Author Topic: Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)  (Read 192385 times)

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Offline Infanteer

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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #275 on: April 17, 2011, 03:19:36 »
I went through my gear with my NCOs and we tried to figure out what was "useless stuff" we were forced to carry.  To be honest, there really wasn't much useless stuff.

I went through my gear and I had:

- batteries
- ammo (not an excessive amount, either - 7 mags and a belt of 7.62 link or an M72)
- 1 frag and 3 smoke (Comd needs smoke)
- water
- emergency ration
- MBitr
- AN/PVS-14 MNVG
- Rifle
- First aid kit
- Lightweight blanket (found out the hard way to always have one)
- Map and small notebook for order, etc.

I was still extremely burdened on patrols.  My signaller, weapons guys and engineers had even more weight.  None of these guys were carrying useless gear.  For all the critics chanting "we are too burdened down", what do I get rid of - the batteries for the radio?  Water?  Support weapon ammo?

When we looked at it, we realized that there was no getting away from the weight - if you are going to reduce the soldier's load, you need to re-engineer the essentials, not eliminate them.  The three heaviest things for a soldier in Afghanistan are:

1.  Body armour - no doubt about it, this is by far the heaviest and most cumbersome piece.  This is a tough one, because there are political aspects to it as well (no commander wants to send a soldier home - and no government wants a casualty - who would have been alive with a kevlar insert somewhere).  Still, it is bulky, restrictive and fatiguing.  The single greatest improvement to reducing loads on soldiers is to develop new lighter protective technologies;

2.  Water - There is no getting around this one either.  Take a hot environment like Afghanistan and add body armour and you need lots of water.  Water is heavy.  Using local stuff is a serious risk, especially in the greenzones where the humans dump everything into the ground.  Reduce the armour load, reduce the water requirement.

3.  Batteries - Nothing like carrying a brick for a radio that is the same size as the ones carried into Normandy that was designed in the 70s, built in the 80s and fielded in the 90s.  MBITRs were generally as effective, if not more effective than 522s, but were in short supply.  As a result, soldiers carried big radios and big bulky batteries.
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Offline Sythen

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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #276 on: April 17, 2011, 07:14:53 »
The three heaviest things for a soldier in Afghanistan are:

1.  Body armour - no doubt about it, this is by far the heaviest and most cumbersome piece.  This is a tough one, because there are political aspects to it as well (no commander wants to send a soldier home - and no government wants a casualty - who would have been alive with a kevlar insert somewhere).  Still, it is bulky, restrictive and fatiguing.  The single greatest improvement to reducing loads on soldiers is to develop new lighter protective technologies;

2.  Water - There is no getting around this one either.  Take a hot environment like Afghanistan and add body armour and you need lots of water.  Water is heavy.  Using local stuff is a serious risk, especially in the greenzones where the humans dump everything into the ground.  Reduce the armour load, reduce the water requirement.

3.  Batteries - Nothing like carrying a brick for a radio that is the same size as the ones carried into Normandy that was designed in the 70s, built in the 80s and fielded in the 90s.  MBITRs were generally as effective, if not more effective than 522s, but were in short supply.  As a result, soldiers carried big radios and big bulky batteries.

Need to add PCM to this list. I carried it for the second half on my tour basically, and it sucks. Not only is it more heavy than a radio, it generates heat like no tomorrow. Plus, someone else needs to carry spare batteries (10lbs each).. And don't even get me started on the manpack it has to be carried in.. Thing was a nightmare to get comfortable..

Edit to add: Also, while carrying the PCM, you can't carry your own backpack so everyone else is stuck carrying your water as well as the extra ammo you would normally carry. Best I was able to do was strap a camel back to the top, cause anywhere else and it will block the exhaust fans causing it to melt the bladder.. (seen it happen twice)

I disagree with you about the flak vest. I didn't find it that bad. Might just be me, but I never really heard anyone complain about it either and we had days when we patrolled for upwards of 14 hours in the summer.. The issued tac vests are where my biggest complaint was, and due to a gong show before tour everyone put off getting one of their own.. So I did my first month with that thing.. Try carrying 8 mags and 8 M203 rounds in that thing.. Its just foolish.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2011, 12:57:58 by Sythen »
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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #277 on: April 17, 2011, 11:52:01 »
3.  Batteries - Nothing like carrying a brick for a radio that is the same size as the ones carried into Normandy that was designed in the 70s, built in the 80s and fielded in the 90s.  MBITRs were generally as effective, if not more effective than 522s, but were in short supply.  As a result, soldiers carried big radios and big bulky batteries.

I think this is one area we can get the most effective and quickest change, as there are lighter/longer lasting batteries out there. I hope you guys at least had the lithium batteries if you were using 177F or 522, probably about 1/3 the weight and last far longer in higher temps. I can't imagine having to carry a 522 with 6x BB-390 (newer, heavier batteries) and then start handing out more batteries to guys in a section who are already carrying ammo/water.

Offline Infanteer

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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #278 on: April 17, 2011, 12:11:42 »
Need to add PCM to this list. I carried it for the second half on my tour basically, and it sucks. Not only is it more heavy than a radio, it generates heat like no tomorrow. Plus, someone else needs to carry spare batteries (10lbs each).. And don't even get me started on the manpack it has to be carried in.. Thing was a nightmare to get comfortable.

That was to me a Comd's decision - I only took it out if we were deliberately seeking a suspected or known IED.  Other than that, it was too much to take for just 1-2 men to have coverage.

Quote
I disagree with you about the flak vest. I didn't find it that bad. Might just be me, but I never really heard anyone complain about it either and we had days when we patrolled for upwards of 14 hours in the summer.. The issued tac vests are where my biggest complaint was, and due to a gong show before tour everyone put off getting one of their own.. So I did my first month with that thing.. Try carrying 8 mags and 8 M203 rounds in that thing.. Its just foolish.

Well, I didn't hear anyone say it was light.  It is the single heaviest piece of equipment we carry.  If you cut the 30+ pounds down by 10-15 with new technology, you are making significant weight gains.

As for the tacvest, none of my soldiers wore it.
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Offline Sythen

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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #279 on: April 17, 2011, 13:06:22 »
That was to me a Comd's decision - I only took it out if we were deliberately seeking a suspected or known IED.  Other than that, it was too much to take for just 1-2 men to have coverage.

Unfortunately, the area we were in had an extremely high concentration of IED's. We found/were hit by too many not to bring it every time, so its sort of a ground dictates on this one I guess.. Regardless, talking about improved technology some of the guys were saying the Brits and Americans had a much smaller version that weighed like 5lbs.. They just had more of them like one per fire team.. Would've been nice!

On a slightly different note than combat loads, one thing our section commander had us start doing was bringing a ladder with us on patrols.. It made traversing grape rows so much easier, and in urban settings we could put a fire team on a roof, or avoid the main paths completely. We only stopped carrying it because the ANA and AUP were worried we would use it to watch some women in the compounds.. But until then it was weight I didn't mind carrying at all cause in the long run it saved so much energy and effort.
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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #280 on: April 17, 2011, 13:56:00 »
Well, I didn't hear anyone say it was light.  It is the single heaviest piece of equipment we carry.  If you cut the 30+ pounds down by 10-15 with new technology, you are making significant weight gains.

I didn't find the body armour(minus attachments) to bad, but lighter is alwasy better, especially when conducting dismounted patrols.  I never wore the body armour with the attachments so I can't comment on how it is with the neck and gauntlets added.   Seems the order of the day over there(going by pictures) is add on all the protection you can and accept limiting your speed/mobility.  IMO we shoudl go with what the US Army and Marines have with their scalable plate carriers.  Plate Carriers for pers conducting dismounted ops and the body armour with attachments as needed for mounted pers, or at the very least not make the wearing of the neck and arm gaunlets manditory or leave it to commanders discretion.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2011, 14:05:34 by -Skeletor- »

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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #281 on: April 17, 2011, 21:13:42 »
I came across an interesting product called Dyneema. It is less weight than steel inserts and capable of stoping AK47 rounds.

http://dyneemamatters.com/inserts?category_id=36

Offline Illegio

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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #282 on: April 18, 2011, 10:53:41 »
Dyneema, or Spectra as it also known, has been around for quite some time already. The issue, as I understand it, is that it is laminated in sheets to form body armour, and those laminated sheets have a tendency to break down when exposed to high and/or fluctuating temperatures. As you can imagine, this is something of an issue in Afghanistan.
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Re: Lessons for the Infantry in Afghanistan
« Reply #283 on: April 18, 2011, 11:43:02 »
I went thru several different armor configurations while in Afghan and Iraq.
Protech LIV

Heavy but nice triple curved plate

Dyneema

Light, but does not stop M855/C77 inside 25m -- or 7.62x54R APIT, also not triple curved so not as 'form fitting' awkward to shoot pistol with.
Major delamination issue after 5 months of combined usage (Iraq and Afghan)

Dragon Skin (shudder)

 Heavy, but form fitting, disk migration major issue
 

ESAPI LIV


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Re: Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)
« Reply #284 on: June 01, 2017, 16:47:47 »
Bumping with a recent ATIP release of a redacted lessons learned report - political scientist commentary below:
Quote
Several years ago, I had heard in various bars in the Byward Market that the Canadian government under Stephen Harper had engaged in a serious Lessons Learned exercise about Afghanistan.  I heard that the document was buried (I used the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark to illustrate).  I tried an Access to Information Request in January of 2013, but got rejected because the document was viewed as "advice to cabinet" and containing sensitive information about Canada's allies.  I thought this was hogwash, so I appealed.  I got the document just before my recent trip to Brazil (here it is),* so I didn't have time to process it.

    * I was so enthused that I wrote all over my one copy of the document, sorry.  Had I realized that I would be posting it, I would have copied it and then written on the copy.  My bad.


Although I have other stuff I need to do, I got inspired by the new discussion about Canada returning to Afghanistan (unlikely), so I will review the document here.  You will probably be as underwhelmed as I was.  The good news is that my book remains alone as a real effort to learn lessons about the Canadian mission.

The document is only ten pages, which means that it is only a shallow cut at best, and the first two or three pages are intro and context, not lessons.  Thus, there really is little text for such a complicated mission.  So, I will go through the document below... it shouldn't take too long.

The intro is fine--500 interviews from participants across government and across all levels is swell.  If this is the only document out of that work, then lots and lots of stuff was left behind, alas.  The Manley Report gets a heap of notice on the second page and rightfully so.  It produced a "Transformational Agenda" which, I would suggest, is a bit much.  Yes, stuff got better but it did not transform the bureaucratic politics that determined how the mission was conducted before 2008 and how much of it was conducted after 2008.  This reads too much like cheerleading and not enough like lesson learning.

The first lesson--the need for strategic assessment and direction.  Absolutely and one reason why any advocacy of Canada returning to Afghanistan should hesitate unless they have a clear strategy based on the real challenges. This leads into more back-patting--arguing that the establishment of the six priorities became everyone's priorities.  Well, everyone but the military's (who were focused on counterinsurgency, which was not one of the six priorities) and CIDA's (reluctant all the way along).  The document does acknowledge "inconsistencies between Canadian objectives and those at the international level." The Six Priorities were good as a checklist for telling Canada what was being accomplished so that Canada could leave (they were an exit strategy), but how did they fit into winning the war?  The language here does recognize that the CF were more focused on the combat mission, suggesting how the civ and mil were not on the same page.
This section has a key lesson:
"A single, overarching strategy that integrates respective national involvement with that of the international mission would be ideal for ultimate coordination."  Yeah, multilateral warfare is hard and multilateral COIN is really hard.  The recommendation that follows from this is pretty vague and leads to this conclusion:
"To the extent possible. such assessment and direction should also preface the
operationalization of any engagement and be aligned with a framework of principles and
objectives agreed upon by the international community and the host country."
This is striking--that implicitly, this still puts the aim of the larger effort--the host and the international community second.  To the extent possible?  Hmmm.  This should be the starting point--how Canada helps the effort reach its goals.  But I get the political dynamics--that it is about Canadian interests first, but it is hard to see how Canadian interests are served well when the mission is not tied very firmly to the larger endeavor. In the case of Kandahar, the civilian effort--the six priorities--focused Canada but were mostly detached from winning the war, especially as things evolved.

The second section focuses on cross-organization integration--the whole of government stuff.  The key lessons here were the creation of a cabinet committee and task force in PCO and the RoCK.  The former is heralded as providing much coordination, which it did as long as the Prime Minister cared about the mission and lended his heft to the person running the task force (David Mulroney at first).  Ok, that last part was my addition.  The RoCK or Representative of Canada in Kandahar is lauded as improving interagency command and control (my caveat: depending on how the Rock and the CAF commander got along--not all got along great--personalities/relationships matter).  Seniority of the appointments is mentioned, but I don't think the RoCKs were all very senior DFAIT (GAC) officials.   I do think the RoCK idea is important and is something that should be applied in future efforts.

The Interagency planning section has a big problem: DFAIT/the Task Force made its plan in 2008--which schools would be built, etc, and then was done planning. The military kept on planning as it kept on adapting to changing circumstances.  The report admits that  "there were conflicting understandings of how the civilian-military actors in the field ought to interoperate in order to achieve the goals, including who had what roles and responsibilities".  The report goes in to argue that there was success in reaching common understandings at the Provincial Reconstruction Team level in Kandahar.  From all that I heard and learned, I'd agree that the PRT did amazing work to get everyone on the same page.  But that was usually despite the conflicting priorities and decision-processes of the key actors back in Ottawa.

The report goes on to address cultural differences among the key Canadian organizations that were managed via co-location (those living together in Kandahar learned how the other folks thought) and pre-deployment training.  Absolutely, but the civilians tended to be late to the pre-deployment training since the civilian organizations don't have spare capacity to have people be gone for extended training periods. So, the document calls for a civilian deployment capability, which makes much sense but is unlikely given recent budgets.

The report then addresses a big challenge: risk management. How to deploy civilians in a dangerous spot?  Protection for the civilians meant less soldiers doing the work that the military valued. The report notes that this meant that the RoCK was not the face of the mission--the commander was. The key lesson here: some force needs to be deployed that is dedicated to protecting the civilians, so that the civilians are not stuck behind the wire when the military is focused on other priorities.

A paragraph on the international side is redacted.

The next section focuses on delegation--that CIDA sucked at giving their folks in the field authority to make decisions, which might have led to more adaptation as things changed.  Ok, that's how I put it, but that is what this part is talking about.

Performance management: how to assess effectiveness.  The report then says how wonderful the six priorities were in providing a common approach.  I am not a fan, as it tied the entire mission to goalposts set in 2008 and thus could not address changes in the battlefield, in the war, and perhaps made adaptation difficult, if not impossible.  Oh, and the reports based on the six priorities were perhaps a smidge overly sunny.  Read the stuff on the prisons, for instance and then remember there were two prison breaks, including one right after an especially sunny report.  Sure, folks can say that the priority of that effort was to make sure there was not abuse in the prisons, but given that the first job of a prison is to keep people inside the prison, some reflection here might have been appropriate.  That we didn't notice that the folks we were training to not beat the detainees might have been suborned by the Taliban.

And also, of course, not much COIN in the reports.  The lessons here, instead of addressing the need for flexibility and adaptation, focuses on the need to come up with measures (quant and qual).  Perhaps less frequent reporting (hallejuah most folks down range would say, I am sure), the report advocates.  Again, entirely absent from this paragraph on performance management is anything about winning the war.  Oops.  No real cautions here about the problem of measuring inputs or counting outputs and missing outcomes (which is the thing that really needs to be measured).

The last section addresses "engagement strategy": explaining the mission to Canadians and to the rest of the world.  The report notes that CF casualties and the detainee story dominated the coverage.  The report can't blame Harper for hiding from the mission after 2008, nor that the Conservatives may not have minded the focus on detainees--it allowed them to call Jack Layton Taliban Jack for caring about their human rights.  The media was, of course, focused on the exciting stuff of battles and bloodshed, but with the civvies in the field having their talking points written in Ottawa, of course, the press would spend more effort talking to the soldiers.  They had more interesting stories to tell not just because they involved combat but because they were unfiltered.  Oh, and some of this is alliance-based.  NATO was slow at taking video and getting approval from the members and putting it online.  The Taliban's approval process took much less time.

The report concludes with a few key sets of lessons based on what I summarized above.  My immediate reaction: meh.  Yes, we need to reduce cultural barriers between agencies, but waiting for a crisis is too late.  I would suggest that the Canadian government learns from the reforms in the US military in the mid-1980s--to get promoted in the US military now beyond Colonel, one needs time at a joint job, working with those in other branches of the military.  It would make sense that the future Director Generals of the various agencies have spent some time working in other agencies--senior DND officials should do time in GAC or Public Safety and vice versa.

Two last notes (you can see what I scribbled on the document):

    Don't lowball.  Each democracy entered Afghanistan trying to commit as little as possible and all ended up increasing significantly.  Had they started out with what they finished with, the mission might have been more successful.
    Think about winning.  This was and is a war.  What does it take to win?  The words "win" or "war" are never used in this document.  What does that say?

I, of course, have other lessons, but you will have to read Adapting in the Dust for those.
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Offline jollyjacktar

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Re: Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)
« Reply #285 on: June 01, 2017, 20:12:13 »
My lesson learned, don't get sucked into going back.
I'm just like the CAF, I seem to have retention issues.

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Re: Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)
« Reply #286 on: June 01, 2017, 21:02:35 »
My lesson learned, don't get sucked into going back.

Brilliant  :salute:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEgqIY7xgtE
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Re: Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)
« Reply #287 on: June 01, 2017, 21:16:42 »
Brilliant  :salute:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEgqIY7xgtE

That said so much of my mindset back then.  Take a bow daft. :bowing:
I'm just like the CAF, I seem to have retention issues.

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Re: Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)
« Reply #288 on: June 02, 2017, 00:11:36 »
That said so much of my mindset back then.  Take a bow daft. :bowing:

Pretty much covers it for a lot of us at various times!
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Re: Afghanistan: Lessons Learned (merged)
« Reply #289 on: June 02, 2017, 06:01:56 »
My lesson learned, don't get sucked into going back.
:nod:
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