“Experts”: troops need more law of land warfare training

| January 15, 2012

Stars & Stripes reprints an LA Times article in which the reporter quoted some people she calls “experts” who say that the troops need need more training on the laws of land warfare. Unless the intent is to make the troops all lawyers, I don’t see how it’s possible to give them more training, or what kind of training they’d need.

I remember that the very first class we had in basic training, after we learned how to march, sort of, was on the Code of Conduct and the Law of Land Warfare. We learned that the Law of Land Warfare was nothing more than the Golden Rule, that we weren’t allowed to do anything to the enemy that we wouldn’t want done to ourselves or to our families.

And the training didn’t stop there…we had semi-annual classes which were annotated on our 2-1 military records and in our training records in the orderly room. Those records were inspected and made accountable to the division commander.

How many of us have read about US troops fighting from behind civilians or attacking the enemy from Mosques or churches? If these so-called experts want to train someone in the law of land warfare, they shoudl focus their energies on our enemies, all of whom, historically, have broken the rules throughout our history, back to the French and Indians.

The article focuses on Haditha and My Lai. The troops in Haditha, according to all accounts were forced into an impossible situation of defending themselves from an enemy who had used civilians as shields. There was no intentional crime there. And last I checked, none of the partiipants have been convicted of a crime at Haditha, much to the obvious disappointment to the “experts”.

At My Lai was an anomaly – Lt Calley should have known better than to think his commanders intended for him to wipe out civilians. No amount of training can get the stupid out of some people. The same goes for thse marines in their urination video. They knew what they were doing was wrong and that they needed to keep it from their superiors or they’d be punished. There was no directive encouraging that behavior, nor was there a climate of acceptance.

It’s interesting to note that the “experts” all teach law and none of them have any experience in land warfare, so if you “follow the money”, they have a vested interest in the military hiring them to teach law to the troops, of course, that’s their recommendation. The Law of Land Warfare is common sense treatment of our enemies and the people caught up in warfare…you all know how to treat people, so what the hell good is wasting more training time to teach common sense?

Category: Military issues

Comments (27)

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  1. UpNorth says:

    Simplified training:
    a. Don’t piss on people, alive or dead.
    b. Don’t shit on people, alive or dead.
    c. Don’t, whatever you do, video record it and put it up on YouTube.

  2. CI says:

    There’s no shortage of garrison, deployment and recurring training on this subject. More training is overkill; what solves the problem is more leaders acting like leaders.

  3. B Woodman says:

    Maybe, in order to prevent further law breaking, experts should be hired to teach a series of classes starting in grade school and continuing through high school graduation.
    What classes?? Why, classes on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independance, the Federalist papers, other writings of our founding fathers, Bastiet’s “The Law”, Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”, “Democracy In America”, . . .
    I think you get the idea. “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”.
    But not by these self-serving lawyers (liars).

  4. fm2176 says:

    I’ve been delving into ALMS (Army Learning Management System) and JKO (Joint Knowledge Online) over the past few months looking for any training that might suddenly become last minute mandatory (read: 100% accountability before everyone goes home). Ironically, I took Code of Conduct and two Law of Land Warfare courses a couple of days before this incident.

    As usual with correspondence courses, I hit forward through most of the training and aced all the knowledge checks/exams. Law of Land Warfare should be common sense to anyone who has served for more than a day.

  5. Doc Bailey says:

    Christ almighty more death by powerpoint??? If we get anymore classes in the “law of warfare” we’ll be too busy to actually fight.

  6. Berk says:

    This has gone all the way to outright farce. I’ve kept my head down since your original post on this because it has gotten so damn foolish.
    Not from the gents here, but overall, w/the MSM/Gov’t not letting this die- UCMJ, discharge ’em if you cannot rehabilitate, and check them for PTSD etc. The Sunday shows are going slightly crazy w/this. We are kicking ourselves silly over something that doesn’t rise to a national level issue, WTH?
    And I agree w/what CI said upthread- though I couldn’t give a fecal burglar’s damn for the dead bastards sensiblities, or the Marines foolishness to record the action- the leaders are responsible to restrain their men and their impulses.

  7. JAGC says:

    The military doesn’t need any more legal training. At some point it’s an issue of discipline and military bearing. There’s a reason why instances of urination and mistaken airstrikes are so blown out of proportion… Because they’re so rare relative to the course of normal operations. “Experts” should leave this type of commentary to the Judge Advocates who quietly do their job.

  8. OWB says:

    As usual, the camps divide themselves fairly quickly and easily into those who seem to believe that talking about a problem (which invariably they themselves created) solves the problem vs the rest of us.

  9. ANCCPTLucas says:

    I have to weigh in. Was it stupid? Yes. Poor judgement? Yes. Violation of the UCMJ/Laws of Land Warfare? Technically, yes, but definitely a minor offense.
    I’ll tell you what though, as a company grade officer, I tend to let NCO’s handle keeping the troops in line, after all, that’s one of the many, many things that NCO’s shine at. But if these were MY troops, as a company level officer, all I can say is….. wow. This feels like a command failure.
    Where are the NCOs? If they participated, where were the officers? Come the hell on, people. These guys did something really dumb. But there’s multiple levels in place to make sure that the dumb stuff is kept to a minimum. We need to start holding first line leaders asses to the fire for this stuff. I know my commander would kick my ass if this happened on my watch.
    This has nothing to do with needing more legal training, it has more to do with these Marines leaders failing them.

  10. Old Trooper says:

    I had to go through it twice per year and sign my life away at the end of the class each and every time. That way if I did something stupid like peeing on a dead guy, they could show me my signature where I had said I attended the class and understood the consequences of screwing up.

    @9: I agree wholeheartedly

    As an aside: If peeing on a couple of dead terrorists is the worst that has happened on the battlefield; I think we can call it good. Professional soldiers are still human.

  11. In the Army and Army Nat Guard, we used to get training on sexual harassment…later they changed it to training on sexual assualt. I asked oneday:”didn’t the other training work, now it’s gone from harassment to assualt. WTF?”

    I suspect the problem isn’t with training on some of these topics, but some of the poor instructors the military has had. Some were very good, but many were “assigned” to do the training, or appointed themselves to do it- and sucked at teaching anything.

    this applies to LLW (Laws of Land Warfare) if the instrutors sucked, then nothing was learned.

  12. DixieLand says:

    I am not military, I am a civilian with 2 sons serving in the Army Infantry…here are my thoughts:

    Here is my response to those soooo offended by what the Marines did……We are at WAR! War has been going on since the beginning of time. War occurs through out the world and with all species. To pretend or wish that a war can be fought politely is utter stupidity! War should be swift, demoralize and kill your enemy until they surrender! To do otherwise prolongs the misery. This booohoooing about stooping to their level is insane….You stoop to the level you need to come home alive! What goes on in war is not the litmus test for what kind of people we are……How we conduct our lives in our country, in our culture is what kind of people we are! Politicians and civilians need to quit thinking they can micromanage any war from the comfort of their homes, while they sit and enjoy the freedoms that this country provides them….insulating them from the true horrors that go on world wide in other countries!

  13. Doc Bailey says:

    I would also like to point out that all of this is moot. You can discuss law all you want, when you’re in combat you just don’t give a shit about possibly facing a court.

    This is why you can kill your troops with more powerpoint than your computer can hold but in the end only Leaders can control their troops, and only the Troops can do the right thing. All the rest is a giant circle jerk.

  14. Just Plain Jason says:

    We hold ourselves to such a higher standard than our enemies do, yes somebody lost composure and recorded themselves doing something stupid. I don’t think they deserve having the book thrown at them for doing it, because if I could have gotten ahold of some of the asshats I wanted to their heads would have been on pikes as a warning to other asshats.

    I feel no sympathy or remorse for the family of the dead mfers who’s body got urinated on because they probably see him as a martyr and he is in heaven collecting his 72 women who have no clue what the fuck they are doing. What would they have done to the body of one our Marines? Who knows? One group lost composure and they deserve punishment, maybe NJP but not Leavenworth or fake outrage…

  15. valerie says:

    I respectfully suggest that it is time to teach the specific “experts” in question. The first step would be to identify them by name, and the next step would be to publish their work product. This particular kerfluffel is being used as a vehicle for an agenda that would otherwise be considered foolish.

  16. CI says:

    @12 – “You stoop to the level you need to come home alive!”

    I’d be interested to know the contribution that urinating on bodies adds to coming home alive.

  17. Berk says:

    Block 12 on the “CENTCOM AF Theater Inprocessing Checklist”-
    Make sure to accurately record by digital methods at least one instance of you and your fellow fire team members urinating/defecating/otherwise disrespecting corpse of enemy combatant prior to leaving theater. JAG/CHAP/non-combat arms MOS or other personnel not on a fire team disregard this portion of the in-processing document. POC is SECDEF Hillary 2012! /sarc off

  18. Susan says:

    Well if this isn’t ridiculous. More training on the law is not going to keep people from doing stupid things (that is why we have courts and jails). These guys did something stupid and then did something assinine by posting it online. If the troops need more training, it is on not putting stupid stuff on youtube.

  19. S.G. says:

    Once in theater we had refresher RoE and LoLW training every 3 months in 2004. Along with refam, ALT C with crew serveds,M4’s. hell we even went through Night Driving with NVD refresher training after 3 accidents and thats how we drove every night to begin with. Training never stops, even in combat

  20. Interesting how they is more criticism of these US Marines over pissing on dead sub-human filth than there was regarding the Muslim, Nadal Hassan, who mass-murdered innocent Americans on a military base on American soil in the name of Islam.

    Good to know we have our priorities in order.

  21. DixieLand says:

    @20, Maj. Hassan was a workplace violence incident, had nothing to do with the war./s

  22. DixieLand says:

    Never put anything on YouTube, FB, text or in an e-mail and think it will remain only for few to see.

  23. fm2176 says:

    #11 and 19,

    I think that we can get over-trained to an extent–at least insofar as we get downright tired of having stuff shoved into our heads every few months. I recall the Big Army having 350-1 training at most every 6-12 months. Then I got into USAREC and we started having suicide prevention, sexual assault, and the other standard classes being “taught” every 3 months or so. Hell, USAREC even has “safety stand-down days”; those days where all recruiting efforts are stopped for the sake of training (I recall the media jumping all over the first one we had when I arrived, shortly after all the suicides in Houston Battalion).

    Instructors get bored, commanders get bored, NCOs and junior enlisted get bored, and before you know it either death by PowerPoint sets in or training is done to time (preferably before lunch) and not standard.

    We have more than enough MOS-immateriel training as is. My company has had training for Native American Heritage Month, a guest speaker to increase our knowledge of Islam (the CO is Muslim), and all the usual stuff like that mentioned above. Then we still have the Army-wide annual correspondence training like AT Level 1, TARP(formerly SAEDA), and the Accident Avoidance Course.

  24. NHSparky says:

    Where men are pure, laws are useless. Where men are corrupt, laws are broken.

    Pretty simple.

  25. Cedo Alteram says:

    “No amount of training can get the stupid out of some people. The same goes for thse marines in their urination video. They knew what they were doing was wrong and that they needed to keep it from their superiors or they’d be punished. There was no directive encouraging that behavior, nor was there a climate of acceptance.” That sums it up.

    There is no evidence that this is a widespread problem or that training is in anyway is adequate. Punish the guilty and be done with it. Another quest for a white Rabbit that can never be caught but will only waste valuable time and money, two resources we are in short supply of as is, but will make “experts” feel productive.

  26. CavScoutCoastie says:

    If they hadn’t put it on youtube, this could have been handled by Article 15. In fact, I still think that is the most appropriate action but with the media firestorm, who knows…

    On a slightly different note: when 4ID found Saddam in his hole, I argued they should simply build a latrine over it, line up the division and say you don’t get to redeploy until you lay cable in the hole. For that matter, they could have openned it to the Iraqi people as well. They could probably have sold tickets.

  27. Flagwaver says:

    We had some guys in my unit who had pen-cams mounted on their aim-point sights or on their helmets, with the recorders in their assault pack. My Platoon Daddy made everyone with a camera sign a stupid-shit waiver. It was a joke at first, but after the Battle of Falujah, I think people took it more seriously.

    It stated that if you are caught recording stupid shit, and it was leaked to civvies (including family), the Platoon Daddy had the right to beat the ever-living fuck out of you. When our XO called in a mortar round to pop the top of one of the minarets that an Iranian Regular sniper was holding up in*, the vid was leaked. The CO had a shit-storm fall on him and the unit lost their cameras for about a month.

    The day after people lost their cameras into a safe in the XOs office, a soldier reported to sick-call. He hit the deck too hard during a mortar attack the previous night.

    *It was an awesome shot, too. Took him about an hour to do all the math, giving him a 16-digit target. He was a math prof at OSU when he wasn’t in green.