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Corporals and sergeants take leading role in victo

#1
IAN BRUCE: With the Black Watch

IN many respects, it has been a corporal's war rather than a general's. Britain's action in southern Iraq has ended more with a whimper than a bang after a display of initiative delivered Basra, the country's second city, at the cost of only three British lives.

Faced with insurgents and militia rather than regular troops, it is the UK's junior NCOs who have taken most of the life-and-death decisions in combat. The valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the reputed birthplace of civilisation, was supposed to have been converted into the graveyard of Iraq's military elite, Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard divisions.

Instead, Baghdad's armies simply melted away in the south. Only scattered detachments of the 30,000-strong corps positioned to counter the British thrust from Kuwait offered resistance. Most simply abandoned their tanks and artillery, took off their uniforms, and went home.

The lightning campaign envisaged by the coalition a month ago unravelled within days of crossing the Iraqi frontier.

Instead of fast-moving armoured battles and mass enemy surrenders, allied troops found themselves facing a ghost army.

Geared up for hi-tech warfare, they were forced into counter-insurgency operations more akin to Northern Ireland than a 21st-century encounter.

While the regular Iraqi army had voted with its feet in the face of certain defeat, militiamen in civilian garb launched their own behind-the-lines campaign of ambush and sniper attacks.

Rather than set-piece battles, Britain's war became a series of skirmishes, raids, and small-unit actions. Most of the decisive confrontations involved relatively low numbers on both sides and seldom more than a 100-man company.

The hostile warren of al Zubayr, eight miles south of Basra and home to up to 300,000 people, was Iraq's Belfast. Narrow, nameless Arab souks and alleys substituted for the back-to-back red brick ghettos of Northern Ireland, but the tactics were the same. It was pursuit of a ruthless, faceless enemy on his own urban turf.

Even the enemy's weapons of choice proved to be the same. Like the IRA, Saddam's Fedayeen favoured the Kalashnikov assault rifle and the rocket-propelled grenade, the instruments of ambush and attrition.

With the exception of the strategic skill shown by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Riddell-Webster, the Black Watch battle group commander, who had an uncanny feel for time, ground, and opportunity, most of the key moments belonged to section leaders - the corporals and sergeants who are the true backbone of any army.

Colonel Riddell-Webster was the man who seized the moment to break the crust of enemy resistance outside Basra. He also had the foresight to plan ahead for the possibility that an organised defence would collapse and leave the city open for capture.

To that end, he concentrated the formidable striking power of his combined-arms battle group to exploit forwards should the chance arrive. It was a calculated gamble that paid off.

But the majority of the earlier fighting to break the back of hard-core militia at al Zubayr turned on the decisions of 20-something corporals leading nine or 10 men. To them fell the awesome responsibility for ensuring that civilian lives did not figure in the final casualty toll.

These young men led even younger men, the 18 and 19-year-olds who made up most of the Warrior fighting vehicle dismount teams. Their performance has been a credit to themselves and to the British Army's training and discipline.

The vast majority were in action for the first time, and they responded magnificently to the challenge, charging from the back doors of their steel vehicles into harm's way time and time again.

Most of the time it was dark and opponents could be picked out only by the muzzle flashes of their weapons and the terrifying flare of rocket-propelled grenades. Battle noise alone is a stunning sensory assault in its own right.

They settled down, returned fire as they had been taught, and watched their comrades' backs.

No commander could have asked more of veterans, far less novice warriors.


Discuss.......
 
#2
I think the above says it nicely!

Since the first days of the war I have been really impressed with the way that all of the Brits have been conducting themselves, from the official spokesmen right down to the Line Grunt. Particularly the junior commanders when bounced in the street by marauding journos, I would have been tempted as a young lad to say "get the feck out of my way" they seem able to give a quick summary of what's going on whilst still keeping a grip of the situation.

I'm also impressed with the way the troops on the ground have displayed the ability to switch from very aggressive fighting to calm peace keeping type behavior when called to do so. Many, many years of NI ops have shown the world that the British Army ( ok and the Marines!) really are a force to be reckoned with.

Well done lads. now get home safely.

Wiz
 

Ventress

LE
Moderator
#3
Its always been a know fact the SNCO and JNCO's run the shop, the Officers are like unpaid share holders-think they are in-charge but unfortunately I have some bad news for you all- YOU ARE NOT!
 
#4
;) Being in charge is not the same as actually doing everything. By your definition, the Chairman of a major public company such as Tesco has no real say in how a store manager runs things....I'd suggest that he does, but feels able to DELEGATE the responsibility.

We can go round the houses over this one but I'd suggest it's not worth it. At the end of the day, we all have our own part to play in "getting burned inside our tanks" or whatever the Iraqi Minister for Comedy has to say at his next press conference / Royal Variety performance.

Nuff said.

:) 8)
 
V

vespa

Guest
#5
goes to show the fact british army training in  section battle assault and FIBUA procedures has stood the test of time
 
#6
but when the new years honours list comes out, will it be proportional, ie, equal to the number of soldiers to officers?   Hang on, the Iraqi Information Minister has got something to say on this.... ;D ;D
 

Ventress

LE
Moderator
#7
;) Being in charge is not the same as actually doing everything. By your definition, the Chairman of a major public company such as Tesco has no real say in how a store manager runs things....I'd suggest that he does, but feels able to DELEGATE the responsibility.

We can go round the houses over this one but I'd suggest it's not worth it. At the end of the day, we all have our own part to play in "getting burned inside our tanks" or whatever the Iraqi Minister for Comedy has to say at his next press conference / Royal Variety performance.

Nuff said.

:) 8)
Strange you can compare a Corperate Manager with an Army Officer, the staff at Tescos aren't going to put a section attack into a building or whatever.

The shop floor of an Inf Coy is run by people, with lives in their hands. They do it to an exceptional standard.

I think the original quote is praising them, and they should be applauded not patronised.
 
#8
Q Man - I have no issue with the boys on the ground and heartily apologise to anyone who felt patronised by what I wrote.  

But I stand by my comments on the role of Officers vs OR's. We all have a part to play, although I cannot hope to comment with a straight face on Bullshit's post!
:-X ::)
 

Ventress

LE
Moderator
#9
 

But I stand by my comments on the role of Officers vs OR's. We all have a part to play, although I cannot hope to comment with a straight face on Bullshit's post! [/b] :-X ::)
He has made a point were as in every post-conflict medalfest- the Officers will come out with the spoils, even the loafers in Qatar will get their DSO's and MBE's, whilst the fighting men will get the campaign medal and a pat on the back.
 
#10
How is this any different to any other conflict, in any other era, in any other theatre?

NCO's have ALWAYS been the back bone of the army, and on the ground, have always taken the decisions. Sure, the Officers have said this is our area or whatever and we need to do this or that, but the NCO's have always been the ones who have led.

As an example, ask yourself, how many times has a lewy REALLY been in charge when you've been on the ground? It is always the sergeant or the corporal who has made the decisions, and most officers will do nothing without consulting their NCO's anyways, and always take the advice given, making it sound like their own decisions of course. I could give numerous and detailed examples, but we know what I mean. Certain officers are more like NCO's in the way they conduct themselves, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Hitler said, "Give me the British soldiers and nco's, led by German officers, and I will rule the world." Not a good example maybe, but for all he was a naughty boy, Hitler knew something about soldiering, lol. Napoleon had much the same sentiments, and the only Officer or commander he ever respected was Wellington.
 
#11
I know this is my first post, and in a rather sensitive issue, but I thought I'd just add my thoughts... If that's alright.  :-/
I think it all depends on two things.
1) What type of officer you are
2) How good an officer you are
In my experience (which isn't great compared to most of you), bad officers are the ones which just sit back and let the boys get on with it. "Duh!" I hear you cry, but there's a horrible fact that there are simply too many of these officers about. Newly commissioned Leiutenants who are quite happy to look pretty on parade and chat the girls up with the old, "I'm an officer you know" line, but when it comes down to actually lying down in the mud with the guys and getting their hands dirty, they're much more reluctant.
I think that's why it's fair to say that most decisions are made by the NCOs. I know the officers will be crying "Oh no, that's not fair!" but let's be honest... How many passed up going for a run with the boys because they didn't feel like it? Where I am, far too many!
But then, like I said, my experience is much more limited.
 
#12
Quote:Colonel Riddell-Webster was the man who seized the moment to break the crust of enemy resistance outside Basra. He also had the foresight to plan ahead for the possibility that an organised defence would collapse and leave the city open for capture. Unquote

Yes after the RM did all the hard work..........first in last out........and without all the BS publicity thank god.......The Corps God Bless em............

Chris....not bad for sailors and bandsman........again....heheh
 

Ventress

LE
Moderator
#13
Chris....not bad for sailors and bandsman........again....heheh
I doubt if there were many matelots or bandsmen assaulting Basra- just Marines. The afore-mentioned would be in the pi$$ in Barhain or Abu Dhabi!
 
#14
Ex marine - the RM were not in Az Zubayar. The Black Watch were.  Read the post again - key words are " outside Basra"

But very good job done by the RM in Umn Qasar and Basra - especially liked the door opening techniques!!!
 
#15
Every body did a good job...could not resist a small piss take out ourselves...we are always called bandsmen and sailors LOL

When meeting civ pop if you tell them you are RM they always ask what instrument do you play………..I do respect the RM band but this has led to much amusement amongst the Fighting Corps…………

We still refer to out rifle Coys as Fighting Coys

Chris
 
#16
Once read a quote somewhere (my memory betrays me) which I think sums this up:
"Its the soldiers and the NCO's who fight the war, the Officers are there to stop it turning into a lower class brawl."
And remember, the US Army dont get any real command responsiblity until they hit SSGT, and are usually led at section level by a lewy.
Well in lads, its because of people like the Black Watch, RM and all the others who are just quietly getting on with their job in S.Iraq, while the yanks are still getting on their high horse in Baghdad, that we are the best fighting force in the World, bar none.
 
#17
But very good job done by the RM in Umn Qasar and Basra - especially liked the door opening techniques!!!
Top job and a lasting image of the conflict. Good of the booty's to show the spams how it should be done.

All that whilst carrying a trombone ;D
 
#19
Speaking of impressive door opening techniques, does anyone have a link for it, stills or video? I want to use it in a ppt presentation called " the careful use of Tact"  ;)
 
#20
And remember, the US Army dont get any real command responsiblity until they hit SSGT, and are usually led at section level by a lewy.
That is because of the quality of training. A British Army officer spends 11 months at RMAS and then anything from 4-10 months in special-to-arm training (depending on cap badge) before being given their first command. In many cases those officers will have spent 3 years in an OTC before they get to RMAS, which adds to their overall level of experience. US officers come through 1 of 3 routes:

West Point (Acadamy): University education where they graduate with a degree and get a reasonable amount of officer training within that syllabus over a 4 year period and are commissioned at the end of it. The level of training is still no where near comparible with RMAS.

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC): Same as an OTC, but they spend 1 day a week in uniform on campus studying the admin side of the military which counts for academic credits in "Military Science". They do a 5 week boot camp in the summer break between years 1 and 2 and a number of training "camps" and training weekends, and at the end of their university course they are given the equivalent of a short-service commission in the regular army or a commission in the National Guard. If they took the sponsorship optoin where their school fees are paid they are obliged to join the regular army and are given the equivelent of an SSC which they can later apply to join the equivalent RegC list.

Officer Candidate School (OCS): Training centres for soldiers coming up through the ranks who have been identified as having "officer potential". It combines the concepts of an "RCB" and officer training. If you are here you are most likely a Cpl or Sgt in your mid-20s and done about 5 years in the ranks first.

Most US officers reach a decent standard of ability and experience at around O3 (Capt, Lt, Flt Lt equivalents), but it is that first 5-7 years or so as junior officers that they lag far behind their British counterparts.

That's really odd! The first line of this reads as utter jibberish when posted, but when I try and edit, the text appears as I wrote it ??? I can't get it to work so you'll have to work out that I mean a Brit offr spends longer in training in the first instance.

Woo
 

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