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Today’s Military History Lesson: Fireforce

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

The Rhodesian Security Forces were arguably the most effective counterinsurgency units in modern history. Rhodesia, a former British colony (now Zimbabwe), unilaterally declared independence from the Crown after a disagreements on a power transition from European colonists to the Africa majority. A fifteen year long Bush War followed, between the Rhodesians and two African nationalist movements: ZIPRA, led by Josh Nkomo and backed by the Soviets, and ZANLA, led by Robert Mugabe and backed by the Chinese. The Rhodesians, the target of the first UN economic sanctions, were backed by no one except apartheid South Africa.
The security forces, therefor, had to cover the area of the size of Texas with highly limited resources and manpower (there were approximately 275,000 white Europeans and 7 million Africans living in Rhodesia during the war). Using South African supplied Alouette helicopters and DC-3 Dakotas (some airframes veterans of Operation Market Garden and D-Day), the Rhodesians developed a highly effective technique of aerial envelopment called the “fireforce” (see photo above).
A fireforce consisted of several “sticks” of troopies, usual one stick of 4 men per helicopter or 5 sticks of 20 men per Dakota. The choppers were designated either K-cars (a command car armed with the fireforce’s commanding officer and a heavy machine gun) and G-Cars, which carried the combat sticks. Fireforce teams were largely drawn from the highly elite Rhodesian Light Infantry –an all European commando outfit– or the Rhodesian African Rifles, also a highly effective COIN outfit, this one all African with European officers. The typical Fireforce was one Dakota, 3 G-cars, one K-car, and modified Cessna called a Lynx (used for close air support). Hawker Hunter jets were also used.
The Rhodesians guided Fireforces onto terrorist (or Terr) targets using mostly human intelligence, stemming from the highly effecitve Selous Scouts (a pseudo infilitration unit which employed “tame” terrorists), observation posts, and spies run by their Central Intelligence Organization or Special Branch of the British South African Police. Once a group of Terrs was located, a Fireforce was dispatched through local Joint Operational Commands (JOCs).
The first wave of a fireforce consisted of eight sticks (also called “stops,” in that they “stopped” terrs from escaping into the bush), with the K-Car always the first responder. The K-Car’s gunner flushed Terrs from their positions –usually a local village in one of the Tribal Trust Lands– while the Fireforce commander evaluated logical escape routes. Once established, G-Cars or Daks dropped troops onto their stop positions, with their troopies quickly forming a sweep line (four men spaced approximately 20 meters from each other). The stops locked their targets into place, while the Lynx dropped frantan (napalm) on the fleeing terrs.
The Fireforce tactic resulted in remarkably lopsided kill ratios in favor of the Rhodesians, while enabling them to patrol vast swaths of territory with a relatively small number of soldiers. Unfortunately for the Rhodesians, their combat prowess didn’t translate into political effectiveness, as they won every major engagement from 1965–1980, but lost the war. Still, their skillful use of airpower as an envelopment technique was as groundbreaking as it was deadly.
–John Noonan

Picture of the Day: Canada Invades

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Canucks in Florida.jpg

04/25/2009 — Canadian soldiers storm a beach in Mayport, Fla., April 25, 2009, during an amphibious assault demonstration. The service members are participating in the 50th annual multinational exercise UNITAS Gold, which involves participation from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and the United States. The two-week long exercise includes realistic scenario-driven training opportunities such as live-fire exercises, shipboard operations, maritime interdiction operations and special warfare. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, U.S. Navy/Released)

Courtesy my friend John Donovan, who writes: [Dammit!] We demand the immediate withdrawal of your forces!
–John Noonan

Avoid Another Va. Tech Part II

Friday, September 21st, 2007


Alright, back to the “law enforcement” portion of Defense Tech.

My bro David Woroner from Survival Consultants International is laid up in the hospital for some pretty serious stuff today, but he managed to text over this story about a shooting on the University of Delaware campus that shut down classes.

This assault obviously raises the alarming specter of the Va. Tech shootings and prompts me to post the second part of Daves recommended solution to the recent outbreak of campus shootings.

I invite you to slice and dice his analysis, but I also ask you to keep Dave in your thoughts as he undergoes some pretty serious surgery in the coming days…

Part II

Follow Up: In the Aftermath of the release of the of Gov. Timothy Kaines panel report, while not scathing, did say the alert should have been issued, and classes should have been closed.

Too often we see what can happen, and how fast The term I use: Everything can change in a Second still applies. We all know thats what it comes down to for businesses (private or public) and educational facilities. It is about the bottom line, cash and PR. The Liability vs. Cost of this Professional Security Presence can be easily offset.

If Virginia Tech had armed professionals there, they would have engaged. There may have been casualties, but not so many. Also, from a business perspective, how much are you now gonna have to pay those 30 odd families who lost young ones in litigated settlements? I can guarantee you this: cheap is not the word I would use.

If you had the professionals onsite, in a court of law, it would be easily shown that the overseeing entity provided security for the employees, students and visitors to the best of their abilities. In my opinion, that would be the courts final say. Its all about Did you do everything you could, or at least show you tried to avert some situation such as this. Follow the above or get ready to get sued out of business. When there is blood in the water, the sharks will come.

Depending on the size of a venue, Professional, Armed Security is a must.


These Professionals should not be walking around in battle dress, but a specific dress delineates who the good guys are. Proper dress is very important in this scenario.
Active shooters, terrorists and other unforeseen plans will always be there from now on, get used to it, prepare.

This security presence is not intended to be the creation of a secret police, police state mentality in the venue. The idea is to always be constitutionally bound by fairness, law and contain the ability to incorporate checks and balances within itself. It must protect the protected from becoming the target of an out of control security member or members. It should also be decisive and final in case of an event. It should come from proper team selection and overall creation of the intended group, to include all three key components of the security field.

The three components are Private Security, Prior Military, Prior Law Enforcement within the scope of the American Society of Industrial Security. This will surely bring together a force that will be able to work together from different viewpoints, both learned and lived.

Finally, an off property training location is necessary to engage in learning, training and cross training in all of these learned prior experiences — to include methodologies, communication, real-time maneuvering and live-fire exercises. This must be supported by the entity employing/engaging such professionals. The operators must work out plans in real time scenarios, to discover any internal flaws and fix them. You can only do this when youre sweating, engaging, etc. The world goes to a different level when an event takes place.

Also, in the contract, it must state that administrators, owners, CEOs, etc. may not intervene and attempt to persuade or order the security group to engage or cease. There is a lockout and protection clause from the hiring entity in the case of certain events.

Communications shall consist of:

Contact w/ each other and the security base as well as a channel for switching to interweave, which would allow security and law enforcement (local, state, federal) in the case of an event to coordinate. Complete loop communications is essential.

These Professionals will quickly delineate the property and everything on it to understand points of flow, large grouping areas. Its also important to develop operational plans for multiple scenarios on all parts of the property being secured.

The event at Va. Tech. should clearly illustrate the need for an overall, all-encompassing notification and threat level all electronic device notification system. What this means is that sending out an email is not satisfactory. The administration personnel must be taught to pass to the Security Center all threatening phone calls and any type of written or verbal intelligence. The Security Center head (at the time) [and this is a 24/7 operation] should receive all data and distribute it to professionals on the property immediately. These professionals can delineate the level of threat and respond appropriately.

This does not infer that Regular Campus Police should be removed. Rather this is an add-on specialized unit, and it should have information flowing back and forth between regular campus police, the security center and, in case of an event, all know to switch to X channel for interwoven communications.


How To Avoid Another Va. Tech

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007


You know, Defense Techs descriptor says the future of military, law enforcement and national security… and Ive admittedly been negligent in the whole law enforcement part of it.

Well, no longer.

My good friend David Woroner who is the head honcho with Survival Consultants International down in West Palm, Florida, wrote an assessment of the Va. Tech murder spree back in April, and updated his report a couple days ago with the release of the official investigation by the Virginia state government.

Dave is a veteran security contractor and consultant with international experience. You might remember — hes the inventor and manufacturer of the Wor4 Tacrail.

Ive posted his April assessment to be followed by his latest review of the Kaine report.

(Originally posted April 18 Editor)

Time for some changes… finally?

I have spoken for years not only to corporations but to educational facilities, outreach programs, and many other places where people congregate.

What I have said so many times has come home to roost once again. The awful rampage of one man, only armed with a semi-automatic pistol, can be and was devastating. I have tried to get the message outtried to implant a simple piece of knowledge that “everything can change in a second.”

There are a few things I would like to address and, as a professional, feel it is my responsibility to do so again here and now. Any place where people congregate is, and has been, a target for a “lone active shooter” or a determined group to rain down the horror we have again witnessed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local mall, school, church, etc.… These ill-intentioned people seek “clusters of people.”

Some mentalities that must change:

An active shooter within a closed, confined space is only going to stop when one of several things happens:

They run out of ammunition

There are no targets within range

They take their own lives

An armed professional engages and “removes” the threat

Behavior must changedo not “hunker down.” Move in any way possible away from the threat as quickly and safely as possible. The youngsters at Columbine who may have cut themselves or injured themselves getting out of a second story window made a much wiser choice than simply staying where they were.

What colleges, corporations, and other facilities cost for a person to learn, work, etc. these days demands that each large buildingon a campus for instanceshould have an armed professional within. If there was an armed security agent in any of these places, surely the toll taken would have been less. A trained and skilled security agent/retired law enforcement/active duty law enforcement officer who is armed has a much greater chance of ending an “active shooter’s” rampage. Without question, it is my opinion that an armed professional should be located within the ranges of these places where numbers of people congregate.

“It won’t happen here…”

Well, I think that point is shown to be absurdly wrong with the latest rounds of homicidal, suicidal Kamikaze-type attacks in small school houses, large campuses, and shopping malls. Usually a director of security is then forced to hire “baton only” type security. This must change. You don’t bring a club to a gunfight.

When will the “higher echelon” of business, educational, and other entities finally realize that there are a lot of highly-trained men and women that would gladly accept these positions? Is the money more important than the well being of the people who visit you? Think for a moment, if you will, how many ex-law enforcement and soon to be ex-soldiers will be coming home. There will be a large pool to draw from. It would be about time to find these folks, offer them a decent living wage, and know that children, women, and brave men (a 76-year-old holocaust survivor) would not have to die needlessly.

Finally, there are a multitude of other ramifications, opportunities, techniques, and more to be had and obtained to assist in keeping people safer. In the end, there is no guarantee, but some people “up the ladder” should now, hopefully, get the message. Anytime, any place… yes, there are monsters.

Well post Daves Part II: Assessment of the Kaine Report later today.


Navy Owns First Wave of Iranian Strikes

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Navy TLAM shot.gif

William McMichael at Defense News is reporting on the notional details of how the first wave of strikes against Iran would go, and predictably, the initial burden rests on the shoulders of the U.S. Navy.

“The attack would probably come by air,” the article states. “Waves of U.S. cruise missiles and warplanes loaded with smart weapons would swoop into Iran from the sea and land bases to destroy key nuclear facilities.

“Out in the Arabian Gulf, the U.S. Navy would wipe out Irans Navy in a matter of days. Irans air defenses could possibly take out a few higher-flying U.S. Air Force and Navy tactical jets before being located and destroyed.

“In short, the first round would go decisively to the United States.

“But it wouldnt be without serious repercussions. And the U.S. Navy would likely take the brunt of those. Its the unconventional threat that would vex U.S. sailors.”

Iranian Tomcat.jpg

The article also reminds us that the Iranians still have Tomcats with Phoenix missiles. American intel sources have previously reported that the Iranians successfully employed the Phoenix a number of times during the Iran-Iraq War, which would make the Iranian Air Force the only service to use that legendary missile in combat. (I, on the other hand, have used the Phoenix in the Puerto Rican Op Area to take care of some nasty drones that were threatening San Juan. Just doing my job, m’am.)

Read the entire Defense News story here …

– Ward