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Subject: Leadership and firing rss

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Captain Nemo
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I have noticed that games today are giving an increased value for firing if it is directed by an officer figure. My impression is that the traditional perception of the role of leadership was to give orders and to support morale. I would be interested in the opinions of those who have actually been at the sharp end on how they think the leadership role actually works out. Does the leader increase the fire effect of a unit? What benefits does a unit gain from their presence?
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Ernest Schubert
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Well, one thing it does is increase the chances that a unit WILL fire. Having an officer present to direct the unit TO fire has an effect. You'd be surprised at how reluctant someone who's NOT currently being shot at is to do anything to draw un-wanted attention to themselves.

Another effect... the officer might have a better understanding of the overall situation and the current objectives. That might allow him to direct the fire of a given unit to more valuable targets.

But, by and large, what the officer does is get the unit to engage, and engage more effectively... actually aiming their weapons as opposed to just sticking the AK-47 up over the wall and emptying a clip or two in the general direction of the enemy.
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Well, it's any non-commissioned officer or officer (an infantry leader in general) who is worth his salt is going to increase the effectiveness of fire in quite a number of ways:

-- Fire Direction. What targets to engage and when. Usually shouted.

-- Fire Distribution. When you've got more than one unit or machine gun to fire, ensuring they all are working together, particularly when going against a large, linear target. Typical of this would be a decision that one unit starts from the right, the other starts from the left, and they'll work towards the middle (imagine this against a Banzai or Human Wave attack).

-- Fire Discipline. While nobody gets stingy with bullets in a firefight in most cases (ammo shortage notwithstanding), being smart with the ammo you have is typically what these officers do in allocating fire.

-- Logistical Availability. When the leader starts screaming for more ammo, extra barrels for the overheated machine gun, or anything else, you can bet he gets what he wants. If ammo needs to be redistributed (grenades, small arms, etc), that's going to happen on the spot as well, no questions asked.

-- Morale boost (or fear). Depends on the leader. Either works just fine. There are those Marine Gunnery Sergeants out there that the troops are more scared of than they are of anyone (and anything) else and would do anything to avoid being the target of their ire. There are also those people who just provide a calming effect just by being there and giving a few encouraging words.
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Edmund Hon
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hammurabi70 wrote:
I have noticed that games today are giving an increased value for firing if it is directed by an officer figure. My impression is that the traditional perception of the role of leadership was to give orders and to support morale. I would be interested in the opinions of those who have actually been at the sharp end on how they think the leadership role actually works out. Does the leader increase the fire effect of a unit? What benefits does a unit gain from their presence?


I thought about this same question before. Then I saw the third episode of Band of Brothers ("Carentan"), and I begin to understand why that might be the case. In the 2nd half of that episode Easy Co. was engaged in a firefight with the Germans and Lt. Winters was walking up and down along the line hollering things like "Watch for silhouettes on the horizon! Pour it on them! Keep it up! I want fire superiority!"
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Christopher KrackerJack
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In addition to the very good points above:

-At the Infantry Officer's Course (USMC version) all officer's are given instruction on the psychological barriers to killing in combat. Then they are told that it is their job to have their Marines overcome these barriers. Grossman, Marshall, and others have conducted many studies that show the presence of someone directing a soldier/ Marine where and when to fire has a profound impact on the quality and amount of fire. This effect is more pronounced from about the 1950's back. New training methods since the mid 50's have increased rates and quality of fire for unled troops (at least US troops) and the quality has gotten substantially better over time.

-In earlier eras (pre WWI) Officer's were directly responsible for getting their soldiers formed into battle lines and prepared to fire. They directly controlled fire in a way that is difficult to visualize unless you have seen a good reenactment. Not having an officer present will drastically degrade this capability.

-It is assumed that officer's have a better tactical understanding of the battlefield and are therefore able to direct fire better than a junior NCO or non-NCO. On balance, this is a good assumption. Obviously, incompetent officers have existed and do exist, but overall the ability of having someone whose job is to solve the tactical problem, not pull a trigger, is beneficial to the trigger pullers.

-For larger formations (battalion, regiment/brigade, division) having an appropriate grade officer directing the fire should be obviously important.

Unled (by officers) troops can and have performed superbly in combat. However, the presence of officers is generally beneficial to the performance of tactical troops.
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Anthony Simons
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Arguably, the bonus for leadership to firepower is unrealistic; for the same reasons it has been argued that it is.

As Eric states above, the "leadership" usually comes from an NCO directing fire for the group, and any NCO worth his salt will be capable of issuing clear and accurate fire orders.

Realistically, in the unlikely event that no NCO is present, the structured military training of all soldiers means somebody will take charge.

But this isn't an argument about realism; regardless of whether or not the game designer has chosen the right levels and/or bonuses for a leader, the desired effect is usually attained. So in answer to the questions from the OP; yes, a leader will increase unit fire effectiveness (much as Eric has described, with - IMO - more emphasis on directing fire than anything else), and the benefits a unit gains are control and direction as opposed to uncoordinated and ineffective fire.
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fellonmyhead wrote:
any NCO worth his salt will be capable of issuing clear and accurate fire orders.

And then there are those "+" leaders in SL/ASL that actually have a negative effect on the men under their command. Those are the leaders not worth their salt.
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Captain Nemo
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SJBenoist wrote:
Hasn't this been a fairly common feature in wargames for 30 25 years?

err ... not in my experience. It is plus one to morale die rolls and giving orders is easier but not pluses to firing.

I would be very interested to see comments from those with 'live' experience.
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Two anecdotes from the Firepower rule book are amusing and may be illustrative:

"Once the shooting started, nobody would do anything until I went over and personally kicked them in the butt." (Vietnam War)

"The first time we came under fire, the sergeant had to move around and personally tell each man that he was supposed to be firing back." (Korean War)

Also, in Squad Leader, etc., each squad already contains its own NCOs, but the leaders depicted with their own counters are supposed to be extraordinary men.
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Christopher KrackerJack
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hammurabi70 wrote:

I would be very interested to see comments from those with 'live' experience.


I already gave my thoughts above. I would add that the decision to pull the trigger is a surprisingly difficult one, even under fire. Once the first round is out, the decision to stop firing becomes equally difficult.

I don't normally advertise my resume unless asked, but you seem like you are looking for someone with experience: 19+ years in the USMC, three combat deployments including Afghanistan and Iraq.
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The reason why those leaders aren't part of the squad is simply practical. You'd have to decide between printing many different squads with different values, or printing only a few types (as done in SL) and adding separate leader counters to provide the variety. I tend to believe the second option is the better one, because at some experience level you no longer have to shuffle through a stack and instead simply know by heart the firepower value of, say, 3 squads + LMG. But even in SL the fact that some nations had generally better NCOs is already calculated into the attack value.
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Robert Wesley
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The "Band of Brothers" episode where they assaulted the GUNS emplacement on D-Day is a damn fine example about this matter! cool
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Captain Nemo
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SJBenoist wrote:
Squad Leader had Leadership effect Fire, didn't it? As did ASL in the 80's.

In fact, I can't think of single tactical-level game that doesn't include this mechanic. That is not to say such games didn't exist, but I have doubt that it was uncommon, particularly since the "genre leader" used it.


I am not now, nor have I ever been, a player of (A)SL.

It was simply my experience that having an officer was not an improvement on firing value in games that I played. Perhaps most games do have this feature but if so I am interested as to why.

KrackerJack wrote:
I already gave my thoughts above. I would add that the decision to pull the trigger is a surprisingly difficult one, even under fire. Once the first round is out, the decision to stop firing becomes equally difficult.

I don't normally advertise my resume unless asked, but you seem like you are looking for someone with experience: 19+ years in the USMC, three combat deployments including Afghanistan and Iraq.


I thought it important not to have armchair opinion but actual observation so I appreciate the additional information. As I am (a) [ex-]Navy, and (b) only fired on the firing range, I am not in a position to pass comment, unlike someone who has genuinely been up at the sharp end. However, if I synthesis the comments on this it might be that lesser trained troops will show better performance through leadership whereas experienced and trained troops already have the appropriate qualities built into their actions; combat is the utlimate trainer. My prime concern is that I am hazy as to why someone would shoot more accurately because of leadership whereas the issue may be that raw troops will actually shoot and shoot more frequently because of leadership, thereby causing more casualties.
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Colin Hunter
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It isn't about accuracy, I'm guessing, it is about the issues stated above.

Quote:

-- Fire Direction.

-- Fire Distribution.

-- Fire Discipline.

-- Logistical Availability.

-- Morale boost (or fear). Depends on the leader.

It maybe that more veteran troops benefit less from leadership, but I'm guessing that such granularity is well beyond the scope of Squad based games.
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Jim F
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It's also partly used as a mechanic to get players to keep keep squads clumped together in their higher level command groups rather than roaming freely about the battlefield and to provide a clear impact when officers finally get nailed.

I saw one set of WW2 miniature rules where officers couldn't be targeted individually unless they attempted to direct fire or rally troops. Neat idea I thought.

An interesting discussion. Am enjoying it

(edited to avoid repetition!)
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Alan Sutton
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KrackerJack wrote:
New training methods since the mid 50's have increased rates and quality of fire for unled troops (at least US troops) and the quality has gotten substantially better over time.



Just as an aside, I wonder if the increased enthusiasm for troops to fire (and kill) in the post WWII era is more a reflection of desensitisation among recruits as a whole against violence?

I'm only throwing it out there but soldiers after WWII had more long range weapons, TV at home before they joined up (admittedly, probably more after the 60s), and less profound religious beliefs against killing to inhibit them. Also, more generally "mechanistic" and "industrial" viewpoints about combat - increasingly with modern air support.

I suppose I am trying to suggest that increased technologically advanced methods of killing have made it easier to kill as the bodies are increasingly further away and less visible. Training might not be the major arbiter.
 
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Anthony Simons
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Moruya23 wrote:
KrackerJack wrote:
New training methods since the mid 50's have increased rates and quality of fire for unled troops (at least US troops) and the quality has gotten substantially better over time.



Just as an aside, I wonder if the increased enthusiasm for troops to fire (and kill) in the post WWII era is more a reflection of desensitisation among recruits as a whole against violence?


An interesting aside, notwithstanding.

The modern soldier, post WW2, is ever more aware of his vulnerability on the battlefield. Desensitising is a long way off from being the primary reason for shooting to kill when the instinct for self-preservation is combined with this awareness. I'm no psychologist, but arguably this all comes down to the simple instinct to survive, combined with a training doctrine that values the individual soldier a lot more than it did in the World Wars and before.

This doesn't mean that modern soldiers are encouraged to "turtle", quite the opposite; eliminate the threat and it is no longer a threat.

I think desensitisation is not a major cause of violence; I mean, it does happen and does exist, but it's often an extremely overstated effect.
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No, it was in fact the training that has changed.

Claiming that a fall from religion leads to people becoming more eager to kill each other is ridiculous quite frankly.
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There is a basic misunderstanding about soldiers in a squad or platoon, say, in the "modern" setting (20th Century to present), and that is that they go around blazing away at anything that moves.

Fire control is one of the essentials of a modern army.

On my basic training, the mnemonic GRIT was drilled into us. I believe it was also used as far back as the Second World War, and if not, a variation on it.

Group
Range
Indication
Type

The section commander (squad leader), fire team leader, or whoever had control of you would call out the "group" he was giving the fire control order to, the range to a spotted target, an indication of where it was (i.e. "quarter left of house" etc.) and the type of fire ("three rounds rapid")

Ammunition conservation is generally one of the things most wargames ignore for simplicity's sake. But running out of ammunition is a good way, I suppose, to turn a well disciplined defensive line into a retreating mob - depending on your training, level of experience, and the culture of your unit.

Good leaders, with decent training, will be able to control the fire of their men to good effect. This is about more than just ammunition expenditure, of course; revealing one's positions, co-ordinating fire with neighbouring units, tying in to the battalion's defensive scheme, etc.

There was a vignette by Anthony Herbert of the 173d Airborne Brigade in Vietnam who related second hand in his autobiography how an officer went outside his perimeter to check the lines. On coming back to his unit his nervous men radioed that they heard movement in the brush. "Let him have it!" the lieutenant radioed back. His men opened up blindly with automatic fire, and the lieutenant was killed, having unthinkingly signed his own death warrant. That was not an example of good fire control.

(By way of trivia, Herbert was the most decorated US soldier of the Korean War; he wrote two autobiographies; his first was not great his second was mostly self-serving and complained about why he was done dirt by his brigade commander in Vietnam)
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Christopher KrackerJack
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Moruya23 wrote:
KrackerJack wrote:
New training methods since the mid 50's have increased rates and quality of fire for unled troops (at least US troops) and the quality has gotten substantially better over time.



Just as an aside, I wonder if the increased enthusiasm for troops to fire (and kill) in the post WWII era is more a reflection of desensitisation among recruits as a whole against violence?

I'm only throwing it out there but soldiers after WWII had more long range weapons, TV at home before they joined up (admittedly, probably more after the 60s), and less profound religious beliefs against killing to inhibit them. Also, more generally "mechanistic" and "industrial" viewpoints about combat - increasingly with modern air support.

I suppose I am trying to suggest that increased technologically advanced methods of killing have made it easier to kill as the bodies are increasingly further away and less visible. Training might not be the major arbiter.


You make two points, one objectively false and one objectively accurate.

1. Increased desensitization to violence is not a factor in a modern military (at least in the US). In fact, due to the nature of the conflicts the US finds itself in, troops are much more aware of their killing than in the past due to the repercussions of killing the wrong people. (Yes, I know there are well-publicized exceptions. They are called exceptions for a reason). There are extreme psychological barriers in place in most people (I think the current literature still puts it at 90%) that have to be overcome to induce killing on the battlefield. LtCol Grossman's On Combat is a great intro to this concept. Modern training methods are specifically designed to overcome these barriers. Training is the difference.

2. Infantry weapons have not changed drastically in almost 130 years. Repeating rifles, quick-fire artillery, and machine-guns capable of firing 1000 rds/min were all available pre-WWI. Increases in the lethality of infantry weapons have had minimal impact on the killing potential of modern militaries. However, as you point out, supporting arms have greatly increased their killing potential. Air, missiles, rockets, etc. have greatly added to the killing power of the military, and the knowledge that those supporting arms are available have had a positive effect on infantry fighting.

Last thought (largely tangential to the original thread): For post 1880 infantries, the key to success has been the ability to conduct fire and maneuver. By this, I mean: lay down a base of fire and detach and assault element to flank the the target. This tactic was developed during WWI (as opposed to skirmish-line or fire and movement) as a response to the overwhelming firepower that a dug-in machine-gun could provide. The armies that could produce the most infantry units that can do this will win every time. I have a professor who asserts that this is true even in the absence of air superiority, but I am not willing to go that far.

I think if we want to develop this topic further, we may need a thread jump.
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Training in World War II was tougher than some may believe; and every generation feels its training is 'softer' than the generation before. I don't really believe that training methods are any effective at making soldiers kill, simply because the Battle Drill that developed in World War II seemed pretty effective by all accounts. Anyone who has read accounts of Battle Drill training - which included physical hardening, obstacle courses, and hand to hand combat - will not suggest it was easy.

I understand we are talking about psychological conditioning to the notion of killing. In the Second World War, steps were taken towards this as well. British, Canadian and American troops were taken to slaughterhouses to "toughen them up" and expose them to viscera. A constant stream of propaganda (I don't use the term as a pejorative) was fed to Allied troops about the bestiality of their enemies - including the Germans. Look at Eisenhower's message to the troops pre D-Day, who talks about the enemy fighting "savagely". The Germans were dehumanized at every turn; the Japanese literally so.

I have a few copies of Canadian Army Training Memorandum, a semi-regular circular that went to all officers through the army. The western armies were just as professional then in their outlook as they are today, and I think they understood the need to convince their men of the necessity of killing the enemy. How well they succeeded, is, of course, what is open to question. But doctrine was all artillery-based in any event. And moreover, worked well for them also.

The "problem" one encounters later on is in trying to adapt artillery-based war-fighting doctrines and armies to fighting counter-insurgencies. Doesn't work so well.
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Ernest Schubert
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Taskforce 58 wrote:
hammurabi70 wrote:
I have noticed that games today are giving an increased value for firing if it is directed by an officer figure. My impression is that the traditional perception of the role of leadership was to give orders and to support morale. I would be interested in the opinions of those who have actually been at the sharp end on how they think the leadership role actually works out. Does the leader increase the fire effect of a unit? What benefits does a unit gain from their presence?


I thought about this same question before. Then I saw the third episode of Band of Brothers ("Carentan"), and I begin to understand why that might be the case. In the 2nd half of that episode Easy Co. was engaged in a firefight with the Germans and Lt. Winters was walking up and down along the line hollering things like "Watch for silhouettes on the horizon! Pour it on them! Keep it up! I want fire superiority!"


Just to highlight a point that was made earlier. The timeframe of the game is going to have a bearing on the effect of leadership. I remember reading an article about evolving training techniques in the US Army. It stated that in WWI, only about 20% of American troops would actually aim and fire their weapons at the enemy. There was a huge psychological barrier to taking life. The training methods adopted by WWII had this up to around 40%, but still... a shockingly high percentage of troops simply would not fire their weapons at all, or only in the most dire circumstances. Aimed fire was even more problematic.

Modern video games - it is claimed - were in large part developed to de-sensitize people to the act of aiming at and firing at human targets.
Whatever the reason - we are way over 75% of combat troops being willing to deliver effective fire now.
 
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kazadvorn wrote:
Taskforce 58 wrote:
hammurabi70 wrote:
I have noticed that games today are giving an increased value for firing if it is directed by an officer figure. My impression is that the traditional perception of the role of leadership was to give orders and to support morale. I would be interested in the opinions of those who have actually been at the sharp end on how they think the leadership role actually works out. Does the leader increase the fire effect of a unit? What benefits does a unit gain from their presence?


I thought about this same question before. Then I saw the third episode of Band of Brothers ("Carentan"), and I begin to understand why that might be the case. In the 2nd half of that episode Easy Co. was engaged in a firefight with the Germans and Lt. Winters was walking up and down along the line hollering things like "Watch for silhouettes on the horizon! Pour it on them! Keep it up! I want fire superiority!"


Just to highlight a point that was made earlier. The timeframe of the game is going to have a bearing on the effect of leadership. I remember reading an article about evolving training techniques in the US Army. It stated that in WWI, only about 20% of American troops would actually aim and fire their weapons at the enemy. There was a huge psychological barrier to taking life. The training methods adopted by WWII had this up to around 40%, but still... a shockingly high percentage of troops simply would not fire their weapons at all, or only in the most dire circumstances. Aimed fire was even more problematic.

Modern video games - it is claimed - were in large part developed to de-sensitize people to the act of aiming at and firing at human targets.
Whatever the reason - we are way over 75% of combat troops being willing to deliver effective fire now.


Yep. That's the kind of point I was trying to make earlier about desensitisation.
 
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kazadvorn wrote:

It stated that in WWI, only about 20% of American troops would actually aim and fire their weapons at the enemy. There was a huge psychological barrier to taking life. The training methods adopted by WWII had this up to around 40%, but still... a shockingly high percentage of troops simply would not fire their weapons at all, or only in the most dire circumstances. Aimed fire was even more problematic.

Modern video games - it is claimed - were in large part developed to de-sensitize people to the act of aiming at and firing at human targets.
Whatever the reason - we are way over 75% of combat troops being willing to deliver effective fire now.


I think you're kidding yourself. The reason undisciplined trops don't fire is simply that they don't want to expose themselves, as pointed out earlier in this thread.

And I suspect this is largely irrelevant anyway - I seem to recall seeing statements that only about 1-2% of casualties in the World Wars were caused by small arms, as opposed to MG, artillery and air bombardment.

Now, having made two provocative comments, I'll retire to my bunker and wait for a leader to come and haul me out!
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kazadvorn wrote:
Modern video games - it is claimed - were in large part developed to de-sensitize people to the act of aiming at and firing at human targets.
Whatever the reason - we are way over 75% of combat troops being willing to deliver effective fire now.

But a rate about as high as that was already reached during the Vietnam War. I don't think PONG turns you into killing machine.
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