Tuesday, March 04, 2008


The Marines have apparently decided that fighting insurgents in Iraq is akin to hunting big game. What a noble thought.

And they're training those under their command to do just that. Already nearly a thousand Marines, mostly squad leaders, have been trained. They spread their knowledge among their troops. The training program has been in development since 2006.

A Marine Corps press release states, “'Always the hunter, never the hunted.' That’s the tagline for a new Marine program, Combat Hunter, designed to teach Marines how to better observe, communicate, and act in their effort to 'find, fix,and finish' the enemy."

Combat Hunter’s methods, says the press release, are based on three criteria--identifying skills that will make Marines more efficient “hunters” in all environments (especially urban), examining and employing the skills used by individuals who have lived in disadvantaged areas of large cities, and developing training programs from skills identified during experimentation.

“Combat Hunter is designed to increase the lethality of a unit during operations through enhanced observation, profiling and tracking skills,” Gunnery Sgt. Ben Alicea, a senior instructor with Mobile Training Cadre 1, Advanced Infantry Training Company, School of Infantry East explained on the Marine web site.

The Marines claim the training will not only help their troops fight enemy forces, but distinguish them from "friendlies."

Apparently it will also teach our troops that some human beings are actually not human beings at all, but big game. Now some may say that is okay with them. I wonder if they think it will be okay when these guys come home and something goes wrong like, say, a case of post traumatic stress syndrome.

Oh well, let's move on.

The Asia Times in an article on the training program wrote:
"...according to an article by Kimberly Johnson of the Marine Corps Times, Colonel Clarke Lethin, chief of staff of the I Marine Expeditionary Force - I MEF, a unit based in Camp Pendleton, California that took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and will be returning there soon - indicated that its commanders 'believe that if we create a mentality in our marines that they are hunters and they take on some of those skills, then we'll be able to increase our combat effectiveness"'.

The article included this curious add-on: "The corps hopes to tap into skills certain marines may already have learned growing up in rural hunting areas and in urban areas, such as inner cities, said Colonel Clarke Lethin, I MEF's chief of staff." Outraged by the statement, one Sergeant Ramsey K Gregory wrote a letter to the publication asking, 'Just what was meant by that comment about the inner city? I hope to God that he's not saying that people from the inner cities are experts in killing each other and that we all just walk around carrying guns."'

It is also interesting and rather disturbing to note that one of the men the Marines have signed up as a consultant for this program is a South African by the name of David Scott-Donelan. Who is this fellow? Well here is his bio taken from his own training school's (whose logo accompanies this post) web site TACTICAL TRACKING OPERATIONS SCHOOL :
David Scott-Donelan was a career soldier with almost three decades of active duty in the war zones of Rhodesia, South Africa, Mozambique and South-West Africa/Namibia.

Enlisting in the Army of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1961, Scott-Donelan was one of the original members of the resuscitated 'C' Squadron (Rhodesia) Special Air Service (SAS), where he was introduced to the concepts of irregular warfare and tactical tracking by Allan Savory, a game ranger known for his innovative and successful concepts in hunting down heavily armed elephant and rhino poachers.

In 1968, Scott-Donelan was posted to the new Tracker Combat Unit (TCU), commanded by Allan Savory, with the mission of tracking down and annihilating Communist trained and equipped nationalist insurgents infiltrating the Rhodesian border from Zambia and Mozambique. He went on to command the TCU and was responsible for the selection and training of expert trackers for the unit which was beginning to make a name for itself on operations. In 1974, the TCU was absorbed by an innovative, new, counter-insurgency unit known as the Selous Scouts and Scott-Donelan was posted to the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI). The RLI was heavily involved in helicopter and airborne operations against armed and dangerous terrorist gangs infiltrating Rhodesia in ever increasing numbers. After several years of non-stop action, he served as an intelligence officer at a Brigade Headquarters (HQ) and Combined Operations HQ, Rhodesia's equivalent to the Pentagon. Frustrated with staff duties, he agitated for a transfer to the Selous Scouts and was appointed Officer Commanding Training Group which included the Tracking and Bush Survival School, the notorious "Wafa Wafa", on the shores of Lake Kariba.

In 1980, due to intense political pressure from the USA, Britain and the UN; Rhodesia, after never having lost a battle, lost the war and became the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Joining the South African Special Forces in 1980 as a member of 5 Reconnaissance Regiment, Scott-Donelan commanded the Regiment's Developmental Wing which was responsible for establishing a complete training and operational resource base as well as conducting training programs for several guerrilla armies. Five years later, he was seconded to the South-West-Africa Territorial Force as Company Commander and responsible for operations against the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia, which was infiltrating into South-West-Africa/Namibia from Angola and Zambia.

Immigrating to the USA in 1989, Scott-Donelan is now the Training Director of the Nevada based Tactical Tracking Operations School and trains law enforcement, corrections and military personnel in the same tracking techniques which proved so successful against armed and dangerous fugitives in Africa.

The Seattle Weekly reporting on Scott-Donelan after he had been brought in to help train Washington DC's finest back in 1999 reported Scott-Donelan was an officer in what was called the Selous Scouts who were part of the Rhodesian army fighting black guerrillas. The Scouts were known as the most ruthless unit in the forces of the white supremacist Rhodesian government. Their tactics were believed to include torture of enemy soldiers and killing of civilians. Captain Scott-Donelan, the article says, taught his trainees to "to kill in several sophisticated ways."

When Enid McAdoo, an African American probation officer in Seattle read about DC's hiring of Scott-Donelan she decided to check him out. What she found left her stunned.

"I was aghast," she says. To McAdoo, it was incomprehensible that the field of law enforcement, long troubled by its treatment of minorities, would look for instruction to someone associated with some of the world's most racist regimes. "It's like an SS officer coming over here and teaching a class."

The Weekly also reported that a former Zimbabwe official, living in the state of Washington, was similarly appalled. That person who out of fear did not give their name on the record told the paper, "It's ironic to me that he is training law enforcement officers because one thing about the Selous Scouts is that they did not operate within the rule of law. . . . What is he going to teach them? How to torture people without being found out? How to get confessions out of people they arrest?"

I know that I'm thrilled that the Marines find such an apartheid era character to be a good mentor for our troops.

How about you?

The following is from the San Diego Union Tribune.

Teaching Marines to be like hunters
By Rick Rogers

Trying to become predators instead of prey, Marines headed to Iraq will go through training built on advice from big-game hunters, soldiers of fortune and troops who grew up around firearms in the woods or the inner city.

Combat Hunter, a program begun at Camp Pendleton and now being rolled out nationwide, is designed to help Marines stalk and kill insurgents by using their senses and instincts. It emphasizes keen observation of Marines' surroundings and meticulous knowledge of their foes' habits.

“This is the most comprehensive training of its kind in our history,” said Col. Clarke Lethin, chief of staff for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

“These are primal skills that we all have but that we evolved out of,” he added. “We are going back in time. The Marines who go through this program will never be the same. They'll never look at the world the same again.”

The Marine Corps had not paid much attention to this low-tech combat approach since the Vietnam War. Like the other service branches, the Corps has generally gone high-tech by creating increasingly advanced weapons and developing virtual reality training.

Combat Hunter grew out of a concept by Gen. James Mattis, who has spearheaded the formation of various training programs for the Marine Corps. He saw the need for greater focus on hunting-related skills while overseeing combat forces at Camp Pendleton in 2006.

At the time, the Marines had recently turned the corner on roadside bomb attacks that killed and maimed so many of them in Iraq. They became better at detecting improvised explosive devices and blunting their impact.

Then the insurgents changed tactics. Instead of blowing up Marines, the enemy increasingly turned to shooting them as they patrolled neighborhoods or drove by in convoys.

Mattis, known for out-of-the-box thinking, weighed his options. He considered adding Marine snipers to protect his units, but he rejected the idea because it would take too long to train and field them.

Then he hit upon the idea of Combat Hunter, a strategy that squared with the Marine Corps' aggressive fighting style.

“One of the things that Gen. Mattis said is that he wanted a quick turnaround for this project. There was a sense of urgency,” said Maj. James Martin, the project officer for Combat Hunter.

Lethin recalled the reason for that urgency: Too many troops felt fear when they left their bases in Anbar province, the vast western region of Iraq where Marines hold the lead combat role for the U.S. military.

“Fear is a terrible thing. The Marines felt they were being hunted. They felt they were bait for the insurgents,” Lethin said.

“How do we teach our Marines to be the hunters? How do we bring the confidence back?” Lethin said. “Sometimes technology is not the answer. We think we have the answer in Combat Hunter.”

The unorthodox program draws on the expertise of an eclectic mix of consultants. There are the tracking abilities of David Scott-Donelan, a former officer in the South African Special Forces and a veteran of civil wars in Africa. Then there's African guide Ivan Carter, as well as others who would rather not be identified by the Marine Corps.

Training drills also reflect the hunting skills of Marines from rural areas and, as an unclassified Marine briefing said, the life experiences of those “who have lived in disadvantaged areas of large cities.”

Some of the training was on display yesterday in an area of Camp Pendleton called the K-2 Combat Town.

Marines usually train among its prefabricated buildings and in its dirt-lined streets. But for Combat Hunter, they perch in the green hills and watch what goes on in the mock village.

From a distance of eight or more football fields away, teams of Marines learned what to look for downhill. As they peered through binoculars, the Marines tried to catalog hundreds of details to form a baseline of knowledge. Then they looked for telltale signs of insurgent behavior.

The scenario they watched yesterday involved a mock sniper shooting an Iraqi police officer. The Marines had to tease out clues to ascertain who did what and from where. The exercise was one of 15 scenes that they will scrutinize in the next two weeks.

One goal of the training is teaching troops to unleash deadly force only after they have determined that it's warranted.

“Just because someone is a jerk does not mean we can kill them, do you got me?” said Greg Williams, a former police officer and big-game hunter as he debriefed 55 Marines from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

“Rrrr,” the Marines replied in agreement.

“We never do trigger time unless we do brain time, do you got me?” Williams emphasized.

“Rrrr,” the Marines responded.

After a lunch break, the trainees started analyzing more complex attacks.

Some of them praised Combat Hunter for teaching them to more effectively spot insurgents – as well as roadside bombs and weapons caches – while giving them confidence to patrol day in and day out.

“I think it is absolutely critical training,” said Cpl. Andrew Moul, 25, from Hart, Mich., who will deploy to Iraq in the fall. “In Iraq right now, it is more of a security situation, and we need this skill set to keep civilians and Marines alive by making better decisions.”

Unconventional thinking about an unconventional war might make a lot of sense, said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer for the Lexington Institute, a pro-defense think tank in Arlington, Va.

“What we are learning in Iraq is that the demands of warfare in the new century are so widely different from anything for which we were planning. We have to look in unexpected places for the skills that will serve us best” Thompson said.

“It may be that a combination of better hunting skills, language skills and cultural anthropology serves us better in Iraq than some gee-whiz wireless network,” Thompson said.

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