Thursday, June 23, 2016

THROWBACK THURSDAY ~ SHTF Self-Education Series - From the Library: "Special Forces - Guerrilla Warfare Manual"

THROWBACK THURSDAY:  This was the first book review published in December, 2015.  

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Here at, you have come to expect writing on some difficult topics and some professional insights that you might not otherwise find elsewhere.  In response to Reader requests, we will start to review and summarize some of the literature from our own library that may offer some guidance to the average citizen.

To start this series off, I am writing a book review on something that many of you may find of topical and timely interest. I am reviewing Scott Wimberley's “Special Forces – Guerrilla Warfare Manual”. It was published by Paladin Press in 1997. As the mechanics of guerrilla warfare are timeless, don't fret the publishing date. Sun Tzu, Mao and Che Guevara are all read in the present day, proving the point.  A link to purchase this book, if you wish to add it to your own personal library, is provided at the very end of this article.

When I read books for professional content and retention, I litter the pages with marginal notes (a fine mechanical pencil is best for this in my experience), bits of colored highlight tape to quickly get to points of interest and occasional post-it notes. I do not do this to library books, just my own pile. The Special Forces Guerrilla Warfare Manual is no exception. The pages on my copy are fringed with tape tabs, the spine is creased and I am sure there is a ring from a hot cup of tea somewhere in there.

It is wholly appropriate to start this review with the reason why Wimberly wrote this book:  

“...It is intended to help people who are living under oppression and for whom all other means of change have been exhausted or rendered impossible. 

With the globe in flames as we idle through the Christmas holiday, the contents of this book are timely and appropriate for a global audience fighting against genocidal, totalitarian regimes. One need look no further than the fate of the Yazidis at the hands of ISIS monsters, or minorities within Syria fighting to maintain a secular state against the inexorable Islamic thugs to grasp the inherent value in his writing. It is clear that no matter where civilized people live, they will always need the ability and knowledge base presented in books such as this to deal with bad situations if the Government cannot, will not or is unable to help them. Sometimes, like the Kurds or Yazidis, they have no other choice.
His distillation of the principles of guerrilla warfare is no-nonsense and gets to the core of the matter quickly. “Guerrillas never win wars, but their adversaries often lose them.” Examples abound in the news, where it is wholly evident that a guerrilla's main job is to, as the old reality show theme was, “outwit, outlast”. That is often enough to wear out Leviathan. Whether it takes a few years, or 50.. the guerrilla is in it for the long haul. The NVA, the tribesmen of Afghanistan, the FARC provide vivid examples of the truth of this.

This concept of time and how it applies in a Western context versus how a 3rd world resident and combatant views the field as meaningful was explained to me years ago while training up to be a foreign military intelligence advisor. It was explained to the class that guerrillas embody the philosophy of “the Americans may have the Rolexes, but we have the time”. This works on several levels - the relative difference in equipment and resources of standard Western militaries, the implications on value of time... it explains the inherent condition that not every day in a guerrilla war involves combat, but every day the guerrilla always has the option to extend the war and prolong Imperial pain. This bears deep thought and consideration to appreciate what commitment successful guerrilla warfare takes, from both a physical and psychological standpoint.

The details of planning and tactics are extensive. In practice, many foreign terrorist and guerrilla elements have a much more informal planning process than what is illustrated here for an American audience. The tactics section is standard American small unit material, one will see this in any ground force Officer Basic Course. It provides the basics from which once mastered, innovation can be done. I will review other books that have a more in depth discussion of tactics and the “nuts and bolts”. Wimberly definitely gets the basics across, though. As a note to the Reader, it is about thinking like a predator and not the prey. It is 80+ pages of directed information, diagrams and practical experience.

For the average American interested in this topic, “Patrol Tips” will probably provide the immediate knowledge of some basics that need to be absorbed before the larger issues and topics are covered. These tips should be standard knowledge in any Rifle Platoon, as well as anyone out camping or hiking.

If a person is on their own or taking care of their immediate homestead and family unit, this Tips section is important to start with. Although some of the material is not universally relevant to civilians in a SHTF scenario (tracers, grenades, use of claymores and similar), the intent behind this knowledge is broadly applicable. It is more than what to do, it is how to think about things and how those actions fit into the larger picture.

The chapter devoted to intelligence provides a key statement that all and sundry need to understand about “military intelligence” is that information is not intelligence. Information is a data point, a report, a transcript of a meeting, a photo. What makes it actionable "intelligence" is the application of context and analysis (this is important/significant for this reason...). Analysis is the application of logical thought, recognition of assumptions and an understanding of what the situation is (at a minimum), and interpreting it all to paint the tactical picture. Wimberly's section on agent and network communications is clear and concise. It provides that basic level of understanding so that the reader is then oriented to the general landscape. He does not get into the details of how an Intelligence section operates, however. That is all well and good, because I will review material that will do just that in the upcoming installments of my library shelf reviews.
Al Qaeda Network Chart provided by the Long War Journal
Despite the 21st Century bringing about some truly interesting tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP), the basics will remain unchanged. Perhaps one of the most important routine intelligence tasks is for an Intelligence Officer to debrief patrols. Through these interactions, much can be learned about the enemy. A skilled Intelligence Officer will also learn about his own side to a greater degree and should provide feedback into the Operations section to refine operations. Counter-Intelligence is discussed briefly, mainly regarding internal security and dealing with captured information. One key element that anyone, not just Intelligence Officers need to keep in mind when anyone is telling you anything is... “why am I getting told this, and why now?”. This applies not just in the world of combat.  Think about that question when you consume major media, for example. That mindset is extremely valuable to absorb in all manner of settings. It is not limited, use your imagination... just keep in mind what your assumptions and biases are, or you can get played and it can cost you.

The radio communications security section is thin. If you are carrying a radio (or cell phone) or using one for any purpose, there is a lot more depth to this topic than it covered in this book.  Here are a few sites to check out to fill this gap, they know a lot more about this subject than I do: “listening is 2x as important as talking”, are all excellent sources to learn from.

Communications are vital to any SHTF plan.  Think about how to leverage resources.
There are more sites and "meatspace" people out there with the technical know how, and some may even be willing to help you get started in this aspect. There is a lot more to it than me having some Lieutenant haul a hand made antennae into the treetops connected to an AOR AR-8200 receiver for a clerk to monitor and make logbook entries in. Note that the AOR-AR8200 series of receiver is what you can find and purchase for yourself as one of your preps as part of the gear similar to that professional military Radio Recon teams and the like actually use for listening in on real world signals of interest.

The chapter on psychological operations is quite useful and perhaps the real core of this book, given the mission of the American Army Green Berets as unconventional warriors. While acknowledged masters of tactics, the larger conflict is more heavily influenced by the psychological aspects of their work
At 39 pages, it is also one of the meatiest portions of this book, aside from the tactics section. While not a description of all that psychological warriors do, it reflects what guerrilla warfare is - it is actually all a guerrilla propaganda war, fought by armed propagandists. This chapter is really well done for the size of the topic. I found the 3 pages in this chapter devoted to literary devices used in propaganda to be highly interesting and applicable, particularly with this upcoming year being an election year. Just reviewing these pages at the end of this chapter retuned up my ear and eye for the propaganda that all Americans are subjected to in daily life.  YTZ4Mee has written some really good posts on this topic in the past, I expect that she will draft up some more as the election season and the psy-ops campaigns against American voters begins in earnest.

Successful Guerrilla campaigns play Propaganda Offense, not defense (h/t art=Sabo)
The chapter “Combat in Urban Areas” closes out the book in a scant 3 pages, total. This chapter provides a few tidbits, and that is it. Guerrilla warfare is not so much about going force on force in an urban environment, though it can be (think Hue City in 1968). I will cover books on urban combat covering the topic in much greater depth in other books reviews.

In conclusion, the details in this book provide a solid overview of information in one place that you would otherwise have to scour a number of other books for. 
I regard it as good value for the money, it has lasted on my shelf for a decade or so and remains relevant and a go-to book when I need to check on something. There is certainly enough depth in this to grab your interest and help you as you look into the concepts, TTPs and information more deeply to educate and prepare yourself for any unconventional warfare that may come to pass.

Also Available as a Kindle E-Book Edition

Amazon Link to Guarddog Ballistic Level IIIa Protection Bulletproof Backpack

 Book Review Written by StopShouting contributor Partyzanski, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-Terrorism Officer and combat seasoned USMC field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales.

You can read other book reviews previously published by linking to list here.

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1 comment:

DTG said...

Outstanding reference; should be in everyone's reference library, especially those who train others or are serious enough students of the art and science of warfare to want detailed understanding of how things can work, as well as the organization and discipline that's necessary.