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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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

FOR VETERANS ACROSS THE WORLD

My friend RG sent this to me for Veterans Day – a day we ought to remember with thanks to the many men who gave their lives for what they believed in. Without their selfless contribution, our world would surely be a lot different. We must never be allowed to forget that they gave their tomorrows for our today. A greater sacrifice there can never be. May you all have peace where you may be.

THE FINAL INSPECTION

The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
'Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you ?
Have you always turned the other cheek ?
To My Church have you been true?'
The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
'No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
'Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell.'


Author Unknown~

ASSESSING THE OPERATING ENVIRONMENT

Much is said and written about the different environments soldiers need to conduct operations in.

A crucial factor that needs to be appreciated when developing and formulating the operational design/commander’s intent is the operating environment (OE).  Failure to appreciate this environment in detail can lead to problems and even disaster once the operational design is implemented. This is because the OE has a major impact on our tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

The operating environment can by defined as the result of the appreciation of a combination of factors that include – but not restricted to - terrain, climatic conditions, population distribution and their feelings towards opposing forces, vegetation, infrastructure (or lack of), tribal distribution, religion, culture and so forth.

 
               The OE can vary within a single AO

The OE is therefore the result of several appreciated factors in order to determine their impact within the Area of Operations (AO) that can, may or will influence combat operations.

This will allow the commander to determine to what extent the OE favours either own forces or those of the enemy and what can be done to negate enemy advantages as well as ease and sustain own forces combat operations.

The OE is classified as friendly, neutral or hostile. In turn, this can result in limited activity operations to highly complex operations and can result in both conventional warfare operations and COIN operations within a single Area of Operations (AO).

Combat operations in Africa can, within a single AO, result in operations being conducted in a savannah-type area to very dense jungle. Dry, flat, sparsely vegetated desert-like conditions to hilly, swampy, water-logged areas are not uncommon.  This variation within a single AO will determine the type of transport assets that will be required and will greatly impact on the type of logistical supply lines to sustain combat forces.

A detailed appreciation of the OE will provide guidance on:


1.      Classification of the OE

2.      Type of area(s) operations may or will be conducted in

3.      Type of environment that operations may or will be conducted in

4.      Infiltration or deployment possibilities

5.      Type of warfare/combat operations soldiers will be expected to carry out

6.      Offensive options

7.      Adaptions to TTPs

8.      Logistical possibilities and options

9.      Medical possibilities and options

10.   Communications possibilities and options

11.   Advantages /disadvantages OE presents to own forces

12.   Advantages /disadvantages OE presents to enemy forces

13.   Termination and withdrawal options, etc.

Additionally, this appreciation will expose vulnerabilities that own forces may face during the conduct of operations.

Assessing the OE is part of the commander’s appreciation, the result of which is his operational design and intent. This, in turn, forms part of the larger formation design for battle, a design that ultimately stems from the military strategy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

HIGH SUICIDE RATES PLAGUE THE VETERAN COMMUNITY

by
  Douglas Karr, USN Veteran
  Operations Desert Storm & Desert Shield

(I would not normally publish another writer’s article on my blog but this is for a good cause. My hope is that veterans that visit this blog may find some value in Doug’s article).


According to The Chronicle of Higher Education close to half of all veterans have contemplated suicide and 20 percent have made actual plans to kill themselves. Suicide among returning soldiers has become a rampant problem over the past decade.

Reasons for Suicide

There are many reasons veterans contemplate suicide. Frequently, returning soldiers are faced with difficulty reintegrating into civilian life when they return from combat. Additionally, in today’s economy, veterans are also forced to deal with the difficulty of finding civilian employment and may also be stunned to discover that their home is in or on the verge of foreclosure. Add to this potential injuries and long-term health issues that arise from being exposed to combat conditions and the risk of suicide escalates among veterans.

When someone contemplates suicide, it is often because they simply cannot see a future for themselves. They do not have feelings of hope that things will get better or their lives will improve. For veterans with PTSD or severe physical injuries, pain can also be a contributing factor. For those with PTSD, the symptoms of the condition can be so overwhelming that soldiers may feel completely out of control and they may never regain their equilibrium. For those with physical pain symptoms, the pain may become so hard to cope with that they would rather not live than continue living with the pain.

Symptoms of Depression and Suicide Risk

Depression often goes hand-in-hand with risk for suicide. Common symptoms of depression include irritability, difficulty sleeping (sleeping less or more than normal), changes in appetite (eating more or less than usual), feeling down or depressed, feeling hopeless, feeling sad, crying, problems with concentration and difficulty being motivated.

People who are contemplating suicide may have access to ways to hurt themselves, they may actually develop a plan and may even consider what to say to those they leave behind.  They may go through a process of giving away possessions that mean something to them. Or may also talk about what they want to happen when they are no longer living.

Suicide and depression are health conditions that are vastly different from those faced by veterans who were exposed to hazardous materials like asbestos and later developed mesothelioma and asbestos cancer. Depression and risk for suicide often cannot be traced back to a specific cause, but to an accumulated set of events.

If you believe you are depressed or know of veterans who you are concerned may hurt themselves, call the Veterans Crisis Line. They have trained staff to help them and potentially prevent a tragic death.

For more information or if you wish to get advice and help, please contact Doug at dkarrusn@gmail.com