Thursday, September 13, 2007

Would you open the door?

The Army's latest "TV Challenge" shows a bunch of kiwi soldiers driving along a mountainous road in Pinzgauers when they come upon a group of women with babies on their backs. One of the women approaches the Pinzgauer and thumps on the door asking the soldiers for help. The question is: would you unlock the door? The solution from the Army website is "Did you notice the large firearm strapped over her left shoulder? She's in distress and she's armed. You should only unlock the door for this woman if you're ready to immediately disarm her".

Think about it however. She's in the mountains with other women and babies. She's armed because everyone else there is armed and because there are probably wolves about. Is she about to get into a firefight with a bunch of foreign soldiers? Very, very unlikely. The only real possibility for danger is she's part of a suicide squad but then if she's that close to a Pinzgauer its already too late. If she's wired up like a bomb she'll destroy the vehicle and kill half its occupants because Pinzgauers, even the armoured ones, could not withstand such a blast at that range.

The interesting thing about the question is however two assumptions which stem from the nature of the Pinzgauer itself. The first is that you have all these soldiers huddled inside this poor-mans APC increasing the risk because there are so many "eggs in one basket". The second is that the lock on the door will protect our wee darlings from the nasty foreign lady outside.

The hypothetical force on my website does not have Pinzgauers. Instead it has either big RG-33 mine protected vehicles which could protect its occupants from a suicide bomber (as they do in Iraq) or a Toyota Landcruisers with no armour but which cost a third of the Pinzgauers price. If we assume that the same hypothetical situation existed it is probable that the unit would be driving in a convoy of Landcruisers possibly with a single RG-33 in case of mines in the lead. The soldiers would probably consist mostly of Rangers, Pioneers, medical staff and intelligence officers. The main advantage of the Landcruiser is that it would only carry four soldiers at a time. Two landcruisers to carry a single section. This would make taking out an entire section with one mine, IED, or RPG all the harder.

On encountering the women the obvious thing to do would be to prepare to dismount. The RG33 would go slightly ahead. The convoy would stop and the soldiers approach the women. The rear section would dismount and approach at a different angle in a relaxed fashion. The obvious objective is to determine what the women are trying to do and whether they need any help. If the women are dodgy they will be stand-offish. If the women are desperate they will demand help. In the former case the best response is to back off but note them for monitoring and possibly surprise them later. In the latter case to render aid as available.

This is another example of the way in which the Army has been painted into a corner by being forced to adopt such a limited range of equipment. To do the right thing in a peacekeeping environment is always tricky but having your options limited by unimaginative equipping just makes it all the harder.