It is not often that we are able to go into great detail about what exactly we do, with whom and what the missions are. We are very careful about what we say and publish, due to the sensitivity or classification of information and PERSEC/OPSEC concerns. We are proud of what we do, with whom and why. We take our responsibilities very seriously and are passionate about them. There is a reason why we find ourselves in the place where we are, doing what we do – all of us. What we do serves a greater purpose and we treat it as such.
We (TTOS) have been supporting multiple missions in the last few years. Of those missions, we can talk about only one at this time – Kony. The reason that we can talk openly about this mission now (in generalities), is a result of a recent article published just prior to the last train-up. In an article by Kevin Maurer, a journalist and coauthor of No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden, he details the hunt for Joseph Kony and the role of U.S. Special Forces therein. That article can be viewed from: http://www.takepart.com/feature/2016/05/06/hunting-joseph-kony
At the Tactical Tracking Operations School, we primarily teach an advanced targeting process in which attendees learn to hunt the hunter in his own backyard. In doing so they also adapt to, and learn techniques to overcome, a lack of ISR assets and SIGINT. None of what we provide attendees is theoretical – it’s continually validated operationally and evolved accordingly. Our AOR specific database, as a result, allows us to not just put our courses into direct context of the mission to come (pre-mission training), but also allows us to put it into direct context to the conditions on the ground in a specific region.
I should also add that if you’ve not read our previous blog post entitled, “Tracking – Work Together and Accomplish More”, it can be viewed here: http://ttoscorp.com/tracking-work-together-and-accomplish-more/ . The reason that post is a good segue into this writing has to do with the “why” and the “when”.
In the previous post I talk openly about some of our instructional techniques and the use of problem-based learning in order to not just cover the “how” in direct instruction, but to illuminate the why and when in a bigger picture sense. This is in order to shape the process of observation toward effective logical thinking, tactical observation and the application thereof in tracking and targeting operations in a combat setting – open battlefield or covert (LE attendees get the same, but in a different context).
I want to talk a bit about the “why”, in a big picture sense. For the Central African mission we’ve been supporting, the why has to do with what is precious and what is our primary focus – human lives. Again, we’re all here for a reason and some of us got to the place we find ourselves in a sometimes strange and circuitous path.
For a while we were knee-deep in the anti-poaching business. While important to some (and noble in general), anti-poaching, for us, was a distraction from our primary areas of focus. It was a great vehicle to learn about the ugliness of the various AOR’s in Africa, the politics, conditions on the ground, etc. However, the biggest “ugliness” I saw was in the people that were “supporting” anti-poaching efforts. The common sentiment was that we were supposed to be waging war on poachers, shooting them on sight as if it was an actual battlefield, which it IS NOT. People come first, period. Those that support the killing of poachers cannot see the forest for the trees. I have to digress for a moment and finish these thoughts in order to fully illuminate in your mind our points of view and how we got there.
Poaching is about survival. If you take the means of survival away from a group of people, you have to replace it with something else. This is why the “Three D’s” is so important to this argument. The Three D’s are: Drugs, Diamonds and Death. With the desertification of large areas of Africa, the inability to sustain historically pastoral ways, regional instability and the lack of credible governance in many areas, people are often left to find ways to survive on their own, provide for their families and raise children. All this in an environment that would scare the hell out of people that knew anything about it that was real.
We can’t wage a “war” on the Three D’s. Why? Because if we did we’d be committing the same mistake we’ve committed time and again, wherein the people we are trying to free from their oppressors get caught in the middle and hurt the worst. The Three D’s are controlled by criminal organizations that are internationally backed, both having their own resources. Those organizations and nations use the people that are caught in the middle. The tools and weapons they give them to complete the tasks are more valuable than the lives of the people that use them. You can kill a poacher or bandit, but it will accomplish little. The life is not valued and he will be replaced; not to mention the loss of valuable information that may have been possessed and later provided.
If you change the conditions on the ground you can kill these criminal organizations. Again, this is why we work with Alan Savory ( http://discovermagazine.com/2015/dec/15-track-and-field ), the same one that created the foundation of the system we instruct. His work changes the conditions that breed crime. It creates a means to survive without having to turn to the Three D’s. It’s holistic management and part of an overall comprehensive plan and process, from doctrine, to individual and unit tactics, to stability and later sustainability through local empowerment. If you think this sounds like counter-insurgency doctrine you’re right. TTOS Combat Tracker and the UWCTC have been recognized by the military as “Advanced Counter-Insurgency” instruction.
The last few paragraphs were just a thumbnail of our points of view, which are well-grounded in priority. It’s also another segue into why we approach the hunt for Joseph Kony the way we do. The LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) is neither an army, nor is it in any way holy. It was assembled as a tribe of tribes through kidnapping, murder and incredible violence. Why? At the core, the answer would be survival. The ruling tribe receives the spoils of the region and everyone else is left to scrape-out an existence in the bush. There is no leveling device to be considered, no potlatch in Kony’s honor. He has no honor.
Don’t get me wrong either; Kony is evil. However, he is cut from the same cloth as the others engaged in operating organizations that traffic in the Three D’s and as such, so are the people directly under his control. Yes, Kony and his inner circle need to be captured or “ballisticly interdicted”, but those enslaved to fight in his name need to be treated differently.
All these things being stated, do you think we can kill our way out of this LRA problem? What did I just say about killing our way out of the poaching problem? You can’t; that is the answer. To do so would be to do exactly what we should not – smash those we’re trying to help in the middle of a low-intensity conflict. As Nagl would say, “Separate the fish from the water” (read his book, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife). This means you have to keep guerrillas, like the LRA, away from the people caught in the middle. How do you do it? Combat Tracking, pressure, pursuit and a relentless hunt. Grind them into the ground and make them survive on their own, without the ability to live off of the people, taking from them continually, in order to survive as a “fighting” force (See the “Malayan Emergency”).
Vital and perfectly suited for this mission (and all those like it) is our U.S. Special Forces (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 19th, 20th Groups – 1st Special Forces Command). Discretionary warfare means that you understand the “why” and “when”, along with the “how”. These are thinking men (and women too) that act prudently and judiciously. People at large do not realize how vital SF is to the protection of people and the preservation of life. The preservation of life is 90% of what they do. The other 10% of what they do should be obvious, and we pity those that find themselves the focus of that 10%. To boil it down, and to echo the very brief graduation speech (if you can call it that) I give, SF does the RIGHT things, for the RIGHT reasons TO the RIGHT people. That rightness can be found in the 90% and specific and targeted to that 10%.
In the Central African region, specific and targeted (see advanced targeting process) means UW ops combined with Combat Tracking, hence our course the UWCTC (and the jungle variant especially). There is no other way to do it in this area. Period. The Central African jungle is a HUGE area. The only way to effectively target guerrillas in this environment is through effective community relations and HUMINT, combined with Combat Tracking ops. Any other means would be futile.
In the “Hunting Joseph Kony” article, you probably read “Bobby’s” statements about returning to the roots after kicking doors for more than a decade. The UWCTC is a celebration of and partial re-introduction to those roots. Prior to the course introduction, we pass around the classroom, for everyone to hold in their hands, an original 1942 U.S. “Special Force” OSS issue Jedburgh smatchet bowie knife (the U.S. OSS Jed knife was slightly different, having a single edge, hence the bowie designation). The SF era of 1942 is as roots as it gets, no?.
Why go to all this thought and effort? The people, especially the children! The most powerless persons in this conflict are the children. Kony’s tribe of tribes is built on the abduction and brutal treatment of children. These children are made to be slaves of various types (sex, workers, miners, soldiers, etc). Those that say “kill them all and let God sort them out” need to check themselves because they are ignorant. That would be the absolute antithesis of what we are trying to accomplish.
These abducted and tortured children that are forced to work or fight in Kony’s name can, and are routinely rehabilitated. How do we know? Because we just do. Leave it at that. Through the valiant efforts of SF on the ground, hunting the hunter, constantly tracking and applying pressure, they are being forced out of the bush. Even the “worst” are broken and set to path toward rehabilitation, returning to their families and tribes in a reunification that would make hardest man’s eyes a bit watery. This is a mission worthwhile; it matters as do all of them.
The LRA effectively brainwashes its captives into believing that U.S. forces seek to torture and kill them, to pull the skin off of their living bodies and eat their hearts. Therefore, their will to evade is tremendous, as they believe what they have been told. Now then, can you imagine the difficulty in this mission? Can you believe that we are actually capturing these fighters? It may be hard to believe so, but our guys are doing it! You (in general) have no idea how difficult this mission is and indiscriminate killing would reinforce Kony’s messaging to those under his control. It would un-do all the gains previously made and lead to more abductions, violence and death.
There are hearts being harvested though. Currently, small children are being kidnapped, their hearts torn from their little bodies and then burned. This is evil incarnate. Crimes against children are the things that make our blood boil. Anyone that says that they’d put the protection of endangered species above people, or who would say we must hunt and kill poachers as a priority over the protection of human lives – especially the children – need to go see a psychiatrist because there is something wrong with them.
The example of the brutality in the previous paragraph is but a sliver of the reality on the ground. To go on would just ruin the rest of your day. This is real evil, brought to bear on powerless people that are merely trying to survive. Our approach to this problem is righteous and it’s working. Why? Because of the quality and caliber of those involved in it, collectively. Do you now see why we are so passionate about what we do? We put a lot of effort into the UWCTC for the very reasons I’m writing to you about – De Oppreso Liber.
Imagine old pics of recce-type guys from Vietnam, post operation. Twenty lbs of weight lost, uniforms in tatters, smelly, bitten, dehydrated, sick, exhausted (not to mention the lingering illnesses that last for months following. Jason TTOS Delta can tell you about intestinal amebiasis of 8 months; post deployment). That’s from just a 10 day op in this AOR; and they do them routinely.
Lastly, and if you’ve taken the time to read the previous post (link provided at the beginning of this writing), then you’ve seen our statements about “Confirmation Bias”. Let’s look at it on a larger scale for a moment. You cannot necessarily take lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and apply them to sub-Saharan Africa. That would be to take a bias and attempt to make it conform to a completely different context. Literally everything is different. A big mistake made in the past was to routinely prepare for our last wars and conflicts, not the next ones. This is why we absolutely stress problem-based learning in our plans and programs of instruction, in order to assist in developing a meta-cognitive mindset of those in attendance. It’s a different way of thinking critically. A better way.
These men are amazing in our minds, and should be so in yours, too. They are doing what they do for the right reasons; judiciously, with the big-picture in mind and the why at the forefront. These are the “Men among Men” you’ve heard of. They are also the same Men among Men that have seen months and months of Afghanistan and Iraq, who have all lost teammates along the way. I would go broke to support what they do, in any way we could.
Special Operations Warriors and the Taskforce Dagger Foundations are two programs that help our brave soldiers in every way they can; and through them, so can you.