Learning Lessons is not the Problem

In the linked piece, the MoD describes the process in which lessons are learned and the Army adapts

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”https://www.gov.uk/government/news/afghanistan-experience”]

The British Army has always learnt from experience, as the dramatic changes in uniforms and equipment over the years show. Even the Force that will return from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 looks and operates differently to the one that first deployed to the country in 2001.

And all of this is due to the service’s ability to absorb knowledge gained on the battlefield and adapt its methods accordingly.

The ability to rapidly adapt to changing threats and realities has been shown time and time to be invaluable, the process is embedded and well practiced.

As interesting as this is, and it is very interesting, the Army does not have a problem with learning lessons, it has a problem with forgetting them.

 

 

 

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Fatman
Fatman
April 15, 2014 3:07 pm

More precisely it has a problem with disseminating doctrine widely and making sure it has been absorbed by leaders, exacerbated by the anti-intellectualism of many officers. Too few are interested in military history and broader strategic studies (hence the ignorance of what has been done historically and what is being done elsewhere in the world). It is all very well placing an emphasis on practical achievement, but without a conceptual framework derived from reading and other study to gain an understanding of wider military affairs the Officer Corps will never become a proper learning organisation. JFC Fuller’s Memoirs of an Unconventional Soldier made exactly the same points in the 1930s about the British failure to learn, when discussing his Boer War experiences.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 15, 2014 5:17 pm

I think there are a number of reasons we seem to have not been as nimble as we should have been in the past 2 campaigns. My personnel opinion is that a lot of it is has to do with disastrous recruiting/retention and manning policies implemented in the mid to late nineties with the problems manifesting themselves just as we started to get engaged in Iraq and then later in Afghan.

Also I have noticed that other armies listen to and encourage ideas more from the lower ranks, and then disseminate these lessons quicker to the rest of the field army. The British system tends to cause that knowledge to be kept at a local level for longer, which is then only passed onto the unit that is training to relief the unit that replaced them (if that makes sense).

However this subject is massive with a miriad of reasons why we were a bit slow in some cases in the last two campaigns, and how on entering them we had forgotten a lot of knowledge we had learned less than a decade before. Before my last tour the pre deployment training was pretty good and a real effort had been put into making it so, lets just hope we retain the knowledge a bit better this time.

Phil
Phil
April 15, 2014 6:04 pm

Almost all organisations have this problem. Lessons are identified relatively easily, but it is much harder to institutionalise them. Respectable solutions may not appear so respectable to hierarchy or to local interests or to changing opinions. Nobody as far as I know has found the answer. We should be glad we have services that are so good at embedding lessons so rapidly for specific contexts and operations: large numbers of organisations can’t even do that. Is this me apologising for the Army’s ability to forget lessons? No. But it is me arguing that we need to be realistic in our expectations. A lot of forgotten lessons are only forgotten with hindsight.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 15, 2014 8:33 pm

‘A lot of forgotten lessons are only forgotten with hindsight.’

Sorry Phil don’t agree with you on that one, we are talking about things that were standard SOP’s in the Balkans in 1998 to be completely forgotten by 2004-5. We then failed to adapt the lessons learned in Iraq to Afghanistan, we should have been ahead of every coalition member by a few years when it came to MRAP’s and IED’s due to the experience gained in the 90’s.

The only main (amongst a host of smaller ones) reason I can see for this is the drain of manpower due to very poor retention in the mid to late 90’s and subsequent failure to retain their knowledge in another way. A lot of the personnel from this era that left would have been the Captains, Sgts and section commanders during the initial few years in Iraq, almost all of whom carried this experience and knowledge within their respective organisations.

Observer
Observer
April 15, 2014 9:22 pm

DN, some of it is also due to changing public perception.

If I recall correctly, even with the NI bombings and roadside attacks, the public perception was that if a Snatch was blown up by a roadside bomb, it was “tough luck”. Now, it is government incompetence.

This indicates not a lack of change in equipment, but a change in public expectations. A “softer” public as it were.

Was there a call to replace Snatchs then? If not, then you can’t really say there was a need to replace them with MRAPs. This is a new thing and reflective of a less casualty tolerant society than a failure to learn.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 15, 2014 9:52 pm

Observer

‘Was there a call to replace Snatchs then? If not, then you can’t really say there was a need to replace them with MRAPs’

No there was no call from the public to replace the Snatch in NI, however the military called for its replacement during the mid 90’s after recognising the need for a better protected vehicle for environments where there was a threat of landmines/uxo and small arms. This lead to the procurement of Panther/Iveco. We purchased Mamba vehicles for route proving and for use by the EOD teams in the Balkans due to the threat from mines, so we even had experience in operating mine protected vehicles at least 5 years prior to Iraq.

I have no problem with the Snatch being used in Iraq initially but once the threat was recognised steps should have immediately been taken because we had prior relevant experience. Rather than a PR campaign by the government and MOD stating that, and I quote ‘the Snatch landrover is the best vehicle in it’s class, there is no other vehicle than can fulfill it’s role’ (spoken by a retired officer wheeled into the studio of radio 2, heard by my own ears) when both the army and MOD both knew this not to be true because we had used an alternative vehicle available already.

Observer
Observer
April 15, 2014 10:06 pm

DN, you know how it is, “My first XYZ is always the best.” Mostly.

Want to bet that he grew up in the force driving Snatches?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 15, 2014 10:44 pm

I’d happily bet the farm on more service personnel learning the lessons of their direct combat experience than of any political reptile coming to understand that we probably needed more of those service personnel with better equipment and more opportunities for training before they gave the order to deploy in the first place…how much better might we have done with an army corps in Iraq and a division in Afghanistan?

GNB

Bill
Bill
April 16, 2014 9:56 am

There have been many lessons – snatch landrover, body armour, protected vehicles, helicopters. TD is right about they were learned in the sense that changes and adaptions were made. BUT and it is a big but, consider this took place over years over a decade in total – twice the length of WW2…..

In any conflict, the defence effort needs to identify, spec, test and deploy advantaged adaptions and solutions to win with speed of introducing these changes a deciding factor. As an organisation, we need to think how to improve a capability to do this even better and much quicker without the red tape, political foot dragging., MoD inertia. The time for UOR improvisation is over, we need a more structured approach about identifying, testing and delivering improvements to capabilities as a standing activity of UK defence., all based on agility.

Oh and another organisation improvment is we should ensure soldiers soldier to win, commanders command to win , procurement specialists procure to win, scientists do science to win, engineer do engineering to win , politicians set objectives to win and not dilute or mix these things up to destroy focus or impede organisational effectiveness, but this is pretty wild thinking.

Rant over, feel better. Thanks TD.

Chris
Chris
April 16, 2014 10:48 am

Bill – I am reminded of the frustration my Dad experienced at work (County Council Architects’ Dep’t) when the edict was enforced that the cheapest bid for any job must win the work. It was well known which contractors would do an honest job for an honest price, and which were cowboys that would bid low, do the shoddiest possible job and, if found out, would fight tooth & claw to get extra funding to do what was ‘inferred’ as included in their bid. “…but it doesn’t actually explicitly state that we would do XYZ…” Before the edict was imposed the bidders were selected on the basis of which would do a satisfactory job at a reasonable price, do it within the available time and get it right first time (and generally costing less than the low-bid cowboy’s work once delays, additional payments and negotiation burden were taken into account).

Any organization that runs big competitions ultimately falls prey to either taking the cheapest option, or risk being accused of selecting by favouritism. The idea that in a litigious world the competition bidders might be judged on who would do the right job at a reasonable price efficiently and get the User what they wanted right first time is somewhat naive in my opinion. Hence the huge scoring spreadsheets down to nauseating detail that take all personal judgement away. And the multi-stage bidding process that pretty well guarantees projects can’t deliver in a timely manner and results in band-aid UORs to fill in the gaps.

In my opinion.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 11:08 am

With regards to equipment I think it shows how we fail to keep knowledge to then adapt and expand on. My reference to the snatch was me trying to show this, as in the space of less than a decade the armed forces as an organisation had seemed to have forgotten lessons learned from previous operations. Equipment in some cases will always be found to be lacking when threats are evolving, it’s just that in the case of the Snatch landrover when the threat was realised we were so slow to adapt when as I stated we had very relevant corporate knowledge that should have informed us immediately of our need to adjust equipment (and what was readily available) and tactics.

How knowledge and experience can be lost in such a short time is what needs to be looked at and learned from.

Chris
Chris
April 16, 2014 11:43 am

DN – I suspect it has less to do with the collective memory of Users, senior staff and MOD and more to do with the fading of public concern and anger – once the issue has slipped over the public event horizon the budgetary pressures can replace the desired known-to-work solutions with cheaper options (amid much fanfare of ‘best in class’ and ‘world leading’ political brownie-point scoring). Snatch I am sure a) cost lots less than an equivalent fleet of Mamba/RG31, and b) was a UK employment coup rather than a South African import.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 16, 2014 11:47 am

– Bang on the money – which in my experience ends up in the hands of the contractor best organised to jump through hoops to get the job, and then most unscrupulous in milking costs and cutting quality afterwards…largely because the assumption is that all Public Servants are chisellers and if their every act is not monitored and checked and double checked they will give every contract to a friend or relative on a cash commission basis.

Even worse for voluntary organisations accessing public money to support their communities…it’s assumed we will just steal it and run off to Benidorm…

The wasted effort, inflated costs and poor outcomes that this generates are an absolute bloody disgrace and have been throughout my thirty year career in Local Government, and subsequent voluntary posts supporting various community based organisations (mostly pro bono, before anyone asks!)

I assume it arises because the political class assume that we operate according to the same standards as they do.

GNB

The Other Chris
April 16, 2014 12:06 pm

Ever come across Kaizen from the Toyota Production System?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen

Topman
Topman
April 16, 2014 12:13 pm

@ TOC

I’m off for a lie down after seeing that word again.

To be serious for a moment and answer your question, yes in the world of the RAF we went through all that about 10 years ago. To the nth degree.

Derek
Derek
April 16, 2014 12:29 pm

TD,

The problem is that Britain is now a minor military power. It simply lacks the size and cash to maintain full-spectrum capability. Therefore it has to prioritise and let non-priorities waste.

This would manageable if the regime accepted how weak the country was militarily and based its intervention decisions on what that weakness will allow. This is what the SDSR should be doing, aligning military capabilities and ambitions in a fashion that then puts limits on foreign policy. Instead the SDSRs are simply being used to manage decline in a haphazard fashion that continues to result in a misalignment between Britain’s meagre military capabilities and the foreign policy ambitions of the governing regime.

At one level UOR will always be necessary as long as the posture is expeditionary as specific threat types (new IED types etc) will always appear- that is the very nature of war. Equally if the British establishment wants to keep throwing itself into every crisis that comes along it will have to accept that it needs the ability to rapidly generate new capabilities.

The Other Chris
April 16, 2014 12:39 pm

Heh heh. Apologies for dropping the K-bomb.

Did your “LEAN Guru’s” bang on about A3 Problem Solving and 7S or did they actually get into the culture change stuff?

wf
wf
April 16, 2014 12:43 pm

To quote a personage from Facebook.

“we don’t have change management per se. Software upgrades are run by the property concerned when they want to”

Me:

“what happens if several properties share a single piece of hardware that needs upgrading?”

“oh, then we have change management”

Tah-dah!

Topman
Topman
April 16, 2014 12:56 pm

@ TOC

Mainly 6S they called it, no didn’t really get into the culture change, that happened afterwards. Most of it seemed to be about reorganising things and the process of how things are done. Lean events were never ending, teams were formed up, consultants were brought in (on god knows how much). Some of it was ok, but too much followed slavishly. Alot of cost cutting came under the cloak of LEAN, so it got dismissed by a lot of people at the time.

Now we seemed to have renamed it CI, works reasonably well.

Obsvr
Obsvr
April 16, 2014 1:32 pm

Learning from battlefield experience exists at several levels. UK’s use if short operational tours (ie 4/6** months not 12) means that the operational updating process by theatre specific TATs works well. It means troops deploy with up to date theatre specific training. (** a post 1968 phenomenon for UK, some of us have done proper length tours not 2 week wars in the desert).

Much more difficult is learning more fundamental lessons, and this is really the province of the arms schools, staff college, the general staff and commanders. It all too easily turns into preparing to fight the last war. Incorporating valid lessons into doctrine is a lot easier said than done.

Nevertheless units on the ground adapt quickly to new threats and opportunities, the key is ensuring officers can think outside the book and units adapt without waiting for MoD, etc, to authorise it (as happens in some non-UK armies).

That said basic tactics don’t really change, just the odd minor tweaks for advances in technology (eg NVDs over the last 4 decades). The basic tactic of fire and movement is unchanging. Increasing vehicle protection (which seems to cause endless excitement for reasons I’ve never understood) is merely a product of increasing weapon effectiveness, its just part of the offensive -defensive seesaw that has gone on for millennia. No new lessons there. It’s merely a challenge for the procurement system to keep up with.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 16, 2014 1:33 pm

Christ, all that is just Turtle Quality (from the 80s) rebadged.

Observer
Observer
April 16, 2014 1:39 pm

There is also a question of “What kind of war are you configuring your equipment for?”. I came across an article from ST Kinetics on the Warthogs they foisted off to you guys, and one of the interesting tidbits they gave out was that they actually shifted the fuel tanks, from the bottom to some of the walls. This is a modification that is made specifically for Afghanistan because of the IED threat, the “normal” version has the fuel tanks on the bottom, out of line of direct fire because that was anticipated as the most likely threat when it was designed. With IEDs however, moving the fuel tanks out from the bottom to the sides when the direct fire threat was less made more sense.

Using this as an example, you want equipment that “does it all”, are you going to configure it for IEDs? Or direct fire protection? Split the baby? In which you get the benefits of neither?

It’s a lose-lose situation for decision makers. Choose IED protection and people complain that you are fighting the last war and that survivability in a fight is reduced and that they would rather risk soldiers’ lives than “admit they were wrong”. Choose ballistic protection and you get complaints like these of “not learning at all”.

You can’t please everyone all the time.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 2:06 pm

It’s not about equipping your army for niche roles, it’s about adapting lessons learned from the past to combat an evolving threat. At the time that the IED threat became prevalent we already had both experience and knowledge of both electronic countermeasures and suitable vehicles. By the end of our main involvement in the Balkans we were arguably the most experienced armed force in these areas within NATO.

The equipment issue is a symptom of how in such a short space of time that knowledge was either lost, or that we no longer have the ability to adapt existing knowledge to emerging threats. The Americans should have been following our lead in vehicle procurement in light of the existing threats, not the other way around.

What do we need to do to retain knowledge and experience for future use without the need of starting from scratch every time we are faced with an unexpected threat.

Rocket Banana
April 16, 2014 2:41 pm

Phil,

…Lessons are identified relatively easily, but it is much harder to institutionalise them. Respectable solutions may not appear so respectable to hierarchy or to local interests or to changing opinions…

I couldn’t agree more.

Not quite sure how it works in HM Forces but in civvy street the main problem is a lack of accountability and ownership. It’s all too easy (the larger an organisation grows) to simply assume it is “somebody else’s problem”.

Chris
Chris
April 16, 2014 2:49 pm

Gloomy – have just made you Minister for Getting Business Efficient in my future government. Unless of course you prefer to be Chancellor? Congratulations on your future appointment.

TD, TOC, Topman, wf, NAB – I too remember Total Quility and the hoohar that went around its introduction, and for Lean, and for Kaizen, and for Sick Sigma (fetch the doctor then). All of them proclaiming to be the result of divine revelation; that if you see something causing bad workmanship you should remove or replace the entity causing the issue. Turn the clock back another 30 years and the same process was universally applied throughout industry, and it was called The Foreman. When the Foreman saw someone slacking he made their life hell until they bucked their ideas up or they left. The Foreman’s word was law; he was the physical manifestation of The Company. Sadly in these modern days even the most woeful of slackers can’t be pressured into taking their job seriously, so all these huggy-feely continuous improvement process-intensive activities have to be used. I’d put money on the Workshop Foreman getting better results faster though.

And The Foreman would happily take personal responsibility for getting better quality/productivity too, to answer Simon’s point…

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 16, 2014 3:22 pm

– much appreciated – I’ve always fancied a red box.. :-)

GNB

wf
wf
April 16, 2014 3:29 pm

: as a Motorola refugee, I remember 6 Sigma well…ooops, should that be “trying to forget”?

Observer
Observer
April 16, 2014 3:46 pm

I always wondered why “sick sigma” programs claimed to promote improvement and inventiveness, yet had to repackage ranks from martial arts.

Waste of bloody time, paperwork producing, flexibility stifling crap.

And that is being generous. God help you if your boss was on an efficiency kick.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 3:55 pm

@TD

Just read through the link you put up in a previous post. Depressing just about covers it. I was not aware that the Tempest was sent to Iraq, I am surprised a good lawyer has not got the MOD with a corporate manslaughter charge by now.

Have you heard what is going to become of the mini-mine wolfs after Herrick? Would be handy bit of kit for light role battlegroups I would have thought (don’t let the backhoe fool you though, they are crap at digging ;-)).

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 4:28 pm

@DN

Maybe so but nobody knows where the next one is coming from. What if we ended up in a more conventional conflict with fewer but better protected troops? Then we can be accused of forgetting the lessons of 1991 or 1973 or 1944. Lessons forgotten are more often than not down to finding yourself in a different context than you expected. A bureaucracy the size of the forces is always going to be behind the curve to some extent when it cannot decide how, where or why it will be employed.

One must be cautious about drawing too many lessons from what are in many ways unique contexts. One can be less forgiving about forgetting timeless lessons relating to high intensity shooting wars.

The only time we’ve had the luxury of building a force structure around the context we were almost certain we were going to fight in, we ended up fighting a war for a beat bog 8,000 miles away and then a war in the desert.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 5:06 pm

‘One must be cautious about drawing too many lessons from what are in many ways unique contexts.’

In what way were that unique? we just had a situation that required the combining of lessons the learned from two separate operations. It’s not the equipment that is the problem, as I said earlier it it just an example of where previous experience and knowledge was within the institutional memory of the organisation and was slow to be used to adjust to an emerging threat. The retention of knowledge from previous operations so that you can draw on it to adapt to emerging threats is the key factor, after all the measures put in place to combat IED’s was just the combination of ECM gained from experience in N Ireland with vehicles and TTP’s from the Balkans.

How come in the space of a few years we had either forgotten or were incapable of drawing the dots sooner to get to where we are now? What measures do we need to put in place so that experience is not lost in the forces and we can build upon it (if required) for the next outing?

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 5:15 pm

Except in 2003 we conducted a conventional campaign where MRAPs etc would have been an overall drain on the war effort. Then in 2006 we deployed into a part of Afghanistan that didn’t seem to have the same threat portfolio as Iraq post 2004. It’s a simple fact that we can’t prepare for every eventuality to the same level of precision at aggravated Guardian readers would like. Every time you make a force structure decision you take a risk. Even armouring everyone up nice and tight is still a risk because you simply don’t want that level of resources devoted to FP of all elements of your force.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 5:20 pm

Once again, it is not the equipment but the speed at which as an organisation, the forces can adapt to emerging threats by using experience from recent campaigns. How do you retain that knowledge so you can adapt quicker?

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 5:41 pm

@DN

Every professional organisation in the world asks that question. I did a lot of work and research on organisational learning. Very often obvious lessons were not apparent at the time and the respectability of lessons change as things and personnel change.

What truly troubles me is when the Army forgets very fundamental lessons like thinking a battalion attack can succeed with barely anymore firepower than can be man packed or when people forgot that the best thing you can do on a ship at dock with an air threat is get the fuck off it. That’s unforgivable.

The rest frankly I think is normal for organisations. You learn. Then people change, the context changes, agendas and interests change and funding changes and all of a sudden you’ve got to make some choices. We look at Helmand now and we forget that the Helmand campaign we know started in 2008ish. Before that it was relatively different. There was never going to be an instant adaptation because the context didn’t instantly develop.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 5:49 pm

What troubles me is when the Army forgets fundamental lessons from campaigns that were less than a decade away. Combating the IED threat was essential to both Iraq and Afghanistan, so it is no different to not getting off a ship when there is an air threat.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 5:57 pm

Time I think is a false measurement. In 2002 we were scrabbling in the hills of Afghan as light infantry. In 2003 we were conducting a conventional war. In 1981 we were fighting the IRA and preparing to fight an armoured war yet we fought a war a year later with 4 CVRT recce vehicles.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 6:05 pm

I think time is very relevant, it’s more understandable if someone has to read memoirs and books about a campaign form 50 years ago to get an insight into what could be achieved in similar situations. But to forget, or fail to comprehend the similarities from campaigns that personnel within the armed forces would have first hand knowledge of is entirely different.

Mark
Mark
April 16, 2014 6:13 pm

Lessons learned reports are always written. The difficult lessons are always sorted with

Its different this time.

In NI the security forces made significant use of helicopters (much more so than afghan) to counter the ied threat, 3000 flights a month used bessbroke , but there was also a very significant number of security forces personnel who lived there and who new the ground they were operating over. Northern Ireland does not compare to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Observer
Observer
April 16, 2014 6:17 pm

I’m actually on Phil’s side in this DN. You’re point of view is too polarized. Black and white, either/or. The reality is that life is ever changing and chaotic.

You talk about IEDs and lessons learned, but even the “IED” evolves. You up armour, they add more. You V-hull, they use Explosive Formed Penetrators. You run around in armour, they use secondary devices. It is all evolving. No situation is “the same as the last”.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 6:24 pm

‘Northern Ireland does not compare to Iraq or Afghanistan’

Apart from the ECM equipment used in both Iraq and Afghanistan was from the Northern Ireland experience. This is the point I’m trying to make, we used knowledge and experience from a different operation in an entirely different part of the world to combat an emerging threat developing in another theater. You obviously have knowledge from NI, so how come we were slow in using current knowledge within the oragnisation to adapt to new threats.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 6:28 pm

@Observer

It is about retaining knowledge and experience, and building on that to combat emerging threats. If you believe that every situation cannot benefit from experiences gained on other operations then we are doomed to fail. Every trade in the world builds on experience and knowledge from the past and adapts it to new situations, even soldiering.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 7:00 pm

Why should short timespans increase the speed of adaptation? How does a shorter flash to bang time increase the speed of recognition that a situation is the same as a previous one? Memories being fresh actually means there are fresh constructions a good number of which might be at odds.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 7:06 pm

I don’t count that as forgetting a lesson. I count that as making a decision that the Army wouldn’t meet that threat again in that context.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 7:10 pm

The ECM kit wasn’t needed at the start though was it. Then it was needed in two places at once. The TTPs in Helmand were again different from NI. They were different from month to month as the threat changed and we adapted.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 16, 2014 7:12 pm

@TD

I deployed hot and sandy first in 2006 and then in 2010. The tjreat being briefed and taught during OPTAG was broadly similiar but the specifics had changed significantly. The materials, tactics, methods of detonation and disguise had evolved hugely.
It was and is a game of action and reaction. General lessons can undoubtedly be learnt and the Army suffers from not having a FOST equivelant to own and teach/train (torture :) ) units but they have undoubtedly learnt.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 7:25 pm

‘The ECM kit wasn’t needed at the start though was it’

No but as the IED threat evolved it was not a large leap into the unknown to see that it would be required as it was in Ireland. As others have stated it is a game of action and reaction.

Mark
Mark
April 16, 2014 8:24 pm

321 Eod Unit wrote the book on dealing with these things a remarkable group of people The experience was there don’t know if it was exploited.

Observer
Observer
April 16, 2014 8:27 pm

Methinks some people have been reading to much political speeches….

It’s easy to “view with alarm”, but frankly I see the complaints, and I really think they’re just people looking for problems. You complain about why C-IED equipment was not available “yesterday”, but the reality is that even if it was, it would still be useless to you as you have not hit the COIN stage of the campaign yet. Worst, a single MRAP would have taken the shipping of units that WOULD be immediately used at that point, like Warriors or CVR(T) on the ship there. Or food. Or men. Or stores to support them.

DN, look at what Phil and APATs have said. They were there, they were in the line of fire. They said “not a factor”. Should I take your word over theirs? Why?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 8:46 pm

Observer

I don’t think any one is arguing to put MRAP vehicles on the ships with the invasion forces to be capable of meeting all the threats, I understand that you would not use a MRAP style vehicle in an armoured maneuver conflict. Are we not talking about using past experience to help inform on decisions on how to meet emerging threats by trying to retain that knowledge within an organisation. Once the threat started to emerge in Iraq were we slow to react after already having experience that could have informed our decisions? We could have started to counter the IED threat within 6 months of it emerging with our past experience, the question is why were we slow to adapt?

I’m not asking you take my word over anyone’s I thought I was giving my opinion based on my own experience and debating my point of view, just as you do.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 8:48 pm

TD you’re being disingenuous by saying ‘ignored’. There’s a big difference between putting your fingers in your ears, and looking ahead and having to make decisions with a finite budget and a politicised view on what sort of operations one will or might (ie probably won’t) conduct.

I’m not apologising for the Army. As I have pointed out they have forgot some bread and butter basics over the years and men have paid with their lives for it. But the IED threat in Helmand and Iraq was of very different natures from NI over time. Yes kit was binned but a decision was made that that threat was unlikely to be met in that way again. I believe in Bosnia and Kosovo the drama was conventional land mines and it was in Helmand at the start of HERRICK 4.

Gun shields, again they are not universally useful. They weren’t ubiquitous in 1945 even after plenty of urban combat which I think is evidence for that statement. I’m not saying they are not useful, they clearly are in COIN type operations where you’re far more exposed.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 8:53 pm

A big difference and correct me if I am wrong is that in NI the IEDs could be dealt with in a very different manner. As in a joint police and army cordon and then some specially trained chaps got on with it. Clearly those specially trained chaps in Helmand benefited from that expertise gained the hard way but IEDs were far more ubiquitous and needed a wider spectrum of forces to diffuse in much more remote conditions under a bigger contact threat than faced in NI. Again the RESA boys didn’t walk into Helmand with a blank book.

Observer
Observer
April 16, 2014 9:47 pm

DN, you DID adapt. That was how the Vikings ended up there. No one could have expected them to be so fragile, that part was unanticipated, but that was an overestimation of the equipment, not a failure to respond. They just needed to be a *tad bit* larger.

And you got rid of the NI stuff for a good reason. You want to be paying maintenance for them for 30 years? Thought you had a tight budget?

Phil said it best.

“There was never going to be an instant adaptation because the context didn’t instantly develop.”

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 10:00 pm

Observer

Yes we did adapt, but fast enough with our prior experience? The Vikings were used in Afghan due to their mobility they were never deployed to Iraq.

‘And you got rid of the NI stuff for a good reason. You want to be paying maintenance for them for 30 years?’

Although we were paying to maintain Snatch Landrovers, which were NI stuff in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 16, 2014 10:10 pm

‘they were never deployed to Iraq’

I might be wrong there, they might have been used for the invasion.