Should We Be Worried About Jade Helm 15?

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Mon, May 18 - 9:00 am EST | 4 years ago by
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Lines of Departure - Jade Helm 15

In about two months, exercise Jade Helm 15 is scheduled to kick off. This is a two-month long special operations exercise, spread out across the southwest of the country, from Texas to California. It has the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, Right Wing Regiment,1 demonstrating all the calm and relaxed demeanor (I am, of course, kidding), as well as the typical paranoid delusions (not kidding at all), for which it and its members are justifiably famous.2

Never having actually enlisted with the Tin Foil Hat Brigade, my initial reaction to exercise Jade Helm 15 was a resounding, “ho hum,” and my reaction to the TFHB reaction was, “As Christ probably would have said if He’d thought about it, ‘The loons ye shall have with ye always.’”

To be fair to the TFHB, though, whenever the New York Times3 and Washington Post4 agree that something like this is clearly harmless, it’s possibly time to inventory our stocks of ammunition and break out the banana oil to make sure our protective masks are in good working order. In other words, their enthusiastic and unquestioned agreement constitutes a rebuttable presumption that FEMA is about to open concentration camps.

However, rebuttable presumptions are there to be rebutted. This week and next I’m going to limit my rebuttal to the notion that the exercise is inherently suspicious because it is so militarily useless and unnecessary as to be indefensible. To do that we need to get into a little history, a bit of doctrine, and a touch of dogma.

While US Special Operations Forces had other traditional missions, their bread and butter missions, so to speak, were twofold. One of these was Unconventional Warfare, or UW, which called on them to serve as guerilla cadres, largely in Eastern Europe, to raise, train, support and lead anti-communist insurgencies against the Soviets. The other was Foreign Internal Defense, or FID, which was pretty prominently on display in Vietnam and any number of other (unmentionable) locales. In FID they did much the same thing as with UW – raising, training, and leading forces of foreigners – except in a more permissive environment. There was a time they were really quite good at this, and not necessarily all that bound by appearances concerning who they were willing to use for the purpose, except that those men possess intelligence and guts.5 Occasionally, they could be technically and tactically competent, but unbelievably stupid, as when they would assign a black officer to lead an ODA6 oriented at very white, pre-substantial black migration to, Norway.7

Then again, SF used to claim on its official parade blurb that it was, “as deadly as a tarantula.” Since tarantulas are not deadly…8

That time – the time they were really good at FID and UW – is mostly in the past.

Instead, they’ve become door kickers, hyper-Rangers, doing, in goodly part, things that regular infantry should be able to do perfectly well.9 Given the human talent the SF types bring to the table, coupled with the extraordinary expense of training them, this is a criminal waste. The reasons for the change are complex enough to be beyond the scope of this short column.

Part of the problem, though, is probably with definitions. Department of Defense “Special Operations” as:

Operations requiring unique modes of employment, tactical techniques, equipment and training often conducted in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments and characterized by one or more of the following: time sensitive, clandestine, low visibility, conducted with and/or through indigenous forces, requiring regional expertise, and/or a high degree of risk.10

The problem with that definition is, I think, two-fold. One is that the first sentence tacitly defines it as “Special Operations are what Special Operations Forces do.” The second problem is that it all leaves the question of “why?” begging.

I’ll give you my own definition, which I bounce off of SOF types with some regularity, and which they generally seem to accept as valid:

“Special Operations are typically small unit operations the operational, strategic, and geopolitical importance of which, coupled to unusually disastrous implications of failure in which, justify the early organization and commitment of extraordinary human material, and unusually high levels of financial and other types of support.”

An ODA training and leading a small battalion of Afghan quasi-mercenaries probably qualifies under both definitions, but while permissible under DoD’s definition, there’s just no way that patrolling a nondescript valley in an MRAP11 quite qualifies under my, I think more valid, definition, precisely because it’s just not important enough to justify the human and other costs.

That’s just a small part of it though. I’m not even certain I understand all the reasons. Suffice to say that it has happened; that SF has lost much, maybe most, of its FID/UW capability in favor of becoming door kickers.

It really needs to get those lost or degraded capabilities back. But how to do that? Decree? Yeah…no, changing a complex organization’s collective outlook and ethos by decree, alone, doesn’t really work. Classroom lectures? Oh, they’re a part of it, to be sure, but not nearly enough. Change the doctrinal literature? That, too, has to be a part of it, but is never enough.

No, we train by doing. Now, class, in preparation for next week’s column, go and read this. That’s right, go read it; it’s free. When you read it, pay particular attention to the five functions of training.

We’ll pick up on that note, next week.


1 Which in general demeanor much resembles the TFHB, Left Wing Regiment.

2 Just Google it; there are too many examples for me to illustrate without appearing to be playing favorites.



5 See, for example, Larry Thorne, AKA Lauri Törni, Finnish officer against the Russians, US Army Special Operations officer, fallen in Vietnam, and former officer of the Waffen SS. Guts? Well, he had three crosses, the Mannerheim Cross, The Iron Cross 2nd Class, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

6 Operational Detachment Alpha, the twelve men we think of when someone says, “A Team.”

7 Yeah, they did. He was my XO when I was an Adjutant. Fine officer, but did not blend in well with snow or whitey, hence bound to make clandestine ops in Norway a little iffy.

8 True story: Though a grunt, I was Adjutant of the 96th CA for about a year. Summer of 1991, I think it was, we were preparing for a ceremony with SF Command, which the 96th was assigned to, though the actual command relationships were amazingly Byzantine. I read that “deadly as a tarantula” line and started to laugh. My battalion commander asked why the chuckles. Upon my explaining it he laughed, too, but then realized that SF had been ridiculing itself for decades. We got the line purged. All you SF types owe me big.

9 It is possible that regular infantry can’t do these things perfectly well anymore. I can think of two reasons for that, one being that they’ve become perfectly happy to let SOF do it for them, and the other that the expansion of SOF in a shrinking armed forces has sucked too much human talent away from the line. This is always a potential problem with elites, and usually one which lives up – or down – to its potential.


11 Speaking of MRAPs, passing the damned things out to local police forces is one of the more understandable causes of apoplexy amongst the Tin Foil Hat Brigade. Given the general overmilitarization of the police across the country, I am most sympathetic to the TFHB in this.

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through

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  • KenWats

    So, let me be the first to ask some stupid questions. If the SF are now being used as Door Kickers – what do we have the Rangers and Delta for (or regular infantry for that matter)? Don’t give me the BS that demand for door kickers is at an all time high.

    Haven’t we just spent the past two wars doing FID? Standing up two armies? If that’s the case, and FID is a specialty of the Green Berets- shouldn’t there be an awful lot of experience in training a host nation military? Even if (gasp) Special Forces haven’t been used as they were originally intended to be used and have been diverted to door kicking duty (because it’s sexier and sells the budget bucks or because we’re afraid of losing too many private snuffies)- somebody’s been doing the FID mission. So somebody somewhere in the Army has that experience. Who?

    • Tom Kratman

      CA did a lot of it. Regular troops did a fair amount. But the language and culture issues are always going to be a problem for regular troops.

      I don’t think it’s demand at all. I suspect it’s mostly SF migrating to the perception of maximum feasible sexy.

    • Justin Watson

      What isn’t about sexy, nowadays? Somehow, every single infantry unit I’ve been with has devoted significant time and effort to rehearsing air assault operations. Every single infantry unit I’ve been with has been heavy (Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles is how they’re supposed to get around the battlefield). I know we all grew up on Vietnam movies and I like riding in helicopters as much as the next guy, but what the fuck? Everyone wants to try and do some shit they’ve seen in a movie, even long service professionals who should fucking well know better.

    • Tom Kratman

      Well….somebody in any given division needs to be able to grab a contested / demo guarded bridge.

    • Justin Watson

      Sir, that makes sense, but it wasn’t a platoon per battalion, or a company per brigade, or even two of such for redundancy, it was every Swinging Richard, and usually given priority before the unit could proficiently defend a battle position or move to contact and well before they could conduct a combined arms breach with any hope of success.

    • Justin Watson

      To be fair, I’m not sure many US army maneuver battalions could hope to perform a combined arms breach at this point, but my point still stands. I know the Army abuses and overuses sports metaphors, but we are constantly practicing candy-ass trick plays before we know how to block and tackle.

    • Tom Kratman

      Oh, I know.

      Admission: I probably had the only company in the 24th ID that actually could do an air assault, either to raid, to grab a bridge, to do an airmobile delay, etc. However, frankly none of those things were as important to me as a) morale maintenance among the troops, who got a tremendous kick out of it, and b) the general problem solving required when dealing with aviation. Because, ya know, coordination only carries you so far….

    • Justin Watson

      I acknowledge it is a lot of fun, and in my last turn as BN FSO, it did make sense that we trained for it since we were the only maneuver unit for several countries in any direction. But we were as good as any battalion in the Army at mechanized combined arms maneuver, but I’ve seen it used as a OER/NCOER building block as often as a legit training event.
      I agree about morale maintenance, too. I’ve long argued that not only does good, hard training make the unit better (obviously) it solves retention problems because doing actual Army things with Army people (as opposed to dicking around waiting on formation) is what makes people want to be Soldiers. If we trained like the Legion in A Desert Called Peace, we wouldn’t be bleeding out best junior leaders on both the enlisted and officer side.

    • Justin Watson

      Fire Support can be fun for air assault ops as well, provided they let you plan prep fires on the false insertions as well as the legit LZs. It is about the hardest thing you can plan and execute in terms of de-confliction, too. But again, unless you’re light, I think you should only get to it AFTER your bread and butter.

    • Tom Kratman

      Well, what’s bread and butter? Is it mere technique or is it the development of intellectual and moral factors? I’d suggest the latter and I’d suggest air assault is a pretty good, albeit very expensive, and not entirely risk free, way to do that.

    • Justin Watson

      Bread and butter goes back to my original comment, if a Bradley company can’t attack and defend effectively yet, it probably shouldn’t be going for helicopter rides. Once a unit is actually competent at its base job, then I concede the point. And, for the audience, I know you know this better than I do, sir, only if it’s going to be a good, plausible air assault training scenario. I’d say 75% of the air assault events I’ve seen at various training centers and in Kuwait were absolute bullshit, hastily planned and executed so someone could check “air assault” as a capability. Air Assault is hardly the only training event that falls into this category but in my, admittedly limited and anecdotal, experience, it’s a common offender.

    • Justin Watson

      I should clarify, hastily and poorly. Obviously “hasty” planning is often a matter of necessity.

    • Tom Kratman

      I used to write myself an Op Order as if from battalion, plus give directions to the training NCO to coordinate for the helicopters, external evaluators, and OPFOR. I could trust Corporal Duke to do all that quite well. I would then stick the order in my desk and ignore it until (usually) 24 hours out. That made it a good exercise for me, the boys, and the chopper pilots.

    • Justin Watson

      I’ve done the same thing many times for various purposes from Company/Battery STX to TEWT/PENISs. The only problem with that is then you’re spoiling your people into expecting a competently written order, they’re not always going to be so lucky (snark, obviously, but also some resignation)…

    • Tom Kratman

      You forgot JEWTs.

    • Justin Watson

      I’m artillery, everything’s a JEWT for us. Joint Fires, dontcha know.
      Granted, right before I hung up my Soldier’s suit, I saw a lot of maneuver guys getting upset that they couldn’t have an F-15E Two-Ship for a fire team of bad guys.
      “I’m sorry, sir, but if we’re fighting someone who doesn’t default to insurgency, all those sexy fighter bombers are busy either interdicting the next echelon of bad guys or preventing the bad guys from overrunning a battalion holding a critical area, etc etc etc. You can’t have them because five dismounts took potshots at one of your platoons anymore.”

    • Tom Kratman

      Jungle Exercise Without Trees.

    • Justin Watson

      I thought Join Exercise Without Troops. Yours is funnier.
      In Germany getting ready for Iraq in Graf and Hoenfeldz, we did DEWS, Desert Exercises With Snow.
      Yes, I know there are deserts where it snows, but Iraq is not, usually, one of them.
      It did snow in Baghdad once when I was there. I looked at my platoon sergeant and said, “Well, Smoke, it’s official, hell has frozen over.”

    • Tom Kratman

      _Did_ get snowed on in Saudi, a couple of times, but it was the lightest dusting imaginable.

    • Justin Watson

      To be fair, the Arabs were far calmer in the face of snow than Texans…

    • Tom Kratman

      Inshallah has, one supposes, it’s place. Besides, could the driving be any worse there for having a blizzard?

    • Justin Watson

      You know, they were better drivers, late war. I suspect it was something about a lot of folks getting their engine blocks riddled with .50 call for driving like they might be VBIEDs too close to an American convoy. In general, though, that is a valid observation.

    • Tom Kratman

      Or we just killed the worst drivers, taking them out of the gene and meme pool and thus not allowing them to set any more bad example. If so, this is a solution we really ought to take to heart.

    • Justin Watson

      That thought occurred to me, too.

    • Tom Kratman

      Still not necessarily the answer. Attack and defend involve mostly what? Drills? No. Techniques? No. Moral fiber and problem solving ability? Yes.

    • Justin Watson

      I’m not trying to argue against the fundamental principle, but if a unit is designed to be a heavy maneuver force, shouldn’t it be an awesome heavy maneuver unit first and foremost? You can develop moral fiber, problem solving and decision making capabilities with training scenarios that are closer to what you expect the unit to execute on a regular basis, can’t you?

    • Tom Kratman

      Maybe you can and maybe you can’t. When the annual mileage on your vehicles is 250 to 500, I’d suggest it’s way tougher than that, and it’s time to look at other ways of getting around.

    • Justin Watson

      If it’s expensive to keep a tank or brad on the road, it’s easily as expensive to keep a bird in the air.
      And again, I’m not necessarily saying a heavy unit should never ever do an air assault mission.

    • Tom Kratman

      Yeah, but it’s _their_ budget, not yours. And if you don’t use up theirs, they’ll only waste it by serving as taxis for O6s and up.

      Addendum: airmobile and track-borne are only different ways of getting from A to B. Doorkicking and FID/UW are as unalike as two military approaches can be.

    • Justin Watson

      Yes, sir. I was only using the way I’ve seen airmobile training conducted as an example of. “lets do something sexy,” over, “let’s train well.”

    • Tom Kratman

      And people do that, because they fixate on the sexy. If they had a different training philosophy, one where building intellectual and moral fiber, as individuals and teams, was more important, then airmobile’s just another way to do that…well.

    • Justin Watson

      No argument there.

    • Tom Kratman

      Overspecialization is not a great idea either, actually.

    • KenWats

      Brings to mind one of my favorite WWII movies.

      Brigadier General Gavin: What’s the best way to take a bridge?

      Maj. Julian Cook: Both ends at once.

    • Tom Kratman

      It’s exactly right. Both ends at once.

    • Justin Watson

      That’s what she said?

    • Justin Watson

      Sorry, I can’t help myself. My inner-13 year old is always lurking with jokes like that.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Worst way to do it: fighting an armored corps up a single road in order to link up with the airborne guys who were dropped too far from the bridges.

      General Montgomery: Hey, let’s do that!

    • KenWats

      And to continue with the theme:

      [Before jumping out of a plane]
      Maj. General Stanislaw Sosabowski: God bless Field Marshall Montgomery.

    • Tom Kratman

      Wrong generalization. Over most of the world, and Europe especially, you will run into a non-fordable water obstacle very frequently (in former West Germany, about every 8-12 miles, if memory serves). To get across them, without losing either time or too many combat engineers, you need to grab the bridge. But bridges are wired for sound and the detonators guarded. To keep them standing, you have to take out the demo guard. That means both sides at once or no bridge at all.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Well yeah, but Market-Garden notoriously failed to grab both ends at once. Indeed, it did not even try to do that, either at Nijmegen or Arnhem. Poorly planned in so many different ways…

    • Tom Kratman

      Sure. War is the place where everything goes to crap, as I am sure Clausewitz would have phrased it if he’d not died too young. But you still, when you need to grab a bridge and have any reason to suspect a contested crossing and demo guard, need to grab it from both sides at once.

    • Ming the Merciless

      I am not disagreeing with you. I am noting that M-G is a pretty good case study for why you want to do that.

    • Tom Kratman

      We shit on Monty a lot, you know, and – as with Haig and McClellan, Varro, for that matter, too – it’s not entirely clear to me that all the criticism is fully justified. One suspects that, had that much understrength but otherwise quite good II SS Panzer corps not been there, it might just have worked.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Much of the criticism of Monty in Africa and Normandy is not justified. With regard to M-G, though, there are many reasons to think it was a bad plan, badly executed. Not the least of its flaws was that it disregarded the Germans, as was noted at the time. Sosabowski said “What about the Germans?” after being briefed on the plan, and the Brits basically told him to talk to the hand.

    • Tom Kratman

      What I suspect is that at the time it was conceived, it looked reasonable enough, against an army that, had it been anyone but the Germans’, was obviously ruined. Prestige having been paid and reputation staked, it couldn’t just be allowed to die when the Germans showed that amazing ability to reconstitute combat effective formations from rags and scraps. Then wishful thinking was not just allowed by invited in….

      But it was still much closer than it should have been, and, absent II SS Pzr Korps, just might have worked.

    • Ming the Merciless

      It was not an operation that was so obviously flawed that it should never have been mounted. It could have worked. With better planning, it would have had a much better chance of success, even with the IISS PzK on the scene. Drop the Red Devils closer to Arnhem; drop the Poles south of Arnhem bridge on the first day; drop the 82nd closer to Nijmegen and land both north and south of the bridge; then the Allies would have secured both ends of both bridges in strength from the outset.

      It should also be noted that success – a bridge across the Rhine – would have lent great force to Monty’s argument that the Allies should mount a major drive on Berlin under his command. That prospect is, in my view, a major reason it had to go ahead, Germans or no Germans.

    • KenWats

      I seem to recall a number of similar airborne operations had been planned previously (Comet might have been the name of one?) and cancelled when the front lines sped forward much more quickly than anticipated. So this was the latest attempt to bring the airborne into play and many (not Sosabowski as noted above) were overly optimistic. Of course, we’ve now wandered very far afield of Jade Helm and US Special Forces recent employment and training patterns. Sorry ’bout that.

    • Neil

      IMO, M-G wasn’t Montgomery’s failure, it was Ike’s. Eisenhower violated economy of force by giving Montgomery the logistical support he needed to try for a Hail Mary. Patton was ready, chomping at the bit, had a bridgehead and just needed supplies.

      But Eisenhower determined that the Brits needed to be the first across the Rhine. As far as I can tell, Market Garden was about as good a plan as could be put together to seize the initiative in that sector, given the constraints of technology and geography. But the Brits shouldn’t have been taking the lead at all.

    • Rick Randall

      It didn’t help that they prioritized airlift in *exactly* the wrong order. Might have worked had they dropped from far to near, rather than near to far. 1st Airborne couldn’t get enough in Arnheim fast enough, especially dropping so far from the objective.

      Of course, sticking an Air Force officer as Commanding General of FAAA because “airborne involves airplanes” was an especially stupid idea – Brereton was too readily convinced to accept the aviation calls, rather than pay attention to the mission being conducted. So, the glider forces went in an half strength waves, the number of daily sorties was halvedhalved due to crew rest, and priority of effort went to the easiest missions instead of the most critical… Note that Brereton was an *exceptional* AIR FORCE officer… But he was in command of what was really a light infantry operation with armored support and air logistics. Wrong guy in the wrong job, all because Ike didn’t understand that an Airborne unit is just an infantry unit with an unusual commute…

    • Rick Randall

      I would break that down to the brigade level, honestly. Especially with a heavy division, the chances that *one* choke point could support your maneuvers is somewhat remote…

    • Tom Kratman

      As a practical matter, you grab one or two and then “roll auf”, north and south or east and west, to open up more.

    • Rick Randall

      True, but it is nice for the advance if you can grab one per major axis nearly simultaneously. That way, when you dobt secure one before it gets blown, you’re still moving. L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’audace!

  • Justin Watson

    KenWats, ironically, we conventional soldiers had a lot more to do with FID in Iraq and Afghanistan than the secret squirrels. In part, this is a function of scale, we had thousands of Afghans and Iraqis under arms and, at least notionally and often genuinely, on our side. Too many motherfuckers for the green beanies to train them all. Occasionally the SF groups would take on the mission of training the “elite” Afghan or Iraqi formations to take with them on their High Payoff Target raids (or at least have them pull outer cordon, you know, if the Rangers weren’t available for that).

  • Josiah Humphries

    Free book! Thanks Tom

    • Tom Kratman

      Been free for ages. Widest possible dissemination authorized and encouraged.

  • Iron Spartan

    Too many in leadership positions can’t agree on what the purpose of the Army is, let alone any particular unit or branch.

    The poison of “hearts and minds” runs deep.

    • Tom Kratman

      The problem there isn’t that it isn’t important; it’s that it’s not remotely easy or certain. Some places it has worked. Other places it hasn’t and probably never could have.

  • Frank Snow

    It ain’t just the Special Forces/Special operations stuff that the U.S. doesn’t seem to be as good at since reorganizing in the early 2000s. The black bag and dirty tricks departments at the CIA, and other places, doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as good as when the Soviets were an active concern. And we, the West, not just the U.S., used to be really good at this stuff.

    • Tom Kratman

      Beyond my competence to really comment on, Frank, though, yes, one senses a general decay.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I have to admit, my hat twinged a bit when I saw the layout for Jade Helm. Maybe it was just the identification of friendly and unfriendly territory mapping up pretty close to which political party that area voted for. But I can’t say it was more than a twinge.

    I’d like to suggest that the most important quality an SF unit has is it’s ability to be unconventional. To act to accomplish objectives without being bound to what ‘the rules’ say. I agree that SF might be doing too much door kicking but I think someone took a look at expected future threats (always subject to change, often unpleasantly) and they expect to be needing a lot of very agile, small footprint troops rather than mechanized infantry, armor and arty.

    I’ll cut the essay short, thanks as always, sir. Looking forward to this series as well.

    • Tom Kratman

      Unconventional for some things, but raising, training and leading a group of foreigners is about as unconventional as being drill sergeants.

  • cirby

    My big worry about Jade Helm is Teh Stoopid.

    There’s a big pile of it out there, and it’s going to land on someone.

    This is the sort of exercise that someone thought up, organized, and implemented without thinking too hard, and it’s going to result in something really spectacular and expensive in exactly the wrong way. Someone’s going to do an assault on an elementary school (with students included), or blow up a not-useless bridge, or drive a Bradley into a high-tension power line in the middle of the night.

    Sort of a “hold my beer and watch this” with live ammo.

    • Tom Kratman

      That happened in NC, during a Robin Sage, I think, where the only sheriff’s deputy in the state who didn’t know about it managed to find the wrong team.

      On the other hand, shall we forbid the Air Force from flying, since planes do crash to Earth, sometimes, the Navy from sailing, because, after all, there are private yachts out there, and NASA from launching anything that remains within the solar system, too?

      No one’s going to be driving a Bradley. No schools will be assaulted. And it is most unlikely anyone’s going to be doing any demo in a mixed or civilian area, either. Stupid will, of course, happen, but not those kinds of stupid.

    • cirby

      We forbid the Air Force from flying in certain areas, in certain fashions. Hell, we won’t even let them fly too fast over most of CONUS because they make loud booms that occasionally break windows.

      I’ve seen enough military snafus over the years to comfortably discount your faith in that last paragraph. Most of the reason “those kinds of stupid” don’t usually happen in civilian areas is because we keep training out in the boonies, where it’s cheap.

      Once you start sending troops into new and unfamiliar areas, you start getting fun stuff like the NG unit that rolled down my street a couple of years ago because someone decided to take a short cut and got lost. In the middle of Orlando. Which is precisely “that kind of stupid.”

    • Tom Kratman

      Well…which of those three do you consider most likely and what kind of odds are you willing to lay on it?

      These aren’t everyday troops, and, if the NG is involved, they wouldn’t be everyday troops either.

    • cirby

      It’s a big exercise – of course there are “everyday troops” involved. There are 1200 SOF forces involved, yes – but the vast majority are regulars. Hell, they’re even including the FBI.

      The sad part is that you latched onto my three casual off-the-cuff examples as hard-and-fast predictions, when you know quite well just how random things get when doing exercises off the reservation.

      I’m probably wrong about the Bradley part, though. They’re including Marine Expeditionary Units, which means LAVs, Abrams, and AAVs. With Marines driving. Feel better?

    • Tom Kratman

      Not feeling worse. Even leaving aside the Brads, I’m not that worried about it, nor do I think that various complaints from the TFHB that mention the possibility are really about that either.

      In any case, think about it some; pick what you think is the most likely disaster, and maybe we can come up with a bet on it.

    • cirby

      No, because that’s just stupid.

      There’s not any one thing worth putting money on – the whole point I’ve been making (and you’ve been dodging) is that running military exercises in civilian areas is too chaotic, and isn’t predictable at all – in a bad way.

      They plan on the predictable stuff, like not accidentally blowing up the wrong bridge. They do NOT plan on the standard human-factor screwups, like some guy not getting enough sleep, misreading a map, and ending us a mile or two off his line of march – which is okay at a NTC, but pretty awful in suburban San Antonio. Or wherever (before you start griping about “they’re not in SA, they’re in a suburb of Waco!”).

    • Tom Kratman

      We ran multi-corps exercises in densely populated and built up Germany, with about a dozen different languages and states of training, using tens of thousands _each_ of heavy wheeled and armored vehicles, for decades. Were there accidents? Sure. Many? Many serious ones? No, not really.
      This all strikes me as just a smoke screen for other, even less valid, concerns. So the offer of a bet still stands.

    • cirby

      You’re kidding, right?

      Every time we ran something like REFORGER, we had issues. Helicopters flying into power lines, tanks falling off of rail cars, other tanks “rounding off” buildings while running through towns… it was a rare major exercise when we DIDN’T have one or more serious accidents. That was always considered to be part of the expense of those things.

      Hell, I was at George AFB when we lost two F-4s just getting them to Germany for one.

      You also need to remember that all of those old Cold War exercises were set up and organized waaaaay in advance, and mostly just consisted of route marches to the places those units were going to fight WWIII… for a limited subset of the people who were “taking part in” the exercises. Most of the exercise participants were just running around their bases, showing the exercise referees where the paperwork was. All of the major troop movements in most of those old exercises were heavily scripted and even rehearsed. A few were “real,” but not as many as you’d think.

      Due to the damage and annoyance of things like Reforger, the last couple of years were mostly simulations anyway.

      (We won’t count Reforger-83, which nearly caused WWIII…)

    • Tom Kratman

      And how many civies were hurt or killed? Property damage isn’t a biggie, provided we pay; how many were hurt or killed?

    • cirby

      Five civilians were killed in ONE exercise – Certain Shield 1978.

      Certain Shield 1986 only had one civilian death – but there were 240 road accidents and 53 injuries. Yes, that many, even though the Army maintained there were “only” 33 (they don’t count the minor ones without injury and under a certain cost).

      These were just the top two I turned up – there have been many more.

      Most of the time, when we heard about civilian casualties in European exercises, it was buried in the story, not a headline.

    • Tom Kratman

      Oh, I don;t think so. Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung would give any civilian deaths top billing, as would any number of other German papers of the day… or now. And our papers certainly covered it:

      But, once again, a multi-corps exercise, it being part of Reforger, involving literally tens of thousands of armored and wheeled vehicles, in one of the mostly densely populated areas in the world? No comparison.

      Since you’ve mentioned military losses or near losses, do you think we should not train anywhere, lest a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine be lost?

    • cirby

      So… from my comment about how my big worry about Jade Helm was the things that could possibly result from people being stupid (and which are well documented, as you yourself cite), you’ve shifted from “that doesn’t happen” to “that doesn’t happen very often” to “well, people don’t die THAT much, considering how many people move around,” to “so you want us to GIVE UP EXERCISES?”

      …when what I was actually commenting on was the high chance of someone publicly and stupidly screwing up in what is already looking to be a poorly-organized nationwide exercise. The strong hints of political influence in the planning don’t make that any better.

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t think I said something couldn’t happen, only that your three were pretty unlikely and that our circumstances were wildly different. When you cite to military accidents or near accidents (those two planes), though, in the context of danger to civilians, it just sounds pretextual to me. If you agree that military accidents are probably unavoidable, in the aggregate, then why mention those planes?

    • cirby

      The point of pointing out those real, ACTUAL events that happened during or around exercises was to highlight the real problem: people screw up, and minor screwups turn BIG when people are doing all of the things that military people do. Once you get them off of the isolation of gunnery ranges and huge military training centers – all bets are off. Especially with the current administration and the attitude of the press.

      Exercises also tend to be SNAFU magnets, anyway.

      Events that wouldn’t make the national news when occurring at Fort Irwin will be front-page, lead-the-news stuff when it happens where people can see it. Multiply that by ten when some doofus does something sorta shady that reinforces the paranoia of a certain segment of the population.

    • Tom Kratman

      Then pick one you expect to happen and we’ll work out a bet on it. Or not.

      I’m really not overly worried. These are comparatively low equipment density, mostly (probably entirely) non-live firing (and certainly entirely as far as the civilian community goes), low logistic intensity (compared to supplying a heavy corps or six), nice weather, exercises, in not especially heavily populated areas.

    • cirby

      You keep bringing up this “bet” meme, like you believe that mentioning a handful of things that CAN go wrong is the same as an iron-clad prediction.

      Which is just dumb.

      On the other hand, the bet on your POV is simple: you’re betting that NOTHING goes wrong. Which will pretty much be a first for large military exercises. No helicopter accidents, no armor accidents, nobody pointing a blank-filled rifle at someone who DOES have a loaded weapon. None of that. Nothing going wrong at ALL.

      Are you willing to stand by that prediction? In a week that featured an Osprey going down during a “small” military exercise?

    • Tom Kratman

      Nah, I’m just telling you that your initial list of ‘orribles I find to be very unlikely and that I am confident enough that even the one you think most likely to come to pass will not come to pass to put money on it. If you’re not that confident then you’re not.

      What it boils down to, though, is that I _think_ is that this entire line of complaint is pretextual bullshit. Really.

    • fritz

      UN next>

  • Ron Holt

    Jade Helm somewhat reminds me of your “State of Disobedinence.” Would and or which federal troops would fire on american citizens if the USA had suffered a leftist/socialist coup? Given the divisions in this country i do not think it too far fetched….

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t know how much time you spent in, but the military has essentially zero loyalty to the left – rather, it hates the left with a passion – and much to the constitution. You could probably find any number of lefties and moral eunuchs among the higher brass, but the field grades and below have very little loyalty to _them_ either.

    • leaperman

      the only way the Military would obey ORDERS would be to basically kill the military…and even then..NO
      YOU know the military is loyal.
      but i HAVE TO WONDER..
      the cia..the fbi..the..
      those who follow the president..have been proven..time after not be loyal to the people but to.
      I am loyal to the nation..which I server..under God…

    • Ron Holt

      I agree the rank and file hate the left, but there are many political hacks at the Pentagon level and many federal employees owe everything to the guv’ment…..

  • Pugmak

    As the self appointed commander of the Baen Bar Tin Foil Hat Brigade…

    I’ve also wondered why the noise re: Jade Helm.

    Exercises like this have been going on since on’s been going. Sometimes exercises such as this one serve to prove a concept worth working on, sometimes they serve to bring out such issues and problems as to prove a concept not so workable and end up saving from serious snafus on deployments that cost lots of lives.

    Personally, the US military is right at the bottom of the list of organizations I worry about in terms of coupe pulling. But, with the ongoing purges, witch hunts and leftardic encroachment current working its entryism ways on our military, that can change.

    Imo, the great danger re: US military is the knee crawling leftardic propaganda pipe sucking degenerates working their sniveling spineless climb up the command ladders.

    Semper Fi.

  • fritz

    We should not worry. WE should TRUST. After all..Don’t you trust the track record?
    What’s NOT to trust.

    • Tom Kratman

      Trust or not, but what we shouldn’t do is submit to paranoid delusions.

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  • Steve Griffin

    Tom, dead on target about the SoF community going off mission profile. In 2007 I was volunteered to spend a year in Afghanistan eating all the goat I could want as a member of an Embedded Training Team. Note: This was_not_ the preferred assignment I wanted as post-Career Course captain, while I watched my peers all queue up for company command in various maneuver battalions.

    One lovely Spring day in scenic Zabul Province, while I am scratching fleas, trying not to smell myself, and checking the perimeter my 100×100 meter “combat outpost” that I share with three other Americans and about 30-40 Afghan’s near Route Chicken, a SF patrol in three heavily up-armored victors, with a dozen PAX, stops by. Since I am going black on COMSEC, and I haven’t gotten re-supply in weeks, I ask if I can borrow their fill.

    The SF Team’s captain then asks me how I patrol, and I point to my
    two Humvees, and point out that we take one escorted with two ANA Ford ranger
    trucks (as the other Hummer was my TOC) for mounted patrols OR a couple of us out our small team would go on foot into the hills with about a dozen,
    trusty Afghans. He gets a shocked look on his face, and goes “That’s crazy” and I respond, “What the fuck do you expect? I’m doing your job while you go play wanna-be Delta Force.”

  • leaperman621 cannot please everyone.
    Please yourself.

    Fuck em


  • rustypaladin

    The TFHB doesn’t take into account the maintenance costs of those MRAPs the police were given. It won’t be long before the scary armored vehicles are rusting in the corner of the department motor pool because the local budget can’t afford to have them fixed.

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