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28 July 2008


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Mr. Lang:

Isn't one of the defining characteristics of this war, as opposed to others, that non combat arms (i.e., non-infantry) are frequently being used *as* infantry? Hence MPs are being used (or were being used, there being so much change since 2003) to guard convoys, and run the risk of IEDs? Ditto for (say) the combat arms branch of artillery?

Furthermore, doesn't Iraq stand separate from the war in which Hagel fought, in that the urban terrain in which US troops fight, means they tend not to spend more than 24 hours outside "the wire"?

Does Iraq call for a redefinition of the PBI? Are Kipling et al being rendered anachronistic?


Patrick Lang


No. You are not paying attention to my argument that "this kind of war" (Iraq) is nothing new or different. a passing phenomenon. Do you think Afghanistan is the same? Do you really think that future wars will feature fobbits and IEDs as their main features?

"Urban warfare," is a term invented by the slow of thought to describe something new (to them)that they could not cope with. pl

Neil Richardson

Dear COL,

Although we treadheads used to joke about the "crunchies," I've always felt one of the true thresholds of deterrence was whether each generation of Americans could produce young men who'd be willing and able to close the last two hundred yards with the enemy. For decades, our adversaries like Hitler, Mao, and Bin Laden have openly cast doubt on our to produce such men in such a wealthy country where kids grow up "soft." It appears to me that this generation of kids are as able as any who'd come before them.

BTW, arty and armored BNs have been doing some light infantry work in Iraq due to the shortage of infantry. In fact a friend told me recently that maintaining training standards (e.g., poor TTable VIII scores) in tank units have been difficult due to time constraints. The Marine Corps also have had some problems with artillery units in that regard as well.


Grunts rule!


1) I make no claims as to the future of war: IEDs may become the last century's horse cavalry within 5 years due to MRAPs and other countermeasures. Conversely, they could become the new kalashnikov of the next 100 years - I am always skeptical of prognostication.

2) I do think Afghanistan, based on what I read open-source, is similar, but not the same. It varies by quantity but not quality. There are large fobs, and there are convoys, and there are units not being used according to their primary MOS. I do not know those quantities, and it may be the quantity is such that it lends a different quality to the war than that in Iraq. I concede I don't know, but I am not positive I am wrong, either (perhaps just stubborn?).

3) I also suspect some of the jargon soldiers use to deride non-PBIs has spilled from Iraq to Afghanistan, where it may be less appropriate, but is used due to this spill-over nonetheless.

4) How does one define "the main feature" of a war, anyway? Fobbits are derided-personnnel; IEDs are a form of munition. Should we not also speak of doctrine, strategy, etc.?

5) I tend to think the urban nature of the conflict in Iraq probably has made a difference. If Iraq's population was less concentrated, would the surge of "only" 180,000 troops have been as successful were, say, Iraq's population were more decentralized?


William R. Cumming

What are the ingredients for award of the Combat Infantry Badge now? Have any women ever been awarded it? That seems the gold standard for "what is an infantryman?" How many have been awarded total since 9/11/2001?

Patrick Lang


To some extent an argument on this subject with someone who has not served (as you told me)is a little like discussing riding a bicycle, sex or skiing with someone has not done these things. There is something magical about the experience that clarifies.

Using non-infantrymen as infantry is an old, old thing to do when one is short of infantry. I don't know how much military history you have read but political science and a newspaper subscription are not good background for commenting on the field.

You can use troops from the other combat arms as infantry but it just isn't the same thing. I have seen it done. So far as I know troops from other arms and branches are being used for secondary duties that do not reequire the skills of real infantry or their special kind of spirit.

For whomever asked what the requirement is for award of the CIB, it used to be 90 days in combat in an infantry or special forces MOS at Bde. or below. Today, who knows. pl


Points all well-taken. I have not served, and my perspective might well (probably would) be different if I had.

I shall recuse myself further from this discussion.



For Neil Richardson upthread: thanks for being so polite as to only call us "crunchies". The term of endearment when I was in - "grunts" - now has given way to "pukes".

Whatever, "base camp warrior" also has given way to "chicken hawk". Offered a choice, I'll proudly stand with my fellow pukes.

anna missed

fobbits? hah, you mean like REMFs. I think the psychological difference the Colonel speaks of, is the difference between actually playing in the game, instead of watching it from the bench. Whole different experience.


As an Infantryman, I'm always proud. Anything not Infantry is just "support".

Only Infantry can clear and hold ground.

End of story.


Thank you, Col. Lang. I am so tired of the media polluting the idea of what the infantry is, with the military often all too willing to go along with it so it can present a "feel good" story.

One only has to witness the amount of books and exposure with themes like "Lioness" to know how bad things have gotten.

Fobbits and Queens for a Year are eating the heart out of the Army. The original qualifications for the CAB were strenous enough that it was a respectable badge to wear, however it ended up being watered down to the point where it simply means promotion points. Firing your weaponly wildly in response to an IED is not "doing the same thing the grunts do", no matter what the Army Times, Stars and Stripes, and the media want you to believe.

And TBQH, Afghanistan is more the infantry fight than Iraq ever was, in my experience. At my time out there, I was living hard on the Pakistani border at the same firebase where Pat Tillman ended up being killed.

Do not confuse Baghram, with the so called "Pogue Assembly Area" around the Big PX with the series of small firebases (at the time) such as Salerno and Spin Topak, where rockets are frequent and hot showers are a rare occasion, usually sneaked at 2 in the morning.

As one 1SG put it "You can hold your breath until you're blue in the face, but without the cord you're not an infantryman."


Watching the troops on TV, I marvel at the contrast between now and way back was I was in boots. My first reaction is how much stuff they carry. Further the ability to communicate is geometrically more pervasive than we had; now not only between platoons but between individuals. This is probably an improvement, but I suspect it leads to higher interference and micro-management from higher and ‘higher-higher’. Pat, haven’t heard that for awhile, have you? There are truly profound differences between then and now as there were between Gettysburg and Omaha Beach, but I know the basic reality of life in the infantry is largely unchanged for the last millennium. Most of time is routine boredom trying to continually improve your position for both security and comfort until you must move again to a new position and then start work on that spot. Simple things-the right ration or a prime position for the night- are important. The language is coarse, generosity and selflessness amongst the unit is free and wide, and the spoofing with one another is fierce, but outsiders are not allowed to participate. Ranks quickly close if a unit member is threatened or challenged. Mostly infantry is a state of mind. Then I was convinced to the bone that all the crap that came with the job was well worth my being able to righteously claim the 11 MOS.

On the issue on the award of the Combat Infantryman’s Badge is to date restricted to men as women are not allowed in Army infantry units. While not current on the criteria for the CIBs award (AR 600-8-22), I have seen troops with 2 awards. I recall joining the Army in 1968 and seeing NCOs with the star. That was Korea and Vietnam. My first 1SG had two stars; that’s WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Then it was largely Vietnam for a decade or so until Grenada and Panama. I was awarded mine in 1969 and it remains the one award I value above the rest.

Much of General Wes Clark’s recent criticism of Senator McCain centers on a strongly held value within the infantry that those who support the battle (to include the fast movers above) are all second team and fair target for disdain when pushing their war credentials to the front. “I am the Infantry, follow me.”


I think this post of Dan Hardie's is relevant here. He's now in Afghanistan.

João Carlos

Reading AnonAF and Colonel Lang discussion, I want to throw my 2 cents.

There are geographical and populational factors that will affect how the war will be fought. Nothing new, ever happened, geography ever played a factor at warfare. So, Colonel Lang is right when say there is nothing new happening.

Iraq is mostly plain and there is a considerable percentage of the population living at cities. Afghanistan have low percentage of population living at cities, but the terrain is mountainous. So, at Iraq we see what some (the "slow of thought", as PL call them) named "urban warfare", but if you read a few you will find a city was named Stalingrad. Afghanistan is more alike what we call "guerrilha", they use the mountains terrain as advantage, worked against URSS.

However, we need consider that some features will influenciate the warfare at the next 100 years.

Demografics will play a considerable factor at the warfare. Infantry, the tool for occuppy land, needs a large number of youth men. While the developed nations are "greying", the poor south have a large contigent of youth men and population growing.

Urbanization too is changing the world. My country, Brazil, had 30% of population living at cities at the 50'. Nowdays the urban population here is more than 80%. The world population is more urban each day, there is a huge migration happening (at some poor countries, happened)from the country to the cities at all world.

That changes all the dynamics of North-South conflict. Nothing new to war, warfare is the same, but the geopolitics change.

I guess that this process makes Colonial or Neo-Colonial wars that the "New American Century" guys dreamt a not wise idea.

João Carlos

Sorry the bad english, my native language is portuguese.


several things I don't understand with current military development.

1. with so much radio gear coming out of an infantry troop, somebody bounds to develop a specialized weapon to simply find radio signal and start dumping bomb. (eg. cheap flying robotic bomber with radio scanner) a soldier is practically a walking radio beacon. This whole radio business is going to kill when there is a war against moderately advance country.

2. Pentagon spending and procurement pattern will kill the country first before an actual war gets us. They are buying expensive gears that has no use whatsoever in the future. expensive satellites, traditional aircraft carriers, blue water subs, fighter jets, heavy bombers, etc etc...

for eg. all those super secret heavy bombers...
it is cheaper to install a small satellite to monitor runways and let computer count how many of those plane take off and land and where to. Those puppies gotta land sometimes right? (so much for being invisible)

same with aircraft carriers. assign a network of spy satellite and drones to track the movements of those clunker ships. Russia certainly can afford floating cheap single purpose satellite.

another one against traditional aircraft carrier. Anybody ever really ask how easy the Iranian can sink those clunker?

Rocket fuel, huge tankers, simple air defense gun, tons of concrete and active shield. figure it out Macgyver. What happen if the Iranian is using a giant tanker as battering ram against an aircraft carrier (after baiting the aircraft carrier to use half of bigger bombs)

3 emergence of cheap flying drone.

seriously. I don't believe for a minute we have the capability to maintain open the persian gulf.

Yeah. if the Iranian is stupid enough to do war like it's 1980's. We will win.

but anybody with half a brain will know they will NEVER do that.


Same with afghanistan. Mark my word. This is all going to be a "soviet" rehash. Instead of sensible use of integrated policy to develop a war torn nation.


I am an infantry soldier.I am a RAKKASAN.Trust me there is no better job in the world.

Neil Richardson


As you are well aware there are degrees of nicknames appropriate for each occasion. My first station was at Tongduchon and most tankers at Casey learned very quickly that without capable infantry (whether they're ROKA or the Manchus) sustainable defensive action is impossible in the Chorwon Valley. I'm sure you 11s had a few choice nicknames for tankers as well. Incidentally, "DAT" has been updated to C-DAT (computerized DAT) after the Army deployed M1A1s. ; )


As many others here could certainly attest, every service and every branch (in the Army they would be infantry, armor, artillery, etc) has its own sense of espirit de corps which might be sometimes viewed as parochialism by those outside it. However as COL Lang and others have indicated, infantry requires the sort of "hardness" that is unique to its purpose. Whether other combat arms personnel can sometimes take over a portion of their function is dependent on how much casualties you're willing to risk. I once had a chance to speak to Harold Cohen who was the CO of the 10th Armored Infantry BN in the 4th Armored Division in 1944-45 (This was a legendary outfit in the armored community lore as John S. Wood, Bruce Clarke, Creighton Abrams, etc etc made their mark in history). After the Lorraine campaign, the division had suffered heavy casualties especially among armored infantry (many companies had 100% casualties in a month). The Third Army resorted to using support personnel and other combat arms (usually anti-aircraft units) as replacements for infantry. LTC Cohen said the results were less than satisfactory because they were usually the first to get hit.

Small units in each combat arms branch has its own "fieldcraft" which allows men to first survive and then achieve their mission objectives. Simply, there are unique sets of techniques that an infantryman has to employ and the physical and moral demands are very very high especially in light of the fact that he will almost certainly be at extreme risk after contact with the enemy. While no serious practitioner or military historian would claim that one branch would be the decisive arm of warfare in generis, I'd argue that those who overlook the necessity of infantry do so at their peril. From 1945-1950, the Army's training standards were shamefully low especially in the Eighth Army under MacArthur because we thought "the nuclear revolution" had forever changed the nature of warfare. The Army paid for its lessons in blood in 1950 which is remarkable considering the level of proficiency at the end of WWII. What Ridgway did to turn around the EUSA and avert a disaster in 1951 was to teach the Army basic infantry fieldcraft and tactical lessons (e.g., compare our experience to that of the 1st Marine Division and you see the different results during the Great Bug Out). The Israelis who are very sensitive to casualty rate chose to over-invest in tanks at the expense of mechanized infantry before 1973. They also paid heavily and had to resort to ad hoc measures. We saw the British Army fight a light infantry war in Falklands even though they were an army that had prepared to defend the North German plain against the GSFG. Fortunately for them, their infantry were vastly superior to the Argentinians who enjoyed local superiority.

We don't always get to choose the ground on which to fight, and this is the reason why those who are advocating a gradualist approach to military transformation are still in favor of a balanced force structure that can respond to a full spectrum of potential threats.

BTW, David Hackworth always said he valued the CIB above all his decorations. It seems to be a common reflection among infantrymen


"What is an Infantryman?"

Since I am now returning home from visiting friends in Chattanooga, read this:


General Thomas lead men that were what infantrymen are all about.


"90% of all casualties are experienced in the infantry"

Which may explain why the Air Force is always ready to fight to the last infantryman. And, some might say, the Navy too.

(I don't say this to belittle anyone in those services, btw, but to agree that the different nature of each service's contacts in combat is important in forming their outlook and degree of belligerency, and to suggest that some backgrounds are better-suited to Joint Chief and other very high command than others.)

Cold War Zoomie

In the spirit of inter-service rivalry, I submit this gem that arrived in my email recently...

This explains it all. As aviators, we come from a long line of a secret society, formed around one thousand years ago. We are warriors, and here is the proof! Ground pounders can read it and weep!

A little known fact is the origin of the word, "Aviator." In the immortal words of Johnny Carson: "I didn't know that."

Phu Khen (pronounced Foo Ken) 1169-? is considered by some to be the most under-recognized military officer in history. Many have never heard of his contributions to modern military warfare. The mission of this secret society is to bring honor to the name of Phu Khen.

A 'Khen' was a subordinate to a 'Khan' (pronounced 'konn') in the military structure of the Mongol hordes. Khan is Turkish for leader. Most know of the great Genghis Khan, but little has been written of his chain of command. Khen is also of Turkish origin. Although there is not a word in English that adequately conveys the meaning, roughly translated it means:

One who will do the impossible, while appearing unprepared and complaining constantly.

Phu Khen was one of ten Khens that headed the divisions, or groups of hordes, as they were known, of the Mongol Army serving under Genghis Khan. His abilities came to light during the Mongols' raids on the Turkistan city of Bohicaroo. Bohicans were fierce warriors and the city was well fortified. The entire city was protected by huge walls and the hordes were at a standoff with the Bohicans. Bohicaroo was well stocked and it would be difficult to wait them out. Genghis Khan assembled his Khens and ordered each of them to develop a plan for penetrating the defenses of Bohicaroo.

Operation Achieve Victory (AV) was born. All 10 divisions of Khens submitted their plan. After reviewing AV plans 1 thru 7 and finding them all unworkable or ridiculous, Genghis Khan was understandably upset. It was with much perspiration that Phu Khen submitted his idea, which came to be known as AV 8. Upon seeing AV 8, Genghis was convinced this was the perfect plan and gave his immediate approval. The plan was beautifully simple. Phu Khen would arm his hordes to the teeth, load them into catapults, and hurl them over the wall. The losses were expected to be high, but hey, hordes were cheap! Those that survived the flight would engage the enemy in combat. Those that did not? Well, surely their flailing bodies would cause some damage.

The plan worked and the Bohicans were defeated. From that day on, whenever the Mongol Army encountered an insurmountable enemy, Genghis Khan would give the order, "Send some of Phu Khen's AV 8-ers." Phu Khen's AV 8-ers were understandably an unruly mob, not likely to be socially acceptable. Many were heavy drinkers and insomniacs. But when nothing else would do, you could always count on an AV 8-er. A Phu Khen Aviator.

Denied, perhaps rightfully so, his place in history, Phu Khen has been, nonetheless, immortalized in prose. As the great poet Norman Lear never once said:

There once was a man named Phu Khen, Whose breakfast was whiskey and gin. When e'er he'd fly, He'd give a mighty war cry: "Bend over, here it comes again." (BOHICA)

Consider it an honor to be a Phu Khen Aviator. Wear the mantle proudly, but speak of it cautiously. It is not always popular to be one of us. You hear mystical references, often-hushed whispers, to 'those Phu Khen Aviators.'

Do not let these things bother you. As with any secret society, we go largely misunderstood, prohibited by our apathy from explaining ourselves. You are expected to always live down to the reputation of the Phu Khen Aviator...a reputation cultivated for centuries, undaunted by scorn or ridicule, unhindered by progress.

So drink up, be crude, sleep late, urinate in public, and get the job done. When others are offended, you can revel in the knowledge that... YOU are a PHU KHEN AVIATOR!

505th PIR

Having gone on to civilian life after four years as Airborne 11B, I am still in touch with with several of my former comrades 20 years later. Through our network it is common to a man that we all feel that those were the formative years of our lives in almost every respect. When I enlisted my father asked me if I really wanted to sleep in mudholes for a living. In hindsite, that existence stripped my personna of middle class entitlement and helped me develop a very realistic perception of the order of things. I can honestly say that what I learned over that period has been a huge positive at my side during every challenge, relationship and success I have encountered since. When I enter any situation I am never alone as those years are with me. It constantly brings meaning to my experience. Multi-tasking and never losing site of the "mission" while under duress/less than comfortable circumstances became as natural as breathing and has stuck with me ever since.

Infantry, no matter how it gets to the battlefield is something apart. I agree with Colonel Lang re: the unspoken brotherhood. When Chuck Hagel speaks on war his words strike a different chord than the majority of his colleagues.

Thomas, RAKKASAN 3/187 IN

I was reading what was written above about aviators and found it very interesting. First of all every man and every woman in any service are apart of a team. Infantry soldiers are sometimes to proud and argue "support" all the time. I would say best because we are on the ground whether we win or lose. Because thats where real decisions are made. Moral decisions are the only way to win this war. This war will not be won on a casualty count. This war will be won on the ground by moral decisions by infantry men. Since we are not perfect infantry men will make mistakes and through trial and error adapt and overcome and become better suited in the future," live to fight another day". I'm reading a book right now that for me has explained much of what we've trained for and implemented for this my second of deployments. The book is written by John Poole entitled Militant Tricks. It's not just about the last 100 yards its about what we do when we get there. There are decisions made there that require more discipline than most would ever imagine. A passage in Poole's book explains what and why infantry are the most important MOS. "Truth is generally acknowledged to be the first casualty of war. Commanders are tempted to downplay any battlefield setback so as not to demoralize their personnel, give comfort to the enemy, or disclose some unit deficiency. If they downplay often enough, their parent organization may never realize the need for corrective action. To curtail the bloodshed, commanders are next tempted to increase the level of violence. Fortunately, wars are not won by killing. They are won by destroying the enemy's strategic assets. With a nondeceptive foe and accurate intelligence, one might do that with precision munitions. But a sattelite cannot tell whether a suspected safehouse has filled with enemy fighters or orphaned children. Only a nearby ground observer can do that. Thus, in populated areas, battles are mostly waged by dismounted infantrymen. The frontline soldier can excercise last-second mercy, whereas an aircraft launched "smart" bomb cannot. To take fewer casualties,commanders are finally tempted to bombard everything in their path. As this can kill many civilians, they face a moral quandry. What makes the life of the liberator more valuable than the life of the person being liberated? It isn't the local housewife's fault that she cannot control some of her countrymen. To comply with "morality of battle," one needs infantrymen with enough skill to safely maneuver without preliminary bombardment. Just as policemen cannot destroy a hostage-taker's building, peecekeepers cannot level a terrorist-occupied tenement."
So what I do in the infantry requires me to be on the ground and make those decisions. We can't launch "Phu Kehn Aviator's" over the wall and kill everything in sight to win. I make no apologies or gripes about pounding the ground. So drink up,be crude,sleep late, and get the job done after we've held the ground and made sure you are not destroying a safe house filled with orphaned children. Thanks for the ride home.

Cold War Zoomie


Maybe I'm misreading you, but the email I posted is one of the many inter-service rivalry jokes that float around the .mil networks.

Nothing more.


Cold War Zoomie-

The thing is, I was teasing this AF guy here and we go back and forth all the time. He hasn't heard the joke before. I was trying to get him to bite on the comments here and still get my jabs in from the book. Thanks for ruining my setup. Just kidding;). Now i have to find another way to mess with his head.

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