About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. I am a contributor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

NO POSTS FOR AT LEAST TWO WEEKS

I wish to advise all followers and visitors to my blog that I shall not be posting for at least two weeks.

As I shall be unavailable over the period 26 June 2009 to 15 July 2009, it will not be possible for me to respond to your comments, which I appreciate and value.

Upon my return, I shall post all comments that may have been received.

However, please do not stop visiting the blog…

By the way, my first posting upon my return will discuss the myth of “peacekeeping”.

Till then, everything of the best to you all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

GETTING IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME AROUND

In war, there are no second prizes. Commanders at all levels ought to recognise this. Wars are either won or lost. Winning is dependent on good training, good equipment, good strategies, good tactics, good battle drills, good command and control and above all, good planning.

But a good plan cannot be executed with poorly trained troops, regardless the type and quality of gadgets they are issued with. Nor can a bad plan be “fixed” with firepower.

Many armies seem to train and prepare exclusively for so-called peacetime missions. There are many reasons for this but the single most important reason is that those giving the instruction have no combat experience. With no real experience, troops are often not given the vital information they need to conduct their missions and more importantly, survive on the battlefield. To compensate for their lack of real situations, they mechanically follow a text book approach. That coupled to an inability to view training as the single most important preparation prior to combat, has led to a dramatic rise in casualties.

The problem with this approach to training is that when faced with real combat situations, many things begin to fall apart. Troops do not have the self-belief to cope with these difficult – and often terrifying – situations. They are not mentally prepared for what they are facing. They do not have the self-discipline to remain calm under fire. They are not sure if they can trust the soldier next to, or behind them to do what he should be doing. They have not been taught to adapt to rapidly changing situations.

Soldiers are not prepared for combat by mindless classroom work. Whereas the foundation of the soldier is discipline, his survival on the battlefield depends on good training, an ability to follow orders and to be flexible in his execution of orders. Good training allows soldiers to think…along the lines of the planned action.

Discipline is, regardless of what the detractors may say and think, vital for the survival of soldiers on the battlefield. It is this discipline that leads to unit pride, self-discipline and the strength of mind to cope with life-threatening situations. Good discipline also contributes enormously to unit cohesion. But discipline does not revolve around self-discipline alone. It includes fire discipline, equipment maintenance – without being told to do so, cleanliness and respect.

Parade ground work lays the foundation of military discipline. It teaches soldiers to react instinctively to orders. Likewise, physical training (PT) aids in the development of fitness and endurance. Both of these activities build character and push men to their limits. Men who have discovered that their limits are way beyond what they thought, suddenly develop a new-found pride in themselves. But when these activities are used solely for punishment and mindless time fillers, they lose their value and instead, breed resentment.

Cross-training of soldiers is equally important, not only to increase confidence but to allow men to operate and use different weapons and equipment. Cross-training adds to the flexibility of units and added flexibility creates new opportunities on the battlefield. We cannot expect every soldier to be a specialist diver, pilot, tank commander and so forth, but we can expect him to be the best prepared he can be for his role within the unit – and most importantly to be able to carry out his orders efficiently. Cross-training aids in this.

Are soldiers taught to use a map and compass when the GPS goes down? Can they replace a broken firing pin of an enemy assault rifle? Can they treat a serious wound? Can they improvise a diversion? Can they use most weapon systems within their own unit? Can they call in an airstrike or guide a helicopter into an LZ? Can they lay a hasty ambush at night? Can they…?

Commanders are keen to prepare “Lessons Learnt” after an operation but are those lessons learnt passed all the way down the hierarchy? Are they given to trainers who understand the importance and implication of those lessons? Can the trainers apply those lessons learnt to the advantage of their recruits?

Those who are tasked with training and preparing soldiers for combat often forget the great responsibility they have. When the trainers have no real experience, their training will be mediocre at best – especially when the instructor cannot answer the questions of recruits sensibly, instead claiming that it is “because we have always done it like that” or “because I say so”.

“Train hard, fight easy” is an old adage but without the correct instructors, discipline, confidence, tactical plans and mission predictions, it will never become a reality.

We only have one chance to do it right because there are no prizes for losers.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

THE IMPORTANCE OF MISSION PLANNING

Mission planning requires more than just throwing the dice and hoping for good luck. It is an art that requires an in-depth understanding of numerous critical elements or factors that may impact on the mission – both positively and negatively - and an assessment/analysis of how those elements or factors can be either negated, overcome or exploited to give the PMC the advantage it requires in the execution of the mission.

Any mission can be broken down into:

1. Strategic objectives: These objectives are usually derived from the client’s strategic objectives but are further analysed and fine-tuned to the PMC management level
2. Tactical objectives: These objectives stem from the PMC management’s strategic objectives and are an indication of the priority objectives (or targets) and the secondary objectives (or targets) that the PMC needs to achieve in order to successfully accomplish the mission.

From these objectives are derived the Strategic Operational Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept. These concepts are NOT the final plans but merely serve as direction-pointers to ensure that the mission remains the prime focus of the PMC.

Only once the Strategic Operation Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept are fully understood can the mission planning proper begin.

The role of on-going real-time intelligence plays a crucial role in the development of both the Strategic Operational Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept and allows adjustments to be made to the concepts. It is also this intelligence that will ultimately determine the mission-profile of the PMC. The mission-profile, in turn, will determine the amount of manpower, weapons, ammunition (first-line and first-line reserve), the phase(s) of war, tactics and so forth that will be followed.

In order to enhance the development of the tactical plan, it is imperative that intelligence- and reconnaissance - teams are deployed as early as possible in order to ensure a real-time intelligence feed on the targets. This allows further adjustments to be made to the tactical plan and, in turn, the mission profile to be adjusted if necessary.

Planning is a vital component for success and although luck can play a role, it is the ultimate plan, carried across to everyone partaking in the operation with clarity that determines the success of any mission. Team leaders must be allowed to display flexibility within the overall plan and, in turn, must develop their own plans at their level.

Once the tactical concept has been developed, it must, along with the operational plans - at all levels - be tested against the principles of the relevant operation. The ultimate aim is to ensure the correct men, correctly equipped, are at the right time and place to achieve the mission. This requires constant coordination between the various elements that will partake in the execution of the plan. In turn, casualties will be reduced.

Mission planning can be a tedious process but it requires continued focus on the outcome of the operation.

It will do planners good to remember that there are no second prizes in an operation and that no amount of firepower can rectify a poor plan.