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Observations from the Pointy-End


An interesting new blog. An operator type, an Iraq and Afghan vet,  quesopaper blogging from AfPakland on situational awareness and much later in the post, on leadership:

Running To Contact

….I thought we’d cover danger in Afghanistan again by examining, “When Insurgents attack.”

A quick aside…over the years one develops a sense for explosions. Some are “ours”…outgoing mortars, rounds from a gun or controlled detonations. We learn the sounds of different weapon systems. A helicopter followed by a high pitched drone and several whooshes is an Apache firing it’s main gun and rockets. Whomp Whomp Whomp  is an M60/M240. Ma duece says Bum Bum Bum. Artillery is LOUD and has a pointy sound when outgoing. Incoming is more spherical.

We also develop a sense of distance and direction for the booms…it’s all part of our survival mechanism. Another aspect is awareness of our surroundings. We constantly scan and consider what to do if we are attacked …where is the nearest bunker or where is the closest safest place?

This sounds frightening, but we all do this. Motorcycle riding is a good analog. When riding we have to be aware of spacing. Scanning for threats and escape routes saves a rider’s life.

The sound that puts me face first on the ground are mortars wobbling towards me. They make a unique sound that I can’t quite describe. Sort of of a frantic flutter…the closest sound I can come up with is the rattle of a door stop when accidentally brushed. Rockets and their vibrating engine sound are also unnerving. If you can hear them flying, they are too damned close…

Very relevant to past blog discussions of fingerspitzegehful and the OODA Loop – a good descriptive narrative, in fact, of OODA working correctly. Theory is not the interest of the quesopaper gent, but his firsthand observations of COIN in Afghanistan are intriguing, for those interested in military policy or theory. Ideas that are often great on a whiteboard or ppt slide but may not seem quite as great once they collide with reality.

Another post from quesopaper, in the vein of theoretical rubber meeting the practitioner road:

What do they Need?

….indulge me while I inject some confusion into our clarity regarding Afghans. This is a paraphrased version of a Benedictine Grima tale from her field work. If one desires knowledge about AfPak, particularly the female’s role, Ms Grima is THE source.

The tale….Two men travel to village 1. While there, they commit robbery and murder. These crimes are detected by local police. The police debate their response, and decide to chase the perpetrators.

They enter the criminal’s village (village 2) where locals set upon the police and kill them. These villagers for whatever reason don’t appreciate nor require police involvement in their affairs. Villages 1 and 2 are content to solve crimes of any type within their own system of justice. In response to the police incursion, village 2 blocks outside access to the road preventing further police/outsider interference. Up the road a bit, the next village (village 3) hears of this incident. The road blockage makes them fighting mad. A village 2 v. village 3 mini-war occurs; people die. Why? Village 3 needs that road to survive or, shoot-some other reason. We don’t and honestly; we can’t know.

The point isn’t “should we” or “shouldn’t we” be here; that’s a different blog…Fact is we are here.

So let’s do this…Let me take you to a village. You comment below on how we are going to help….maybe we’ll all learn something….

Read the rest here.

One Response to “Observations from the Pointy-End”

  1. Fred Leland Says:

    Very informative blog, just bookmarked it. Thanks for the link to my site as well. 

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