Using the Fireteam as the Model for Political Activism

by W.F. Price on April 7, 2014

To get things done at a local level, we start with small, tactically agile teams that resemble the smallest military unit: the fireteam. The infantry of the US Marine Corps and Army is built around the fireteam, which is comprised of four soldiers. Each soldier in the team has a role, including rifleman, grenadier, automatic rifleman and either team leader or assistant automatic rifleman depending on whether it’s the Army or Marine Corps.

Fireteams were developed in response to trench warfare in WWI. Massed tactics, which had been the norm for centuries, no longer worked in the age of the machine gun, so armies began to experiment with small teams that could attack in a more deliberate manner. The Germans were the first to implement a new form of assault, called “infiltration tactics” at the time. Special units of “stormtroops” were created for the purpose (these were the original storm troopers), and Germany began to apply the tactics on the eastern front. They proved successful, and were next used in Operation Michael, the final German offensive of the war.

Operation Michael was initially successful, breaking the stalemate of trench warfare for the first time in years, but as American troops arrived to reinforce the Allies and the flu pandemic broke out, the offensive stalled, and the Allies eventually gained the upper hand due to superior manpower and logistical support. However, despite ultimately failing to win the war, the stormtroops revolutionized infantry warfare, and their tactics were adopted by modern armies, evolving into the contemporary fireteam.

Perhaps the most important advantage of infiltration tactics was that it allowed well-trained, committed units to avoid needless chaos and slaughter by deliberately bypassing direct combat and attacking more important objectives in the rear. Another advantage, cited by former senator Jim Webb in a 1972 paper, is that a fireteam is much more cohesive, maneuverable and flexible than a “12-man mob”:

At the outset of World War II, the Marine rifle squad was composed of 12 men, with no particular internal organization. This setup literally came under fire early in that war, as it proved immensely difficult for a squad leader to maintain control over as many as 11 men at one time. Therefore, after a number of attempts to rectify the situation, our present fire team organization was instituted in 1944. It has a number of advantages over the former system, and has been widely heralded due to its “triangular concept” which offers maximum control, maneuverability, and firepower. Indeed, when compared to the “12-man mob” its advantages in these areas are striking:

*Control. This was perhaps the greatest advantage of the new system as the squad leader had three subordinate leaders in his span of control instead of 11 men. This produced more effective supervision.

*Maneuverability. With the creation of a four-man fire team, a smaller tactical unit capable of independent maneuver evolved. This served to eliminate the spur of the moment “you take Smith and Jones and go over there” approach and ostensibly brought into existence a bonafide maneuver element below the squad level.

*Firepower. The fire team was created to gain maximum employment of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). In fact, the whole fire team concept was built around the BAR, which provided the nucleus of the team’s firepower. Fire team formations were designed to protect the automatic rifleman, and one rifleman was assigned a secondary mission of aiding the automatic rifleman in finding targets and reloa[d]ing magazines.

All of the above are germane to our efforts at activism, because although we do not face artillery and machine gun fire, engaging an entrenched system such as exists in our courts and government is akin to rushing headlong into no-man’s land. As our political system has grown increasingly complex and refined, mere mobs can no longer achieve important objectives, just as massed infantry could not advance in the face of accurate automatic weaponry in WWI. Instead, we have to infiltrate and focus our firepower on high-value targets while doing our best to avoid engaging in the kind of pointless activism that will simply bog us down.

To accomplish this, I propose a political “fireteam” organized along the lines of the USMC fireteam. We need small groups of 2-5 men – ideally four – working to accomplish specific goals. Each man should have a defined task, and one should take on the role of tactical leader.

Here is the composition of the activist team I propose:

1. Administrator: As organizer and tactical decisionmaker, he serves as leader.

2. Investigator: Does research, detective work and security for the team.

3. Communicator: Produces written content, talks to people on the phone, performs outreach and creates media.

4. Technician: Handles technical matters, such as internet, audio-video, publishing, photography, etc.

On an even lower level, I’d pair off the Admin and Investigator and the Communicator and Technician into two-man teams.

The beauty of this concept is that it is simple and could create quite an effect with minimal time and effort. If one man keeps track of schedules, one does research, one makes content and another handles the technology, a few hours of work from each every week could make a significant impact. It would be far more effective than one man putting in the same hours, and infinitely more than a mob showing up on some streetcorner, making some noise, and then leaving.

Additionally, it could be an enjoyable project. The team could get together once every week or two to discuss and decide things, then unwind with a beer. Another advantage would be that leadership pressure would be low. If the “leader” is simply the guy who has to organize efforts and keep track of who’s doing what, it will not be cause for rivalry. Basically, everyone is doing his own job, and the spirit is one of cooperation rather than hierarchy and dominance. In fact, it doesn’t even really matter who the leader is, because anyone could take on the role if needed and capable. This is the ideal male work environment.

While I’m not sure how easy it will be to create groups of four men, it will be a lot easier than coordinating national conferences or trying to get people at loosely organized public meetings to do anything effective. In major metropolitan areas, one should be able to find the manpower without any trouble. The closer the members are geographically, the better, but problems of distance can be overcome with technology and people with stronger commitment than average.

Talent may be an issue, but one relatively talented member in a team of four should suffice so long as the others are capable of putting in work. This is one of the greatest strengths of teams: they can free up the hardest hitter so that he doesn’t have to waste time on other tasks, thereby making sure his firepower is not diluted, but rather enhanced.

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