Abstract and Keywords
In order to execute increasingly sophisticated combat choreographies, training has been critical. This chapter explores how training generates cohesion and examines advances in training techniques, especially in relation to close-quarters battle. It describes the appearance of a new urban training infantry structure in western countries. The chapter plots not only improved forms of tactical training but the introduction of mental training techniques, the combat mindset, or resilience, borrowed from elite sport. The chapter examines the individual and collective significance of psychological training to combat performance.
The battle drill has been proved to be central to combat performance both in conventional open warfare and in the new context of urban combat. By uniting soldiers around a set of established drills, the cohesiveness of the platoon has been significantly enhanced. The battle drill has enabled soldiers to respond both automatically and collectively to the threats which confront them, thereby reducing the need for coordination and the chances of fragmentation. Yet, it is not enough merely to recognize relevant drills even though they might be extremely refined and theoretically effective. Modern platoon battle drills were fully recognized as early as 1916 but, crucially, the mass armies of the twentieth century were rarely able to train their troops sufficiently so that they were able to execute these drills in combat. The theory existed but soldiers typically reverted to appeals to morale and to mass tactics to overcome the Marshall effect. Citizen armies often relied upon and favoured motivational methods to encourage performance which were most closely aligned with the strategic and cultural requirements. Accordingly, it is here in the domain of training that a profound divide appears between the citizen and the professional army. In the all-volunteer armies of the early twenty-first century, this deficit between theory and practice has been substantially overcome so that the professional platoon is typically able to enact their drills in combat. Moreover, as the dissemination of close-quarters battle drills indicates, in many cases professional platoons are now capable of executing drills which are more complex than those recommended to their citizen predecessors. The ability of professional soldiers to perform these drills has little to do with their qualities as individuals; there seems to be little evidence to show, as individuals, they are any braver, more determined, or tougher than their forebears. Indeed, in many cases, the suffering and sacrifice of citizen soldiers in the conflicts of the twentieth century might be argued to have been more extreme. However, as platoons, professional soldiers do seem to demonstrate greater effectiveness and this efficacy seems most obviously attributable to the collective process of training which they undergo.
(p.267) Interestingly, just as training has become increasingly central to the professional army, scholars have also emphasized the importance of training in explaining cohesion in battle than traditional concepts of comradeship. They have effectively prioritized a practically oriented concept of task cohesion above the ‘pure cohesion’ of comradeship. William Cockerham’s article on US paratroopers might be taken as the starting point of this interest in training and task cohesion.1 He accepted Moskos’s arguments about the importance of latent ideology and comradeship to military performance but argued that ‘theories of primary group relations and latent ideology are not in themselves all-inclusive explanations of combat motivation’.2 Rather, he describes a ‘high level of identification with immediate superiors’ and above all the ‘strong value of teamwork’ as critical to performance.3 For him, drawing on Peter Bourne’s work,4 Cockerham maintained that in combat, soldiers were united through drills: ‘one of the most efficient techniques which allows soldiers generally to adjust to combat is to ignore the danger by interpreting combat not as a threat to life but as a sequence of requirements to be met by an effective technical performance’. Citing Fehrenbach’s work on Korea,5 he records ‘only knowing almost from rote what to do, can men carry out their tasks come what may’.6 More recently the theme of training has been taken up by a number of other scholars.7
Hew Strachan has emphasized the importance of battle drills and, of course, inseparable from his observations about battle drill is a recognition of the close connection between training and combat performance. However, Strachan is not the only historian to have begun to highlight the role of training in generating cohesion. Edward Coss has recently explored the performance of Wellington’s army in the Peninsular War between 1808 and 1814 prioritizing training in comprehending cohesion. His work represents a vivid and important contribution to the analysis of training and the armed forces. Although historical, its central argument that training is critical to performance is immediately relevant to contemporary debates in the social sciences about cohesion and to understanding the performance of professional soldiers in the twenty-first century. Despite the very different tactics of the time, Wellington’s army were, like today’s western soldiers, all professionals. Indeed, in the course of the work Coss explicitly addresses the work of major contributors to the debate about cohesion including Janowitz and Shils, Moskos, Bartov, and Little. Coss seems to see his work quite deliberately as a historical intervention into current debates about cohesion in the professional army.
Coss’s analysis is animated by his opposition to the common perception that British troops under Wellington were drawn from the lowest sections of British society with criminal or antisocial tendencies; Coss rejects Wellington’s own claim that his soldiers were ‘the scum of the earth’.8 Coss attempts to show that troops were not always drawn from the bottom of British society but were typically labourers and weavers displaced by rural and industrial (p.268) transformation. In addition, he demonstrates that their proclivity for larceny in Spain was not the product of innate criminal tendencies. On the contrary, with the exception of atrocities after sieges, which had their own special dynamics, the appropriation of local goods by British soldiers was typically a response to chronic and systematic failings in logistics; they simply did not have enough food.9 ‘Even when supplied, the provisions of the ranker fell almost 19 per cent below the absolute minimums [for calorie intake] needed for men not facing the stresses and exertions of campaign and battle.’10 British soldiers stole to survive.
Coss establishes then that professional British soldiers in this era were neither ‘scum’ nor career criminals. He then plausibly suggests that their excellent battlefield performance would be incompatible with a force comprised of such individuals: ‘the redcoats’ exemplary conduct under fire was also not engendered by their base natures…Courage and related cooperative actions have no meaning for vagabonds, rogues and sociopaths disconnected from society on every level.’11 Coss also quickly dismisses the importance of patriotism. He does not, however, deny the significance of discipline, which was enforced brutally, but, for him, the performance of British soldiers can be explained finally only by reference to the formation of small primary groups. Crucially, British professional soldiers lived and operated together in close proximity in small mess groups of about six individuals. Close associations were developed between these groups in barracks but, on operations, those associations became critical. An individual’s survival relied upon their colleagues in their mess group. Specifically, it was only as part of a mess group that an individual soldier could hope to acquire sufficient rations to live. Each individual was dependent on his comrades to procure and share provisions with him; ‘On campaign the ranker discovered that his mess group, the men with whom he lived and next to whom he stood in combat, played a significant role in determining his survival. When rations were short, the group scrounged, stole, and, shared, distributing an equal portion to each member of the band.’12 The mess group provided a variety of other essential supports to its members, and to fail to support the mess group or to act selfishly was to risk ostracism. On operations, such ostracism substantially increased the chances of an individual’s death. Fear of exclusion compelled soldiers to cooperate with each other.
Out of this mutual dependence, a deep sense of collective obligation emerged which, according to Coss, informed battlefield performance: ‘the ranker’s steadiness was based on an acquired self-confidence and the knowledge that, as part of a squad, he was not alone.’13 For Coss, ‘this ongoing mutual support on campaign and the close relationships among the men had a collateral effect: enhanced cohesion during combat’.14 Soldiers became accustomed to relying on each other away from the battlefield and on expecting their support to be reciprocated. That trust seems to have been (p.269) transferred to the battlefield. Indeed, while acts of selfishness might be routinely sanctioned by the mess group, warning the individual to comply to the group’s needs, cowardice on the field of battle typically resulted in immediate and final ostracism. Here, the individual had deserted his comrades at the point of most risk; his selfishness had endangered their lives. Coss gives a number of useful illustrations. For instance, ‘Long Tom’ left his comrades during a skirmish at Redinha in 1811, supposedly to help the wounded. He was excluded from mess groups that evening. Indeed, Coss produces a number of examples where soldiers who had been disgraced and were facing ostracism engaged in extravagant acts of bravery in order to reaffirm their status with their comrades.15 Coss draws heavily on the memoirs of William Lawrence, who participated in the storming of Badajoz in 1812, during which he was wounded while his two closest friends were killed.16 However, precisely because Lawrence’s comrades were so densely bound together in mutual commitments, they could not be seen to let each other down. They advanced into the breach together, favouring the high probability of death over the certainty of exclusion and dishonour.
Coss prioritizes small-group bonds, initially generated by mutual dependence for provisions and other needs. It is therefore understandable why he draws primarily upon Janowitz and Shils in his analytical discussions of cohesion. They too identify personality needs as the primary motivating factor in the formation of small groups. However, dense interpersonal bonding does not, according to Coss, fully explain the performance of Wellington’s troops, and it is here that he becomes especially relevant to professional soldiers today. British soldiers were successful not only because of the dense bonds of obligations between them and their great sensitivity to their status in the eyes of their peers but also because they were sufficiently disciplined to be able to execute effective tactics. Wellington’s infantry developed distinctive linear tactics which contrasted with the column tactics typically used by the French especially in the later period of the Napoloeonic Wars.17 The British infantry’s favoured combat formation was the two-rank line. This maximized the amount of firepower which units could generate, while simultaneously giving them the most frontage, allowing them to outflank French formations, with the obvious advantage which that provided. The favoured British tactic at this time was to await the French advance silently, holding fire until very close range: the average range at which the British line opened fire was 64 yards.18 At this point, the British troops would fire a single mass volley, give three cheers and mount a bayonet charge, the importance of which Coss emphasizes over the typical assumption that firepower was critical.19 Major Thomas Bugeaud recorded his experience of this tactic when:
The English line remained silent, still and immovable, even when we were only 300 yards distant, and it appeared to ignore the storm about to break. The contrast was (p.270) striking; in our innermost thoughts we all felt the enemy was a long time in firing, and that this fire, reserved so long, would be very unpleasant when it came. Our ardour cooled. The moral power of steadiness which nothing can shake (even if it be only appearance), over disorder which stupefies itself with noise, overcame our minds. At this moment of intense excitement, the English wall shouldered arms: an indescribable feeling would root many of our men to the spot; they began to fire. The enemy’s steady, concentrated volleys swept our ranks; decimated we turned round seeking to recover our equilibrium; then three deafening cheers broke the silence of our opponents; at the third they were on us, pushing our disorganized flight.20
At the battles of Vimerio, Talavera, Quatre Bras, and numerous smaller skirmishes, the British employed this technique successfully. For instance, one officer recorded at Quatre Bras in 1815: ‘We gave them a beautiful volley and charged, but they ran faster than our troops.’21
Coss notes that these line tactics demanded high levels of training and professionalism from the troops: ‘the spacing of a line formation, with approximately 18 inches between men, put a greater demand on each soldier to stand his ground. The flight of but a few men in a two-rank line could have catastrophic consequences.’22 Moreover, in order to protect themselves from artillery fire, British infantry would often lie down until the French attack was close: ‘Getting men to rise from the prone position and advance while under fire was a difficult manoeuvre that depended heavily on unit discipline and esprit de corps.’23 Indeed, it might be suggested that the tactic of getting British soldiers to lie down potentially introduced the problem of the Marshall effect onto the battlefield. Theoretically, soldiers might refuse to stand up in the fire that they would have been able to feel passing over or near them; they could have feigned injury or the action of standing up might in fact induce a general panic in the moments of uncoordinated unit action as individuals lifted themselves to a standing position. There was a potential moment of uncertainty and a presumption during this transition that others would also stand up. Yet, Coss records no instance of British soldiers failing to stand and receive an assault or to press forward with the bayonet charge. However, Coss notes that ‘it was not genetic or cultural superiority that made the redcoat into good soldier’. On the contrary, the British troops were successful because they had an effective doctrine and were extremely well trained in its execution.
Training is central to Coss’s account. In 1788, Sir David Dundas published Rules and Regulations for the Movements of His Majesty’s Infantry, which described the basic infantry evolutions and drills.24 The development of a coherent doctrine was important; it codified practice, just as contemporary doctrine does. However, critically, British regiments in this period practised their manoeuvres and drills intensively. Drill was a rigorous daily occurrence. A new ensign with the 88th Foot recorded that he had ‘been out at six o’clock in the morning for some time past—since I joined the regiment. We are drilled with the men exactly the same as the privates.’25 Coss observes that, in fact, the (p.271) historical archive does not record drill and training extensively: ‘Soldier accounts (including Lawrence’s) do not often mention close order drill, however, perhaps because it was such a standard part of daily life that it did not merit highlighting.’26 However, Coss plausibly presumes that ‘drill must have been fairly frequent’ and indeed, Captain Thomas Browne records how the men learned ‘manual exercise, platoon exercise, the evolutions, the firings and the manoeuvres’ in his Napoleonic War Journal:27 ‘the required movements were assimilated through slow repetition at first, then executed more rapidly as the soldiers became more proficient.’28 The training of the British was in stark contrast to the poor quality of French infantry tactics especially after 1796. The French had to resort to unsophisticated column tactics and three-rank line tactics as a result of ‘lack of training time, coupled with the continued influx of raw recruits’.29
Coss is extremely critical of Wellington’s descriptions of his troops as scum and cites Wellington’s famous comment about the relevance of patriotism in encouraging soldiers to enlist: ‘People talk of enlisting from their fine military feeling—no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children—some for minor offenses—many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.’30 For Coss, the passage is clear evidence of Wellington’s misplaced contempt for his troops. Yet, Cope misses the significance of the final phrase. While patriotic ideals were more or less irrelevant to the recruitment of soldiers and their subsequent performance, Wellington fully recognized and praised the quality of his infantry—after they had been trained. Whatever their rationale for joining, the regiments united their recruits into companies of ‘fine fellows’. As Wellington’s notorious comments about corporal punishment reveal, the creation of such a body of men required harsh measures, in his view. Yet, the phrase ‘fine fellows’ implies not merely docile slaves or automatons; individuals subordinate to some centralizing authority. On the contrary, it seems that Wellington himself recognized that battlefield performance—the generation of cohesion—required some act of positive collective agency on the part of the troops themselves. They collectively committed themselves to dangerous and difficult endeavours. Training, drill, and collective expertise were a central part of this collective competence. Coss concludes: ‘The ranker believed in his officers, his training and the British volley-and-charge tactical speciality almost as much as he trusted the men with whom he fought.’31 The British soldiers whom Coss analyses fought a war which finished nearly 200 years ago and yet, underlying this divide, Coss has produced a work which has direct relevance to understanding cohesion and combat performance in a professional army today. For Coss, the cohesiveness of Wellington’s troops was a product of their collective training, supported by their mutual dependence on each other as mess groups.
(p.272) It is worth stressing the collective rather than the individual effects of training which is central to Coss’s account because the social dimension of training has often been missed, although it is decisive. For instance, in his work on Special Operations Forces, Rune Henriksen adopts an individualist approach to training. He has claimed that training does not produce Special Forces soldiers but only reveals the warrior characteristics which were already inherent in individuals: ‘The SOF approach to warrior selection implies that warriors are revealed and that they cannot be made.’32 Although individuals need to possess certain physical and emotional capabilities if they are to become infantry soldiers and, especially, if they are to join the Special Forces, Coss’s work suggests that Henriksen may misunderstand the role of training in the armed forces. Training certainly equips the individual with new skills which are vital in combat, but the central aim of military training is not only the individual but the group. It would be entirely conceivable to imagine a group of brilliantly trained individual warriors who could not or would not fight as a team as they all preferred to operate according to their own personal drills. Hans Delbrück’s descriptions of mounted knights in the Middle Ages record a military force which comes close to this kind of individualized approach.33 Training in a professional army, by contrast, aims not merely to teach individual skills but crucially to unite troops around shared collective drills. Indeed, as close-quarters battle drills indicate, one of the central aims of even purely individual training is to inculcate a single shared template of action on everyone. Philip Smith’s analysis of military training usefully emphasizes its collective rather than individual nature. Citing the United States Marine Corps’s training exercise ‘the Crucible’, Smith notes that ‘the focus here is not on building fitness [an individual attribute] but on generating teamwork’.34 He concludes: ‘drill is not so much about individuating in the service of a new capillary power but rather generating a sense of fusion with the group that starts to occlude egoism’.35 Training, for Smith, explicitly aims at suppressing the individual and prioritizing the group. Training is, then, as critical to today’s professional soldiers as it was to paid infantrymen in Wellington’s army; but even in a more tolerant, perhaps individualized society, training is not primarily about the individual. Through repeated training, professional soldiers develop a common set of drills which they are able to reproduce instinctively and without recourse to contemplation, discussion, and extensive coordination in combat. Through training, drills become automatic not just for the individual but for the platoon as a whole. Having trained for long periods together, shared drills become deeply ingrained; soldiers are united around common practice and are finely tuned to even small cues from their colleagues. The shared experience of past training induces common and instinctive responses from these troops when they are on operations. Just as in Wellington’s army, training aims at generating cohesion; it aims to enhance (p.273) combat performance of military units from the platoon of thirty soldiers up to the highest formation of tens of thousands.
The Importance of Training
One of the key differences between a professional and mass citizen force is precisely that all soldiers in a professional army are trained to a high level to perform a common set of drills. Indeed, contemporary military doctrine repeatedly highlights the importance of training: ‘Collective performance is only achieved through an understanding of common doctrine combined with collective training and exercising to rehearse and sharpen the ability to apply it…There can be no compromise on this, for the ability to deploy fully prepared for combat is at the core of fighting power.’36 In the previous chapter, the concept of professionalism was summarized as a collective attention to detail and, in a professional military force, training is the sphere in which that attention to minutiae becomes particularly obvious. Combat performance is self-consciously related by professional soldiers to this refinement of a myriad of military skills, each small, often apparently insignificant in themselves, but together generating a complex of battlefield competence. Bryan McCoy, the commander of 3/4 Marines in Iraq in 2003, has usefully summarized this requirement: ‘Focus on the basics and become brilliant at them.’37 He observed: ‘Great units do the basics with a high degree of proficiency and as habit.’38 There is, in a sense, no mystery to the cohesiveness displayed by professional troops. It is a product of training. Indeed, the higher level of training in a professional force may seem like a relatively small and mundane difference. Yet, the experience of training fundamentally alters the relations between soldiers in an infantry platoon and the kind of association which they generate with each other. Moreover, training does not simply inculcate individual skills, though it certainly does that, but fundamentally alters the way the members of the platoon are able to interact and to perform together. Intense training changes the very nature of the solidarity—and, therefore, the cohesiveness—of the platoon. It, therefore, fundamentally changes the collective performance of which combat soldiers are capable especially in the confusing environment of battle.
The dramatic effect of training on cohesion has been widely recognized by professional soldiers. Indeed, this instinctive knowledge of platoon battle drills has often been called ‘muscle memory’ by British soldiers. British soldiers and Marines widely regard the junior and senior command courses run by the British army at Brecon and the Royal Marines at Lympstone for corporals and sergeants as critical to the inculcation and preservation of this ‘muscle memory’. These courses involve much more than section and platoon tactics (p.274) since candidates are being trained to perform all the various functions required of a corporal or sergeant. However, the central element of these courses is tactics and, specifically, the section attack on the junior command course and the platoon attack on the senior command course. Candidates could not pass these courses if they had failed to demonstrate the ability to command a section or platoon attack competently. Accordingly, many days on these courses are assigned to the section and platoon attack which are repeated many times to allow each individual to be assessed as a commander. Most sergeants and corporals regard these courses as critical to the professional competence of the British forces, which they believe has been proven at the tactical level in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brecon—and Lympstone—institutionalize tactical drills; they instil a common ‘muscle memory’ in British troops.
Perhaps predictably, training was especially important to the Special Forces and this is very evident in the Canadian Special Forces unit Joint Task Force 2, the equivalent of the SAS or Delta Force. Like British non-commissioned officers, they recognized the direct correlation between training and performance, employing an epigram from sports science to eliminate complacency: ‘In the gun-fight, you don’t raise your game. You sink to the level of your training.’39 Joint Task Force 2 comprises some of the most competent troops in Canada and it would be entirely expected that they would value training. Yet, their advocacy of training was affirmed in the regular infantry. Indeed, the centrality of training was underscored throughout the education and instruction of soldiers and officers in Canada. One female infantry sergeant, who had been on operations in Kandahar and involved in many fire-fights, impressed the importance of training on a group of very junior officers at the start of their training, whom she was instructing: ‘If you train people properly, they won’t be able to tell a drill from the real thing. If anything, the real thing will be easier.’40 Her point was summarized in a widely used military aphorism: ‘Train hard, fight easy.’ Training has been widely and self-consciously identified by professional soldiers as essential to successful combat performance.
The centrality of training to operational performance has been particularly evident in the statements of soldiers who have been on the most recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are numerous examples where soldiers have described how they executed drills automatically as a result of their training.41 However, 42 Commando Royal Marines’ operations between October 2008 and March 2009 provide a particularly useful and well-documented example of the importance of training to battlefield performance. 42 Commando were deployed to Afghanistan in October 2008 for a six-month tour as Regional Command South Reserve Battle Group. They were stationed in Kandahar Airfield and used on a series of offensive operations in Helmand, Kandahar, and Oruzgan. Their experience of the campaign was very different therefore from NATO ground-holding battalions who were stationed in Forward Operating Bases (FOB) and tasked to secure particular districts. (p.275) 42 Commando was used as a conventional strike force fighting insurgents. Usefully (in terms of the question of cohesion), because they typically inserted by air, surprising the Taliban, they did not have to adjust their tactics to counter the threat of IEDs. By contrast, many of their peer units were typically unable to carry out fire and movement tactics because the Taliban often concealed IEDs in positions which could be used as cover. Platoons and sections were not able to form normal assault formations with bases of fire supporting attacking sections bounding forward in fire teams. Platoons and sections formed snakes behind the lead soldier clearing the way with an electronic mine-detector to identify possible IEDs. Moreover, the Taliban would often initiate a contact from a firing point, hoping that NATO forces would mount a conventional platoon assault to clear the position which was laced with IEDs. The aim of the Taliban was merely to inflict casualties. Accordingly, for many units, Afghanistan represented a negation of normal platoon assault tactics; it was a form of siege warfare in which IED clearance was the priority. In response to enemy fire, western troops often preferred simply to stand their ground and trade fire where they stood, trusting their body armour and the poor marksmanship of the insurgents over obvious ditches nearby.42 42 Commando were in the enviable position in which its sub-units were able to conduct normal infantry tactics in line with established doctrine and crucially in line with their training.
Within 42 Commando, Lima Company, consisting of approximately 120 Marines, widely regarded as one of the best British sub-units in theatre at that time, engaged in many of the most ambitious and largest assaults the British had conducted up to that point, including the attack on Nad-E-Ali, as part of Operation Sond Chara in December 2008. The officer commanding Lima Company, a Royal Marine major, recorded his experiences during that tour in a distinctive manner. He emphasized, first, the importance of apparently very simple drills, like being able to move quietly at night to tactical success.
Moving quietly at night does not seem to be a complicated thing to do. However it is crucial to tactical effectiveness. Moreover, it is very difficult to move quietly at night as a company. The hours we all spent on Woodbury Common on exercises was crucial to our ability to do this and it was crucial to our success. I don’t think a conscript force could have developed such a skill.43
Indeed, in Normandy in 1944, some of the Wehrmacht noted how noisy some US infantry divisions were at night, especially ones new to the theatre, facilitating the job of interdicting them very significantly. Clearly, packing equipment up and moving at night includes an individual dimension: a single noisy soldier would reveal the location of the unit. However, maintaining silence at night is also a collective skill. It required individuals to coordinate their movements without speaking, ensuring that they remained in contact with each other even though they might barely be able to see one another.
(p.276) Of course, the major commanding Lima Company also described the importance of training to the execution of fire and movement tactics. During training and exercises, the officer had undergone significant instruction in infantry tactics, but one of the most useful periods of training, which he discovered in Helmand, was earning his range qualification. The British armed forces employ open ranges in which live ammunition is used and troops are given freedom to move and fire as the designated range controller judges best. Clearly, these open ranges require careful administration and control in terms of the position of targets, indicating objectives, and the exercising troops. The qualification takes six weeks in which time candidates practise setting up open ranges, but they also have to conduct numerous live attacks, so that the adequacy of other candidates on the course can be tested. ‘In Young Officer training, one time out of ten, you are in charge but the other nine times, you are the rifleman and so you did section attacks time after time.’44 This experience of repeated attacks, day after day, drilled the practice of section attacks into the officers until the choreography of the assault became instinctive; it became automatic to go left or right flanking and to establish points of fire to facilitate such a manoeuvre. On operations, in Helmand, the Royal Marine major found the experience of running open ranges central to his effectiveness. So deeply had the training ingrained the battle drill into him that he sought out flank attacks instinctively: ‘There is no need for loads of orders or commands. It becomes instinctive. The enemy’s there. You put your fire support there. I am going there.’45
On 27 February 2009, his company were deployed into the village of Khan Neshin on the so-called ‘Fishook’ on the Helmand River in southern Helmand to search and clear the area of any potential Taliban fighters as part of Operation Aabi Toorah 2B.46 The operation provides a very good and well-documented example of the importance of training in generating combat performance. The company advanced during the night from the north, approaching quietly on foot, while K Company inserted from the south. A suicide bomber detonated himself ineffectively in front of K Company, but as L Company neared the settlement they began to sense the presence of the enemy who seemed to be hidden in and around the fort. In order to identify their firing positions and their strength, the company commander sent one of his platoons (8 Troop) across open ground to draw enemy fire, with the other platoons in support. 8 Troop, as expected, encountered the first serious resistance, coming under fire from a compound which wounded a Marine. In response to this enemy fire, the company commander ordered 8 Troop to mount a left-flanking attack on the compounds from which the fire had come. For this officer, intense repeated training was explicitly fundamental to operational performance. In an official account of the tour, Ewen Southby-Tailyour recorded this assault: ‘8 Troop moved into an engagement that included an exchange of grenades at very close quarters, Apaches firing (p.277) 30mm cannon at danger-close range, and a command course-standard troop attack followed by a section conducting an individual fire and movement assault.’47 Southby-Tailyour concluded: ‘The clearance of the objective—a small, fortified enemy compound—had been done by the book.’48
The assault did, in the end, go according to plan and according to contemporary infantry doctrine. However, Southby-Tailyour ignores many of the problems which 8 Troops encountered. Consequently, he actually underestimates the significance of training to combat performance in general and to this action in particular. On the initial entry into the compound, the assault had met with ferocious resistance from insurgents inside and the assault section became badly confused and was initially forced to withdraw to reorganize itself. It then re-mounted its attack and during the final assault, the Royal Marines major recalled hearing the commands of the section commander, a physical training instructor, ‘Delta fire team: final position’, ‘Charlie Fire team: suppressive fire’ as he re-entered the compound. On this occasion, prepared for the level of resistance they would meet, the Marines breached the compound successfully and killed the Taliban fighters there, who refused to surrender. The company commander emphasized that during training the meaning of these commands and, therefore, the response to them had become almost instinctive. Indeed, the commands were not potent simply because their meaning had been repeatedly emphasized in training but the very intonation of the words was deeply evocative to the Marines in Lima Company. During training at the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, the physical training instructors organize sessions in the gymnasium by the use of very distinctive clipped, high-pitched, single-word commands. The actual words of the commands are themselves often indistinct especially in the noise of a large gym with echoing acoustics. Marines are trained to respond automatically to the tone of these commands and, because they know the next exercise and what movement is expected from them, they do not need to hear the actual word. In Khan Neshin, the Marine corporal’s commands, which echoed across the battlefield, were delivered in the same distinctive tones which all the Marines had heard throughout their training at Lympstone. The section under his command—and indeed the whole company—knew what they were being commanded to do by these simple and short instructions. Moreover, familiar with the tone of the command, each Marine, on the basis of their experiences in training, was confident that both they and their comrades would respond appropriately to these commands. For these Marines, muscle memory did not simply refer to the drills of the platoon attack taught repeatedly in training, but the commands which cued these drills had themselves become deeply resonant and meaningful. In order to execute tactics ‘by the book’, the Royal Marines in 8 troop relied not simply on rote learning one specific choreography but on a deeply ingrained shared professional culture.
(p.278) The Royal Marines may be particularly advantaged in the quality of training they receive. They are an elite regiment in a highly professionalized military which has been engaged in intense operations for a decade. Indeed, even during the Cold War, British infantry, and especially the Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment, were subjected to intense and realistic training as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the Falklands/Malvinas War in 1982. It is, of course, necessary to consider other western forces to determine whether the patterns evident in Britain can be detected more generally. Significantly, while in Europe British infantry—especially elite infantry—might represent an extreme, even in the case of the Bundeswehr, which has been subjected to the most political control in the post-Cold War period and been proportionally less involved in intense military operations, a similar emphasis on training and professionalism is becoming increasingly evident. The Bundeswehr has only just abolished conscription fully, although it has been moving towards a professional model since the end of the Cold War and, especially, in the light of operations in Afghanistan. Consequently it represents an interesting case study since the process of professionalization and the move from a mass, citizen army is currently observable. The emergence of compatible training regimes in Germany would be empirically indicative. Interestingly, as they professionalize, German infantry soldiers are indeed emphasizing the importance of training ever more strongly. An experienced captain from one of the parachute brigades who had been on operations three times, once to the Congo and twice to Afghanistan (on the last of which tours he was wounded), described training as central to a professional approach.49 For him, cohesion was the ‘alpha and omega’ of the armed forces and especially the infantry. He offered up his own company as an example of how cohesion can be generated in the infantry. His company was part of an infantry battalion from the 26th Airborne Brigade which was not only among the most experienced formations in the Bundeswehr but received specialist training. As a result of operations in Afghanistan and observation of allied militaries, the Bundeswehr noted that a gap had appeared in its military capabilities between Special Forces and conventional infantry. It identified the need to create a tier below the Special Forces which was more highly trained than line infantry so that it could operate in more demanding conditions and support the Special Forces; in the USA, the Rangers fulfil this role. The captain’s company was selected as one of the first infantry sub-units to be turned into an Erweiterte Ausbildung (advanced training) company. On the basis of his experience and his observation of other units in the Bundeswehr, the captain emphasized that ‘what we require is specialist training, not broad generic training’. Specifically, he regarded training at the section and platoon level as critical. They were in his view not the lowest element of the military but the most forward element and training should be focused on them. The captain had already emphasized that drills (which could be developed (p.279) only through intensive training) were essential to the performance of small groups.
Another German captain from the paratroopers confirmed the point.50 When he had been a company commander he prioritized training; ‘not theoretical training but practical training’. He had studied sports science at university and drew from this discipline to inform the way he had trained his troops; specifically he emphasized the importance of practical, repetitive training. Typically, the paratroopers whom he commanded learnt to strip and clean their weapons standing up, laying the pieces on a chair in front of them. He trained his company so that they could strip weapons on the march or strip weapons they had not seen before. Moreover, he emphasized the efficiency and intensity of training; ‘We have less time for training in the Bundeswehr now so we have to make every session count.’ The captain remarked that he used to compete with the sergeant major about who could maximize training time most effectively. Thus, if the training topic was loading a weapon, he would test his troops by seeing how many times they could load the weapon in 45 minutes; he observed, ‘the more the better: you learn from repetition’. There are signs of a growing interest in the latest forms of infantry drill—close-quarters battle—and the Bundeswehr has liaison officers at some foreign training establishments. Among the younger cohort of operationally experienced Bundeswehr officers, there is evidence that professionalism, generated by training, is becoming more important. In order to achieve a higher level of combat performance, these officers prioritize experience, stable periods of collective training, and drills.
Consequently, these field officers are deeply interested in their NATO partners and especially the USA and the UK, which are openly admired. One officer had worked with a British infantry battalion in Kosovo which had just come back from Iraq. He described how he was in ‘awe’ of them because they were so ‘polite but so professional’.51 The captain from the Erweiterte Ausbildungs company stressed the importance of these connections to the USA and the UK. He had observed the higher levels of experience and expertise displayed by forces from these countries and argued that training and operational experience were the central means of professionalizing the Bundeswehr: ‘the US and the British have lots of experience, the Bundeswehr soldier stands in the middle between them. We have finally recognized that. We need to learn and to train. Our experience must be translated into training and into training with our partners.’52 Indeed, since the Bundeswehr was dependent upon its allies for strategic military resources, deepening the army’s multinationality was decisive. Crucially, in order to be able to collaborate with US and British partners, professionalism was institutionalized even more intensively. The officer noted that at the Special Operations Forces training centre in Pfullendorf, there were directing staff from Britain, the USA, and a number of other countries. More of these links were needed. (p.280) He suggested that officer exchanges might assist in this in order to overcome the fact that ‘we are behind the US and the UK’. While these experienced German officers might disparage the Bundeswehr, they provide clear evidence of the emergence of a training ethos and regime which is compatible with their NATO allies.
Training is critical for effective combat performance because it is only through this process of collective instruction that sections and platoons are able to execute battle drills in combat together. Moreover, since combat always presents unforeseen circumstances, groups of soldiers must be able to improvise individually and collectively to the unseen threats on the battlefield. They must know their drills well enough to adapt quickly and coherently. However, in order to maximize the effectiveness of drills, armies have recognized the importance of preparing their soldiers for specific missions by generating a detailed collective understanding of what the military unit is trying to achieve. Battle preparation has been a critical means by which generic training and drills are tailored and refined for the context of a particular fight. Battle preparation represents a form of mission-specific training, therefore. It is a critical element of the passionate attention to detail which is central to professionalism. Indeed, this willingness to prepare exhaustively and to pay attention to every possible detail almost paradigmatically separates the professional from the citizen army. Indeed, professional soldiers seem to be self-consciously aware of this difference. Following the completion of the offensive phase of their Military Operations in Urban Terrain Exercise, one of the instructors from the Marines Infantry Officer Course declared in his debrief to his students: ‘Amateurs train till they get it right. Professionals train until they cannot get it wrong.’53 He referenced the intense process of preparation, planning, and rehearsal which had been necessary to conduct the final assault properly: ‘You have now seen the amount of preparation and rehearsal which is necessary to conduct operations.’54 His point is affirmed by numerous other professional soldiers. Lieutenant Harry Tunnell, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry, 173rd Airborne, jumped into northern Iraq with his battalion at the beginning of the war and subsequently conducted combat operations for eight months before he was wounded. He, too, identified training as the prerequisite of combat success: ‘Define standards, train people on what they are, and enforce them. It is not a standard until it is written and understood. Your unit will fight the way they have trained regardless of whether you want them to or not.’55 British officers have been equally emphatic about the importance of training. An excellent company commander (p.281) in 5 Scots recorded how he had trained attacks repeatedly when he was a platoon commander. He would take his platoon onto the training area and run through section and platoon attacks assaulting in different directions; ‘You train two three four times. Once you have trained six or seven times it becomes a drill.’56
As specialist training, battle preparation typically involves three key elements; orders which specify the mission, models which illustrate that mission, and rehearsals in which troops physically practise their manoeuvres. As discussed in Chapter 6, all of these techniques were regularly practised especially by highly trained forces often on special missions from the First World War onwards. Yet, for the most part, battle preparation for the mass army was rudimentary and inadequate. Although commanders were given orders, line infantry typically received little information about the precise nature of their missions. They followed their commanders and their orders. In the professional forces of the twenty-first century, battle preparation is regarded as a critical and indispensable part of tactics. Rapid and unanticipated reactions to enemy action are common but it would be highly atypical for even fairly routine military operations to be conducted without the gathering of intelligence and a formal battle preparation process. Before a mission, professional soldiers are given a detailed set of orders in which their commander explains the plan and his troops’ role in it. The importance of an orders process was recognized in the First World War, since which time western infantry doctrine has recommended standardized procedures for delivery in each country. During the Cold War, NATO established a standard method for giving orders which is now evident across all member states. Orders conform to a five-paragraph format in which the situation, mission, execution, logistics, and command and signals are communicated. The most important paragraph is, of course, the mission and, if everything else is forgotten (or incorrect), the orders process is structured so the mission will be clear. By institutionalizing a single method of giving orders, western forces have sought to obviate two potential problems: that commanders will omit some crucial piece of information or that troops receiving orders will be unclear about what they are to do. By standardizing the process, commanders are less likely to make mistakes, while troops (often tired and hungry) are assisted by having their tasks communicated to them in a familiar structure. Indeed, emphasizing the importance of standardization and predictability, the US Army and Marines have reduced the orders process to an acronym, SMEAC (situation, mission, execution, administration, and command and signals), in order to minimize the chance of mistakes and omissions.
The standardization of the orders process has been important in clarifying the mission. However, one of the most interesting and important aspects of the orders process is the use of models which have sociologically profound implications in terms of the question of social cohesion. At the highest level of (p.282) command, professional model-builders are employed to create detailed dioramas of the areas in which the missions will be carried out, physically detailing the ground and the enemy positions. However, even at the lowest section and platoon levels in the infantry, models are always preferred even by the Special Forces who are adept at using maps and usually operate in small numbers.57 The use of models has become all but universal among western forces. On the Canadian army’s Advanced Reconnaissance Course, which is probably the most demanding infantry training course on offer in Canada (outside the Special Forces), preparing senior non-commissioned officers and officers to command and train battalion reconnaissance platoons, enormous emphasis is placed upon the ability of patrol commanders to deliver orders clearly and, therefore, on very accurate models. Reconnaissance patrols rely on stealth in order to achieve their mission. Accordingly, a precise understanding of the terrain in which the patrol is to operate is critical to success. The better understanding a patrol has of the ground, the better chance it has of concealing itself on its approach, in its observation posts, and during its withdrawal. In the regular infantry, the ground brief typically lasts two or three minutes, but for a reconnaissance patrol, this brief had to last at least ten minutes. It is important to go into far greater detail about the topography. Accordingly, great stress is placed on candidates on this course to produce very high-quality models, from which to receive their orders, and they were closely assessed on them. Without a good model, it is impossible to give an accurate and collectively comprehensible ground brief; ‘a basic skill is model-making and in normal circumstances, a model has to be workable. But here, the model has to be perfect.’58 As the officer running the course noted, ‘the level of professionalism is a lot more demanding’.59 During the course, which was run in October 2011 in the Combat Training Centre, Gagetown, patrols returned to their base every 36 hours to prepare themselves for their next mission and to receive orders. It was here, in this base area, that they built their models. The directing staff on the course were delighted with the standard of model making which was among the best that they had seen; the models were extraordinarily realistic and accurate. Candidates on the Reconnaissance Patrols Course had shown great creativity in building these models, using local twigs and lichen to build very impressive replica trees and bushes. They were provided with or had procured specialist model-making equipment, Sully’s Reconnaissance Supplies, produced locally by an ex-Canadian soldier. The Reconnaissance Supplies, packed in a small plastic box, contained an extensive array of specially designed material for helping to mark models: string to mark grid squares, different coloured pipe-cleaners to mark roads, rivers, approach routes, coloured tags and tallies denoting Rendezvous Points and patrols.
The Canadian Reconnaissance Course is very advanced but the specific attention paid to model building—and prepared materials to do it—is replicated in other forces. The US Marine Corps’s Infantry Officer Course has an (p.283) extensive kit consisting of markers, blocks, and tape specifically for the building of models which students are expected to use before they give orders and which is brought out on exercises. Even without specialist kits, troops often carry with them coloured ribbons and tags to designate distinctive features and they use surprising creativity in sculpturing the earth inside the model pits to represent ridges and valleys and to improvise with stones, grass, twigs, and leaves to signify woods, streams, paths, and roads. In this way, the models facilitate the orders process by physically representing enemy positions and ground over which the action will take place. As they give their orders, commanders are able to illustrate the precise movements of their troops on the ground by reference to the models, highlighting specific features which will orient the action or which may pose problems for the advancing troops. The model is a graphic device aimed at facilitating communication, and the more detailed and accurate the model the more effective it is.
There are pragmatic reasons why models are employed by troops. It is impractical to use maps in a tactical situation. Commanders and troops must be able to identify central landmarks by sight as they advance under fire or as they lie in tactical concealment; in these situations it will be difficult for them to examine a map. Consequently, the models represent what the audience will see as they advance on their target, such as trees, hills, or rivers, preparing them with a series of visual cues. However, the models assist collective action not merely because they depict the ground as the troops themselves will see it. More importantly, models are used because this ensures that there is only a single representation of the terrain, to which the attention of all is directed. Maps, by contrast, display a multitude of extraneous and often irrelevant topographic features in extensive detail. If each soldier received orders by reference to their own individual map, individual misinterpretations could occur. Soldiers could easily interpret their maps and the features depicted on them differently; they could focus on alternative geographic points, or misread the lie of the land from the contours of the map. Misinterpretation is a major problem on operations, when soldiers are very tired. The captain running the Canadian Advanced Reconnaissance Patrol Course emphasized the way in which models minimized the chances of mistakes or forgetfulness: ‘The point is when troops are very tired and they have to go out again and the orders last one hour and fifteen minutes, you might forget everything except the model and your movement on it. You carry that image of the model inside your head so that when you are inserted you know that after fifty metres there is a tree on your right and then a black trail [an unmetalled road] going off from there.’60
Models are deliberately designed to eliminate individual deviance, then. The soldiers who are tasked to construct the models work from a map but they deliberately ignore subsidiary and irrelevant data which could mislead. The model is not simply a large-scale map, although it is on a bigger scale and uses far more detail than a map. The model makers are concerned with minutiae (p.284) but model makers also focus on those decisive points which soldiers have been trained to employ as orienting axes and reference points in tactical situations and which troops will confront on the operation. Thus the model makers and the commander using the model will emphasis wood-lines (which stand out clearly even at night), roads, rivers, and pylons which are unmistakable physical features. Above all, objectives, whether they are natural features like hills or artificial ones like buildings, are especially highlighted on models. The result is evident. All are knowingly oriented to a single collective representation which consists of clear and distinct symbols. As the Canadian Reconnaissance Course demonstrated, the more accurate the representation, the more effective the model was as a shared symbol coordinating the actions of the soldiers on the ground. In this way, the chances of misinterpretation and deviance are minimized. The models also serve another important purpose. Precisely because troops are oriented to common objectives, signified by the model, they are more able to improvise during the mission itself. Since troops all understand the primary objective, expressed in orders as the Commander’s Intent, and know the ground on which they will be operating, the models are intended to allow the troops to pursue this objective in alternative ways, as the situation demands. The models have become a means of institutionalizing collective flexibility.
The model has become the standard technique of uniting professional military groups around the pursuit of dangerous and difficult goals. In the past, the orders process culminated in rehearsals which could in the case of large-scale or important operations consist of major exercises in which thousands of troops would practise their manoeuvres on prepared ground. Alternatively, a reconnaissance team or platoon might rehearse, walking through its mission conceptually near its bivouac. In Chapter 6, the origin of this practice in the First World War among assault battalions on both sides of the conflict was discussed. Rehearsals of this kind are typical in the professional army. However, there has also been an attempt to fuse the model and the rehearsal into a single, graphic Rehearsal of Concept (ROC) drill. In the ROC drill, the commanders and troops run through the sequence of the operation on a very large (often uncontoured) diorama of the operating area in which buildings, roads, and geographic features are represented on the ground. The commanders of each unit and sub-unit then stand in the position they are assigned at the beginning of the operation and, as the commanding officer narrates the sequence of actions, they move about the diorama to indicate their manoeuvres and their positions throughout the operation. The rest of the troops watch the ROC drill. The ROC drill seems to have been a US innovation. At the lowest level the ROC drill has become a standard procedure in the US Marines and is a central part of the training curriculum for officers (see Figures 9.1–9.3). For instance, during the Military Operations in Urban Terrain phase of the US Marines’ Infantry Officer’s Course’s Final Exercise, (p.285)
The function of the model and ROC drills as a collective representation, enjoining coordinated action, is eminently observable on operations. Famously, before the Iraq invasion, the charismatic but somewhat idiosyncratic commander of the 1 Marine Division, Major General James Mattis, conducted a ROC drill for the whole division on a very large (non-relief) model depicting Iraq. He issued each of the commanders of his battalions with a rugby shirt with their unit designation printed on it. While he sat in a raised chair, the rugby-shirted battalion commanders moved about the model in accordance (p.287)
In the film, the platoon is gathered around the model, listening intently to the plan for the operation; prominent among them is Staff Sergeant Rougle who would subsequently be killed on the operation. In turn each of the section commanders ran through the movement of their squads during the operation, indicating their movements with pointers. In the filmed sequence, the location of the helicopter landing zones and the platoon’s movement from them were being described; one staff sergeant clarified, ‘We’re going to move from HLZ Cub into HLZ Pope’. The anxious concentration of the members of the platoon was evident and seems to have been intensified by the fact that the soldiers were well aware of the dangers of this operation. In a number of post-tour interviews, the soldiers reported that Rock Avalanche was the low point of the tour for them. Indeed, one soldier noted that he ‘saw a lot of professional tough guys go weak in the knees’ at the prospect of this operation. For 2nd Platoon, the rehearsal of concept for Rock Avalanche represented an intense forum in which every member of the group was focused on the unit’s collective task and their personal role in it.
It is not only the United States Marines or Army which use the ROC drill. During the Iraq invasion of 2003, the Royal Marines and specifically 42 (p.289) Commando adopted the ROC drill in their planning and preparation process, having worked with the US Marines on that operation, so that by 2005, it had become a standardized part of the unit’s battle procedure. In 2008–9, when the unit was on operations in Afghanistan, Lima Company, 42 Commando, used ROC drills before every significant operation. The officer commanding gave a formal set of company orders in the unit’s briefing room to his platoon commanders, sergeants, and specialists which included maps, photographs, and satellite images so that the soldiers knew the ground. They would then relay these orders to their subordinates, but before the operation, the whole company group would go through a ROC drill. To this end, the company constructed large models using ammunition boxes to represent buildings and compounds, each numbered for easy reference, and dug out small ditches to represent rivers or wadis and used tape to indicate roads. ‘There was no reason why we did not build a model but we just did a ROC drill instead. If there were obvious really high features, we would make them.’62 42 Commando’s ROC models were, then, a hybrid of the traditional model and the more conventional flat ROC diorama. Members of the company were explicit about the collective effect of the ROC process. ‘This oriented people to the ground. The whole company watched the ROC Drill and the O/C [Officer Commanding] narrated it with people walking over the model. For instance, the helos were these guys. The troops were represented by the troop commanders. As they moved over the model they would say “This is me walking out”, “These are my arcs”. Then the next troop commander would go through his manoeuvres until everyone was completely happy with the plan. It was fundamental for the lads because it allowed them to paint a picture in their own minds. I would have been a lot more nervous had we not done a ROC drill. I had it in my mind’s eye. It was fundamental to us.’63 Through the ROC drill, the company united itself around a common understanding of its objective and what it intended to do.
Although Junger’s Battle Company were plainly concerned during their orders process, troops do not tend to display extreme emotion, even less the euphoria which Durkheim noted of aboriginal clans; but the orders process has resonances with the aboriginal ritual. It is deliberately designed to invoke unity and, in moving about the model, troops seek to generate the homogeneity of movement which Durkheim noted as essential for solidarity. Moreover, while the collective effervescence of the religious ceremony is perhaps absent in the orders process, the ROC drills enjoin powerful emotions among the troops, whose concentration is demanded. Sometimes, as the ROC drill for Operation Rock Avalanche shows, the orders process can stimulate a collective sense of dread and apprehension. That visceral fear was infused into the model as a collective representation, heightening each individual’s attention to the group’s goals in an effort to minimize the potential for failure and indeed disaster.
(p.290) As part of their attempts to become more interoperable especially with the United States and Britain and to professionalize, the French army has recently adopted the ROC drill as a method of battle preparation. In the past, French units gave orders from a map or alternatively by reference to a sand box. The sand box is a piece of military equipment of long standing, initially used as a means of examining tactical command problems. French troops effectively used the sand box as an efficient means of creating a model. However, as a result of their experiences in Afghanistan, where they have worked closely with the Americans, from whom, like the British, they learnt the technique, they have sought to introduce the ROC drill into their battle procedures, although it is not mandatory at the unit level. Innovative training centres like CENZUB have been at the forefront of this innovation, insisting that French troops training at the facility employ ROC drills before major evolutions in their exercises.64 Officers explicitly regarded the institution of the drill as an important and useful development since the sand box was too small for tactical manoeuvres to be demonstrated; because of its size it was difficult to attain the level of detail which was possible on a large ROC model. On a large and well-constructed ROC model, it is possible for soldiers to imagine their operational surroundings very well so that they can orient themselves on the ground. French trainers have also noted the added advantage of physically walking through a rehearsal; ‘It is easier to understand with your feet than by hours of talking.’65
The introduction of the ROC drill into France represents an interesting development which is likely to improve combat performance but it is also noticeable that in comparison with anglophone troops, French forces may not yet have developed refined model-making techniques. The staff at CENZUB were impressed by the models constructed by a visiting British company which used the lichen from local trees to represent the woods around Beauséjour in a highly realistic fashion (see Figure 9.3). The French infantry company undergoing a validation exercise in early December 2011 conducted a certainly proficient ROC drill in which the central movements of their assault on the major apartment blocks in Jeoffrecourt were rehearsed.66 The fire support platoon stood on a hill overlooking the town, while the three rifle platoon commanders walked through their attack on the housing blocks at the direction of the company commander. The scheme of manoeuvre for the assault, for observing French troops, was unmistakable. Nevertheless, the model was not particularly accurate. It represented the objective schematically rather than mapping it accurately. The apartment blocks themselves were not to scale, nor were the distances between them. Small blocks of concrete had been placed on the model in loose relation rather than in strict triangulation with each other. At the same time, important features such as a kindergarten with a significant play area surrounded by walls adjacent to one of the apartment buildings which was of potential tactical importance, since it could be used as cover by either opponents or the French troops themselves, (p.291) was not on the model at all. Consequently, while the general company manoeuvre was adequately depicted, the model was not sufficiently detailed to facilitate platoon and section preparation. Although the difficulties into which the assault subsequently ran, as the platoon entered the first apartment blocks (to be heavily attritted by an opposing force), could not be put down entirely to the shortcomings of the model, its inadequacies are not likely to have helped the troops’ preparations (see Figure 9.4).
Models seek to create a collective representation which generates a common understanding of the battlefield for troops. There is clearly a vital and purely intellectual element to this process, whereby common understanding is developed. The coordination of practice is extremely difficult if not impossible without at least a degree of shared understanding of the situation, and this is particularly the case on the battlefield when the typical problems of coordination are multiplied many times over. At one level, models simply depict the terrain as it is so that all the troops are able to recognize and visualize it; they have a common understanding of the ground and their mission. However, collective practice is not merely a theoretical problem. It is not enough for participants merely to define the situation in common and to know what to do. They must be prepared to act in concert as a result of their understanding. Although it is very easy to overlook the point because they seem to be such mundane objects, models have to engender moral obligation as they communicate information. At this point, models and ROC drills become deeply interesting and it is worth considering at some length how they are able to fuse knowledge and obligation. Consequently and perhaps surprisingly, the sociology of knowledge, and, above all, Durkheim’s engagement with Kant’s philosophy, can usefully illustrate the way in which moral obligations may be inscribed in the military model.
Durkheim certainly maintained that the act of comprehension necessarily involves a moral obligation. Indeed, his concept of the ‘conscience collective’ was explicitly intended to communicate the indivisibility of knowledge and morality. Unfortunately, in translation to the English ‘collective consciousness’,67 the moral aspect of his argument can be easily overlooked. Yet, one of the less obvious objectives of the Elementary Forms was to relocate Kant’s concepts of both Pure and Practical Reason in the human community as opposed to the individual mind; Durkheim sought to provide a sociological account of Kant’s concept of Reason and the Categorical Imperative specifically to demonstrate this necessary fusion of human knowledge and morality. This aim is, naturally, most obvious in his analysis of the moral implications of belief. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant sought to identify the necessary structure of human reason in order to establish what humans can know;68 Kant was concerned with ascertaining the transcendental conceptual conditions on the basis of which coherent experience was possible at all. He believed that it was possible to deduce the existence of synthetic a priori categories (p.292)
Durkheim rejected Kant’s claims that human understanding and especially morality could be determined by individual reason alone. Yet he was deeply impressed by the idea that the way humans comprehended the world was very substantially predetermined for them; it was not a matter of individual opinion or personal experience. Moreover, he was convinced that morality had a force which quite transcended mere utility or individual preference.69 Morality had a necessity, although Kant may have also underestimated the voluntary and desirable character of genuine morality. Humans actively want to fulfil their duty: ‘morality must be not only obligatory but desirable.’70 In his work on aboriginal ritual, Durkheim sought to show how intellectual comprehension and social solidarity—understanding and morality in a deontological Kantian sense—were, indeed, intimately connected. He wanted to demonstrate that the way in which a community understood its world necessarily involved moral imperatives about how group members should act in that world. Indeed, he was explicit that science and philosophy both have their origins in religion.71
At the roots of all our judgements there are a certain number of essential ideas which dominate all our intellectual life; they are what philosophers since Aristotle have called the categories of understanding: ideas of time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, etc. They correspond to the most universal properties. They are like the solid frame which encloses all thought…They are like the framework of the intelligence. Now when primitive religious beliefs are systematically analysed, the principal categories are naturally found.72
For Durkheim, the origin of Kant’s synthetic a priori categories lies not in logic or the structure of reason itself but on the contrary in social experience and collective representations. Durkheim gives the examples of time and space:
It [time] is an abstract and impersonal frame which surrounds, not only our individual existence, but that of all humanity. It is like an endless chart, where all duration is spread out before the mind, and upon which all possible events can be located in relation to fixed and determined guide lines. It is not my time that is thus arranged; it is time in general, such as it is objectively thought of by everybody in a single civilization. (p.294) That alone is enough to give us a hint that such an arrangement ought to be collective.73
In his discussion of space, which he sees as ‘the same thing’, Durkheim explicitly opposes his own sociological position to Kant’s rationalism: ‘Space is not the vague and indetermined medium which Kant imagined; if purely and absolutely homogenous, it would be of no use, and could not be grasped by the mind.’74 Durkheim asks: ‘But whence come these divisions which are so essential? By themselves, there are neither right nor left, up nor down, nor north not south, etc.’ Durkheim claims that since ‘all the men of a single civilization represent space in the same way’, they must derive from ‘sympathetic values’, and this fact ‘almost necessarily implies that they be of social origin’.75 Durkheim gives the example of societies ‘in Australia and North America where space is conceived in the form of an immense circle, because the camp has a circular form’.76
The origin of purely intellectual beliefs and frameworks is for Durkheim collective and social. However, in The Elementary Forms, Durkheim also wanted to show how a moral imperative was attached to categories of understanding as a result of the social origin of belief. A social group was, for Durkheim, united not only intellectually but also morally through its shared beliefs. By worshipping their totem and publicly displaying their belief in this deity, the members of a tribe were not simply consenting to a common intellectual framework, although this was vital; they were also committing themselves to the practices which were represented by that god. Since, as Durkheim famously argued, the aboriginal deity in reality represented the tribe itself, the aborigines’ collective confession of faith was simultaneously a demonstration of their solidarity with each other. By worshipping their god together, they were simultaneously reaffirming their bonds to each other. The belief in this particular totem concretely prescribed a code of conduct which the tribespeople were expected to follow, then. Indeed, the ecstasy which the aborigines felt in the course of their rites was not so much induced by their intellectual consensus about the nature of the world but by the intense feeling of community of what they should do in it. Their submission to a shared deity represented this affective (and intellectual) union. Shared belief especially when publicly displayed in worship in and of itself involved a shared moral commitment. Certainly, it was entirely conceivable that an aborigine might subsequently renege on this faith and betray the tribe but such recidivism was, after a religious profession of faith and solidarity, recognized as treachery. The traitor was in bad faith, contradicting what he or she had publicly confessed as the truth. To share a belief is, according to Durkheim, in and of itself to be morally committed to a set of practices implied by that belief and to expect others to be so obligated as well. To accept something as epistemologically true is also necessarily to accept that certain forms of action which follow from that (p.295) belief are morally right. Durkheim’s focus in the Elementary Forms was the Australian aborigine but it was quite clear within that text, where he draws a parallel between aborigines and scientists and his other writings on the professions, that this intellectual and moral union was critical to the generation of any community.
In the light of this Durkheimian fusion of the intellectual and the moral, the use of models and ROC drills may be deeply significant for professional troops. Battle preparation is, of course, primarily oriented to improving the collective understanding of the platoon; its purpose is purely intellectual and practical. As the captain commanding the Canadian Advanced Reconnaissance Course stressed, models helped soldiers to understand and remember the mission. Yet, in generating a shared understanding about how they were going to operate, the process of battle preparation also seems to engender a moral obligation among the troops receiving orders. By agreeing to a common understanding of the situation in the orders process, soldiers are not simply demonstrating their comprehension of the mission in theory; they are also committing themselves to the prescribed forms of collective action represented by the model or in the ROC drills. They are committing themselves morally to the mission and, should they fail to fulfil their tasks, it would be impossible for them to claim that they did not understand what was being asked of them. Once intellectual clarity has been achieved in orders, failure becomes a moral issue which can be excused only on the ground of dramatic unforeseen circumstances which genuinely obstructed the prescribed action. Failure on any other grounds must be dereliction of duty for, in the orders process, soldiers had demonstrated their understanding of what was required of them. In this way, the use of models and the ROC drills may be even more significant than it appears because it suggests that the motivation to perform on military operations for the professional soldier may not come primarily from extraneous sources, as it did for the citizen soldier. Where citizen soldiers committed themselves to perform by reference to masculinity or nationalism, professional soldiers may not be so worried about their reputation as a man or be so reliant on political motivation to sustain themselves. Rather, motivation may come from the mission and the act of performance itself. Once they have committed themselves to it in the preparatory phase, it becomes a matter of collective and individual pride that soldiers succeed.
The armed forces seem to be more than implicitly aware of the moral imperative in the process of battle preparation. For instance, all western forces stress that commanders must give their orders confidently and firmly in order to enthuse their soldiers. More specifically, US doctrine states that ‘the platoon leader issues the order in person, looking into the eyes of all his Soldiers to ensure each leader and Soldier understands the mission and what his element must achieve’.77 By looking into the eyes of their soldiers, platoon leaders are seeking to confirm that the orders have been understood; confusion or (p.296) incomprehension are communicated very easily by the ways in which the eyes are focused. However, the recommendation that commanders look into their soldiers’ eyes seems to be more than a pedagogical method to ensure understanding. It seems to be simultaneously an explicitly moral gesture which binds commander and soldiers together in a morally obliging contract. In showing that they have understood the mission by returning the commander’s stare openly and honestly, the members of the platoon are also demonstrating their personal commitment to the plan. Decisively, in order to augment this sense of moral obligation, commanders actively try to fuse immediate tactical activity with wider regimental identity in the imagination of the troops. Thus, objectives on operations are typically given emotive names which invoke collective memories and heighten the sense of moral obligation between the troops immediately present and their commitment to their fellow troops both now and in the past. On operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Royal Marines have used names like Taunton, Arbroath, or Gibraltar referring respectively to towns in which commando units are based or to the Marines’ regimental insignia. The British Parachute Regiment has used the name ‘Arnhem’, referring to its most famous battle in the Second World War. Junger’s Airborne platoon, of course, named the vital combat outpost they built in the Korengal Valley after their medic, Doc Restrepo, killed earlier in the tour. In this way, models imbue military objectives with an intensely shared meaning. The objective comes to represent the platoon itself and to fail to perform in the manner agreed upon in orders is to renege personally upon one’s fellow soldiers. The models, therefore, unite pure and practical reasoning, engendering unity among the troops and encouraging coordinated military activity. Totally consistent with Durkheim’s analysis of religion, moral obligation is fused with shared knowledge through the institution of models. They connect a concrete series of mundane tactical practices in the here and now with a sacred shared idea of professionalism. Interestingly, of course, the increasing salience of models and ROC drills suggests that the appeals to general masculinity, nationalism, and ethnicity, so important for the citizen army, have become less important in the professional force. The professional army does not encourage participation by general appeals to manhood or patriotism but by mission-specific forms of preparation which fuse intellectual and moral imperatives in the immediate task. A self-referential ideal of professionalism motivates the troops. This theme will be discussed further in the next chapter.
The importance of proper battle preparation to combat performance in engendering intellectual and moral unity is perhaps best demonstrated by operations when levels of planning and preparation have been inadequate. There are a number of well-known cases when the battle preparation on recent operations has fallen below standards which professional soldiers might themselves regard as appropriate. One of the most obvious was the American (p.297) operation in November 2001 against an Al Qaeda position in the Tora Bora mountains, Operation Anaconda.78 The mountainous area in which the operation took place complicated the mission from the outset but American forces failed to prepare properly for the operation as a result of a fragmented chain of command and diversity of force elements.79 Signally, in planning, rehearsing, and executing the operation, American commanders could not coordinate the airborne force from the 101st Airborne Division, the ‘Rakkasans’, acting as a block in the mountains and Special Forces with their Afghan mentees clearing the villages in the valley.80 Indeed, there was unclarity in the headquarters and throughout the two forces which was the ‘main effort’ (i.e. playing the decisive role) even though the Special Forces element was formally assigned to it.81 The result was confusion about which force had priority in terms of support during the battle with, ultimately, disastrous consequences. There are many lesser-known but equally instructive examples.
In September 2006, NATO’s ISAF, having just taken over responsibility for the south of Afghanistan, launched its first major offensive operation, Operation Medusa,82 against the Taliban in the Panjwai’i district of Kandahar approximately 30 kilometres to the south-west of Kandahar city. There was a large force of Taliban gathering in the area who, NATO believed, were about to cut off the city by seizing Highway 1, the main road which runs through the city from east to west. Fighters were heavily dug into prepared positions around the small village of Pashmul in the Argandhab River valley, just to the north of the peak Masum Ghar, concentrated in the area of a large white school house where they had prepared an ambush site. The 1st Battalion the Royal Canadian Regiment had taken the high point Masum Ghar and were preparing to clear this area designated Objective Rugby, after a planned and very heavy artillery strike, when, on 2 September, the Regional Command South commander, Brigadier General David Fraser, ordered them to mount a rapid assault on Pashmul from the south, across a major wadi in the Argandhab Valley, directly into the prepared Taliban positions. Brigadier Fraser had himself come under pressure from his ISAF commander, General David Richards, and the US commander of Operation Enduring Freedom, Major General Ben Freakley, to assault quickly. US troops under Freakley were concurrently conducting an anti-guerrilla offensive called ‘Mountain Thrust’ and wanted to capture or kill as many Taliban fighters in this period as possible; Richards recognized that it was important for NATO’s credibility that it demonstrated its resolve and its ability to conduct intense combat operations. C Company 1 Royal Canadian Regiment attacked, as ordered across the wadi, into the Taliban killing zone. As their four light armoured vehicles approached the school house, they were subjected to intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Four Canadian soldiers were killed and the attack failed badly, with C Company being forced to extract itself back across the wadi. In the end, Operation Medusa, which continued to (p.298) 17 September, was successful; a combination of further attacks from the north, involving US and British Special Forces, and airpower inflicted some 200 casualties on the Taliban and, if the Taliban were indeed intending to advance en masse on Kandahar city, their attempt was categorically interdicted. However, the initial assault on Objective Rugby on 2 September was severely criticized by the Canadian troops involved in it. As one soldier noted: ‘We were pushed across the wadi but then what? We weren’t even sure what the objective was…we were going into the unknown.’83 Master Warrant Officer Keith Olstad of C Company was deeply critical of the chain of command: ‘There was a plan and you only vary from the plan if the enemy influences events…[the change in plan] was influenced by decisions not by the enemy.’84 A staff officer confirmed the point: ‘The intelligence was clear! The General was clearly informed! And clearly chose to ignore the intelligence.’85 The first assault on Objective Rugby demonstrated that for political reasons, normal processes of planning and preparation—professionalism—were short-circuited by the requirement to achieve immediate results and to demonstrate aggression. The result was a poorly conceived and executed attack which allowed the Taliban to fight from a position of their choosing, resulting in the deaths of four Canadian soldiers for no tactical gain.
The Royal Marines, like all British troops at one time or another in Helmand, have been involved in a number of problematic operations which have parallels with Operations Anaconda and Medusa. These operations are particularly useful precisely because the Royal Marines are recognized to be among the best-trained and most professional infantry regiments in NATO. The difficulties they encountered, despite the high quality of the Marines, highlight the indispensability of good battle preparation even for professional soldiers; their performance relies upon it. Operation Sond Chara, in December 2008 was one of the most important operations which the British Task Force Helmand had conducted up to that point.86 With Sond Chara 3 Commando Brigade aimed to clear the village of Zargan Kallay in Nad-e-Ali. For the first time, the British focused on the critical area in central Helmand around the provincial capital Lashkar Gar, and after Sond Chara, the British efforts became notably more coherent and, in counter-insurgency terms, more successful. Operationally, it was, therefore successful, even. However, although the operation represented an important moment in the campaign when the British Task Force began to exert their efforts in one contiguous area around Lashkar Gar, the tactical execution of the operation was deeply troubled. Juliet and Lima Companies 42 Commando were put under the command of a new ad hoc battle group which aimed to attack Zargan Kally from the south along a single road, a junction on which was to be secured by Juliet Company and was to act as a start line. In the event, the battle group became congested at this junction, partly because of a defensive ditch which the Taliban had dug. The delay gave the Taliban ample time to strengthen (p.299) their defence of the village and resulted in an intense and very difficult three-day operation which was, at great cost, ultimately successful in purely tactical terms; the Taliban were temporarily driven from the village. Marines involved in the operation were deeply critical of the planning and preparation, which was inadequate, in their view. Zargan Kallay is built on a block system with a main road running through the middle of the settlement and it seemed obvious to many Marines that Juliet and Lima Companies, advancing on foot simultaneously under the cover of night, should have cleared the village on either side of this road together. Orders were given for Operation Sond Chara but Marines in Juliet Company were not involved in a ROC drill or in rehearsals. The lack of a ROC drill may have been particularly significant here as it might have indicated the flaw of advancing on a single road and using the junction as a starting point. Specifically, the ROC drill gives subordinate commanders the opportunity to express their concerns about the plan or to offer ways of improving it.87 The fact that an important operation could have been conceived and planned in a way which junior non-commissioned officers were immediately able to recognize as flawed demonstrates that professional performance on the battlefield is an aspiration which has to be attained by training, planning, and rehearsal. Even among the most professional forces, it is a possibility not an inevitability.
It has been argued that battle preparation and specifically the orders process fuses the intellectual understanding with moral imperative to generate a self-referential task-orientation among troops. Professional troops understand their mission completely and are therefore obliged to execute it. In this way, battle preparation and training aims to improve collective performance. However, practice and preparation does not merely improve individual and collective performance in combat, although there seems to be evidence that it does that. Nor does it only unite an intellectual understanding of the mission with a moral requirement to complete it. Perhaps most interestingly, training actually changes soldiers’ shared experience and collective understanding of combat itself. As they undergo intensive training, soldiers begin to understand the battlefield differently not only individually but, crucially, collectively. They apply new shared definitions to this domain, enabling them to perform tactical drills together because the platoon is oriented to a common definition of the situation and the appropriate joint response to it. Specifically, this professionalized re-definition of the battlefield is facilitated by and intimately related to the Durkheimian process of giving orders and using models—which invest objectives with professional significance—but it goes substantially beyond it (p.300) and leads to a whole regime of training and a dense configuration of practices and relations within an infantry unit which sustain their definition recurrently among its members.
It is useful to consider the role which shared definitions play in social action more deeply. Indeed, in his work on social reality,88 John Searle has emphasized that ‘an understanding of collective intentionality is essential to understanding social facts’.89 Uniquely, and in sharp contrast to natural phenomena, social reality is constituted by the very definitions which social actors put upon it; Searle rightly notes this is the ‘remarkable feature of social facts’.90 Marriage ceremonies in which couples declare ‘I do’ to each other or meetings in which an individual is designated chairperson do not exist prior to speech acts which merely describe a reality which already exists.91 Speech acts are constitutive of social reality itself. Searle reduces the speech act to a ‘status function’ which takes the basic constitutive rule of ‘X counts for Y in [context] C’.92 Searle uses money to illustrate the point. Money is objectively merely bits of printed paper, but because these pieces of paper are collectively defined as valuable in society, they come to count as having the status of—and, indeed, are—five or ten pounds or dollars. The act of collective definition makes money what it is—it gives it its status function—with prodigious social consequences.93 Ultimately, Searle argues that social reality consists of a vast and complex web of these status functions, where speech acts in innumerable life-worlds give a variety of objects, people, or statements status functions on the basis of which participants coordinate their interactions with each other. The status functions articulated in speech acts define and constitute social reality, orienting actors to common goals.
John Searle’s work has certainly been one of the most elegant and profound discussions of the constitutive role which collective definitions play in social life. However, the sociologists have long been aware of the centrality of shared definitions to social activity. It was a central element of Parsons’s work, especially in The Structure of Social Action, while Weber’s Economy and Society, subtitled ‘An Outline of Interpretive Sociology’, begins with a long discussion of the distinctive centrality of subjective understandings to social reality. The constitutive role of shared understandings in social life has always been central to sociology, then. However, some research programmes within the discipline have concentrated on the connection between collective definitions and social reality in a particularly suggestive manner. In particular, in the 1960s, Harold Garfinkel, a former student of Talcott Parsons, sought to develop a new research programme in sociology against the existing functionalist consensus which he termed ‘ethnomethodology’. In understanding the role of collective definitions in combat, it is worth considering the ethnomethodological approach more fully. Ethnomethodology was an exploration of the actual ways by which participants sustained social interaction through creative use of shared understandings and expectations. In his development of (p.301) ethnomethodology, Harold Garfinkel believed that he was ‘working out Durkheim’s aphorism’ that ‘the objective reality of social facts is sociology’s fundamental principle/phenomenon’.94 Garfinkel rejected Durkheim’s notion of the social fact which seemed to assume that society reproduces itself by simply imposing itself on the individual. Sociology was not interested in individual action but in structural forces. For Garfinkel, such a position represented a facile determinism; social forces simply manifested themselves in individual action irrespective of the dynamics of the social situation itself. Yet Garfinkel maintained that these interactional dynamics as participants made their own world were decisive and he aimed to address this putative gap in sociological thinking. He forcefully argued that social interactions do not make themselves; they have to be actively constituted by the actors involved in them. In fact, Durkheim always fully recognized the potency and complexity of interactional dynamics; he was deeply sensitive to the way in which different forms of association could give rise to different patterns of individual practice. Nevertheless, despite his misrepresentation of Durkheim, Garfinkel has usefully emphasized the centrality of ‘accountability’ in human social interaction and the production of situations (which is consistent with a Durkheimian approach). Specifically, Garfinkel claimed that actors have to define their encounters collectively in order that the situation becomes what it is; they have to ascribe a shared meaning to it on the basis of which their actions towards each other are comprehensible: ‘The activities whereby members produce and manage settings of ordinary everyday affairs are identical with members’ procedures for making those settings account-able.’95 These accounts ‘normalize’ the situation, not only by making them meaningful to the participants, allowing them to interact successfully, but in so doing by investing them with normative expectations. Once defined as a certain situation, Garfinkel’s actors mutually expect each other and themselves to act in certain ways. Garfinkel’s breaching experiments when investigators deliberately acted in opposition to expected collective accounts were intended to demonstrate the intellectual and moral importance of these shared definitions. Shared understandings define a situation for a group of participants and, therefore, identify practically effective and morally appropriate collective activity for that group. Appositely, Garfinkel stressed that these accounts (albeit often unacknowledged) were not supererogatory, social interactions naturally and successfully being executed without them. Without shared accounts, actors could not perform coherently; there could be no successful practice and ultimately no stable situation.
Garfinkel’s concept of accountability applies with great force to combat because in this situation, humans are subjected to one of the most extreme and confusing environments. On the battlefield, soldiers are submitted to a terrifying experience. Indeed, if the cultural representations discussed in Chapter 1 are to be believed—and they are certainly compelling—the front is hellish. It is (p.302) a grotesque confusion of sensations. If it is difficult to coordinate activity in normal social life, the Garfinkelian problem is multiplied in this chaos. Given the intense emotions which combat generates, it would be entirely conceivable that individual soldiers would fail to generate a collective account of their situation. Each would respond to their terrors alone, some fleeing, others freezing, a few becoming fighting mad. Soldiers could respond in a multiplicity of ways. However, through preparation and especially through training, orders, and rehearsals, troops are able to generate a common account of combat which they are able to sustain during the fighting itself. In the light of the careful construction of common definitions of the combat situation and their mission in it, soldiers are able to maintain their cohesion and to continue to cooperate with each other.
Junger’s descriptions of the Operation Rock Avalanche and Gatigal ambush have already been used in this chapter and the last to show the importance of drills and training. The Gatigal ambush also illustrates how soldiers can begin to generate new collective definitions of the combat situation as a result of training in line with Garfinkel’s concept of accountability. According to Junger, the US Army have been interested in the response of Giunta and his comrades since it was viewed as a remarkable and ideal response to an ambush. Giunta’s explanation of his performance is deeply interesting:
I did what I did because that’s what I was trained to do. There was a task that had to be done, and the part that I was gonna do was to link alpha and bravo teams. I didn’t run through fire to save a buddy—I ran through fire to see what was going on with him and maybe we could hide behind the same rock and shoot together. I didn’t run through fire to do anything heroic or brave. I did what I believe anyone would have done.96
It would be wrong merely to take Giunta’s account as an expression of modesty, although it certainly is self-deprecating. Giunta’s humility is itself an expression of a deeper concept of professionalism which provides a framework of meaning for his actions. Specifically, the instinctive reaction displayed by Giunta was the product of an intense training regime. Equally interestingly, Giunta did not see his actions as individualistic. His actions were defined by him in collective institutional terms. He was following a training drill in order to reconnect two tactical sub-units. Giunta’s account of his actions is deeply significant. He defined the situation he confronted in professional military terms. He did not face a personal existential crisis of whether he was a coward or a hero, nor did he mobilize political ideology to define the situation and his actions in it. Nor, interestingly, was it simply about saving a comrade. On the contrary, the situation and his response were defined in technical terms: he faced a tactical conundrum which had to be resolved by his own actions in conjunction with those of his fellow soldiers (including those whom other accounts might suggest he saved). He drew automatically on his training and his knowledge of anti-ambush drills to solve that problem. Moreover, his definition of the situation and, therefore, his reaction to it was always (p.303) collective. Within seconds of the fire-fight starting, he and two other colleagues had come to an implicit agreement about the definition of this situation and the optimal collective response which they must therefore enact in the face of it. In a sense, although undoubtedly a reflection of his personal modesty, Giunta is absolutely correct when he claims that anyone would have done what he did. His point is that any professional soldier with the same level of training which he and his colleagues had received would be able and expected to perform the anti-ambush drill which he had executed so successfully on the Gatigal. Once the situation has been collectively defined as an ambush, certain actions were necessarily expected of professional soldiers by their colleagues. Individual and collective skill, local circumstances, the opposition, and, of course, chance would finally determine whether the action demanded by the way these definitions had constituted the situation would be successful.
British forces have been engaged in intense combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan and there are many examples of this application of professional concepts to define the combat situation in which they have been involved. For instance, Corporal Bradley Malone, of 45 Commando Royal Marines, rescued his sergeant who had become separated from the rest of the troop during a fire-fight in Sangin. He ran out from cover to give his sergeant covering fire so that he could extract himself, for which action he was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, one award below a Victoria Cross. Malone explained his actions in the technical manner which closely echoes Sal Giunta’s own account: ‘We were surrounded and were taking fire. I realized the Sergeant was stuck in the middle and was pinned down. I just went to give him some covering fire, to engage the enemy so he could get back. You don’t think about anything at the time, no emotions, you just get on with it.’97 He understood himself to have been presented with a problem which he employed standard battle drills to solve.
Interestingly, although the Bundeswehr are much less committed to combat operations and, in Afghanistan, have operated in the more benign north, German soldiers involved in fire-fights have reacted similarly to their experiences. Thus, on 13 May 2010, an official Bundeswehr social scientist, Philip Langer, was conducting research among the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) stationed with the German Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kunduz. Typically this research involves reasonably uncontroversial surveys of individual attitudes towards the operation, the Bundeswehr, allies, and a variety of other matters. However, he was unexpectedly faced with ‘an uncontrollable group’.98 The QRF had just returned to the PRT after a successful two-hour fire-fight with the Taliban. Dr Langer found the intense scenes which followed, where soldiers engaged in an emotional collective discussion about what had just happened, almost impossible to record by traditional methods. As the group sought to attach a stable collective meaning to this extraordinary event (p.304) and to stabilize their adrenalin-heightened emotions, soldiers cut across each other, talked over each other, and made a series of emotive but unclear interventions which sought to communicate the extremity of the experience of combat. One sergeant stammered: ‘Yes, that was a new experience…To be shot at for the first time was interesting and yet somehow…Well, ok, it was all a bit unreal for me, to be honest. At first, I thought; mmm, is that all there is to the real thing? Like a Bad movie, but…’99 So complex did the conversation become that the transcriber subsequently admitted defeat and informed Dr Langer: ‘For at least 45 minutes everything gets completely confused, it’s unclear, how many persons participate in the interview, definite identification [of interviewees] was no longer possible.’100 However, as the interaction became more subdued, a coherent collective line began to emerge about the experience which the troops had just undergone. A number of professional analogies were forwarded but rejected. For instance, the suggestion of butchery was rejected because it did not match the violence which they had experienced. In the end the QRF decided that ‘the fighting was like pre-deployment training on the exercise area’. Indeed, Dr Langer concluded that the ‘message of the narration is obvious: we were prepared and if we could manage these situations, we can successfully handle future combat as well.’101 Perhaps because this was their first combat experience, the German soldiers were more initially affected than Junger’s paratroopers, but what is striking is how they eventually came to a very similar understanding of the event as Sal Giunta. The German QRF eventually understood the fire-fight in professional terms. They had executed the drills they had learnt in training and not only did this ensure their survival during this fight but it was to become established as the basis of the unity for the rest of their deployment. Their professional competence had proved itself as the most powerful and effective way of understanding what they had all just done and this competence would be the most potent way of ensuring their survival on future missions. As a result of their experience of actual combat, these professional definitions are also evident at higher levels of command; ‘I think that we have learnt that we are good. To draw this conclusion, a soldier has to have the possibility to experience in combat what we have been trained for. Those who have performed in combat exude a completely different degree of calmness and confidence because they know “I have proven myself, I could do it again”.’102
Professional definitions—inculcated through training regimes—have effectively changed the way in which professional soldiers understand combat and, consequently, how they respond to it. In effect, although combat may have been as individually frightening for Private Giunta or for German soldiers in Kunduz as it was for conscript soldiers in the twentieth century, the battlefield is a different place for the professional military which collectively defines it in technical and professional terms. Individual virtuosity and, therefore, the kinds of individual acts of bravery typical in the First and Second World Wars have become much less obvious and indeed necessary. Defining combat (p.305) in common professional terms, soldiers today have enabled themselves to respond collectively. Training has been central to the ability of professional soldiers to execute these collective drills not simply because it has refined individual and collective skills, although it has certainly done that, but the embodiment of these skills has also simultaneously involved an internalization of a series of common definitions which unify soldiers intellectually and morally. They have begun to understand the battlefield in common and, therefore, expect to act on it together. Drills and training have not only altered the capability and preparedness of the infantry platoon, they have fundamentally changed the experience of combat for the soldier. Combat has become a domain of collective professional activity.
New Urban Training Facilities
In the last chapter, new urban combat techniques were discussed to illustrate the refinement of existing battle drills. In this chapter, an attempt has been made to demonstrate the importance of training to the professional army in inculcating drills. Especially since its drills are unusual and complex, close-quarters battle has also been an important catalyst in improving training methods among western forces with a view to increasing combat performance. One of the most obvious and noticeable developments in the last decade, consistent with the dissemination of close-quarters battle, has been the appearance of elaborate new training facilities in which troops have been able to practise their urban warfare techniques. Thus, as they have developed new doctrines, to expedite this process of training, the US Army and Marines began to construct new ranges at which close-quarters battle techniques could be practised. To that end, in 2007, the US Marine Commandant General, James Mattis, ordered the creation of a dedicated infantry training centre. Widely recognized as an unusual but very talented general, Mattis had noticed that air force and Marine pilots undertook hours of training on simulators before they undertook genuine combat missions. In the light of the importance and complexity of infantry operations, Mattis wondered whether Marines could not benefit from a similar process of simulatory training, and, to this end, the US Marine Corps built the ‘Infantry Immersion Trainer’ at Camp Pendleton in a disused tomato packing plant beside the Interstate 5 and a short distance from the Pacific Coast. The old packing plant, some 40 metres wide and 60 metres long, was renovated by Hollywood set designers who were brought in from nearby Los Angeles to design and build the simulation trainer. Within this structure, they constructed a simulation Arabic village, consisting of tiny alleyways, numerous buildings and rooms, a small mosque, an open courtyard, and a market place with stands (with automated (p.306) stall-owners capable of moving and talking) and a well. The set was designed to look, sound, feel, and smell like the kind of urban area in which the Marines would be operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. In order to add realism, the Infantry Immersion Trainer has hired approximately forty Afghan role players on a regular or permanent basis to play a variety of interactional roles, while (ex-Marine) contractors, who run the centre, play the role of insurgents. The set is also laced with IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades to simulate attacks. Simunitions and blank rounds are used to practise infantry drills. The Immersion Trainer now features as an institutionalized part of all Marine training, with every platoon undergoing a day’s training at the centre as the first part of their pre-deployment training. Typically companies are assigned to the Trainer before going onto their month-long training programme in Marines Ground Air Combat Centre in 29 Palms, approximately 100 miles to the east in the Mojave Desert. The Trainer was expanded in November 2010 with the extension of a large external set approximately 400 metres by 400 metres which is based on Afghanistan and specifically on Now Zad, where the Marines have been operating since 2007. The larger area consists of schools, government buildings, mosques, and stalls, giving multiple opportunities for interaction with role players as well as IED, rocket, and sniper assaults (see Figure 9.5)
(p.307) At a similar time, the Marines have invested heavily in urban combat trainers at the Marine Corps Air Ground Air Centre (MCAGCC) at 29 Palms. This range has included a large live-fire urban range, consisting of specialized concrete which allows live rounds to be fired inside buildings, in which company operations (of approximately 200) can be conducted. Two years ago, the Marines also constructed the modestly named Range 220 some 10 miles east of the main 29 Palms base beneath Grizzly Mountain. Range 220 is modelled on an Iraqi city (Fullujah or Ramadi) and consists of over 2,000 buildings constructed from iso-containers, which have been designed and laid out to look like Iraqi houses, markets, mosques, sports stadia, and shops; there is also a section of the town consisting of partly destroyed houses made from breeze blocks. The range covers an area of approximately one square mile and, consequently, replicates the size and complexity of a real town. On the pre-deployment Mojave Viper, the US Marines employ 500 Afghan role players to populate the town as a full Marine battalion exercises for ten days in this environment. The sheer scale and intricacy of the environment of Range 220 imitates reality as closely as possible and tests Marines and their commanders in a way which smaller facilities simply cannot (see Figure 9.6).
The US Army has similarly invested in new urban training facilities at the National Training Centre (NTC), Fort Irwin, which, according to some individuals in the Marines, dwarf the Immersion Trainer and Range 220. The US Army has been training at Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert since the 1940s and successes in the Gulf War in 1991 were substantially attributed to this area. In the late 1990s, Fort Irwin was identified as a key site for army ‘Transformation’; it would provide a training and exercise area in which the digitalization of the army could be implemented. Fort Irwin subsequently continued to be critical in reorienting the army from its thirty-year focus on conventional manoeuvre warfare to new counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a significant element of which involved urban missions. Fort Irwin describes itself as ‘the world’s premier training centre for the world’s finest military’. It is an immodest but not un-evidenced claim: ‘NTC trains the transformed Army by conducting force-on-force and live-fire training for ground and aviation brigades in a joint scenario across the spectrum of conflict, using a live-virtual-constructive training model, as portrayed by a highly lethal and capable Opposing Force and controlled by an expert and experienced Operations Group.’103 Specifically, at the National Training Centre at Fort Irwin, the US Army has built a mock Iraqi town which is, like Range 220, populated not only by Afghan role players but by authentic farm animals, such as sheep, goats, and donkeys. The NTC has also employed iso-containers, like Range 220, but has painted them realistically so that they look startlingly like a run-down Iraqi—or Afghan—town. In addition to role players, impressive ballistic simulations are employed to maximize realism. (p.308)
(p.309) British developments have necessarily been on a smaller scale than the impressive construction of urban ranges by the US Army and Marines. However, especially in proportional terms, the construction or development of new ranges has been very significant. Despite their small size, the Royal Marines have been an important innovator of close-quarters battle, constructing one of the first new ranges in Britain. The Commando Training Centre (and its platoon weapons branch) has become a critical site of innovation here and the Royal Marines have invested £300,000 in 2009 to 2010 in a close-quarter battle facility in which troops can be trained in these latest techniques. The facility, located at Lympstone and drawing on the US Department of Energy’s live-fire shoot house, consists of a series of rooms and corridors, constructed from breeze blocks, over which there is a viewing gantry (for instructional purposes) and a roof, so that the whole facility looks like a large barn (see Figures 9.7a–c). Live rounds are not used in the building but the Royal Marines employ ‘simunition’.
The British army has also sought to invest significantly in training infrastructure. The British army has never been over-provided with urban combat facilities, due primarily to limited training estates and the Cold War army’s orientation to open warfare in the countryside (primarily with tanks). Sennybridge and Salisbury Plain Training Areas both possess two relatively small villages which provide challenging environments up to company size but, until
The French army has identified the increasing importance of urban operations after its own experiences in the Balkans and especially in Sarajevo, where French troops had to clear sniper alley when IFOR was deployed, and its observations of Russian operations in Grozny and the USA in Mogadishu. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have only affirmed the importance of urban fighting to the French. There have been internal institutional reasons for the prioritization of urban operations and the continuing investment in it. Having professionalized in 2002, the French army has assessed that it is still behind the USA and UK. Partly as a result of the pressure to be interoperable with these allies and a desire to take the lead in initiating a European pillar within NATO, it announced its commitment to becoming the lead nation for urban combat in NATO in 2010. The French army decided to create a (p.312)
Like the French, the Canadian army had no dedicated urban training facility until very recently. However, in the light of operations in Afghanistan, a section-level and a larger company-level urban facility consisting of specially constructed buildings and a number of improvised iso-containers (known as C-Can Village) have been erected on the training area at Gagetown (see Figures 9.11a–9.11b). The German army’s principal urban training area remains Bonnland, which is the largest and oldest facility of its type in western Europe. It was originally requisitioned for the Prussian army in the late nineteenth century and has remained as a training facility since that time.
The development of these facilities represents a significant investment in urban combat and in improving relevant training for the infantry soldier. In order to operate in the non-permissive and complex urban environment, it is necessary to train for it, and this training is possible only if there are sufficiently large and realistic facilities to provide such an environment. (p.314)
(p.315) The Refinement of Training: Close-quarters Battle
On the Royal Marines close-quarters battle course, this pedagogy is highly developed. Indeed, close-quarters battle instructors compare their careful but relaxed approach to close-quarters battle training with the US Marines, who still tend to shout at and abuse candidates when they make a mistake. For them, this aggression cannot help in teaching ‘an acquired skill’. The Royal Marines’ coaching is aimed to be progressive, building skills slowly: ‘It is necessary to slow down to learn the basics and then to get quicker.’107 As a result of the new techniques of precision firing, the accuracy of trained professional soldiers who have undergone close-quarters battle training has improved. This is especially obvious in pistol shooting, a weapon with which few Marines or soldiers are familiar in contrast to the rifle. Consequently, on close-quarters battle courses like the Royal Marines’, substantial time is required to develop the appropriate levels of skill with a pistol and it is here that the new pedagogy is particularly apparent. For instance, in May 2011, (p.320) Royal Marine corporals participating in the Commando Training Centre’s close-quarters battle course went through extensive instruction and practice with pistol shooting. Demonstrating the importance of proper weapon manipulation, one member of the course failed, recording scores well below the required standard. There was some concern about his personal circumstances, which had caused him to miss a day’s training on the pistol, but, more specifically, instructors noted that, unused to pistol shooting (although he had served in Iraq and Helmand where he had been involved in numerous fire-fights), he held the weapon incorrectly.108 Specifically, his thumbs pointed apart from each other and up in the air when he fired. The thumbs should, in fact, be aligned along the side of the pistol, with the right thumb overlaying the knuckle of the left thumb, with both nails pointing upward. These details may seem trivial but they are vital to accurate fire, especially when in the dynamic context of close-quarters battle. By pointing his thumbs upwards, the corporal loosened his grip on the pistol just as it fired, causing his shots to become inaccurate, as the weapon recoiled in his hand. In an additional individual training session, when he and an instructor conducted a pistol shoot alone on the range together, the instructor repeatedly stressed his thumb position. His shooting improved dramatically as a result of this altered thumb position and he was able to pass the required test which qualified him for the tactical phase of the course. There is a clear precedence to this kind of instruction in elite sporting performance. In his work on martial arts, George Girton showed how Kung Fu fighters developed their skills through tiny, apparently trivial, adjustments to their physical repertoires. One fighter held his thumb incorrectly: ‘I found out today that I had been doing certain movements wrong, for at least a long time: say a year for some, several months for others. One of them was that I was holding my thumb wrong on my hand.’109 Merely by altering the position of the thumb, the fighter’s entire sequence of moves became ‘more integrated and felt more powerful and flowing’. He concluded: ‘So the amazement is the large difference the way you hold your thumb can make in what you do.’110 The Royal Marine corporal had a similar experience but he was only able to improve his shooting because of the instructors’ careful observation of his shooting technique and its failings.
Training seeks to generate a level of familiarity with drills so that they become instinctive. Indeed, trainers explicitly aim to improve response times by moving the actions from conscious to subconscious responses which take a quarter of the reaction time.111 In some cases, there has been difficulty in overcoming established practices. For instance, in current army doctrine, soldiers are taught to stop and clear their rifles if their weapons jam. In close-quarters battle, there is usually not enough time to clear a weapon. Instead, soldiers train to transition instantly to their pistol and to keep firing, but this transition requires extensive relearning and familiarization. A precisely defined series of practices need to be identified and learnt until (p.321) they become instinctive reactions rather than conscious actions. An important element of this individual training process has to be conducted independently and voluntarily by the individuals themselves. Instructors emphasize the importance of ‘willingness to train at your own sacrifice’.112 In order to develop the appropriate level of skill to be able to shoot instinctively, extensive ‘dry training’ is necessary when soldiers run through their weapons handling procedures and movements on their own without firing their weapon or even without a weapon at all: rehearsing the movements. One instructor described it as the equivalent of ‘professional footballers trying out new techniques at the end of training sessions’. In this instructor’s experience, ‘once you had done an action a hundred times, it became a muscle memory’ and could be reproduced instinctively without recourse to self-conscious thought.113 The concept of the dry run had been institutionalized on the close-quarters battle course at Lympstone. Before shoots at the range, the students on the course spent fifteen to twenty minutes warming up. On 31 May 2011, the students found an isolated position on the range, as the instructors set up the range equipment, and proceeded to run through their transitioning drills, with unloaded weapons. Initially, they drew their pistol over and over again, ensuring that they could seize the grip accurately and quickly, and then aimed at an imaginary target with their rifle before releasing it to simulate a stoppage and drawing their pistol. At the end of the shooting phase of the course, before going into the tactical phase, students were tested on the accuracy and speed of their shooting which included having to transition to and fire the pistol. Since it was mandatory to pass these tests, the dry runs were treated seriously by the students as essential to their progress on the course. Of course, while dry training is useful, live firing is essential for improving marksmanship. The close-quarters battle course lasts for twenty-seven days, during which the twenty-four candidates on the course expend 38,000 live rounds of rifle and pistol ammunition; each candidate fires over 1,500 rounds. Instructors on the course stressed that it was impossible to become a proficient close-quarters marksman without this extensive practice in live firing. Nevertheless, without careful instruction, it is doubtful whether so many troops would reach the high standards required.
The Canadian army’s ‘Gunfighter’ programme follows very similar training precepts to the Royal Marines’ course. There, the directing staff similarly aim to coach through demonstration and careful instruction, paying great attention to small mistakes. Repetition was also central to this course with a huge amount of rounds being expended during range days which lasted from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. The course, divided into two halves, one English-speaking and one French-speaking, consisted of some sixty students who, in the duration of the six-week course, would fire some 150,000 rounds of ammunition, approximately 2,500 per soldier (see Figures 9.12 and 9.13). (p.322)
Individual marksmanship is critical to close-quarters battle but, in order to prevail in the urban environment, teamwork is essential. To this end, a suite of established drills including the five-step entry has been developed by western forces. However, paramount for team coordination is that the assault team develop a repertoire of precise commands which cue a completely uniform and predictable response from all members of the team. Verbal commands were central to Royal Marine close-quarters battle training. Thus, the Royal Marines’ Instructor’s Manual stresses the importance of coordinating commands which should ‘be answered and repeated by other firers and team members’ to ensure ‘situational awareness’.114 The manual records a series of endorsed commands such as ‘stack on me’, instructing other members of the team to form an assault line behind the caller, ‘clear’, indicating that the room is clear and that the team is authorized to enter, ‘support’, denoting that assistance is required, ‘coming in’, ‘coming out’, signalling the movement of an individual in and out of a room, and ‘last out’, confirming that the entire team has exited a cleared room.115 Throughout the close-quarters battle course, the instructors emphasized the need for clear, precise use of these officially recognized commands. The sergeant running the course in July 2011 repeatedly emphasized that there should be ‘no gobbing off’ (i.e. irrelevant chatter) and he amusingly satirized poor communication, which needed to be eliminated, with a rambling and unclear monologue vaguely expressing the impressions of an individual. He contrasted this with the ideal: ‘Obstruction right and left, back to back: Move.’ He stressed the importance of ‘orchestration’.116 Another sergeant reiterated the point: ‘You’ve got to make sure other people understand what you are doing’, and, to confirm the point, one of the students, irritated by how badly a clearance had gone, emphasized that they needed to use the correct words, not just making personal commands up or saying ‘Move’ to yourself (and therefore failing to confirm that others had understood the command and were ready to execute it).117
The connection between clear and decisive commands and effective execution was demonstrated during the course of the training. The best teams used sharp, short commands. They had identified the key threats, prioritized them, and rapidly decided how they were going to address them; they had in effect resolved the collective action presented by the room clearance. Weaker groups failed to communicate so well. In one group, it was particularly noticeable that a senior NCO acted as leader but, perhaps habituated to standard infantry tactics, he struggled to identify the threats and to recommend appropriate actions. Consequently, he would stumble over his commands, correct them, or use long overly descriptive commands to identify the threats in the room. Neither he nor his colleagues knew which threat was primary, nor what drill to conduct, nor when precisely to execute it. Team members were not certain that others would move simultaneously with them and consequently hesitancy and mistrust undermined the coordination of the group. By contrast, in an (p.325) effective team, the actions were initiated or concluded by sharp, clear commands typically of one or two words, followed by a decisive and smooth execution by the assault team.118 When commands are accurate a room clearance by an assault team takes on a highly choreographed form, punctuated by a series of short commands which initiate appropriate drills from designated team members. In their training, close-quarters battle instructors emphasized the importance of these clear command words in generating coherent action.
Close-quarters battle is a physical act and there is no substitute for repetitive training, as the intensity of the courses in Canada and the UK demonstrate. Nevertheless, close-quarters battle training in western armies has increasingly focused not only on the indispensable physical performance of soldiers but also on their mental states. For instance, Royal Marine instructors at Lympstone have not only focused on improving marksmanship coaching but they have increasingly recognized the psychological dimension to military performance. Combat is self-evidently brutal and disorienting even for trained troops who have not experienced it before. However, this is even more so in terms of close-quarters combat, where noises, sights, and smells are intensified by the extreme close range at which violence is prosecuted and the enclosed environment in which the fighting typically takes place. In order to sustain performance in this intense arena, the Royal Marines have innovated a method of mental preparation for close-quarters combatants. They have sought to generate the optimal ‘mindset’ for these operations. Physical training is critical to developing the right mindset but, once the skills have been learnt, performance can be improved by purely mental techniques of visualization and attitudinal conditioning. Visualization of combat techniques improves execution by sensitizing individual response to external cues and ingraining reactions physiologically; it has been proven to increase sporting performance. Visualization might perhaps be seen as the individual equivalent of the rehearsal process in which individual soldiers run through a sequence of actions in their own minds in order to expedite their subsequent performance of these actions.
The attitudinal conditioning also involves developing the correct motivation for combat; ‘the combat mindset’ as the Marine close-quarters battle instructors call it. They define this mindset in a distinctive way. Typically, in combat, the natural human reaction is to seek merely to survive and to act in a way which maximizes survival. Indeed, even aggressive weapon use is sometimes motivated by fear and the desire to survive; it is an action of panic. In the twentieth century, conscript armies relied on extreme aggression to encourage this motivation to prevail and troops would sometimes be de-sensitized through exposure to slaughterhouses or to carcasses in training. Aggression is not irrelevant to professional forces but a rather different approach is adopted, especially in close-quarters battle training. In close-quarters battle (p.326) training, the instructors seek to inculcate a requirement not just to survive but to prevail. This requires a different mindset—or attitude. Despite the fearfulness of their situation, a heightened but calm mental state is idealized in which combatants are highly attuned to their senses but in control.
The Marine instructors understand the ‘combat mindset’ as psychological. It is an individual phenomenon which exists only within the individual and is characterized as such. Thus, drawing on a schema developed by the former US Marine John Dean Cooper and then developed by the US Marine Corps, the Royal Marines close-quarters battle instructors have coded mental states on a spectrum, black, red, orange, yellow, and white: the ‘Cooper Colour Code’. White refers to a state of disengagement, relaxation, or boredom when an individual is not focusing on anything. Yellow refers to initial arousal, orange to significant levels of concentration and engagement, while red represents the optimal performance state; the individual is completely focused on the action in hand but is also sufficiently relaxed and attuned to the performance that they retain control over their thoughts and actions. The Canadian army has employed exactly the same schema in their close-quarters battle training.119 In both British and Canadian cases, Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’,120 where individuals are balanced between over-arousal and boredom, seems to be a close equivalent of this red state, pointing to those periods when an individual is balanced between boredom and over-exertion. Black, by contrast, refers to a state of panic or rage when individuals are overwhelmed by the situation which confronts them and are dominated by adrenalin-induced physical responses for flight or fight. The citizen army seemed to see this state of excessive rage—now coded black and seen as inappropriate—as the optimal emotional state for the warrior. With its requirement for individual precision and collective coordination, a state of heightened arousal, coded red, is viewed as optimal by close-quarters battle instructors.
The institution of such a psychological coding mechanism is interesting in itself. The mental states of individuals are likely to be significant to their performance. However, it is important to recognize the collective effect of these psychological techniques. This seems to be very clear in the way that the Royal Marines use the Cooper Colour Code. Specifically, the timing of its introduction into the Royal Marine close-quarters battle course implies that this method not only has an individual but also a self-consciously collective reference point. The Royal Marine close-quarters battle instructors introduce the concept of mental states just as the course moves from the individual weapon handling phase on the range to collective training in Modern Urban Combat: the tactics phase. At this point, the candidates gather for a lecture on the combat mindset. The lecture is self-consciously situated at this point as a signifier, denoting a rite of passage from marksmanship training to collective close-quarters battle training. Overtly, the intended reference point for the concept of mental states forwarded in the lecture is the individual and (p.327) individual psychology, but the main effect of this lecture and of the concept of the mindset seems to be deliberately collective. It is explicitly intended to prepare students for working in teams. Indeed, one of the purposes of the lecture seems to be to re-attune the very experienced soldiers and Marines who have been firing individually on the range and thinking only about themselves to the collective demands of close-quarters battle. By publicly defining the approach state of arousal as ‘measured awareness’ and colour-coding it red, the Royal Marine instructors try to establish a collective reference point. Close-quarter combatants have a common understanding of the optimal individual emotional state to which they can adjust their own behaviour and influence the behaviour of their team-mates. The emotional state of the individual has become a domain of interest for the group and, in that way, it has become possible to align the attitudes of the individuals, who are now self-consciously and collectively aware of the importance of this dimension of their practice.
Significantly, following the combat mindset lecture, the colour codes became a collective resource for the course as they conducted their tactical training phase. Instructors periodically drew on the colour code to illustrate a training point and to improve the performance of the course. Thus, on the first day in the compound as the course began the tactical phase, the students had to change the firing mechanisms on their rifles and pistols so that they could fire ‘simunition’ rounds. Inserting the new simunition firing mechanism can be intricate and one of the students started to have great difficulty with the procedure. He began to get visibly irritated with his weapon and unsuccessfully started to force the mechanism into the rifle. At this point, the sergeant running the course stepped forward to help him, joking, ‘You’re going into the black already’, at which comment both the struggling Marine and the rest of the course laughed. The concept of ‘going into the black’ became a leitmotif over the next few days’ training in the compound, and at various points the same sergeant, noting panic and confusion on the faces of some of the students as they entered complex rooms, would shout at them not ‘to go into the black’ or, in debriefs, note that they had ‘gone into the black’. He periodically re-emphasized that ‘you don’t want to go into the black’, until it became an amusing joke for the group.121 Yet the comic element of the remark only served to show that the mental state of each soldier was relevant to the team. In this way, the concern about mental attitude intensified the power of the collective over the individual. It represents a heightened form of professionalism where the attention to detail invades the most apparently private and individual space of the emotions and attitudinal states themselves.
The Royal Marines are by no means alone in this increasing concern not only with the obvious physical demands of combat but in addressing the mental dimensions of soldiering. The US Marines have also increasingly sought to improve performance on the battlefield through mental preparation. (p.328) In his analysis of combat, Bryan McCoy regarded the battle drill and training as fundamental. Certainly, no military unit could be successful without intense realistic training, and it is clear from his account of the actions of 3/4 Marines that they underwent very arduous training in the Mojave Desert before their deployment in 2003. Yet, this practical training was augmented by a reflexive programme of mental training: ‘imaging’ as McCoy called it.
Battle drills—the physical acts of responding to a situation, be it ‘contact right’, call for fire, a hip shoot, putting a rocket shot or grenade into an enemy bunker—were carefully linked with mental imaging. These images were not foolish delusions of grandeur; we did our best to conjure up the fear and confusion of the battlefield, and mentally associated the emotions of the situation calling for a particular battle drill.122
It is important to note here not only the individual psychological role which this imaging may have performed in preparing the Marines for battle but rather the explicitly collective role of imaging. McCoy did not allow his Marines simply to ‘image’ alone although he undoubtedly wanted them to be conducting this mental training independently. Rather, even psychological training was a collective activity for his unit. The images which he wanted to establish were shared ones which programmed a common pattern of action into every single Marine. It is noticeable that in his description of imaging the first person plural ‘We’ is the preferred pronoun: ‘We dealt with the emotions of killing…We imaged riding buttoned up in AAVs…We imaged the sound of enemy fire.’123 Individual visualization techniques might well have aided his Marines to overcome their fear or to improve their individual performance but such imaging would not have aided the collective performance of this unit. By imaging together, McCoy self-consciously sought to impose a common suite of battle drills onto his Marines which they had practised physically and rehearsed mentally together on numerous occasions and, crucially, in the case of imaging, knew that they had all conducted this preparation, even though it was an internal process. For McCoy, the process of mental rehearsal tied to intense training explained the ability of his unit to survive the ambush at Al Kut: ‘The battle drill of “contact right” used in the AL Kut firefight had been rehearsed and imaged dozens of times before Al Kut became part of our lexicon and unit history.’124
In the light of operations in Kandahar, the Canadian forces have become increasingly concerned about the mental welfare of their returning ‘members’. They are concerned to minimize the incidents of psychological breakdown and post-traumatic stress disorder. They have been influenced by the concept of ‘resilience’ which was initially developed by the US Army, in response to extreme operational pressures. Although the concept of resilience was originally developed as a means of highlighting the problem of psychological injury and sensitizing officers and soldiers to its symptoms in an attempt to reduce the stigma often associated with breakdown in the military, the concept of (p.329) resilience has involved an important innovation in training. Specifically, resilience training, which Canadian forces all receive from the early stages in their career, aims at improving the performance of Canadian troops by identifying the importance of mental preparation. Four specific tools, derived from elite sports and the training of snipers, have now been disseminated to all Canadian forces in the form of an aide-mémoire, ‘Road to Mental Readiness’, training lectures, and a video, Resilience: the warrior’s edge (produced in September 2011), to which all troops are exposed. These tools, called ‘the Big Four’, involve ‘goal-setting’, ‘mental rehearsal/visualization’, ‘self-talk’, and ‘arousal reduction’ (i.e. controlled breathing). These mental techniques are intended to augment the standard cycles of training and exercises which precede deployment to improve the performance and determination of Canadian troops on operations. The instruction process emphasizes that these techniques need to be not merely understood but practised regularly. If they are to be effective, the Canadian forces recommend that the four psychological techniques must be repeated until they themselves become ‘muscle memories’ in the brain.125
In order to illustrate how these techniques overcome the natural reaction to panic in combat, the lectures and video on resilience describe the structure and function of the brain in considerable detail. Effectively, the instruction claims that by conducting sufficient mental preparation, the frontal lobes and the cortex can ultimately control the instinctive responses in the brain stem and the amygdala from which primitive flight or fight responses are generated. Clearly, as with the Royal Marines’ concept of the combat mindset, the individual mental state is the ostensible focus. Indeed, in instruction lectures and the Canadian forces video itself, images of an individual brain and spinal column feature centrally, showing the structure of the brain in some detail. The aim is to strengthen the psychological preparedness of each individual soldier to the traumas of combat by improving everyone’s understanding of their own cerebral functioning. However, although it seems likely that neurological pathways are developed by repetition so that it is not absurd to talk about physiological memories, it is important to recognize the sociological dimensions of these apparently private and individual methods of arousal control. Decisively, the concept of resilience and the institutionalization of mental training operate at and have had a manifest collective effect on Canadian troops. Specifically, while designed to aid the individual, resilience training has actually involved a colonization of the individual psyche by the Canadian forces. The internal workings of the individual brain are no longer the private possession of each soldier, unknown and irrelevant to the army, but they have become a domain of concern and control. While the mental techniques are intended to benefit the individual, protecting them from psychological harm, the institutionalization of resilience training is intended to ensure that psychological preparation is now required of the soldier. By identifying the brain as an object of collective concern, Canadian troops are (p.330) obliged to include mental preparation in their formal military training. Indeed, as part of the resilience programme, the Canadian forces introduced, again derived from the US Army, the concept of the Warrior’s Ethos. This ethos is depicted as a three-columned structure, supporting a pediment defined as ‘Preparedness’. The three columns are the intellectual, the physical, and resilience or the mental. Significantly, together these three attributes, intellectual, physical, and mental (resilience), generate the key characteristics which are displayed by a warrior which notably include ‘professional bearing’ or ‘professionalisme’ (in French). In order to be a professional soldier in the Canadian army, soldiers have to comply not just with physical standards but with an institutionalized concept of mental standards. Moreover, this psychic training is now standardized. All soldiers understand themselves and each other to respond to the trauma of combat in the same way, and resilience training equips them not only to respond to this pressure in a predictable way but to expect their colleagues to do so as well. Indeed, a number of Canadian soldiers identified a potential paradox of resilience training. This training was partly intended to reduce the risk of psychological breakdown and, crucially, the stigma around it. However, some Canadian officers were concerned that resilience training would actually re-inscribe the stigma of breakdown as a form of weakness because since everyone had received mental training, those who collapsed could no longer claim that they had been unprepared for operations. Mental preparation has become a collective obligation and mental breakdown may, some officers worry, become evidence of a lack of professionalism and, therefore, individual weakness. It is not clear whether these fears will be realized but the concept of resilience seems to indicate that the professionalization of the Canadian forces has penetrated into the very psyche of the individual soldier.126 It has standardized and collectivized even the emotional and psychological responses to combat and identified these once private domains as public concerns.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the institutionalization of psychological training has been most pronounced in the Special Forces community, and Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 based at Dwyer Hill provides an interesting example of this process. Like the US Navy Seals, the Canadian Special Forces started to become worried from about 2005 about the number of candidates failing their selection course. As a small military already, the numbers of failures was potentially very serious for Joint Task Force 2 especially in the light of intense operations in Afghanistan. While quality is typically emphasized by the Special Forces in all countries, if the numbers of qualified operatives fall below a certain level, the organization becomes ineffective no matter how competent each individual. Accordingly, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 began (like the Navy Seals before it) to explore whether sports psychology, which had been successful in raising pass rates in the US Navy Seals from one-quarter to two-thirds, might alleviate the problem. To that end, and on an informal basis, (p.331) the Training Squadron at Dwyer Hill hired the services of a well-known sports psychologist who had been part of Canada’s Olympic team for a number of years. A clear parallel was seen between elite sporting and elite military performance. In both cases, highly selected individuals, trained to the highest level, were being asked to perform extraordinary tasks in difficult, competitive circumstances in which the outcome was uncertain. The sports psychologist institutionalized many of the standard mental preparation techniques in Joint Task Force 2, such as goal identification and visualization, which are central to professional sport today (and indeed which the Canadian forces have themselves subsequently adopted). In each case, the focus was individual but, by institutionalizing these techniques of mental awareness, the Special Forces had effectively made once private mental states public, regimental property. The very mental state of an individual trooper was an aspect of their professional performance and therefore a concern to commanders, trainers, and fellow soldiers at Dwyer Hill. The Canadian forces, especially those involved in the development of resilience training, are deeply interested in Joint Task Force 2, which they regard as optimal in terms of its mental preparedness.127
The sports psychologist also introduced other novel techniques, the most interesting of which was the concept of the ‘Banquet Speech’. The Banquet Speech required each Special Forces candidate (and badged members of Joint Task Force 2) to articulate, preferably in writing, how they would like to be remembered at the end of their careers. The Banquet Speech is the oration which is given to Canadian soldiers at the formal dinner for all their comrades at the end of their service. It represents the pinnacle of their military career in which they are publicly honoured by all those with whom they have served most closely and whom they value the most. This imagined Banquet Speech would then be read to the rest of the selection course, to other members of the Special Forces team, or to the directing staff responsible for training. The sports psychologist rightly described the Banquet Speech as ‘incredibly powerful’ and both he and members of the Canadian Special Forces confirmed the motivational effects which it has had on members of the organization. The Banquet Speech seems to be a powerful mental and motivational tool in improving performance for two reasons. It clearly has an individual psychological effect, self-consciously identifying, perhaps for the first time, precisely what individual soldiers want from their careers. It is a means of clarifying long-term goals on the basis of which immediate and medium-term actions can be plotted. As a result, ‘they become the person they want to be remembered as’; soldiers have a clear idea of how they must act in the present to attain future objectives. It is effectively a statement of personal conscience. However, and more importantly, the Banquet Speech has a collective function which generates its moral force; indeed, the individual and psychological impact of the Speech comes primarily from these external social relations with fellow group members. It explicitly collectivizes individual action, (p.332) establishing a soldier’s comrades as the tribunal of all his actions. By publicly announcing how they would like to be remembered, Special Forces soldiers can be called to account by their colleagues when they fall short of the standards which they have set for themselves. Soldiers can point out when a comrade is behaving in a way which is inconsistent with his own standards. The Banquet Speech, consequently, deliberately exposes every aspect and every act of each soldier to public accountability. Each soldier in the Special Forces has a moral authority over his comrades, who similarly have moral authority over them. In this way, the Banquet Speech by establishing collective standards ‘keeps guys on the path’ and ensures that Special Forces soldiers are mutually able to demand high levels of performance from each other.128 The intense social occasion of the Banquet Speech, when soldiers profess their own ambitions, substantially aids this process of collectivization and ensures that the mutual and personal commitments are invested with great potency; the declarations become, in effect, solemn oaths of group loyalty. It is unlikely that an invasive technique like the Banquet Speech, which exposes the soldier so completely to his comrades, could be institutionalized among normal troops. The Special Forces operate in very small teams of highly specialized operatives. Consequently, the level of trust and confidentiality between Special Forces troopers is very high. It is unlikely that an individual would expose him- or herself so completely to a larger and less integrated social group. The Special Forces may represent an extreme but, precisely because of this fact, they illustrate the way in which professionalization has explicitly colonized the individual psyche submitting individual emotions and mental states to public accountability and seeking to strengthen resolve through the institution of mental techniques as established as physical drills like the section or platoon attack.
Failures of Professionalism
Training seems to have genuinely transformed the capabilities and collective understandings displayed by the professional infantry. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to idealize the performance of professional soldiers. Their performance levels may often exceed that of citizen soldiers, yet, precisely because infantry tactics on the modern battlefield are complicated by the terrain and the enemy, coordination or even basic procedures can be poorly executed on operations. This was very evident on the Royal Marines Junior Command course in September 2009. This course trains experienced Marines or lance corporals who have been selected for promotion to corporal. On current courses in Britain, the level of experience among the students is significant; almost all have served in Helmand, often on numerous occasions, and some (p.333) are from the Special Forces. They have been involved in numerous operations and fire-fights. Yet, training was still necessary and mistakes were still made during the exercises. For instance, the final exercise of the course on 22 September 2009 involved an assault on the purpose built ‘FIBUA’ (Fighting in Built Up Areas) village at the Sennybridge Training Area. The course, consisting of approximately forty individuals in two platoons, approached the village at night and organized themselves on the line of departure just before dawn in a small defile about 800 metres from the target. As dawn broke, they began their assault which involved fighting through the village with one platoon clearing the buildings on the right-hand side of the main street, the other clearing the left-hand side, while they mutually supported each other with rifle and, especially, machine-gun fire. The initial assault was adequate but as the Marines entered the first buildings, the coordination of fire and movement between the machine-gun section and the assaulting section broke down. The assault section repeatedly advanced without support fire. At this point, a colour sergeant, one of the instructors on the course, a decorated Marine of formidable appearance and reputation, became incensed. After the first error, he had warned the Marines to coordinate their fire and movement: ‘There was only one GPMG covering that attack.’129 When the mistake was repeated with one of the troops going forward to the next house without covering fire and, indeed, without a breaching charge, he became visibly agitated at first to himself, cursing and whipping a large stick he was holding against the ground then shouting furiously at the members of the platoon, ‘If you move without covering fire, I swear I will fucking kill you.’130 Eventually, coordination returned and the final assault on the last building in the village was particularly well executed. A heavy weight of covering fire was laid down and then a number of smoke grenades were thrown towards the building to obscure the defenders’ vision. By the time it had cleared members of the assaulting section had crossed the street and had already made an entry into the building. In order to finish the course positively, the colour sergeant deliberately did not dwell on the initial mal-coordination of one of the assaulting platoons but emphasized the last assault which had been well executed. The point is that for all the refinement of doctrine and training, professional troops are still capable of poor performances, demonstrating the difficulty of modern infantry tactics. Combat performance—cohesion—is a complex and arduous achievement which requires prodigious levels of individual and collective training. The failure to execute collective performance, that is, the collapse of cohesion, is always an eminent possibility and it is only the greatest attention to individual and collective detail which may prevent it.
These problems are replicated in other western forces. In the now professionalized Bundeswehr, training is regarded as paramount. The importance of training together in generating levels of cohesion adequate to current operations was demonstrated very clearly on an exercise which this captain was (p.334) involved in organizing on the Hammelburg Training Area for the Infantry School. The exercise was an early pre-deployment training for two companies from a Jäger battalion from the 1st Air Mobile Brigade based in Frizlar. The exercise scenario centred on the eighteenth-century village of Bonnland which is one of the largest and oldest urban combat facilities in western Europe. The village was held by an insurgent force which had to be neutralized. The Jäger companies invested and reconnoitred the village on the first two days of the exercise; on the third day, 11 December 2010, they assaulted the village soon after first light. The main assault was conducted by a single company from the south. The assault was extremely challenging for the company. Not only is Bonnland large but the micro-geography of the village is extremely complex with alleyways, courtyards, and large buildings offering numerous access and entry points for the individuals playing the role of hostile forces. In addition, the exercise was conducted with electronic receptor devices fixed onto the soldiers’ weapons and equipment so that if a soldier was hit by a laser, his equipment started flashing and he would be eliminated from the exercise as a casualty. Adding to the problems for the assaulting company, the soldiers playing the opposing force were all experienced soldiers who had recently been deployed together to Afghanistan as part of an infantry company. They demonstrated great skill in manoeuvring around the village to inconvenience the attacking Jäger company. As a result of these difficulties, the assault did not go well. Indeed, the directing staff were visibly annoyed with some of the most obvious mistakes which were being made.131
The initial entry into the village was not properly supported and several soldiers were lasered before entering the village (see Figure 9.14). More soldiers were lost crossing the first courtyard because fire and the use of smoke was not fused with the movement of the troops. Finally, in the face of some clever resistance, the assault lost all momentum. Interestingly, the assault took on the appearance of the kind of tactics which is often found in description of the conscript armies of the First and Second World Wars. In the absence of a high level of collective competence among the sections and fire teams, the captain commanding the company had to lead the assault physically; he did not coordinate the interlocking but independent actions of his manipular sub-units but was simply followed by the mass of his company from building to building, with platoons and sections intermixed. The enemy force was withdrawn at this point by the directing staff because the company was struggling so badly to make headway through the village.132 The difficulties experienced by this Jäger company during this single exercise should not be over-emphasized, nor should excessive conclusions about either the company or the Bundeswehr be drawn from them. The exercise was interesting because of the explanation which directing staff put upon the suboptimal performance by this company. For the directing staff, who had a clear idea of how this village should have been taken, the company’s performance was undermined (p.335)
Similar difficulties are recurrent in the United States Marine Corps. The US Marine Corps has been at the forefront of many developments in infantry tactics, including close-quarters battle. The US Marines run a Basic Urban Skills Training Course as well as more advanced close-quarters battle courses which have been crucial reference points for the Canadian and British forces. Many Marines, especially long-serving ones, have been through these courses and demonstrate heightened levels of combat skill. However, the standard (p.336) Marine infantry platoon is not always the focus of this intensive training. The very high turnover rates in the US Marines, where 65 per cent of personnel serve for only four years, accentuates this problem. The US Marines already privilege large-scale, joint combat operations, and with this scale of personnel turbulence there is not always enough time to train troops at the platoon level up to the highest condition. Consequently, the standard of infantry tactics in the US Marine Corps at the squad and platoon level is not always particularly high. These troops are well equipped and are always tough and determined with a very high morale. However, individual skills and collective choreographies are not always perfected. In his memoir of the Iraq War, Tyler Boudreau describes the relatively low level of training which his battalion received in 1999 when stationed on Okinawa: ‘We’d received the vast majority of our Marines only two months prior to going through the readiness evaluation.’133 Boudreau found it troubling that his unit passed its Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation even though many of its Marines were not of the requisite standard with the limited training they had received; his own company made some glaring errors, like attacking its own machine-guns.134 Boudreau’s account of the Marine Corps contrasts markedly with Bryan McCoy’s and this difference might be partially explained by the disillusionment which Boudreau experienced during the war. Yet, his claim that riflemen in the Marines were not particularly well trained seems to be broadly sustainable. Indeed, four months before the invasion of Iraq, ‘two-thirds of the Marines in the battalion were brand new to the Corps’, having trained with Boudreau’s company for two months and been in the military for less than six months.135 Boudreau emphasized to them that, ‘whether they trained hard or they didn’t’,136 they would be deployed, because ultimately, in his view, a Marine was dispensable. Nevertheless, despite Boudreau’s observations and the higher formation focus of senior Marine commanders, there is little doubt that even the least experienced Marine platoon demonstrates a level of performance significantly above those of the First or Second World War platoon. They have received far more tactical training than their forebears and, although extremely robust, the training is rather more sophisticated than the almost sadistic regime which Eisenhardt recalled at the time of Vietnam. Indeed, Boudreau himself draws the contrast, noting that some US Marines were deployed on operations in the Second World War without firing their rifles.
Recent scholarship on cohesion has prioritized training. Evidence from professional forces seems to affirm this interpretation. Professional armies are distinguished from their citizen predecessors not only by the fact that all their soldiers undergo a rigorous training regime but training and battle preparation is becoming increasingly sophisticated and refined. New techniques of training and battle preparation have been introduced. In line with the concept of professionalism as attention to detail, training and preparation now focus on the apparently trivial but in fact critical minutiae of individual (p.337) and collective performance. Indeed, training now focuses not only on physical performance but identifies attitude and mental state as an area of collective concern. Training has colonized every aspect of combat performance in an attempt to increase individual competence and group coordination. Even when focused on the ‘mindset’ of the soldier, training is ostensibly primarily concerned with physical performance and, certainly, the practical effects of training are evident. As a result of practice, individual soldiers and platoons can perform drills which they could not initially execute or their performance improves, often dramatically. However, it is important not to ignore the intellectual effects of training especially at the collective level. Crucially, as it inculcates competence, training simultaneously unites sections and platoons around a common set of understandings. Training engenders a collective consciousness among the platoon not only of its own unity but crucially a common understanding of the battlefield itself. Soldiers in a trained platoon begin to define the combat environment in the same way and, consequently, coordinated, unified social practice becomes all but instinctive for them. Since all the soldiers understand their situation in the same way—they all define it by reference to the same professional terms—they necessarily respond to it uniformly. Training normalizes the battlefield, not simply reducing its terrors but investing it with shared professional and technical significance. This intellectual unification would be impossible without the physical practice of training. Without physically enacting drills, the meaning of the professional concepts would remain abstract. Indeed, without physical demonstration, soldiers might unwittingly entertain quite different ideas about what professional concepts mean in combat. Nevertheless, although the physical dimension of training is a prerequisite, the collective intellectual effect of practice on performance, uniting the platoon around a common consciousness, seems to be equally critical. Training is critical to professionalism not only because it imbues soldiers with appropriate competences but because it also induces a common definition of combat and what constitutes combat performance. Crucially, this shared understanding of combat tactics is not simply a practical skill; it involves a moral dimension. To have undergone training in tactics or to have gone through the specific process of battle preparation is not merely to signal that soldiers understand their role, it is to hold them morally accountable to perform it. In this way training generates solidarity in and of itself because it unites technical competences with a moral imperative to utilize them, even at personal risk. By uniting competence and morality (skill and morale), training is critical to combat performance and to the generation of cohesion.
(1.) W. Cockerham 1978. ‘Attitudes towards Combat among US Army Paratroopers’, Journal of Political and Military Sociology 6 (Spring): 1–15.
(2.) Cockerham, ‘Attitudes towards Combat among US Army Paratroopers’, 12.
(3.) Cockerham, ‘Attitudes towards Combat among US Army Paratroopers’, 13.
(4.) P. Bourne 1970. Men, Stress and Vietnam. Boston: Little Brown.
(5.) Fehrenbach, This Kind of War, 246.
(6.) Cockerham, ‘Attitudes towards Combat among US Army Paratroopers’, 13.
(7.) S. Biddle 2004. Military Power. Princeton: Princeton University Press; P. Smith 2008. ‘Meaning and Military Power: moving on from Foucault’, Journal of Power 1(3): 275–93; Henriksen, ‘Warriors in Combat: what makes people actively fight in combat’.
(8.) E. Coss 2010. All for the King’s Shilling: the British soldier under Wellington, 1808–1814. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 3.
(9.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 86–122.
(10.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 97.
(11.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 46.
(12.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 175.
(13.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 175.
(14.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 175–6.
(15.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 197.
(16.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 198.
(17.) J. Lynn 1984. The Bayonets of the Republic. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press.
(18.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 173.
(19.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 168–72.
(20.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 172.
(21.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 171.
(22.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 163.
(23.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 159.
(24.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 165.
(25.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 166.
(27.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 166.
(28.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 166.
(29.) Coss, All for the King’s Shilling, 165; Lynn, The Bayonets of the Republic, 216.
(30.) Lynn, The Bayonets of the Republic, 31.
(31.) Lynn, The Bayonets of the Republic, 210.
(32.) Henriksen ‘Warriors in Combat: what makes people actively fight in combat’, 210.
(33.) H. Delbrück 1990. The History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History, iii: Medieval Warfare. London: Greenwood.
(34.) Smith, ‘Meaning and Military Power: moving on from Foucault’, 282.
(35.) Smith, ‘Meaning and Military Power: moving on from Foucault’, 283.
(36.) Joint Warfare Publication 0-01. 2001. British Defence Doctrine. Shrivenham: Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre, 4.6.
(37.) McCoy, The Passion of Command, 36.
(38.) McCoy, The Passion of Command, 37.
(39.) ‘The Mind at War: Understanding, Preparing and Treating Combat Stress’, 12–13 October, Annual Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society-Combat Training Centre Fall Conference, University of New Brunswick, Canada. Fieldnotes, 12 October 2011.
(40.) Sergeant, Canadian army, Fieldnotes, 15 October 2011.
(41.) e.g. warrant officer, Canadian army, personal communication, 17 October 2011.
(42.) Personal interviews, major, Royal Marines, 13 May 2010, major, Canadian army, 17 June 2010.
(43.) Major, Royal Marines, personal interview, 5 May 2010.
(44.) Major, Royal Marines, personal interview, 5 May 2010.
(45.) Major, Royal Marines, personal interview, 5 May 2010.
(46.) E. Southby-Tailyour 2010. Helmand Assault. London: Ebury, 219–32.
(47.) Southby-Tailyour, Helmand Assault, 228.
(48.) Southby-Tailyour, Helmand Assault, 228.
(49.) Captain, Bundeswehr, personal interview, 9 December 2010.
(50.) Captain, Bundeswehr, personal interview, 9 December 2010.
(51.) Captain, Bundeswehr, personal interview, 12 December 2010.
(52.) Captain, Bundeswehr, personal interview, 9 December 2010.
(53.) Bryan McCoy has made a similar point: ‘Everything is training. Never miss an opportunity to train. Training does not stop in theatre. Make a list of your unit tasks and battle drills that you are most dissatisfied with and use that as your start point for “opportunity training” ’ (McCoy, The Passion of Command, 36).
(54.) Fieldnotes, 4 June 2011.
(55.) McCoy, The Passion of Command, 39.
(56.) Major, British army, personal communication, 7 December 2011.
(57.) C. Spence 1998. Sabre Squadron. London: Penguin, 251; P. Ratcliffe 2001. Eye of the Storm. London: Michael O’Mara, 354.
(58.) Captain, Canadian army, personal communication, 15 October 2011.
(59.) Captain, Canadian army, personal communication, 15 October 2011.
(60.) Captain, Canadian army, personal communication, 15 October 2011.
(61.) Fieldnotes, 4 June 2010.
(63.) Captain, Royal Marines, personal interview, 16 July 2010.
(64.) Lieutenant colonel, French army, personal communication, 12 December 2012.
(65.) French major, French army, personal communication, 12 December 2011.
(66.) Fieldnotes, 12 December 2011.
(67.) É. Durkheim 1984. The Division of Labour in Society. Translated by W. D. Halls. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 84.
(68.) I. Kant Critique of Pure Reason. 1929. Translated by N. Kemp Smith. London: Macmillan.
(69.) É. Durkheim 1965. Sociology and Philosophy. Translated by D. Pocock. London: Cohen and West, 62.
(70.) Durkheim, Sociology and Philosophy, 36, 45.
(71.) Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 9.
(72.) Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 9.
(73.) Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 10.
(74.) Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 11.
(75.) Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 11.
(76.) Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 11.
(77.) Headquarters Department of the Army, Field Manual 3–21.8. The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, 5–18.
(78.) S. Naylor 2005. Not a Good Day to Die. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
(79.) Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die, 94–5.
(80.) Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die, 94–5, 159–2.
(81.) Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die, 161, 330–1, 335.
(82.) The British Task Force in Helmand was involved in intense fighting from numerous platoon houses and had mounted several significant operations by this stage. However, these operations were British rather than NATO ones and were actively eschewed by the NATO commander, General David Richards, who regarded them as inappropriate.
(83.) B. Horn 2010. No Lack of Courage. Toronto: Dundum Press, 79.
(84.) Horn, No Lack of Courage, 79.
(85.) Horn, No Lack of Courage, 81.
(86.) Sond Chara means Red Dagger in Pashtun, a reference to the 3 Commando Brigade’s insignia.
(87.) Sergeant, Royal Marines, personal interview, 6 September 2011.
(88.) J. Searle 1995. The Construction of Social Reality. London: Allen Lane.
(89.) Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 24.
(90.) Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 34.
(91.) Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 82–3.
(92.) Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 43.
(93.) Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, 37–43.
(94.) H. Garfinkel 2002. Ethnomethodology’s Program: working out Durkheim’s aphorism. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 65.
(95.) H. Garfinkel 1967. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity, 1.
(96.) Junger, War, 121.
(p.490) (98.) P. Langer 2010. ‘Studying Violence: methodological considerations of doing research on combat experiences in Afghanistan’, paper presented to 11th Biennial Conference of ERGOMAS, 14 June 2010, 3.
(99.) Langer, ‘Studying Violence: methodological considerations of doing research on combat experiences in Afghanistan’, 3. Translation amended by author from original Langer translation.
(100.) Langer, ‘Studying Violence: methodological considerations of doing research on combat experiences in Afghanistan’, 4.
(101.) Langer, ‘Studying Violence: methodological considerations of doing research on combat experiences in Afghanistan’, 4.
(102.) Brigadier, German army, cited in E. Sanger 2012. ‘Using Historical Experience: the British and the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan’, Ph.D. thesis, European University Institute.
(104.) The facility burnt down in October 2011 after very brief usage.
(105.) C. Bellamy 2001. ‘Combining Combat Readiness and Compassion’, NATO Review 49(2): 9–11.
(106.) Sergeant, Royal Marines, personal interview, 14 December 2010.
(107.) Sergeant, Royal Marines, personal interview, 14 December 2010.
(108.) Fieldnotes, 9–10 May 2010.
(109.) G. Girton 1986. ‘Kung Fu: toward a praxiological hermeneutic of the martial arts’, in H. Garfinkel (ed.), Ethnomethodological Studies of Work. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 65.
(110.) Girton, ‘Kung Fu: toward a praxiological hermeneutic of the martial arts’, 66.
(111.) Sergeant, Royal Marines, personal interview, 14 December 2010.
(112.) Sergeant, Royal Marines, personal interview, 14 December 2010.
(113.) Sergeant, Royal Marines, personal interview, 14 December 2010.
(114.) Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, Close Quarters Battle Instructor, 12–13.
(115.) Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, Close Quarters Battle Instructor, 12–14.
(116.) Fieldnotes, 21 July 2011.
(117.) Fieldnotes, 22 July 2010.
(118.) Description taken from observation of close-quarters battle demonstration, Commando Training Centre Lympstone, 26 October 2010. Discussion with two Royal Marine corporals, qualified Modern Urban Combat instructors, 30 September 2010.
(119.) Senior non-commissioned officer, urban operations instructor, Canadian army, personal communication, 18 October 2011. The colour-coding seems to have a wide purchase in the Canadian army. During an instructional session at the Infantry School, staff aimed to play the new Canadian forces video ‘Resilience: the Warrior’s edge’ which has very similar content to the Royal Marines’ own Mindset lecture. However, in this class, the video would not work and a sergeant joked with her colleague who was struggling to operate the audio-visual equipment: ‘Are you in the yellow? Are you going orange? I can help you’ (Fieldnotes, 15 October 2011).
(121.) Fieldnotes, 20–2 July 2011.
(122.) McCoy, The Passion of Command, 32.
(123.) McCoy, The Passion of Command, 32.
(124.) McCoy, The Passion of Command, 32.
(125.) Fieldnotes, 15 October 2011.
(126.) Fieldnotes, 15 October 2011.
(127.) Fieldnotes, 12 October 2011.
(128.) Fieldnotes, 12 October 2011.
(129.) Fieldnotes, 22 September 2009.
(130.) Fieldnotes, 22 September 2009.
(131.) Fieldnotes, 11 December 2010.
(132.) Fieldnotes, 11 December 2011.
(133.) T. Boudreau 2008. Packing Inferno. Port Townsend, Wash.: Feral House, 160.
(134.) Boudreau, Packing Inferno, 161.
(135.) Boudreau, Packing Inferno, 17.
(136.) Boudreau, Packing Inferno, 17.