|William H. McRaven's theory of special operations. Available from Amazon.com|
Amid the seemingly unquenchable thirst of the general public for books about special operations, very few books go into many details about how the special forces accomplish their amazing feats. I'm not referring to special gear, weapons or demolition equipment.
Ever wondered if special forces have their own version of regular/conventional small unit tactics? Do they use bounding overwatch like every other guy in the regular army, or do they have some special trick to it? During an attack, do they divide their men into assault and support teams?
For the most part, field manuals of modern special forces are not available to the general public. So there may be some special ingredients in the special forces cookbook, even for the most common and basic "meat and potatoes" tactical dishes.
However, the spectacular successes and feats of the special operations forces appear to be just above the nitty gritty of the positioning of a machine gun or the formation used to approach an objective.
|William "Bill" McRaven, Commander US Special Operations Command.|
Enter Admiral William McRaven, Commander of the US Special Operations Command. A former Navy SEAL, he wrote his thesis on the very subject of special operations. This thesis is around in the web somewhere ... I'm just lazy to link you right now, but the book shown above is pretty much the thesis.
Spec Ops is not a picture book, not a shrining of present or past brave men and not an action-packed narrative. It's a thoughtful analysis and a distillation of special operations. That's what makes it so unique.
Here is a summary of the principles of special operations according to McRaven's theory.
|The principles build up an inverted pyramid in a rather unstable equilibrium, which doesn't tip to the frictions of war because of the actions of the special operations team.|
- Simplicity. Some sort of KISS thing, off course. Limit the amount of objectives, the amount of moving parts and the dependence of those moving parts. McRaven argues that to make a simple plan, the special operations team needs great intelligence.
- Security. Even when the enemy knows that you are coming, keep him guessing when, where you are coming from and how you will attack until the last second.
- Repetition. Rehearse the mission as much as possible, in a realistic manner.
- Surprise. In general terms, the enemy will likely be prepared (i.e. sentries on patrol, guns deployed with good fields of fire, etc.), but a careful analysis of the enemy's vulnerabilities will help to overcome his strengths and take advantage of his weaknesses. Deception and timing do not only surprise the enemy but also help to create vulnerabilities.
- Speed. Get to the objective as fast as possible. Insertions near the objective highly recommended. If such insertions are not possible, use concealed approaches. Small, lightly armed teams move faster than their conventional counterparts.
- Purpose. No matter what happens during the mission, the objective/s must be achieved.
With all these principles in place, McRaven argues that a special operations team achieves relative superiority. Relative superiority is the very essence of a successful special operation and is not formally defined in the book but rather described by its properties. I will venture to define it as an attribute of a combat engaged force with a high probability of defeating an enemy counterpart regardless of the intrinsic combat power of both.
How does my rescue of agent Vidales look like under this theory? Did I follow the principles shown above?
- Simplicity. The plan was straightforward. I kept my team together at all times and I avoided extensive maneuvering. The AI bots tend to screw up when they are on the move. As for intelligence ... Well, I edited the mission so I had good intelligence on how the enemy would operate but not so much as to know exactly where they were. Maybe the mission needs a better intel brief, down to the patrol positions?
- Security. It is kind of non-kosher to make a mission where the AI opponent cheats and spawns a Shilka right into your helicopter landing zone. I didn't do it either for this mission, so the AI opponent had a generic plan that he would follow after contact. Like moving a quick reaction force from the airbase towards Agia Marina. So security was achieved and the enemy didn't know exactly where I was landing. But I can't claim I did anything special here. The whole security thing appears a bit out of scope for a normal ArmA scenario.
- Repetition. I played this mission to death, but never tried this approach until the AAR you have seen in my blog. I guess one can rehearse by playing a slightly different mission (same terrain, somewhat different enemy forces to simulate unpredictability) ... Like simulating a rehearsal for a simulated mission. Mmmh ... Getting crazy here. I will steer clear of this one.
- Surprise. It's very difficult to surprise the AI in ArmA. Almost as difficult to make it drive a vehicle down a road. But nonetheless, the enemy vulnerability was his dependence on a quick reaction force. I was lucky to find most of that force in the open and vaporize it with mortar fire.
- Speed. I landed so far away from the objective and facing so unfavorable odds (right in the middle of the enemy platoon in the airbase) that speed was not the forte of my plan. Speed is relative, though, and I counted on the enemy at Agia Marina not bothering my team while we fought at the airbase. After the airbase success, the vehicle didn't add to my speed towards the objective because the majority of the team moved on foot.
- Purpose. In the AAR I posted before I didn't face any tough choices. But in my previous tries things got pretty hot and I had to choose between the survival of my team and the objectives. Call me nuts but those were somber moments, even when it was virtual reality filled with virtual characters.
And now a word about relative superiority. After defeating the quick reaction force in the airbase and with the added firepower of the armored vehicle, the enemy crumbled. The shooting was intense at times, but we were relatively in control of the battle. Even when I may have failed to observe the principle of speed, I think I achieved relative superiority.
That's it for today, folks. Keep that book in mind because it is a worthy read if you play the ArmA series.