Archive for the ‘Profession of Arms’ Category

US Coast Guard Creates New Armed Deployable Forces Officer Specialty

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Early this month, the United States Coast Guard announced the creation of a new sub-specialty for officers who will serve in the Armed Deployable Specialized Force and lead Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET), or Maritime Security Response Teams (MSRT). These officers will oversee and conduct tactical operations, CBRNE detection/identification, advanced planning, fast rope operations, hook & climb operations, deployable boat operations, and multi-vehicle operations.

The All Coast Guard Officer message is below.


04 OCT 17
ALCGOFF 135/17
A. Coast Guard Officer Specialty Management System Manual, COMDTINST M5300.3
1. Per Ref A, COMDT (CG-721) created an OSC for the Armed Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF).
Officers serving in this sub-specialty oversee and conduct tactical operations, CBRNE
detection/identification, advanced planning, fast rope operations, hook & climb operations, deployable
boat operations, and multi-vehicle operations. These capabilities are conducted exclusively in the DSF. The
sub-specialty will codify the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) expected of officers in the DSF.
2. The new OSC establishes standards which contain standards, qualifications, experience, and training
necessary to proceed through the Armed Deployable Specialized Forces competency. There are three
routes to demonstrate proficiency – Competencies, Education, or Certification.
a. Apprentice: This level requires the basic qualifications, training, and experience that junior officers are
expected to achieve during their first assignment to a Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST),
Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET), or Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT).
b. Journeyman: This level requires that officers complete a successful operational or staff assignment
within designated response ashore billets.
c. Master: This level requires that officers complete a successful operational or staff assignment within
designated O5/O6 response ashore billets.
3. All officers who meet the requirements for their unit type are invited to apply for OAR-17. Any waivers
may be requested from CG-721.
4. The CG-OAR17 OSC is available via CG Portal, PSC-opm-3 Webpage:
5. PSC-opm-3 POC: Mr. Brandon Chittum,
6. CAPT Chris J. Glander, PSC-OPM, sends.
7. Internet release is authorized.

US Army Releases FM 3-0 Operations, Just In Time For AUSA

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

It’s Saturday night, how about you curl up with a book?



The Baldwin Articles – Leadership and Volunteers vs Conscripts

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

I have a lot of Vietnam era Special Forces (SF) friends. Their generation trained and mentored me and I owe them all a great deal both professionally and personally. They all volunteered to be SF eventually but many were initially drafted into the Army. I will be at Fort Campbell later this month for a couple of days during the 5th Group reunion and I look forward to seeing a good number of them there. I likewise intend to interact with as many of the current members of the Group still in the fight as possible. I also have a Nephew who just signed up for the Ranger Regiment option who will be starting Infantry OSUT at Fort Benning next month. I immediately recommended that he read Starship Troopers. In that classic book, Heinlein was able to capture the quintessential rationale for voluntary military service and martial civic virtue. After reading the book he solicited my opinion on conscription vs volunteerism. Coincidentally, the U.S. Army in Vietnam specifically had been something that I had spent considerable time on in my most recent Military History seminar. I am not a veteran of that war but with complete respect for my friends that served there I offer this as my professional answer to my Nephew’s question.

Despite an almost unbroken string of tactical victories, the war in Vietnam obviously did not end successfully from our perspective. And today, despite a similar impressive series of tactical victories, the final outcome of GWOT is still very much in doubt. But that does not have anything to do with who did or did not serve or fight those battles. The U.S. Military has used a number of methods to fill the ranks in peace and war. A small “professional” volunteer army supplemented by mobilized volunteer militia forces and short-term recruits was the standard for most of our history. More formalized systems of conscription were established and routinely used from the Civil War onward but only during times of conflict until after WWII. But the fact is that the country has always struggled historically to get enough manpower to meet wartime needs. So conscription was inevitably used in every war in our history until quite recently. And just as inevitably that draft was hated and in as much as possible shirked by those that could. Up to and including the Vietnam War.

Hal Moore
*The picture is from the book We Were soldiers Once…and Young of then LTC Hal Moore and SGM Basil Plumley. It was taken shortly after their battalion returned to base camp after the fight in the Ia Drang Valley at LZ X-Ray, November 1965. These are the kind of men I think of when I talk with appropriate reverence about long-service volunteer Regulars.

The key to the institutional continuity and ultimately the battlefield success or failure of the Army has always traditionally been the long-service volunteer “Regular.” During the period of 1865-1898 those stalwart and unsung heroes – volunteers all – kept the professional faith during a time of not-so-benign public neglect. Again in 1920-1940 another generation did the same thing for a nation that was not as appreciative of the sacrifices involved as it perhaps should have been. WWII was a watershed and unique event for volunteerism and conscription in U.S. history. It was a “good war” and millions volunteered to serve throughout the conflict. The government generally used the selective service system as a means to meter the flow of manpower into the training bases of the individual services. The system was for once not seen as coercive or onerous and was accepted as a wartime necessity. However, the peacetime draft after WWII was only grudging accepted and was increasingly seen as unfair even long before Vietnam heated up.

American military history provides plenty of evidence that introducing untrained or poorly trained troops onto the battlefield is always ill advised. It does not matter if these inadequately prepared novices are volunteers, conscripts or mobilized militia. In most cases in WWII the recruits, regardless of how they were assessed into service, were formed into units after initial training and had the opportunity to develop at least some critical unit cohesion prior to deploying overseas. The fairly typical story of the “Band of Brothers” that Steven Ambrose wrote of is one good example. Those soldiers had been training together for two years with the same small unit leaders before they jumped into Normandy in 1944. Because of that pre-established unit cohesion they were also able to successfully integrate the individual replacements that came later and collectively endure the hardships of Bastogne.

Combat is not an individual sport! Army leadership manuals for decades have highlighted the fact that soldiers perform better and are more prepared psychologically if they have had the chance to bond with their teammates and their leaders before facing their first battle. It is safe to argue that unit cohesion and teambuilding are immensely more important than whether the soldier was originally a volunteer or conscript. Historically, Vietnam was the first and probably the last and only truly “long war” that we as a nation have fought with conscripts. But at the start of the war that was not the significant problem that it would be by the end. When Hal Moore deployed his battalion – as a unit – to Vietnam in 1965 they had been training together for months much like the units of WWII. The men trusted their leaders and the leaders knew and trusted their men. Unit cohesion had been established stateside and individually and collectively Moore’s unit displayed and maintained the highest level of professional acumen throughout their combat tour.

It is clearly evident in hindsight that the Army in particular struggled in Vietnam not just because of conscription itself but also because of a number of other inter-related and truly counter-productive personnel management policy decisions. First, the Army established a totally individual replacement model in country. Units remained in place on paper but were continuously receiving new personnel including leaders. In the course of twelve months the turnover would be close to 100%. In other words the units were continuously taking 8-10% “casualties” every month before they even encountered the enemy. These new replacements would literally join their units in the field and be in combat essentially with strangers sometimes within hours. It should be no surprise that unit cohesion began to degrade more and more over time and minimum professional standards and even basic discipline declined even more precipitously.

That methodology meant an even more dysfunctional transition for leaders. New lieutenants and captains might not even have a chance to learn their NCOs names and faces before they were expected to lead those men in a firefight. Trust and confidence between leaders and led suffered from this lack of opportunity to at least attain some level of professional familiarity ahead of time. The Army also began to rely more and more on “shake and bake” NCOs that were hastily trained and promoted but did not have the requisite experience to be truly effective small unit leaders. The traditional glue that holds units together in combat, those long-service Regulars, became more and more rare as the war dragged on. To make matters worse, the Army decided to have a 6-month rotation policy for officers. After half a year in the field the officers would be moved to a staff position on one of the relatively safer bases. This policy served to widen the distrust between the officers and the men and helped to further damage the already shaky cohesion of many American units.

The result was an Army that came out of Vietnam stigmatized with rampant drug use, alcoholism, indiscipline and racial violence. That is the battered but not beaten Army I joined in 1975. The Army’s own personnel policies in conjunction with what was perceived as a coercive and unjust draft had exacerbated rather than ameliorated all of those predictable internal cultural problems. Had the same misguided policies been applied to a volunteer army at war the outcome might not have been much different. Fortunately the Army does sometimes learn from its mistakes. The individual replacement concept for combat was completely discredited and is no longer used. Unit deployments including combat rotations have become the norm in any locations where the Army is not permanently stationed like Germany or Korea. The GWOT has likewise been a long war and it has no doubt strained and bruised the volunteer U.S. military. But because of the kinds of personnel management reforms mentioned above it has NOT had the same debilitating effect on unit cohesion and combat effectiveness that the war in Vietnam had on that Army.

Moreover, it is unlikely that we will use large scale conscription again to fill the ranks any time in the foreseeable future. For one thing the realistic requirements of the services are actually quite small as compared to the eligible cohort of the population available. We just do not need the masses of soldiers in the information age that we did in the industrial age. That means that any draft – no matter how fairly administered – would by necessity be limited and therefore inequitable in practice. From the military’s point of view – if a draft became necessary again – we would always want the “best and brightest” possible. But that too would be unfair because no matter how they were selected the draftees would be shouldering the entire burden of service and the majority of the population would be effectively exempt. As a side note, there is still some professional discussion of the possibility of a “targeted draft” for certain specialized skills that might not be inclined to enlist voluntarily – computer hackers for example.

Finally, as a practical matter a 2-year enlistment – whether draft or volunteer – is no longer viable. It takes a year or more to prepare even entry level personnel for the (relatively) lowest tech military jobs available today. The Air Force actually learned this lesson right after WWII and paid bonuses and improved quality of life specifically to keep maintainers and pilots in service as long as possible to recoup the significant initial training investment. The Strategic Air Command (SAC) would not have been able to keep their nuclear bombers ready to fly at a moment’s notice without that professional continuity. The Navy did the same with their nuclear ship programs. Short term personnel with the resulting high turnover tempo were not suitable for keeping nuclear missile subs or aircraft carriers and air wings at a constant high state of readiness and continuous deployment. Even as early as Vietnam the ground combat services were beginning to recognize the need for longer term recruits. If the draft had not ended I suspect the services would still have gone back to Congress and asked to extend the term of service for draftees from 2 to 3 and perhaps even 4 years. When I enlisted, 3 years was the shortest option offered – and that was for infantry! For more technical fields the minimum was 4 years. Bottom line, a recruitment program that relies on volunteers is more suitable to fill and sustain the military’s modern manpower needs. For now it appears that sufficient numbers of those essential long-service volunteer Regulars are choosing to stay in. And despite all the other challenges, that bodes well for the future of the Army, the other services and our Nation.

Global Guerillas Is Hosting The Entire Run Of William S Lind’s ‘On War’ Columns

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

If you are a member of the Profession of Arms, then William S Lind’s writings on Fourth Generation Warfare are required reading.

Global Guerillas is now hosting the entire run of ‘On War’ as well as Lind’s other writings at their website. I encourage you to check it out, along with Global Guerillas’ other assets.

Right! Sergeant Major, Marchin’ Up and Down the Square

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

One of my favorites.

SERGEANT MAJOR: Don’t stand there gawping like you’ve never seen the Hand of God before! Now, today, we’re going to do marching up and down the square! That is, unless any of you got anything better to do. Well?! Anyone got anything they’d rather be doing than marching up and down the square?! Yes?! Atkinson. What would you… rather be doing, Atkinson?

ATKINSON: Well, to be quite honest, Sarge, I’d… rather be at home with the wife and kids.

SERGEANT MAJOR: Would you, now?!

ATKINSON: Yes, Sarge.

SERGEANT MAJOR: Right! Off you go! Now, everybody else happy with my little plan… of marching up and down the square a bit?

COLES: Sarge!


COLES: I’ve got a book I’d quite like to read.

SERGEANT MAJOR: Right! You go read your book, then! Now! Everybody else… quite content to join in… with my little scheme of marching up and down the square?!

WYCLIF: Sarge?

SERGEANT MAJOR: Yes, Wyclif?! What is it?!

WYCLIF: Well, I’m, uh, learning the piano.

SERGEANT MAJOR: Learning the piano?!

WYCLIF: Yes, Sarge.

SERGEANT MAJOR: And I suppose you want to go and practice, eh? Marching up and down the square not good enough for you, eh?!

WYCLIF: Well,–

SERGEANT MAJOR: Right! Off you go!


SERGEANT MAJOR: Now! What about the rest of you? Rather be at the pictures, I suppose.

SQUAD: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Ooh, yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Right.

SERGEANT MAJOR: All right! Off you go!

SQUAD: Oh. Ooh. Great. That’s great. What a day. I want to see the Merle Oberon picture. Eh hehheh.

SERGEANT MAJOR: Bloody army! I don’t know what it’s coming to. Right! Sergeant Major, marching up and down the square. Left, right, left. Left…

NARRATOR #1: Democracy and humanitarianism have always been trademarks of the British Army…


NARRATOR #1: Shh! …And have stamped its triumph throughout history, in the furthest-flung corners of the Empire,…
…but, no matter where or when there was fighting to be done,…
[patriotic music]
…it has always been the calm leadership of the Officer class that has made the British Army what it is.

Two Armies

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Are we there yet?

“I’d like to have two armies: one for display with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, staffs, distinguished and doddering Generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their General’s bowel movements or their Colonel’s piles, an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country. The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage uniforms, who would not be put on display, but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That’s the army in which I should like to fight.”

-Jean Lartéguy

USSOCOM Commander’s Reading List 2017

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Leadership in Complexity
Washington’s Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer (2006)

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by L. David Marquet (2013)

Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated, by Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman (2014)

Adapting to Uncertainty
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2014)

Learning from the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease, by Rafe Sagarin (2012)

Disruptive Technology
Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, P.W. Singer and August Cole (2016)

3D Printing Will Rock the World, by John Hornick (2015)

The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries, by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan (2015)

Perspectives and Emergence
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World, by Tim Marshall (2016)

Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, by Peter Pomerantsev (2015)

Putinism: Russia and Its Future with the West, by Walter Laqueur (2015)

The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, by Michael Pillsbury (2016)

The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, by Deborah Brautigam (2011)

A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, by Michael Axworthy (2016)

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick (2010)

Special Operations from a Small State Perspective: Future Security Challenges, New Security Challenges, by Gunilla Eriksson and Ulrica Pettersson, editors (2017)

The Baldwin Articles –  Leadership and the Logic of Machiavelli

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

A few days ago on this site some commenters noted that many professionals, especially leaders, do not have the inclination or opportunity to truly do any deep reflection on their craft until after retirement. For myself personally that has certainly been the case. Part of that process for me has been renewing the effort to learn more and reread and relearn some of the more challenging and ambiguous concepts I was taught earlier in my career. More on that at the end; but first please consider the synopsis below of a discussion I had recently in another forum.

Machiavelli is a fascinating and complex historical character. He was an early champion of a pragmatic and morally relativistic philosophy of realpolitik that ethicists would eventually label as consequentialism or utilitarianism; sometimes reduced to a simple statement that “the ends justify the means.” Machiavelli lived in a time of an almost constant series of conflicts between city states and Papal political machinations and territorial ambitions. Constantly shifting alliances, ‘court intrigue’ and reversal of military fortunes was the norm as ‘Princes’ maneuvered overtly and covertly for relative dominance. A real life chess match or “Game of Thrones” minus the dragons.

That was the political / military ‘game’ that Machiavelli enthusiastically participated in – albeit as a mid-level player with perhaps outsized influence – during his adult life. By the time he was in his late 40s he had developed a signature philosophy and made the effort to write it down and share it initially with his contemporaries and then with posterity. I have extracted just two quotations from Machiavelli’s The Prince that are illustrative of what he believed in and preached. “Hence it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.” And also, “Therefore it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them.” Ideas like that – in many cases taken out of full context – contributed to popular perceptions of Machiavelli’s views being both indefensible and amoral if not immoral. For the record I have always found Machiavelli’s thoughts to be rational and valuable if considered in their entirety.

Clausewitz tells us, “War is merely the continuation of policy by other means” and therefore “there can be no question of a purely military evaluation of a great strategic issue, nor of a purely military scheme to solve it.” Sun Tzu also highlighted “the close relationship between politics and military policy, and the high social cost of war.” But both of those men were proficient and experienced soldiers and viewed, referenced and wrote only briefly about politics from that limited perspective. Machiavelli, on the other hand, was an amateur soldier but was undeniably a professional and talented politician. He was able to describe – in terms that soldiers can relate to – what war looks like as seen through an unapologetically political lens. He innately understood what we now call power relationships and interpersonal dynamics.

Machiavelli’s ideas were controversial even in his own time. The Roman Catholic Church banned his writings. Later his philosophy became indelibly associated with acts of political extremism because it was explicitly used to rationalize genocidal policies like the NAZI “Final Solution.” Today terrorist organizations almost by definition use Machiavellian thinking to try to justify their heinous crimes (means) against innocents in furtherance of a twisted but in their minds sacrosanct goal (end). They obviously believe that their sick ends justify even the most despicable means – even if they never actually heard of Machiavelli.

But those disturbing facts should not be allowed to detract from the larger veracity and utility of Machiavelli’s astute perceptions. This may be surprising, but his philosophies are not just applicable to ruthless ‘bad guys’. “The ends justify the means” is in fact a fundamental and universal principle that is and always has been considered in all political and military decision making in democracies and dictatorships alike. Every leader applies that brutally honest standard to every consequential decision whether they acknowledge it or not. Oftentimes we say it in this more palatable way “it is for the greater good” but the underlying logic is the same.

I’ll share two examples. In the 1930s an organization called the “Tennessee Valley Authority” (TVA) was part of an initiative to bring electricity to impoverished rural areas. To do so required the displacement of thousands of people so that rivers could be dammed and valleys flooded. Many of those people did not want to go but were forced out – a good number literally at gun point. I would certainly be willing to argue that it was “for the greater good” but those people forcibly removed would not. And it represents just one of countless domestic political decisions that are clearly based on the positive ‘ends’ justifying the not-so-positive ‘means’.

Let us consider the recent deaths of civilians in a U.S. airstrike in Mosul. The accidental killing of civilians in war is not usually considered a ‘war crime’ unless there are other factors like ‘gross negligence’ involved. But a good number of people – even Americans – would likely consider any airstrike that apparently killed more than 100 innocents “an extremely wicked or cruel act” a.k.a. an ‘atrocity’. But those air missions in support of fierce house to house fighting by Iraqi forces remain our best ‘means’ of achieving the worthy ‘end’ of ISIL’s occupation of Mosul. So today and tomorrow and the next day pilots will climb back into cockpits and they will drop more bombs. The alternative is to do nothing – and that is not an acceptable option; not for us, not for the Iraqi government and ultimately not for the people of Mosul.

What is disquieting for most people is that the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ use the same Machiavellian reasoning to justify their respective actions. But there is no avoiding reality. There are few if any truly important decisions that are black and white. A political or military leader would not be able to function if he or she cannot make hard and morally ambiguous gray decisions. The Legislative process would be impossible and even the most just war could not be prosecuted if the ends NEVER justified the means.

That is not to say that we have to therefore accept any and all ‘means’ in order to achieve our ends. No rational person would have supported massacring those people in Tennessee in order to dam a river. No leader in uniform thinks that “killing them all and let God sort them out” is an acceptable ‘means’ of liberating Mosul. It is illogical and bizarre to argue that one can somehow “save” a village (desired endstate) by destroying it (unsuitable means). There are serious and often harsh judgements to be made and scales of just and unjust, acceptable and unacceptable that leaders constantly try to balance.

In professional military education programs today Machiavelli is usually examined and earnestly debated only in terms of ethical or unethical behavior. He practiced what we now call “situational ethics” as a virtue. But is it? Soldiers are in a business that routinely involves killing and destruction. In fact, as long as we follow the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), the controlled application of violence and the threat of violence by military forces are socially and legally sanctioned. We are empowered to use lethal force largely at our own discretion. But with power comes equal responsibility – and equal moral ambiguity. There are countless examples. Sherman’s march to the sea for instance. He essentially argued that by causing immediate suffering and burning Atlanta and other towns the war would end sooner and that was actually the most humane and militarily sensible thing he could do. I would agree. A similar argument was made in 1945 with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Again I for one would agree that Truman made the hard but ‘right’ decision.

That is what Machiavelli was able to describe so well – a realistic and pragmatic world view in which leaders have to make very difficult decisions that are invariably shades of gray and almost never black and white. When I order an air strike to support my ‘troops in contact’ I have to accept the fact that I cannot be sure that innocents will not also be killed by those bombs. Soldiers must make those kinds of tough decisions in war every day. Sometimes “situational ethics” is what one has to work with. And yes, that routinely looks a lot like the “ends justifying the means”. War is not morally or ethically neat and tidy – and neither is life – and that is why conscientious professionals still read and study Machiavelli for pertinent insight.

So why Machiavelli and why now you might ask? The answer is simple; to enhance my own education I signed up for an online Master’s Program in Military History this last December. It looks like a great learning vehicle and allows me to make good use of my remaining G.I. Bill benefits. And that is something I would recommend for anyone with educational benefits available that you have not yet used. Don’t let them go to waste. Of course the class workload has also cut into my ‘free time’ for other writing projects. I won’t lie to anyone; it hasn’t been very much fun to put my nose back against an academic grindstone. In my case it has been a very long time since I was last a student. But I firmly expect the end will justify the means.

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (RET) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments.