Saturday 17 April 2021

The Special Forces Fallacy

Michael Portillo wasn't the only politician to harbour misconceptions and delusions about the special forces.

Yes, there are certain missions for which only special forces are suitable.  Yes, they can sometimes achieve seeming miracles.  Yes, we'd be a lot the worse for not having highly capable units of this kind.  Yes, we Brits do it rather well.  And, yes, since 1989 the proportion has risen of whatever it is we expect to achieve with armed might, that will be assigned to such troops. 

But no, categorically no, you cannot have armed forces essentially comprised of nothing else, which is what the government appears to imagine, with plans for big reductions in army numbers and conversion of some of the remaining line infantry regiments to "Ranger" forces, with silly American "elite" connotations.  When everyone's special, then nobody is.

And there's a bigger, deep-running problem.  To man a single regiment of SAS, you need thousands of very good "ordinary" soldiers aspiring to join them, training hard to be able just to apply to join them, actually applying to join them - and then, mostly, failing.  To be able to have an elite with such high standards, you must first have a big enough pool of proven, pretty high-standard talent to draw upon.

I don't know what is the critical mass of soldiery to produce, by distillation, what we need by way of special forces.  But diminish the army far enough, and we won't have it.

Enough of random and destructive penny-pinching.   Read yer history**: sell or scrap yer bloody aircraft carriers (before the Chinese do it for you one sunny afternoon in Far Eastern waters): and rebuild & re-equip the forces to a balanced and realistic standard ... at critical mass.



** The Prince of Wales   ...   for pity's sake!


E-K said...

I've a mate who was a PTI at Lympstone. He couldn't get in the SBS. He said to do so you had to be unbreakable.

"These guys just do not seem to get the wear and tear injuries that the rest of us do."

To be a standard Royal Marine (a superb elite by any measure) just required bloody minded determination and a capacity to keep going but could be done with a very human body and stoppages in training and back squadding.

The SBS are "... a different *****ng species !"

Another friend also tried selection and they broke him mentally. He got through to the very final stages of selection and he (being short) was put at the front of a canoe carrying team and they kept putting him there so he not only bore the weight but had the thing butting him in the back of the head for hour after hour. He flipped and deselected himself with some fruity language. He an arctic warfare specialist, Falklands veteran and instructor !

Thus far we have been fortunate enough to have the numbers to draw from to increase the odds of finding these very odd people.

It beggars belief how hard special forces have to be and there is obviously some genetic advantage that they have. Which brings me to China...

The future is genetic modification as far as soldiering goes. We will see the high foreheaded Beserker mutants displayed on parade in Beijing in order to put the willies up the West but the real special forces will be small and wiry and in command of fleets of drones to assist them. A Sino Samurai class to rule the empire.

Genetic modification is the way the West will be forced to go too. Along with lasers (which I mentioned some while back and was was not an uninformed bit of information.)

PS, I do know that special forces don't do Man from Milk Tray moments and I was drunk and joking when I mentioned it a few posts back. It must have been annoying to you, sorry.

PPS, An excellent book on commando training is Going Commando by Mark Time (about Lympstone) and who ended up attached to the Intelligence Corps being an extremely bright man with a photographic memory.

PPPS, I have been training for a year to pass the PRMC tests and did so last week just before spraining my cruciate badly. I have done it under the guidance of the guys above. Not bad for a mid to late 50s !!! I have literally made myself vomit at times. I am utterly obsessed with the RM Commandos and what they put themselves through and this (just to get on a course) has only made my admiration greater for them.

John Miller said...

E-K is spot on. Ordinary folk have absolutely no idea what these blokes are like. I have been in the pub unknowingly in the company of a few of them and when I confessed later that Messrs X,Y and Z scared me a bit (they did not have to do a lot ) my mate gently explained why.

I would guess you might need a thousand erks from whom to get one special.

lilith said...

That Fitzroy McLean was quite a dude too...Hard for people to acquire that kind of life experience.

E-K said...

John - Mark Time mentioned in his book that he was one of the youngest ever to pass commando selection. He then went to see the Schwarzenneger film Commando and was refused entry on account of the fact that he was only 17.

He exclaimed to the ticket seller "But I AM a bloody commando !"

dearieme said...

"scrap yer bloody aircraft carriers": yes please: I'd rather the Chinese demonstrated their anti-ship missiles on the USN.

Mind you by "scrap" I'd mean something like "sell to India". India may yet fight a war at sea in the Indian Ocean or the Bay of Bengal when it won't face Chinese land-based anti-ship missiles.

Why the RN top brass have decided to send the bloody ships to the neighbourhood of Taiwan beats me - are they just dolts with absurd pretensions?

As I get older I realise that my rhetorical cry of "I could do a better job than that chump" has become a plausible claim.

Nick Drew said...

Kev - yes, the Marines are truly superb (the Paras are mostly beserkers)

Bill Quango MP said...

There has long been a historic discussion that the Uk has had too many special units. To the detriment of the whole.
Once the best of the rank and file had volunteered for the Commando and para, airforce, submarine, glider, desert special units. And the specialist skills sets taken for the armour, artillery, airforce, navy etc. And the Guards and cavalry elite take their quota, there isn’t very much to work with for a regular, front line unit, doing day to day to sharp end work.

A major complaint of bomber command, WW2, was it stripped the army of potential officers.
The truth of it is hard to know. But every Lancaster required two or three highly trained junior officers for a crew of seven.
A USAAF b-17 needed four or five for a crew of ten.

Nick Drew said...

In 1944 my father had been called up as aircrew (having done the Air Cadets & passed various exams) and fully expected to be Bomber Command cannon-fodder like his friends in the previous cohort

Then suddenly, he was switched to ... infantry! The army losses taking Caen - coming at the same time as clear & gratifying evidence of total air superiority - seemed to be the reason

E-K said...

Nick - I am actually more impressed with my REME Commando colleague. He is still an active reservist aged 39.

He tells me that (unlike the Royal Marines) he has to keep passing yearly tests or lose his green beret. He gets to keep his dagger patch but that would - he says - be embarrassing combined with the standard REME cap.

Nick Drew said...

One of my best service muckers, ex RM, is now living as a woman!

(let no yob take him for a defenceless granny in the street ...)

dearieme said...

"A major complaint of bomber command, WW2, was it stripped the army of potential officers."

In the First War the London Scottish Rifles lost more men to being commissioned for other forces than it lost in action.

MrMC said...

It is all irrelevant now, we have a few Twitters that pour scorn upon these abilities, those that know nothing abou the Japanese and their treatment of prisoners and what they did in Nanking, and those that fought agianst them.
I suspect there are precious few amongst the milennial generation that whilst getting ratarsed drunk this weekend, feel any connection with those who fought agianst real nazis while they are happty to use that label with impunity

MrMC said...

MrMC said...

Anonymous said...

I knew a very brave man who was on Repulse when sunk with P.O.W. Rescued and returned to Singapore then subsequently captured after being sunk again and then the rest of the war in a Jap labour camp.
'We went there to show them who was boss but they showed us.'

(His shipmates thought the P.O.W. a jinx ship after their spell together hunting the Bismark)

I think the aircraft carriers were planned as part of the EU navy, to sail in the Med and around Africa looking after France's colonies.

UK Column did an interesting bit recently on how the Yanks are pivoting Nato toward the far East and stupidly UK seems to be fully 'on board.'

MrMC said...

@ Nick Drew
I have a vivid memory of an ex serviceman who whilst "normally" gay would dress up as a woman on his birthday and go on a pub crawl with his partner. Everyone in the town recognised this and just left him to it, until a couple of young chaps decided to make comments, and my lasting memory was of him, rolling around in the gutter with one of them in a stranglehold beating him around the head with a size 10 stilleto shoe.

MrMC said...

Another memory that will linger was of a one legged friend, chucked out of the pub after a scuffle with the landlord, during the scuffle lost his wooden leg, and whilst dusting himself off in the street the landlord appeared at the door threw his prosthetic out the door and said the immortal words "and take your f@@cking leg with you"

Anonymous said...

E-K - "Which brings me to China...The future is genetic modification as far as soldiering goes."

Most of us were of the opinion, with all the genetic research going on at the Beijing Genomics Institute, that China would be in the van of genetic modification.

Unless this is "making smoke", maybe not.

"China’s new Criminal Code, which came into effect four weeks ago on March 1st, has a new section dedicated to ‘illegal medical practices’, which makes it a punishable crime to create gene-edited babies, human clones and animal-human chimeras.

The new section is an amendment to Article 336 of China’s Criminal Law, and officially outlaws “the implantation of genetically-edited or cloned human embryos into human or animal bodies, or the implantation of genetically edited or cloned animal embryos into human bodies,” — with penalties ranging from fines to seven years imprisonment.

Back in 2018 on November the 25th, Chinese biophysicist Dr He Jiankui announced that he had used gene-editing tool CRISPR to create the world’s first gene-edited babies. Dr He had modified the babies’ CCR5 gene — which the HIV virus uses as a pathway enter the cell. Through this CCR5 modification, the babies were made immune to HIV infection, and quite possibly had their cognitive capabilities enhanced."

E-K said...

Thanks Anon, but that genie's out of the bottle.

I suppose China still have the masses in their troop numbers to naturally generate super-soldier mutants. It is we who should be doing the genetic modifications then, seeing as we're cutting back the selection pool.

E-K said...

I didn't know they made stilletos in that size. Do you know where I can get a size 11 stilleto, perchance ?

MrMC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MrMC said...

I could not possibly comment on the result, even the police stood by and watched, but I will add that the shoe wss diamante which can score some long term wounds.

Anonymous said...

E-K - "I suppose China still have the masses in their troop numbers to naturally generate super-soldier mutants."

They chose tall teenagers from all over the country and selected the best for basketball training, then encouraged dating. Just like a farmer with his stock...

You can do that for pretty much any human trait.

E-K said...

So we need Ant Middleton to mate with a harem of farm girls ?

lilith said...

*investigates generously proportioned stilettos for a friend*

E-K said...

Ahem... for a friend. Yes.