the mission his higher commander has assigned him, and endeavoring to “see the battlefield,” synchronize all his units, ensure the whole of his available combat power is being utilized,  and begin to envision the next phase of operations.

The Chairman, under the rubric of Joint Force 2020, which is the current template under which the JCS sees operations conducted in the near term future, talks in more depth about what Mission Orders are, and how to implement them across the force. I’ll say this, it’s an easy sale to the Army and the Marines, for whom this type of operating environment has long been the norm, even if imperfectly implemented. The Navy and especially the Air Force seem to have a fascination with centralized control. In the Navy’s case, that centralized control is at a fairly low level.

But the Air Force,  having some valid reasons for their centralization, is loathe to embrace the concept of allowing subordinates a whole lot of latitude. In a theater of operations, all Air Force missions are controlled by the Air Tasking Order, which is centrally planned every 24 hours  by the Air Component Commander of a theater command (typically a two or three star Air Force General). I’m not even sure it’s technically possible to break that paradigm. On the other hand, that central level of control allows the Air Force to shift emphasis from one area to another very rapidly (well, in 24 to 48 hours in a theater wide sense). For instance, in Desert Storm, when the issue of Iraqi Scuds raining down on Saudi Arabia and Israel became troublesome, the Air Force was able to mount a large number of sorties dedicated to the Great Scud Hunt (the effectiveness of that was another matter, but the point is, they reacted quickly).

Lastly, I want to examine the concept of a commander’s intent briefly. In popular culture, it’s routinely portrayed that soldiers in the Army are treated as automatons that cannot question their orders. And at certain levels, that’s somewhat true. In the squad and platoon level, in the middle of a firefight, there’s not a whole lot of spare time to devote to the philosophical questions about combat drills. But before leaving the wire, it’s expected that soldiers question orders. Not as skeptics or cynics, but to ensure they know what it is they’re striving to achieve. And a commander has an obligation to pass on his intent in the clearest possible matter. Like I said above, the commander has to tell you clearly what it is he wants you to do, and more importantly, why he needs that done.  In my hypothetical above about a company commander seizing a hilltop, let’s suppose he attacks that hilltop, and finds it unoccupied by the enemy. Technically, he’s achieved his mission. But if he notices that the enemy is on the next hilltop over, and in a position to attack the battalion in he flank, he certainly hasn’t achieved his commander’s intent, now has he? If both levels of leadership have properly embraced the philosophy of Mission Order, our intrepid company commander will at a minimum alert his superior, and ideally he would  mount a hasty attack against that second hilltop, to free up the valley for the battalion movement. That latitude to exercise the initiative to fulfill the commander’s intent is at the heart of the Mission Order concept.



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