Responses To Assessment Of Lone Survivor

BY Herschel Smith
7 months, 3 weeks ago

My son previously offered his assessment of Lone Survivor, and in the interest of showing that I don’t ignore contrary opinions, I’ll offer up a few.  I don’t always do this, and feel no requirement to do this, but in this case I’ll link three differing opinions.

The first comes from Max V.  I think Max gets a bit wrapped around the axle thinking that the point of Daniel’s critique was who could do the job better, Marines or SEALs.  Who has the better men – who would have used stealth better – who would have planned better?  I think Max might miss the point.

The main point of the post was that the SEALs were used out of their area of specialty of infantry.  Daniel has seen good infantry and bad infantry, and knows the difference.  The Marine Corps has some very good infantry – and some bad infantry.  No generalization on this point was intended in the original post, and Daniel conveyed none of that to me.

I’ll mention one final point on Max’s post.  It’s a bit condescending in that Max assumes that there is a “tactical misunderstanding” concerning what Daniel wrote (or what I wrote for Daniel).  We had a longer discussion than the post could convey, but there is no tactical misunderstanding.  Daniel understands exactly what the mission was and why they sent the team they did.  He just disagrees with it.  So that characterizes at least one part of Max’s objections, i.e., that they did what they did because that’s what they do when they do that!

But if we leave a bit condescending and reasoning in a circle with Max, we enter complete condescension and know-it-all jackassery with WeaponsMan.  Here is a taste: “Daniel’s bitches …” (I don’t allow Daniel to bitch at me, and I was the one discussing it with him very calmly), “This is the line soldier’s profound ignorance of two things speaking …,” “Daniel, in his personal experience, does not understand the difference between recon and long-range recon …,”Young Smith may be unaware of why Marine Scout Snipers are escorted to their hides …” (Marine Scout snipers are not always escorted to their hides as he alleges, and are not trained that way or necessarily to expect that this will occur – I know Scout Snipers), “A SAW weighs over 20 pounds and burns copious quantities of ammunition. Would it have saved this recon team? No …” (He doesn’t know any such thing), “This partly flows from Hollywood bullshit, but most of it is Marine bullshit, frankly …” (he only thinks that because he was never in the Marines and doesn’t know what the Marines do or why they do it the way they do).

On and on it goes, but it’s the same sort of thing that Max posted, it just took him thousands of words to say what Max did in just a few.  They didn’t do it like Daniel wanted because that’s not what they do when they do that … and oh by the way, Daniel is stupid because we say so.  I can be frank too, and frankly after reading WeaponsMan I wanted that fifteen minutes of my life back.  Also, I just chuckle and roll my eyes when they object to carrying a SAW because it weighs a lot.  Good grief.  Go back and read Dirty Micks list of things he carried as a Pathfinder.

That’s not what they do when they do that is called assuming the consequent (and it goes by other names in college logic courses).  It’s a fallacy, and my son’s objections went much deeper than why did they do that?  His objections went to the issue of they shouldn’t have done that!  Or if you will, doctrine as it touches on or informs tactics rather than tactics proper.  And the issue has mostly to do with the way they would have done things versus how the SEALs did it.  As for the notion that my commenters are Marines, Dirty Mick and Jean (both of whom commented on the original article) are active and retired Army, respectively.  Lastly, WeaponsMan states unequivocally that “We didn’t see the underestimation. Everybody knows that the lightly loaded Afghans can often outrun their American allies, or enemies, and believe me, everyone understands the physiology at work here.”  I do not believe that everyone understands, and I do not believe him.  And that’s not what the report portrays.

There isn’t any reason at all that a larger team, inserted at night, right at the outskirts of the town, couldn’t have performed room clearing and hunting for their intended target (with another team inserted for the sole purpose of preventing egress from the town) at dawn (with fire teams carrying SAWs) could not have worked.  Not a single reason.  All things considered, I’m quite unimpressed at the article.  I think his ego got in the way of making what could have been a contribution to the conversation beyond “I know everything and they did what they did because that’s what they do when they do that.”

Then leaving condescension we enter slightly odd from Sean Linnane.  He says “let me state this is at best a historical analysis and at worst Monday Morning Quarterbacking by a guy who was not there.”  It doesn’t matter whether he is talking about himself or Daniel.  This is odd.  Taking this position means that there can’t be any such thing as an AR 15-6, a post-Mortem, followup assessment, training, or any other review of actions taken in any given situation unless you were there.  Again, just odd.  I think Daniel’s assessment means something, and I wish Sean had weighed in a little more fully.

In conclusion, I’m disappointed in all of the responses to Daniel’s assessment thus far.

  • DirtyMick

    I think both sides are missing the point. We can argue about something like light machine guns all day but the reality is what got those guys killed was a lack of planning, rehearsals, and SOPs. Even if they didn’t take a SAW, a good 5 paragraph order, rehearsals, SOPs, and common sense (the 5th principal of patrolling) could’ve prevented this disaster. But like I said in my last comment on the previous post about Lone Survivor this all could’ve been prevented if there wasn’t this Hollywood bullshit nonsense that takes place in that community.
    To be honest if SEALs need to be schooled up on how to be grunts the Navy needs to make US Army Ranger School and RSLC (Recon Surveillance Leadership Course) or the Marine Basic reconnaissance course as a Pre req before you go to a team. Ranger School is the premier leadership and infantry course in the army.

  • DirtyMick

    It’s cool if you have beards, suppressors, and painted guns but what fucking good are you if you can’t trouble shoot commo or don’t even know basic patrolling techniques?

  • http://www.weaponsman.com Kevin R.C. O’Brien

    Sorry you thought it was condescending jackassery. Nothing I can do about your fifteen minutes; I’ll just have to owe you some better minutes as a recompense.

    Daniel came over to WeaponsMan and I think we’re talking past each other a little, but getting closer to mutual understanding. He put his finger the real key question, “Why didn’t they expect the worst?”, I think, and I tried to give him an answer (but now, with both of our thoughts in the comments, it’s even longer). Your question is more (I think) “Why did the commanders do it this way?” And that’s not a question than can be answered from Luttrell’s perspective.

    I sure do not know everything (and my experience, 30 years running at one level or another patrols like this, is quickly growing stale), but I do come off pontifical at times.

    The comment about scout snipers (I too know a few from the joint world and post-career contracting, outstanding men) was not meant to be general, it was a response to Daniel’s comment about them in Fallujah.. It was a force pro measure taken by a commander (dunno which level) in response to a tragic incident, and it worked (no more teams lost afterward). It was Daniel who said the scouts were escorted to their hides, in his personal experience.

    If I could change one thing about the post, it would be the word “bitching,” which is insulting and unfair to the professional critique one is accustomed to here (and that you and Daniel have applied).

    – your condescending jackass (but regular!) reader, the main man at WeaponsMan.

  • Max Velocity

    Herschel: I am a little perplexed? Did you read the whole article., not juts my comment sin bold in the quoted narrative, but also my comments at the bottom after the additional quoted info? If so, I remain a little surprised, and wonder if you are reflexively defending your son as a father on this one?
    Because:
    1) Yes I disagree with some of what Daniel says, where I consider his opinion skewed by specific personal experience, something that happens to us all to varying extant. But I think, as an example, missing the point about four man recce teams etc. Just because you did it as a force protection method in Fallujah (the whole platoon) doesn’t make it the only way. Also, very disturbed in general that the public feels it is OK to kill the goat herders. Have they ever killed a teenage goat herder? Hmmmm. Outside of Generation Kill, I’m disturbed by the thirst for blood. Should have been mission compromised, extract.
    2) For the most part, I have taken what you and Justin wrote and used to to expand on it as a general agreement on the use/misuse of ‘special farces’.
    No axle wrapping, in my mind.
    Max

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Kevin, thanks for the response, and I also drop by WeaponsMan as well.

    Max, your comment is complex and involved and this will take some time and effort. I did indeed read your whole article, multiple times.

    First, let’s deal with the idea that it is because it is my son that I posted the way I did on this. Eh, maybe, maybe not. I have had my disagreements with my son, and we’ve had our throw-downs in his younger years. We love each other very much but that doesn’t mean I won’t call a spade a spade if I see it.

    Next, I would not argue (nor did I argue) that his perspective isn’t skewed. I think it most certaintly is skewed, as is yours from your time in SAS. As is my commenter Jean from Army, and so on. That’s the point. The point is not to avoid this or get rid of it, it is to use it to our advantage. Leverage it, if you will. I’m not sure exactly why folks would think that it’s necessarily a bad thing to have a “skewed” perspective. I’ve dealt with this extensively in my writings on theology and philosophy. There is no neutrality. Everyone is a product of some set of life experiences, some instructions, etc. My son’s perspectives I suppose aren’t just a product of his time in Fallujah, but include four years in the Corps and a 400 day workup shooting thousands of rounds per day, clearing rooms using night vision, doing squad rushes for a kilometer with live fire and then do it again and again, shooting pigs and then trying to find arteries to clamp them and keep the pig alive, small unit manuever tactics and field navigation, etc.

    His pespective can best be summed up by MarineOfficer who commented not on the original post but on this one:

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2014/01/17/perhaps-a-high-capacity-magazine-would-be-good-to-have-in-a-case-like-this/

    Fire superiority. It’s simply the way Marines try to function, even if they give up concealment, stealth, and logistics support to others in their attempt to maintain fire superiority. There are drawbacks to this mode of operation, but there are also advantages. Don’t argue with the mindset – that’s getting wrapped around the axle. Understand it, and understand why a Marine would argue the way they do. Then try to gain insight compared or contrasted with the mindset that would send the boys in the way they did to perish. Or decide if you think that maybe you cannot gain from it. Perhaps the SO mideset is the be-all and end-all of the world and they have nothing to adjust or adapt. But my bet is that by comparing and contrasting the doctrine that led to the mission fail, everyone will be richer for the exercise, not poorer.

    So using this as a launching pad, the point is not to rehearse what they did, or the fact that when they’re doing so-and-so it is protocol to do so-and-so, but rather, the doctrine that led them to do so-and-so may need to be revisited. One could argue with some of my son’s observations, but what you simply cannot do is point to even a modicum of success in the mission as it was executed.

    As to the goat herders. That one has been controversial, but frankly took only about five seconds of conversation betwen me and my son. It just wasn’t a significant part of the discussion, even though it has taken prominence in the comments. The comments and argument thereto is mine, as I have taken a particular interest in ROE for sime time (as my category on that shows).

    I’m not so sure that there is a “thirst for blood” as you assume. I also suspect that the way a young man looks at it would be somewat different than the way I (a 54 year old man) would look at it. But what I am ABSOLUTELY sure of is that this generation hasn’t thought through the issues.

    You can see that from the comments on the original post. There are readers who think exactly as do you, but until the bitter end supported the bombing of non-military targets in Hamburg and dropping Little Boy on Hiroshima on top of children in cribs and on playgrounds in the name of ending the war and saving lives. Again, go back and read the comments on the original post.

    Readers cannot have it both ways. I actually don’t mind disagreement on this, and frankly I’m not sure what I would do in any given circumstance. I have high hopes that I under pressure to recant my Christianity, for example, I would recite the Apostle’s Creed as loudly as I could right up until the time when a 7.62 X 39 ripped through my skull, at which time I would see my Savior face to face.

    But what I cannot stand is inconsistency. Folks must think through these things and come to consistent conclusions. See the fuller discussion of ROE in my ROE category, for conversations on kids dropping concrete blocks from bridges on top of U.S. troops and whether they were allowed to fire, Mosques and places of haven for AQ snipers, refusal to allow the use of illumination rounds to help MEDEVAC because it could have burned down homes in ‘Stan (with the consequent that men died), the attempt by General Kearney to prosecute Army snipers in ‘Stan because they shot an unarmed but known Taliban, etc.

    Max, to your qestion, I’ve never fought in a war, a fact for which I am thankful. BTW, on two unrelated issues, you may see my in one of your classes one day, and finally, I think you should blog under your real name.

  • Max Velocity

    I think we need to get past all the Marine-centric stuff.
    The ultimate point of my post, although I disagreed with some of his statements and assumptions, was to support his assessment of how SOF can be misused, because they are SOF. I personally prefer not to make too many judgments about Red Wings. I don’t know enough abouit it, and have still not seen the movie. I understand the desire to take away lessons learned, I just didn’t agree with some of what was said in your original post, about specific tactics and their veracity.
    Are we still debating this one?
    I lime my name, Max, why would I blog as another? Velocity may be a pen name, but I like that too. It has also become a nickname. It’s consistent.
    Get yourself to a class, and bring your son. I recently had some former Marines, recent combat vets, tear up my CRCD class. It was good to watch, advancing with determination. They also got a lot out of it, keeping the knives sharp – that’s the great thing – the class is what you make of it, whatever your speed.
    Max

  • Nate

    You really need a like button on the comments I lurk a lot here, and don’t always feel I have anything to add to the disucssion but I’d be nice to be able to say “Yeah, I agree with that guy” without having to write a post. Just an idea…

    Shock infantry, it’s what the west does best. Lots of reasons, mainly cultural, some technological. But it’s allowed us to defeat forces many times our size throughout history. Very on board with the superior firepower comment. Also perplexed bu the planning of the Operation. Lack of supporting arms is a HUGE over site.

    The damned goat herders…. Lol. I don’t find my views inconsistent at all, but I had fun debating it.

  • Rob

    Thanks for the discussions and I’ll say after reading all of the comments of the original posting and the cross postings and now this.. It’s clear “enough” to speculate that the goat herders were inconsequential to the ambush because as others said, the TB were set up to entrap the team.

    And Mr. Smith, you obviously didn’t like what Kevin wrote, but I thought it was thoughtful and worthy. He did taint the tone for a father with the ” bitching” , but that didn’t come across in any other criticism or critique of your son’s opinion… to me anyway.

    Where the pilots talk about the shaded-zone of peril in comments, that was an excellent illustration.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    I don’t think it’s clear enough to speculate anything, and your spectulation runs contrary to Luttrell’s own statements.

    As for not liking what Kevin wrote, what I didn’t like was the snarky tone. As for the content of what he wrote, I placed it in the same category as what Max wrote.

    It impressed me as: “I’m shocked … Shocked! … SHOCKED!!! … I tell you, that anyone would have the audacity to think differently than the Army or me. Why can’t the Marines think more like the Army?”

    Max thinks we need to get “past all the Marine-centric stuff.” Really? My son was a Marine, not a Soldier. All of my readers know that. They know that I don’t apologize for communicating that perspective. Do with it what you will, learn from it, or not, but don’t be SHOCKED!!! when I communicate the Marine perspective. That’s sort of like telling a dog not to bark.

  • matt

    I agree. Anybody who advocates killing innocents is wrong. Compromise of a small team like that is NO-GO criteria! Initiate extraction! Communicate to higher your sitrep or at least where you are now, where you are headed to, and that you need to extract. Only question is do you move the restrained local nationals with you, or leave them right there? And you better have zip ties or hand cuffs, for just such an occurrence! Zip ties don’t weigh shit. And yes, I carried two sets of zip tie restraints on my person, deployed.

  • SteveXjarhead

    Herschel,
    Tactical lessons learned from the incidents of June 28 should always start with mission priorities (in no particular order) of observation, communication, personnel security and contigency planning. The 4 member team was too small in number to adequately meet any of these priorities. At a simplistic level, say one man observes, one communicates, and the other two provide security – who is leading at this point? Are two team members adequate to provide 360 security while the other two are carrying out their duties? Probably not. When you get into contigencies, the team size becomes problematic – broken ankle or goat herder you are in trouble if anything happens. Whoever had the command oversight for this bears ultimate responsibility for this fiasco resulting from violation of basic patrol planning principles – not attitudes, weapons, gear, etc.
    IMHO Steve


You are currently reading "Responses To Assessment Of Lone Survivor", entry #11813 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) War & Warfare and was published January 27th, 2014 by Herschel Smith.

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