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Rogue Heroes

daftandbarmy

Army.ca Dinosaur
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In contrast to some of the hoopla about the recent TV series ....


Who cares who wins​

The mythology of the SAS

Eighty years after rampaging behind enemy lines in the deserts of North Africa, and forty-two years since exploding into the public’s consciousness by dramatically ending the Iranian Embassy siege, Britain’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) is once again the centre of the nation’s attention. This renewed notoriety owes nothing to any stunning military success or dramatic action on the part of the Regiment, as it is referred to, but rather to the new BBC television series, SAS: Rogue Heroes. Based on the best-selling book by Ben Macintyre, who was granted privileged access to the SAS’s own classified regimental archives, SAS: Rogue Heroes depicts the wartime birth and first unsteady steps of the world’s most famous Special Forces unit.

Described by the media’s usual suspects of military commentators and cheerleaders as an adrenaline-fuelled, “gung-ho”, “rock-star history” of the SAS’s infancy, Rogue Heroes is not only a piece of televisual entertainment. It serves another, more profound purpose — namely the supercharging of the Regiment’s reputation, fighting-record and mythology. It also adds a further stratum to existing layers of legend, which throughout its operational history have afforded the SAS a distinct psychological advantage over its opponents.

Book shelves buckle under the sheer volume and weight of a growing corpus of work on the Regiment. The high-levels of embellishment, hyperbole and dissembling inherent in these literary outpourings, compounded by operational security, plausible deniability and a refusal on the part of the MoD to comment on the activities and very existence of UK Special Forces units, has meant, unsurprisingly, that academics and journalists alike have found it a challenge to penetrate the shroud of secrecy enveloping the activities of the SAS. It is difficult to differentiate, therefore, between what is fact and what is myth.

The late Professor Sir Michael Howard, eminent military historian and one-time Chichele Professor of military history at Oxford, addressed the role of myth in a highly-influential essay entitled, “The Uses and Abuses of Military History”. Howard wrote that “the ‘myth’, this selective and heroic view of the past, has its uses”. “The regimental historian”, in Howard’s opinion, had “consciously or unconsciously, to sustain the view that his regiment has usually been flawlessly brave and efficient, especially during its recent past”. “Without any sense of ill-doing,” contended Howard, “he will emphasize the glorious episodes in its history and pass with a light hand over its murkier passages, knowing full well that his work is to serve a practical purpose in sustaining regimental morale in the future”.

Professor Howard believed, however, that “myth” was not an “abuse of military history” if it sustained a soldier on the battlefield “even when he knows, with half his mind, that it is untrue”. Howard, himself a wartime Captain in the Coldstream Guards and recipient of the Military Cross, felt that myth was a form of “nursery history” which could assist in immunising military personnel against the “realities of war”. The only problem with this proposition, however, is that if a military organisation such as the SAS mythologizes its fighting record until it possesses only a passing acquaintance with the truth, then the realities of future combat will rapidly disabuse its personnel of such delusions.

Like the winged Sword of Damocles that features prominently on the Unit’s badge, the “myth” of an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient fighting machine has been a proverbial double-edged sword. For the majority of those who have served in the Regiment over the years, it has sustained them in combat and in adversity. Yet for a select number of “badged” SAS personnel, who have been compelled to question “the myth”, ostracism and stigmatisation have answered their heresies. One of the most high-profile examples of this occurred during the Falklands war of 1982.

 
First heard of the SAS I was in grade 7 or 8 and read the book " The Phantom Major" a book published in 1958, school library had a copy. I really enjoyed reading it. I watched the tv show on prime and it was entertaining, but I think they gave the characters a Hollywood redo.
The history of the SAS, the success they shared and the missions were incredible, but the disasters they had were all big and created the myth of being unstoppable.
Now thinking I need to reread the book. Another book with interesting story about the SAS is " The Feather Men" Fact or Fiction?

Single mission books, or careers of the SAS soldiers are interesting but I prefer the 2 I listed above.
 
SOF forces don't impress me anymore. Not that that means much. They are so big and bloated in Canada it's ridiculous.

They have all the resources and people. What is impressive is the line Cpl/S1 who excels at the jobs and doesn't quit when things get shitty.

RH was a fun series. But who doesn't like a bunch of renegades and a crazy Irishman giving the finger to their British CoC and going their own way ?
 
The SAS are the prototype that virtually every other SOF force in the west is patterned after. I've read the history and they are impressive.
 
I mean, I've heard others make similar arguments in a more articulate manner.

My former CO, who was COS CANSOFCOM and won the SMV thought CSOR was a pointless organization that had no need to exist and that they were simply a "solution" to the Army's inability to sort out LIBs and deal with the fallout of the CAR.

You could make similar arguments about units like NTOG. The Navy spends a tonne of money on NTOG but I don't think they are necessary or even need to exist. IMO the Navy should have just given the Clearance Divers NTOGs mandate.

My understanding is this was also originally the intent but a bunch of Old Hand Clearance Divers didn't want it to become "not a dive club" so that idea was canned.
 
I mean, I've heard others make similar arguments in a more articulate manner.

My former CO, who was COS CANSOFCOM and won the SMV thought CSOR was a pointless organization that had no need to exist and that they were simply a "solution" to the Army's inability to sort out LIBs and deal with the fallout of the CAR.

You could make similar arguments about units like NTOG. The Navy spends a tonne of money on NTOG but I don't think they are necessary or even need to exist. IMO the Navy should have just given the Clearance Divers NTOGs mandate.

My understanding is this was also originally the intent but a bunch of Old Hand Clearance Divers didn't want it to become "not a dive club" so that idea was canned.

Call me old and grey but we should revert to SOF like pre 9/11 JTF2. Small, and agile. It's now essentially it's own L1. That's not SOF anymore, it's a service.

I was in the CLD when this all came out. The intent was to incorporate them NTOG and the NST under one Command structure under CRCN.

The CLDs are way to cool for school and got pissy when none of them made it through selection to NTOG.

NTOG is a waste of people and resources. It was the brain child born of the heavy boarding Op Apollo days. As is Canadian fashion it's too expensive and late.
 
Call me old and grey but we should revert to SOF like pre 9/11 JTF2. Small, and agile. It's now essentially it's own L1. That's not SOF anymore, it's a service.
JSOC in the US has more people than our entire max authorized strength for the CAF. I guess they're not SOF anymore either...
 
Call me old and grey but we should revert to SOF like pre 9/11 JTF2. Small, and agile. It's now essentially it's own L1. That's not SOF anymore, it's a service.
Counterpoint: Giving more establishment "oomph" to CANSOF = bigger (public) budget

Kind of why USSF split from USAF and became a service, and why the USAF split from the US Army.
 
Mind you we had the same discussions in the CCG about Rescue Divers and Rescue Specialists. The old guard did not want "Deck Apes" helping a pregnant woman give birth or doing anything outside what they thought deckhands should do. Rescue Diving is very much a niche skill , which is about 5% or less of the calls, but it consumes about 40% of your training time. It is though the most dangerous part of the job and the one most likley to kill you if not done right. The senior management fought tooth and nail to kill both of these, even to the point of lying to the Minister.
How do you maintain niche skills, that are important, but not always in use?
 
A strong understanding of the organizational raison d'etre and mandate are critical. But are often lost to bureaucratic / managerial / financial questions.

I recall being told about a Qualification Standard re-write for airfield engineering officers. One Maj apparently put up their hand and suggested that a lot of time and effort could be saved by removing training that was never used day to day - so why waste all that time on training airfield battle damage repair?
 
One Maj apparently put up their hand and suggested that a lot of time and effort could be saved by removing training that was never used day to day - so why waste all that time on training airfield battle damage repair?
Well I guess fighter pilots shouldn't be trained in combat then.
 
JSOC in the US has more people than our entire max authorized strength for the CAF. I guess they're not SOF anymore either...

I would argue that's an advantage of being resourced and manned the size of the US Military.

Counterpoint: Giving more establishment "oomph" to CANSOF = bigger (public) budget

Kind of why USSF split from USAF and became a service, and why the USAF split from the US Army.

Ya I get that. It's all about empires and silos.
 
Call me old and grey but we should revert to SOF like pre 9/11 JTF2. Small, and agile. It's now essentially it's own L1. That's not SOF anymore, it's a service.

I was in the CLD when this all came out. The intent was to incorporate them NTOG and the NST under one Command structure under CRCN.

The CLDs are way to cool for school and got pissy when none of them made it through selection to NTOG.

NTOG is a waste of people and resources. It was the brain child born of the heavy boarding Op Apollo days. As is Canadian fashion it's too expensive and late.

I should clarify this, I was in the CLD WORLD. Not a CLD. Never have been, never want to be, never will be.
 
Call me old and grey but we should revert to SOF like pre 9/11 JTF2. Small, and agile. It's now essentially it's own L1. That's not SOF anymore, it's a service.

I was in the CLD when this all came out. The intent was to incorporate them NTOG and the NST under one Command structure under CRCN.

The CLDs are way to cool for school and got pissy when none of them made it through selection to NTOG.

NTOG is a waste of people and resources. It was the brain child born of the heavy boarding Op Apollo days. As is Canadian fashion it's too expensive and late.
Okay, I'll bite.

I'm kinda, sorta, somewhat responsible for NTOG.

I did a crap-ton of boardings in the Gulf of Oman during Op Apollo. I am no small unit tactics guy but I was appalled at our lack of training in the basics of movement in a confined space and how to extract the team if it came under fire (jumping over the side of a cargo ship in ballast was an option???). So we did what we could with a few folks who had infantry experience but I was always supremely concerned each time we crossed over to the target vessel.

Long story short, I get posted to Fleet School after the operation and I'm put in charge of boarding training. I wanted to introduce Sim Ammo into our training syllabus but was rebuffed by Ottawa. The words to effect were "Why do you want that? You think you're some sort of JTF2 wannabe?"

So I let it drop until we had a couple of JTF-2 folks come to Fleet School and I took the opportunity for them to have a look at our Boarding Party Small arms training. And after they picked themselves off the deck from laughing so hard, their BN got the ball rolling to what the RCN has today.

I haven't been to the coast in ages to see what it has become but do we not still have the regular Naval Landing and Boarding Party Training? (yes I'm retreating to pre 1990 terms! LOL!)
 
Okay, I'll bite.

I'm kinda, sorta, somewhat responsible for NTOG.

I did a crap-ton of boardings in the Gulf of Oman during Op Apollo. I am no small unit tactics guy but I was appalled at our lack of training in the basics of movement in a confined space and how to extract the team if it came under fire (jumping over the side of a cargo ship in ballast was an option???). So we did what we could with a few folks who had infantry experience but I was always supremely concerned each time we crossed over to the target vessel.

Long story short, I get posted to Fleet School after the operation and I'm put in charge of boarding training. I wanted to introduce Sim Ammo into our training syllabus but was rebuffed by Ottawa. The words to effect were "Why do you want that? You think you're some sort of JTF2 wannabe?"

So I let it drop until we had a couple of JTF-2 folks come to Fleet School and I took the opportunity for them to have a look at our Boarding Party Small arms training. And after they picked themselves off the deck from laughing so hard, their BN got the ball rolling to what the RCN has today.

I haven't been to the coast in ages to see what it has become but do we not still have the regular Naval Landing and Boarding Party Training? (yes I'm retreating to pre 1990 terms! LOL!)

We've chewed the dirt old boy. ;)

We still have NLBP but I think its just NBP now.
 
So I let it drop until we had a couple of JTF-2 folks come to Fleet School and I took the opportunity for them to have a look at our Boarding Party Small arms training. And after they picked themselves off the deck from laughing so hard, their BN got the ball rolling to what the RCN has today.

I haven't been to the coast in ages to see what it has become but do we not still have the regular Naval Landing and Boarding Party Training? (yes I'm retreating to pre 1990 terms! LOL!)

I think I know one of those guys. One of the best soldiers, and people, I've ever met.

He was very complimentary about the Navy guys... keen, motivated, and learned fast (as compared to Infantry, I'm guessing) ;)
 
I think I know one of those guys. One of the best soldiers, and people, I've ever met.

He was very complimentary about the Navy guys... keen, motivated, and learned fast (as compared to Infantry, I'm guessing) ;)
A short WO? Yep, he was very cool.
 
JSOC in the US has more people than our entire max authorized strength for the CAF. I guess they're not SOF anymore either...

The most offensive weapon on a fighter is the pilot's ego ;)

Against my better judgement, I'm going to bite down hard on this. I've never been a fan of the way the CAF governs or administers itself. I was basically critical of the way it does its business my entire career, to my own detriment usually 😆.

I'm even more critical now that I work in the private sector and have begun to be exposed to how really ruthless titans of industry and businesses think about solving their problems.

L1s like CANSOFCOM and CFINTCOM exist solely because the Environments (I won't call them Services, they aren't) are tribal and parochial to the point of stupidity.

It isn't that the CAF doesn't need these capabilities, it's that it will choose the least efficient and least cost effective means on generating these capabilities. All to satisfy bullshit bureaucratic and internal political imperatives.

Lets be honest as well, the capabilities some of these organizations actually provide and the actual effects they deliver provide marginal returns for $$$costs incurred.

All of the mission sets an org like CSOR provides have been previously done in the past by Regular Force joes and janes. Were they as "good" or as "slick" at it? No. Does it actually matter that they were? Not in the least 🤣

What were the OMLT & POMLT teams doing in Afghanistan or 2RCR in Haiti circa 2004? Or NBP in the Gulf?

Now I'm not talking about JTF2 here, that's an entirely different kettle of fish but we have a barely functioning Military as it is and from my perspective, we spend a bucket load of cash on boutique units with huge overhead, all so we can send a few dudes in snazy outfits to look pretty, training Third World banana republics how to do basic soldiering skills 🤣. Something any competent Canadian Corporal should be able to do.

Optimize your assets, control your costs oh.... and drive shareholder value i.e. benefit to the taxpayer!

The CAF should pray I never enter politics and become MND, there would be a lot of firing squads 🤣
 
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