Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Turn Off That IPhone, Commandant Tells Marines

“We’ve got to change the way we’re thinking….An adversary can see us just as we see them,” said Gen. Neller. “If you can be seen, you will be attacked.”

In particular, US field HQs have grown into notoriously large targets. In one exercise, Neller said, a Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters did almost everything right. They covered everything in camouflage netting — a largely lost art since 9/11 — and set up their radio antennas at a distance so a strike homing in on them wouldn’t hit the HQ itself. But old counterinsurgency habits die hard, and the Marines also put concertina wire around a key location. Seen from the air, the barbed wire glinted in the sun and made a shining circle, like a bull’s eye, around what it was supposed to protect.

“That was where the intel people where,” Neller said to laughter.

Some times, the giveaway won’t be visual; it’ll be electronic and it’s not necessarily military electronics. In the same exercise, the biggest, most glaring source of electromagnetic transmissions wasn’t from the HQ’s radios: It came from the billeting area, where young Marines were using their personal devices. “So we had to take everybody’s phone away,” Neller said. “I know that sounds silly, but it’s not.”

The enemy can take away your electronics too, Neller noted, so Marines are increasingly training to operate when their GPS mapping, digital radios, and other 21st century standbys have been jammed or hacked. The simulated Opposing Force (OPFOR) at 29 Palms now uses off-the-shelf quadcopter UAVs to spy on the US side in wargames.

Part of the solution is just going back to pre-9/11 basics. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Neller said, Marines didn’t paint their faces dark colors for night operations, stick foliage to their helmets to break up their silhouette, or dig foxholes. Those Cold War skills must be relearned, he said. more