Friday, July 13, 2012

EOW skirmish combat 3: the fit and fiddle, the proud, the few

All right, once again we have been magically whisked into an apocalyptic novel and are one of the featured characters.  Maybe we are one of the people who have rallied to the cause of some little town near Asheville after an EMP strike, and the zombie Mecklenberg County hordes are advancing.  Everything is all set for the grand finale.   We are defending the town, and unlike the original novel, this one is going to be a realistic one.  Ouch!

So what happens?  Well in the real world, most of you aren't going to be nearly as effective in fighting as you think.  If there were any competent elements within the opponents ranks, you likely would be slaughtered.

However, on the plus side! The very big plus side! the bad guys who have had to hike a long way, won't be doing very well either. In fact as a real bonus, lots of them probably won't even make it through the hike from Charlotte, NC.  It is about 120 miles much of it through the North Carolina Piedmont (foothills) and Appalachian Mountains.

Combat Effectiveness: Cohesion, Stress, and the Military Volunteer Military
Sam C. Sarkesian, Editor, Sage Publications, London, 1980.
The effects of urbanization were already evident by the Boer War, and prompted Lord Baden-Powell to found the Boy Scouts to offset the ignorance of fieldcraft and open-air living among young Britons.  Changing selection criteria undoubtedly influenced the rejection in World War 2 of 2.5 million men out of 18 million screened by Selective Service on grounds of mental or emotional deficiency.  The already noted findings of S.L.A. Marshall regarding battle participation [i.e. most people don't] , the rejection of nearly half of the potential draftees of the 1960s on physical grounds, postmortems revealing increasing cholesterol deposits in young soldiers, and reports of American soldiers dying of exhaustion while trying to withdraw from hardy Chinese peasants troops in Korea - all suggest the dwindling military utility of large forces and the citizen-soldier p 50.
So, whatever remnants from the invading horde make it - remember they are walking - through the mountains to Asheville, you may need to let them rest and give them a drink of water before the fighting starts.

And then we have the other problem.  If you can get your civilian soldiers into the area of the battle, they may not listen to you.  Even during the middle of World War 2, with real soldiers, and real officers, it was often difficult to get men to obey orders they disagreed with.  Using the same source:
In World War 1, Sir John Monash, commander of the Australian Corps, noted that American and Australian officers had the same problem: an inability to use authority and formal power in the way that European armies did.  Major Mike Hoare, who as a mercenary commander in Africa in the 1960s had little formal sanction behind his authority, observed that:
At platoon, company and battalion level, I am convinced that a commanding officer must live in the pockets of his men.  He must know them intimately, their troubles, their fears, their weaknesses, their strengths, their hopes, their background, better even than their won families know them.  Thus only will he feel his command...A remote leader at this level is an absurdity p. 50.
If  a frigging mercenary commander in Africa feels the need to stress how hard it is to get men to follow orders, if regular officers cannot get enlisted, but trained, conscripts to do what they are told, do you think that an ad hoc group of civilians,  good guy militia or bad guy marauding hordes, is going to be any better?  It is going to look more like a debating team getting anyone to do anything.

True, you can go it alone.  You don't have to hang with the hordes.  But you need to understand the reality.  There will be a lot of them. The only likely non-debaters you will run into immediately, are a few criminal groups, and law enforcement.  Neither of them is real thick on the ground where I live.  Given their natural advantages, they likely will be the last to feel the need to leave home.

Even with trained units, when units actually engage, it is only a small fraction of the people who will work at full effectiveness.  Just as with fighter pilots, snipers, submarine commanders, and any of the combat trades that you can easily measure, you can expect that a tiny fraction of the people will execute most of the heavy lifting.  With the groups you can measure it is not unusual to see 90% of the kills coming from less than 5% of the combatants.  It is hard to measure individual infantryman competence in the middle of a firefight, but if you could, the results would likely be similar.  You better really hope your heroes don't get killed early.

Combat Effectiveness: Cohesion, Stress, and the Military Volunteer Military
Sam C. Sarkesian, Editor, Sage Publications, London, 1980.
Key Individuals and Their Influence
In terms of what contributes to ... combat readiness the Vietnam monograph provides some additional food for thought... [T]hese senior officers conclude that "the individual commander's ability, skill and knowledge transcended the more tangible factors" in determining the effectiveness of operations, a judgement they believed of broad enough applicability to include under the heading of overll conclusions (source).
A supportive point, extending the concept beyond just the commander to include other important individuals, has been made by J.A. Stockfisch (source (pdf)), who suggested that a fundamental factor in assessing the relative capabilities of opposing forces ... is the quality of key combat personnel. These include ... infantry squad leaders, and two additional men in each squad.
In support of the proposition he advances historical accounts of certain individuals who developed combat skills far in excess of their fellows, and who then served to alert and cue the others in ways which increased the overall combat effectiveness,...p.74.
Note in our post on casualties, pretty much the same conclusion was reached by the sources sited there. A handful of people do most of the damage.

L.R. Speight and D. Roland in Modelling the Rural Infantry Battle: The Effects of Live Combat on Military Skills and Behavior During the Approach Phase, Military Operations Research, V13, N4 2008.
Type A, roughly 7%of the force, avoid combat and are described as non-participating (NPA)
Type B, again 7% of the force, freeze at contact (FAC)
Type C, 36% , continue after contact, but subsequently halt and do not fire, the freeze during advance (FDA)
Type D, 37%, maintain their advance to the end, but make no effective use of their weapons, they are passive followers (PAF)
Type E, 11% are full participants in combat, but weapon use is sub-optimal, they are active followers (ACF)
Type F, 2% are the heroic performers - fully participating and making full effective use of their weapons, they are the heroes (HRO).
Note, this is showing participation in an attack. In general, people under cover on the defense may be a little more active, but likely only the Type F - 2% are firing at full effectiveness.   Think of it this way.  At the Battle of Lexington and Concord, when the "minutemen sharpshooters" were blasting away at exposed redcoats at relatively short ranges, best estimates are that less than one-in-a-thousand rounds hit.  Is that the shooting of calm collected individuals at the target range?  No, of course not.  And that is how well most people shoot in combat.

So remember what we said in EOW1, know your limitations, and to that we could add, figure out who your heroes are.  The U.S. military  experience with conscripts in World War 2 indicated that they had a tendency to be a little better educated, but otherwise could come from almost any rank.  Meaning, they won't always be who you think they will be.


Anonymous said...

read heraclitus on 100 men in combat.10 shouldn't be there;60 are fodder;19 will actively fight; but the one oh the one warrior will lead them all to victory.ya gotta at least make the 19. delr

Anonymous said...

3 quick rules to being a good leader.

Never ask your men to do something you would not do or haven't done yourself.

Know more then your men.

Truly care for your men.

The best 2 officers I served under were both Mustangs. Prior service enlisted. That helps with rule #1.

The land distance from Elko to anywhere is the main attraction for me. And low humidity...


russell1200 said...

First Anon: Somewhere I saw a book/study that showed that in ancient battles, troop quality was much more important than numbers. Of course the 100 is taking that to an extreme.

GK: Those are pretty good rules.

John D. Wheeler said...

From the Art of War (paraphrased):

If you do not know yourself or the enemy, you will not win 1 in 100 battles;

If you do know yourself but not your enemy, you will win 1 battle out of 2;

If you know both yourself and the enemy, you will not lose 1 battle in 100.

russell1200 said...

JDW: I don't know if Sun Tsu did the necessary number crunching LOL, but the advise is very much to the point here.

Anonymous said...

Those rules or variants of them is why Biker gangs always had a special spot in my readings of TEOTWAWKI literature.

Rule 1: Bikers have an initiation "process" that ALL bikers in that MC went through in order to gain their colors.

Rule 2: The officers in a MC tend to be truly bad asses, which helps in knowing more biker "stuff" then the average member.

Rule 3: Caring for your men is slightly mutated into caring for your colors and everyone wearing those colors.

A 1%er MC with combat arms vets as members would be a "prickly pear" to say the least! :)


russell1200 said...


All good points.

Esprit de corp can be a critical issue.

Most of the time the bikers are the fall guys for the heros, so they don't get portrayed as being all that effective. Scary and mean, yes. Effective, no.

Possible real-life issues for an experienced- aggressive group would be a question of being overly aggressive in a world with no hospitals, and possibly no way to replenish there ranks. In addition for every person who is afraid of them, there is likely to be someone who opens up on site. Having a bad reputation can cut both ways.

Anonymous said...

Good insights. I laugh when I hear suburbanites claim they're tougher than "city-folk". These people have no real experience with crime, let alone muggers or gangs. They lean on their shopping carts, out of breath as they hoard diabetes in a box. No wonder they're terrified.

russell1200 said...

Anon: A lot of American cities really are suburbs except for the very small inner core - something that a lot of people don't seem to understand. But if there is a toughness advantage between suburbanites, and city folk, you would have to think it is pretty marginal.