US Military vs Outside the Box

Being the USA (bigger budgets, advanced technology, maybe over-confidence) do we train our guys adequately to thing outside of the box, to not underestimte the enemey, etc., etc.??

The U.S. does it as well as anyone else, anyway.

Large, professional, First World armies tend to be much more aware of this sort of thing than less professional armies. The U.S. and other big countries, like the various NATO powers or Japan or what have you, do have staff colleges and put some thought into military theory, military psychology, and the like. Certainly the U.S. has been on the leading edge of studying human behaviour in battle since World War II. A great deal of effort is put into teaching officers and NCOs how to solve problems and act with initiative, and of course rich countries have huge advantages in terms of the availability of money, time, pre-educated talent, and educational tools.

It’s a hard thing to do. Armies are unimaginably complex organizations that are inherently prone to `organizational shock,’ the propensity of an army to lose cohesion and capability just by virtue of being in the field. Finding a balance between following orders and allowing initiative is hard, and there’s no one right answer.

This is not to say that large armies don’t have blind spots, idiots promoted past their level of competence, and mistakes a-plenty, but there’s a reason they tend to roll over lesser armies like Iraq’s; they know a lot more about how to fight wars.

We have the greatest armies of the past. Nowadays wars are skirmishes with people who know the terrain and are protecting their homeland against foreign occupiers. The people support them and they can run to tunnels and caves. We can blow the shit out of their cities. We can run over their armies, but we can not win hearts and minds. We create enemies every day. We need to develop intelligence. We need to hire language experts too get actionable intelligence. We need to sit down at conferences and treat them with respect. We do not need to install puppet governors who are corrupt and sell drugs. Iraqi citizens were hoping for the best , we gave them a government nobody wants. We installed an Afghan government that is the ultimate in corruption and theft. The citizens are not happy at all.

Better than most, I guess. Modern Military training is really training to do a highly technical job, and do it under stress.

I do have a friend who is an officer in the British Territorial Army (sort of their National Guard?) and he seems to get quite a lot of training in how to think for himself, so clearly the UK is up there, but I imagine all Western armed forces learn from each other and share methods, so they would all be of a muchness.

What does the OP mean, “think outside the box?” It seems to me that it is a completely meaningless phrase to indicate that someone else doesn’t share your views.

Within the Pentagon, there are people who think for the next 50 years, nearly all wars will be fighting insurgents, there are others who think the next war will be aganst a major military power like North Korea, and others who think that we will have some small wars against insurgents, and maybe a large war against a major power.

Given that the OP seems to imply that he belongs to group #1, are groups 2 and 3 really failing to question assumptions and think outside the box?

Sometimes inside the box is the place to be, especially if it’s an armored box.

I’d imagine that the most effective way to teach out-of-the-box thinking would be via roleplay and simulations. Essentially you give one guy or a team a certain amount of resources and put them in a particular situation, and then you have another guy/team go up against the first. You keep doing that with different people in different situations, you’re going to see a lot of interesting ideas pop up. Those ideas can then be taught to others, analyzed for flaws, etc. Everyone who’s participated in the process is going to see lots of different things and he’s going to put a good bit of thought into how he would handle each one. If you do that with a fairly large number of troops, you’re going to have a lot of guys who are used to thinking about tactics and strategy in a creative and analytical fashion.

So far as I’m aware, our military does attempt to do such things as that. They will play war games, use battle simulators, etc. as well as studying the history of warfare and strategy.

But there’s not much more you can do than that besides making sure that everyone knows that they have the freedom to make decisions for themselves (within reason). Again, I don’t see any reason to think that the US military doesn’t do that.

Overall, I’d say that they’re certainly trying. When virtual reality simulators and physics engines improve, you’ll see major leaps in tactics and strategy. The more realistic they can become, the better our troops will be at coming up with weird stuff like makeshift sticky bombs. People can only create up to the limit of what they have control over in the simulation.

That is what I was wondering. I knew Top Gun simulated enemy fighter specs/tactics but didn’t know if we were doing it for ground/naval forces. Sure, some bright lad in the Pentagon might realize the need to do such but I was questioning if we were actually practicing such scenarios.

The US military uses many simulators: flight, warning shot, mock prison camps (with real Iraqis here in the USA), ship driving, etc. As a member of the Navy, I can confirm that the Navy wants trigger pullers who will follow all legal orders, yet at the same time make smart decisions based on the available information at hand, all the while relaying information up the chain of command. We are flexible, observant and smarter than you might expect.

Oh, and training: it is constant and it is not always repetitive. Education is encouraged throughout the ranks.


Just realizing that you are at the top of the food chain can make one complacent/confident - however, such confidence confidence can also set oneself up for disaster too.

One of the first things I was taught in Basic Training: “The Infantry always adapt and overcome.” Another was "The Army doesn’t need robots. You wanna get your buddies killed then you can be a robot, but you won’t be one here!(meaning basic training). Also, about the training simulators and ‘war games’, yes we do that. Always. The idea is not unique and field training is the norm for almost all armys. Even when not in the field, as a squadleader I’m always taking my guys out and running them through different scenarios. Trust me, we’ve been on this for a long time now.

Anyone happen to know when this started? Tank warfare, for example, caught several armies entirely off guard during WWII.

Well of course it did. Just like today, we can’t predict what the next new strategy of the insurgents/Taliban will be, we can only come up with new strategys that counter-them. It’s impossible to predict what new thing is being combabulated by other people.

In addition to the Naval simulations mentioned by toofs as well as Top Gun and similar exercises for the Air Force, the US Army has operated a group usually referred to as “Op For” (Opposing Force) for quite some time.

It’s a group (I can’t recall the size) stationed in the Southwest that trained in Soviet tactics and practice, using captured Soviet Equipment or mock ups made as good as we can make them.

They would regularly be put up against standard Army forces in War Games (and usually won, from what I understand*). That group is still around, I’m just not sure what they’re doing these days

*winning in this instances was largely due to the fact that they were intimately familiar with the terrain and their surroundings, which is a HUGE advantage. Not tha Soviet weapons systems or tactics were superior…

OpFor personnel also tend to be very experienced, skilled personnel. You only get to do that sort of job if you’re an accomplished soldier.

The OP may be interested to read about the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. They have constructed Iraqi villages in this huge desert training ground to prepare soldiers for talking to civilians (as well as shooting bad guys). One story from 2006.

You can google “Medina Wasl” and find more.

As other poster have noted, the issue with the military isn’t a military problem, it’s political.

The best example is when Israel lost a war against Hamas a few years back. One of the greatest powers on Earth couldn’t take on a small politcal group, be they terrorists or not.

This is the issue. You don’t have to beat a nation, just outlast them.

We can fight a conventional war and win, but the human cost isn’t tolerated in today’s poltically correct world.

Even the war in Iraq, look at how political that is. I recall protesters on the streets of Chicago every weekend. Ever since November 2008 when Mr Obama won, the protesters left. Where are they? We’re still in Iraq? Did people stop dying? No, it was politics.

This is why we have confusion, people want war with no human lives lost.

Well, no Americans were killed in combat in Iraq last month. Cite.

That doesn’t mean other deaths were meaningless or that protest wasn’t politically driven, I am just pointing out that, to some extent, (American) people did in fact stop dying, at least briefly.