Headlines in the Midlands
State Guardsmen act as insurgents during National Guard training
May 15, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Soldiers with the S.C. State Guard (SCSG) – the state-defense force component of the S.C. Military Dept. – served as mock insurgents, posing problem-scenarios for S.C. Army National Guard soldiers during training held May 11-12 at Camp McCrady, remotely located on Ft. Jackson.
The training simulated a variety of rapidly-changing threats that National Guard soldiers might experience while operating on the ground – in the proverbial “three-block war” – in the Middle East or the Balkans.
Three-block war is a late 20th century term, coined by U.S. Marine Gen. Charles C. Krulak and used to describe a conflict wherein “[Operating forces] may be confronted by the entire spectrum of tactical challenges in the span of a few hours and within the space of three contiguous city blocks.”
Counterinsurgency operations in the 21st century have expanded beyond the three-block concept, though the fundamentals remain the same, which is why soldiers today continue training to deal with Krulak’s “tactical challenges.” These challenges range from humanitarian crises on the one hand to direct-action operations on the other, and everything in between.
S.C. National Guardsmen are regularly deploying overseas in the post-911 world. At the same time, members of the State Guard – an unpaid all-volunteer force that is not deployable outside the state – are increasingly finding themselves playing the quick-change roles of theater non-combatants, bomb-planting hostiles, and ambush-setting guerrillas in training exercises with-and-for National Guardsmen during their pre-deployment workups.
“We’ve participated in these exercises – playing the roles of civilian villagers, negotiating elders, and insurgents – several times this year,” says COL Ray Franks, executive officer, 1st Brigade, SCSG; and a retired U.S. Air Force officer, who adds, “The State Guard contributes variety and depth-of-experience in counterinsurgency from all branches of the military.”
COL Richard Mullinax, 1st Brigade commander, agrees.
“The State Guard is a ready and relevant force,” says Mullinax, a U.S. Navy veteran. “We not only train with the National Guard, but we support them in many other ways.”
Last week’s training by the State Guard’s 1st Brigade comes on the heels of its 2nd Brigade’s participation in a three-day federal emergency exercise at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport last month. In that exercise, State Guardsmen were involved at every level from providing security, to traffic control, communications, medical triage, serving as stretcher bearers for evacuees, and – those with Air Force flight line experience – assisting as ground crewmembers for a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport aircraft delivering medical evacuees.
– W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle squad leader and counterterrorism instructor who writes about military/defense issues and has covered war in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He directs the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team. He is a senior commissioned officer in the S.C. Military Dept. He is the author of six books, a New York Times bestselling editor, and his articles appear in a variety of publications. Smith’s website is uswriter.com.