Tuesday, July 17, 2012

EOW skirmish combat 5: aggressive reconnaissance

Alright lets see, we are on a through the looking glass trip through our favorite (somewhat) realistic apocalypse novels.  We faced off the zombies, been cannibles (!), befriended a Nigerian Princess, and played Canadian sweepstakes games, fought the angry citizens of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and now...  Well, I noted a trend, a new player on the post-apocalyptic block. They have been around for a while, but seem to be gaining almost preternatural powers of late.  Since we are going to be short sweet here, and won't need our firearms this time, today we are going to be.... a wild dog pack.  Lets kill be sure to kill off the most annoying survivors first.
When you zoom up to the campaign level, with thousands or sometimes even millions of people involved, you can discern certain regularities about outcomes. Unfortunately, we are not interested in Armies or Corps here, we are worried about individual level actions. That close air support is not as useful as thought, or that in almost all cases combined arms techniques are more honored in the breach than in actuality is interesting, but not particularly pertinent.
However, some factors work at numerous levels. They work from the highest army units, down to the single sentry standing guard. 
The first of these factors is aggressive reconnaissance. Which in this case means more than simply sending out patrols.  It means seeking out, and moving to engage the enemy in an aggressive fashion.  You are not trying to charge them frontally, but to figure out their position and attempt to turn it, surprise it, or bypass it. Here is an example of the closest thing I can come to our fast moving dog pack - Prussian Hussars (light cavalry - but with the Prussians often their elite cavalry):
Panther War College, Subject 1
On the cold morning of December 4th, 1757, the Prussian King Frederick the Great was riding well ahead of his army and with his advance guard, the Puttmaker and Zieten Hussars. As they approached the city of Newmarkt, Frederick learnt from peasants that “the enemy had established a bakery in that town, that it was garrisoned with pandours, and that Daun’s army was expected”.1,2 It was obvious the Austrians wanted to deploy a base at Newmarkt. If the Austrians were allowed to do so, the hills east of this city would give them an enormous tactical advantage. The Prussian infantry and artillery needed to clear the Austrians from Newmarkt was more than a half a day march away.  Frederick ordered the hussars to storm the city, something very unconventional. Besides an unusual tactical victory (120 killed, 569 captured Croats) and a bounty of bread rations, the Prussian King won the initiative over the Austrians. The enemy was forced both to spend the night almost in the open and most importantly, to fight the next day in terrain of Frederick’s choosing. The battle that ensued the following day at the village of Leuthen left two thirds of the Austrian army destroyed.

If you follow the links embedded in the above, you will see where the German armor car units got their inspiration from.  Yes they did reconnaissance, but many of their objectives (seize this bridge, blow up this railroad junction, et cetera) sound an awful lot like the sneaky version of an assault mission.

Aggression gives you a number of advantages. As we have noted earlier, the combat environment is very dynamic and good information is often lacking.
The Human Face of War
Jim Storr, Birmingham War Studies, London, New York, 2009

By going and finding out, and making things happen, one can influence the battlefield. Combat is uncertain, wand will tend to reward those who can tolerate uncertainty. Tolerance of uncertainty is the hallmark of pragmatism. General David Fraser wrote of Rommel's experience that "war is so uncertain business, so dependent on a concatenation of unpredictable chances, that boldness, a touch of optimism and above all speed can and generally should do better than attempts at exact calculation" p49.

He goes on to enumerate these advantages:
  1. the seizure of opportunities.
  2. the neutralization of enemy reconnaissance
  3. the location of gaps in the defense
  4. disruption to the defense including in rear areas and HQs [undefended dependants]
  5. demoralization
  6. physically threatening rear areas and HQs [homes/shelter and supplies]
  7. creating uncertainty, through destruction or capture
  8. disguising the nature and direction of the attackers thrusts p50.
In short, you just make a mess of everything!
Aggressive reconnaissance is noted as giving a 26:1 advantage on campaign. Note that it is almost impossible to come up with a 26:1 advantage by manpower alone. If you had ten people in a house, how would you even seriously get 260 into place to fight it out with them?
Note aggressive reconnaissance is not the same thing as the "patrolling" that the U.S. military does around its bases in occupied territory in the many low intensity "small wars" that we have been involved in going back to Vietnam.   There you are trying to keep an eye on the middle ground, stir up trouble, and intend on calling in massive support fire of some form if it gets really harry.   Keeping an eye on your surroundings is certainly a good idea, but realistically, any wandering around in a post-apocalyptic world that doesn't involve scavenging is probably a luxury few small groups can afford.  Of course, since we are dog pack in today's apocalyptic adventure we will smell them coming from a mile away!
Going to go Dire Wolf on them!


Anonymous said...

OMG!! I'm slipping.

So being a wandering, aggressive, herder type survivalist is the way to go?

Mongols were rather tough.

Thank goodness that we are going to have a slow collapse. Right?



russell1200 said...

Herdsman had a number advantages over the settled folk in times of stress. It goes as far back as the Indo-Europeans and the Copper Age.

But it is a skill set that not many people have. And as many people (or zombies)as are out their who are going to want your stuff, hiding has a lot to go for it.