Contemporary Ops: Civilians on the Battlefield & Force Protection

NGOs, COB and Host-Nation Support (BLEW)

            The conflicts that we find ourselves in the today, present a number of challenges and obstacles that Jr. Officers must maneuver around in order to complete their mission.  As we have been told numerous times, the decision you make as a Jr. Officer has a greater significance on the big scheme of things,  then just on your immediate surroundings. The book phrases it nicely.

“By simple acts of kindness or ignorance, you can make local nationals, individuals, and groups either assets or liabilities.”

            Civilians, host nation personnel, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations are all factors that need to be considered in your planning process. If you consider these and possible scenarios in your planning process and implementing things like, cultural awareness and how to properly interact with other organizations, your primary mission can be the focus and unnecessary obstacles will disappear. Flexibility, Adaptability and Patience are a few things that a Jr. Officer should possess in order to successfully work with these types of organizations.

            The book lists a few noncombat military ops:

-processing and returning EPWs or displaced civilians

-Evacuation of Friendly Civilians

-Transfer of responsibilities to follow-on, peacekeeping, or host-nation forces

-restoring basic services, such as water, electricity, and health care.

What are some other scenarios or instances that, as a Jr. Officer, you may have to deal with?

How do your actions, as a Jr. Officer, affect your relationship with these organizations? How can it affect overall mission success (both positively and negatively)?

Force Protection – Bruce Archambault

p. 244 – “Force protection, the primary component [of protection], minimizes the effects of enemy firepower – including weapons of mass destruction (WMD), maneuver, and information.”

                If it seems like there are 101 things that must always be at the forefront of our minds as leaders of troops, it’s because there are, and one of those things is force protection.  Force protection covers a large number of things.  They range from using the right net to send sensitive and classified information over and knowing what can and can’t be said in correspondence to family and friends back home, to carrying a minimum amount of ammunition at all times when deployed to a combat zone, no matter where you are within theatre. 

                The COE that today’s Army finds itself is in a dynamic one in which we must constantly reassess the methods that our enemy is using to try and kill us.  They figure out what measures we use for force protection and then figure out ways to circumvent those measures.  Because of this, considering force protection can be likened to a planning process.  We have to make force protection policy decisions (though this actually happens well above our level), enforce those policies (this is more our job) and while doing that, see how the enemy responds.  Given how they respond, changes are made to policy and we implement them.

                When risks are assessed and risk control measures are developed, you create a FP plan.  Some things that must be taken into consideration are site, accommodations and defensive positions, TCPs, ACPs, personnel vulnerabilities, the situational awareness of you soldiers, sniper threats, security measures, coordination and evacuation.  A force protection policy must find balance between two things: it must not be too restrictive and at the same time it must not be too lax, as either can end up hurting your unit in one way or another.  A good unit should have a FP plan as part of its SOP.

                There are FPCONs, which apply to the threat level on a given day at a given location, ranging from FPCON A, which implies that a general threat of possible terrorist activity exists, to FPCON D, which applies when a terrorist attack has occurred or when intel suggests that a specific person or place is being targeted.

                No matter where U.S. service members are stationed there will always be risk of terrorist activity directed against us.  One of our first lines of defense is a sound FP plan, which should take many things into consideration, from current threat to what our capabilities to respond are.  A sound FP plan enforced by competent leaders will reduce unnecessary loss of life as well as equipment.

    • deathstroke13
    • February 21st, 2010

    I think one good point to add to the NGO, COB and host nation section would be that if you act towards these organizations in a positive way you will not only eliminate unnecessary obstacles but also possibly create more resources for yourself. I think this is especially true host nation who can provide support for leaders, storage and space as well as many other useful resources.

    • Porsche
    • February 22nd, 2010

    The book mentions how it is important to build relations with NGOs, IOs and other organizations the military may need to work with. If these organizations are hesitant to work with military forces, how can relations be built in time? Some operations may be spreak out covering many different missions, but when we need to work with an organization shortly after arriving for one of the first missions, relaitons will not be up. In this case, as the Jr. Officer, I think it would help to let the organization take control for as much as the mission will allow and to make sure your soldiers are complying and behaving themselves while still completing the mission.

    • Shake and bake
    • February 22nd, 2010

    Handling the local population seems to be one of the most difficult responsibilities of a Jr. officer. It seems that studying past behaviors is the best way to determine how to treat the local population. For example, children are generally harmless, but if they are communicating with others via hand held radios they are quite possibly a severe threat.

    • Rambler 1
    • February 22nd, 2010

    The current host nation of Iraq has U.S. forces leaving as of 31 DEC 2011. I wonder what the impact will be on NGOs and IOs that operate inside the country and how much support they receive from the military to carry out their humanitarian missions. Equally it was interesting to read how much host nation support we rely on to maintain our supply lines. It seems like this shift in doctrine happened sometime in the 1980’s.

    • Pork Soda
    • February 22nd, 2010

    My first thought is about the Kurdish black market gasoline vendors in Iraq, and the poppy farmers of Afghanistan. Both practices are underminding the authority of the governments in their respective countries. However, working to end these ventures would rob the locals of their livelihood, lend support to the insurgency, and compromise the overall chances of winning these conflicts. A very fine line to tread on.

    • Halo33
    • February 25th, 2010

    When handling situations with COBs and any other personnel while in country, yes it is good to have a good head on your shoulders, but one of the main assets to be used would be your PSG to rely on for his opinion on a tough situation. His opinion matters with combat experience and years of service. COBs can be used as intel or they could be false intel and another experienced persons opinion will help in this situation.

    • CDT Coco
    • March 4th, 2010

    It does not take much to make the locals happy. Simply giveing away some MRE’s (preferably when allowed), using your medic to check out the status of some of the sick or injured in a vilage, or by not blowing everything up in the direction of where some gunfire came from. Another thing I think would help is to truly listen to the locals with a sincere heart. When you say you will do something or even look into something, actually follow up on it so the locals see real results.

    • blazer
    • March 4th, 2010

    I worry how the stress of every COB could turn into an enemy. We are forced to look at everyone and worry if they are going to blow us up. This would be hard to fully trust the civians

    • creativerick
    • March 4th, 2010

    As Jr Officers, we must also find it our responsibility to be informed and up-to-date on the local happenings and culture. While it is important for everyone to be somewhat familiar, it’s our job strive to know as much as possible. Simple gestures that are okay in North America are not well accepted in the Middle East.

    As soldiers, we must also be able to separate the insurgency from the local populations. Many soldiers I know who have deployed hate all Iraqis, or people from the Middle East. There are soldiers who hate all Muslims. This is not the way to be, and does not represent the Army Values.

    • stewiegriffin519
    • April 7th, 2010

    In regards to force protection I think the best advice I’ve ever heard/read is this:

    1) Identify the dots – Use all possible intelligence to identify threats. Then think like the enemy. Look at what you, or your unit, have done to eliminate threats and then think about how to get around them.

    2) Connect the dots – Thinking like the enemy and outside the box can allow you to POSSIBLY see and prevent the future from happening. It has even been said that Sept11 could have possibly been prevented, but who knows

    3) Do your best to do your job and protect your people

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