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Bravo Six Zero.

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Rover
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Bravo Six Zero.

#1 Post by Rover » Mon 18 Nov, 2013 11:11 am

Zero Six Bravo proves that too much secrecy over Special Forces is a bad thing
Damien Lewis 3 April 2013 9:30

Zero Six Bravo tells of 60 Special Forces operators forced to remain silent in the face of accusations of ‘cowardice’ and ‘running away from the Iraqis’ in the 2003 war. In the face of such savage media criticism, and being branded as ‘incompetent cowards’ who ran an ‘operation cluster f___’ in Iraq, the men who served in this epic mission had no way to tell their own side of the story and clear their names.

Why?
For two main reasons. First, because the MOD operates a policy of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ anything regarding UK Special Forces. This extends to neither confirming nor denying the very existence of such elite units, let alone giving any details of operations. In addition to this the Special Forces operators themselves are expected to remain silent for life about their time in UK Special Forces, including any operations they undertook.

Imagine how that rankles, and especially in the case of the Iraq mission. In March 2003, days before the war proper began, M Squadron – sixty SBS and SAS operators – was ordered to penetrate 1,000 kilometres behind enemy lines to take the surrender of the 100,000-strong Iraqi 5th Corps. Unsurprisingly, they questioned whether this wasn’t some kind of a suicide mission.
What reliance could they put upon British intelligence reports that the 5th Corps were ‘poised to surrender’ and that the area was ‘relatively benign’? When it proved to be wholly otherwise, M Squadron were sixty elite operators riding in a handful of light-skinned Land Rovers, facing a massive hunter force boasting all weaponry up to main battle tanks.
As they fought and evaded the enemy, it became clear that there was no dedicated air cover to provide air support, and not even enough airframes – Chinook helicopters – available to lift the scattered force out of the desert. By the time US warplanes were scrambled from the race-track pattern they were flying over Baghdad, M Squadron were so closely surrounded by the enemy that the aircrew found it impossible to ‘deconflict’ the battle space, so as to identify friendly from hostile forces. As a result they were unable to do any airstrikes, to aid a force of elite British operators surrounded, outgunned and facing death or capture.

It was left to M Squadron to escape the Iraqi forces, or die trying.
Incredibly, the M Squadron operators managed to get every man out alive.

Yet in spite of that, the British press seemed to take the lead from the Iraqi media – which had captured a couple of the Squadron’s vehicles intact – and the men of M Squadron became the ‘cowards who ran away’. Labouring under a culture of blanket secrecy, no one from M Squadron or the MOD was able to answer such accusations.
After ten years of painstaking research, I’ve finally managed to piece together the details of this extraordinary story – told in Zero Six Bravo, the call-sign of the unit. Finally, the names of those sixty elite operators have, at least in part, been cleared.

But the culture of secrecy surrounding UKSF operations threatens to create a rift within UK elite forces – between those who believe you can never have too much secrecy, and those who believe the blanket silencing of Special Forces is having a damaging effect.
Due to their limited numbers, UKSF can never be in every conflict or terrorist incident at any one time – but the threat alone of the black-clad operators is a fantastic deterrent to insurgents and terrorists alike. The myth of Special Forces operations needs to be fed for the deterrent to be maintained. Preventing such stories from being told – even when they go through the MOD’s clearance process, to ensure they don’t endanger operational security, means that the myth fades.
Indeed, with America’s elite military subject to few such strictures, the myth of the US Navy SEALs and Delta Force is fast outstripping that of UKSF. There are four blockbuster movies about the US Navy SEALs alone this year, including Zero Dark Thirty (the Osama Bin Laden kill mission raid), and Act Of Valor (a movie played by serving SEALS and based upon real-life missions), plus a movie about the Maersk Alabama ship hijack off the coast of Somalia, which was ended by Navy SEALs.
Six more SEAL movies are in production. When was the last time a movie was made about UKSF operations? Stories of unrivalled heroism exist. It’s just they’re not getting told. When does secrecy become its own worse enemy? Many in the UKSF community believe that point has been reached, and it’s time that the British SF community was allowed to tell such stories in a controlled and responsible way.
In the case of the 2003 Iraq mission, it was doubly important that sixty elite operators branded as cowards got to clear their names. In the case of the wider Special Forces community, it’s imperative because without the ability to tell selected stories about what our elite forces do, their myth – and deterrent – dies out. Too much secrecy can be a bad thing. Rather than having a policy of neither confirm nor deny, we need a policy of ‘confirm where required’.

I would point out that the British Press in this case was also 'supported' by various members of the SAS. Those with inflated egos and burdened with large 'chips' on both shoulders.
Their dislike of the SBS even leading to them overlooking the fact that the operation also involved members of their own unit!!

Rover
Admit nothing. Deny everything.

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Ares-God of War
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Re: Bravo Six Zero.

#2 Post by Ares-God of War » Tue 19 Nov, 2013 10:29 pm

you make good points.

lack of films is because films are made in america and they like to boost american exploits. i believe that too much information is given about SF (mainly from Ex SF from the 1980s) from operations to selection. but think that Bravo Six Zero should have been defended and refute media accounts.

some modern SAS/SBS missions can be released eg Op Barras but care should be taken.
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Rover
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Re: Bravo Six Zero.

#3 Post by Rover » Wed 20 Nov, 2013 11:16 am

As posted by Ninja Stoker on Rum Ration,

“One cannot help but wonder why no-one was prosecuted for releasing classified operational information to the press at the time - albeit factually incorrect with regard the sequence of events. It seems that the SAS act with consensual immunity when it comes to bragging to the press and releasing classified information in the rather childish quest to proclaim themselves demi-gods who are beyond reproach.”

The British media initially picked-up the story from the Iraq media.
Then certain members from Hereford were only too quick to jump in, claiming that the SBS were cowards and lacked the skills to operate inland as all they knew were purely amphibious such as paddling canoes!

I would point out that those few members of the SAS that came out with this were those that tended to carry the weight of large ‘chips’ on both shoulders. Nor did they seem to regard the disclosure of any information to the press as being a breach of basic security.

They conveniently overlooked that members of the SAS were themselves attached to the SBS on this operation! Also missing the point that all Royal Marine members of the SBS had initially been trained as Infantry prior to the Commando course. Not to mention generally having seen service in a Commando unit. Whilst Infantry training/experience was something that tended missing from those joining the SAS from none Infantry units.

These days at times you may read that UKSF have been involved in’ XYZ’. But that does not stop the flow of the next ‘must read’ from those wishing to claim a background in the SAS. I seem to remember one being along the lines of ‘I was a Wife of an SAS man’!!

There are many within UKSF who deplore such actions. But as long as the media see such ‘revelations’ as increasing their sales then you will no doubt see more in the future.

Members of the military can divide fact from fiction. The average civilian with little military knowledge other than that gained from X-Box knows no better!

Rover
Admit nothing. Deny everything.

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