We met over breakfast at Mel’s Diner, a few blocks south of the State House. That was where our General Staff did most of its important business. The office was useful for doing calculations and research, nothing more. The old American military had loved offices and Power Point briefings because they helped avoid decisions. Our objective was precisely the opposite.
We had just eleven people at our breakfast: no horseholders or flower-strewers allowed. They were militia leaders and Guard commanders, plus the commander of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Lt. Col. John Ross. He’d brought his whole battalion, with their families, north from Camp Lejeune to join us, on an LPH he stole from the Navy by boarding it at night and giving the squids a choice between sailing for Portland or walking the plank. The ship and the battalion together gave us an amphibious capability that would later prove useful. Father Dimitri, now our liaison with the Russians, was also there. The Tsar was friendly and willing to offer discreet help.
Over hot cider – coffee was an import we couldn’t afford – I started the session with a question. I knew most folks were thinking about what we did not have and could not do, and I wanted them to look at the situation creatively, not despairingly. So I asked, “What are our main strengths (pun intended)?”
Three militia leaders answered at once, “Our infantry.”
“That’s a good answer,” I replied. “Your militiamen are not only fine infantry, they are light infantry, which is an important distinction. They are hunters, which is what light infantrymen must be. They understand ambushes, stalking the enemy, staying invisible, because that is what you must do to hunt any game, including humans. What about our Guard infantry?”
“Frankly, it’s not as good,” said Lt. Col. Seth Browning, who led one of the New Hampshire units. “We got too much training in the American Army, which never understood light infantry tactics. They think you defend by drawing a line in the dirt and keeping the enemy from crossing it, and attack by pushing the line forward. Their tactics are a hundred years out of date, or more, if you’ve ever looked at the tactics of 18th century light infantry. Roger’s Rangers could have cleaned the clock of any infantry unit in the modern American Army.”
“How do we fix that?” I asked.
“Can we get some General Staff officers as instructors?” another Guard commander asked.
“Sure, if you need ’em,” I replied. “Do you?”
For a bit, the only sound was chewing. Then Sam Shephard, head of the Green Mountain boys (who’d learned a few things), said, “If we know the right tactics, why can’t we teach them to the Guardsmen?”
At this, the National Guard commanders looked uncomfortable. They saw themselves as the “real” soldiers, because they had uniforms and ranks and knew how to salute. I needed to break this mind-set down, because what makes real soldiers is an ability to win in combat, not clothes or ceremonies. But I also wanted to go easy on their egos. So I asked, “Are any of the militiamen also Guardsmen?”
The militia leaders chuckled at this. “Lot’s of ’em,” Shephard replied. “I guess we don’t need to keep that secret any longer. We infiltrated the Guard years ago.”
“Why not have them lead the training in the new tactics?” I asked. “That way the Guard would train itself.”
I saw the Guard leaders relax at this point. Nodding heads indicated agreement. “OK, we’ll let you make that happen,” I said. I’d just given them a mission-type order: they knew the result we needed, and that it was their responsibility to get it. I wanted to get them used to that.
“John, what about your Marines?” I asked Lt. Col. Ross. “How modern are their tactics?”
“Well, as you know, the Marine Corps never made the transition to Jaeger tactics,” he replied, using the German word for true light infantry, which translates as “hunter.” “But I’ve worked on my unit a good bit. What would help us most is some free-play exercises against militia units, using paint-ball and BB guns. Is anybody willing to play?”
“Sure,” Sam Shephard replied. “we’d love to kick your butts.”
“You may, at first,” Ross responded. “At Lejeune, when Marines played paint ball against the local kids, they almost always lost. But you’ll find we learn fast. And I suspect we can teach you a few things about techniques. The American military was pretty good at those.”
“What else are we good at?” I asked. “Is our infantry our only strength?” Silence told me folks were thinking too small. They knew we didn’t have the gear American militaries were used to, so we seemed weak. “What are we fighting for?” I added.
“Everything,” answered the New Hampshire AG, General George LeMieux. “Our lives, our families, our homes, our culture, and our God. If we lose, we lose all of them. The cultural Marxists will throw us in gang-run prisons, take everything we own away from our families, probably take our kids away and turn them over to homosexuals to rear. We’ll all be ‘re-educated,’ like the South Vietnamese soldiers were after their defeat, and forced to worship the unholy trinity of ‘racism, sexism, and homophobia.’ Our only other choice will be to grab our families and what we can carry and run for New Brunswick, and hope we can find some country in the world that will take us as refugees.”
“What are the federals fighting for?” was my next question.
“For pay, maybe. For a government most of them hate, unless they are blacks or Hispanics or gays, and sometimes even then,” was John Ross’s answer.
“Does that make a difference?” was my final question. The faces all said “Bingo” at once.
“It makes all the difference,” Ross answered. “That’s why the Vietnamese and the Lebanese and the Habir Gedir clan in Somalia and the Pashtun were able to beat us. We had vastly superior equipment. But they had everything at stake in those conflicts and we had very little. Now, we have everything at stake, and if federal forces attack us, they will have little. That doesn’t guarantee we will win, but it means we can win, because we will have the will to fight and they won’t.”
At this point Browning broke in. “John, I agree we have better infantry, and we have the will to fight. But what about all the things we don’t have? What about tanks, artillery, antitank weapons, an air force, and a navy? How do we fight without them?”
“We’ve been working on all those, Seth,” I replied. “Maine already has a Light Armored Regiment, based on technicals – four-wheel drive trucks carrying .50 cal machine guns or 90mm recoilless rifles – and other 4Xs as infantry carriers. Ross’s outfit brought a few Marine Corps LAVs, which give us a powerful core unit. We’d like to raise another Light Armored Regiment in Vermont and New Hampshire, also equipped with technicals. We’ve got the weapons, and any good body shop can make the conversion.”
“One ship has already arrived from Russia, and more are coming,” said Father Dimitri. “We are sending you machine guns, mortars, which will be more useful than artillery in your terrain, anti-tank mines, thousands of RPGs, shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-aircraft guns. And a special present from the Tsar himself for Captain Rumford: 100 T-34 tanks, which should be here next week.”
“Shit, T-34s?” said General LeMieux. “I guess beggars can’t be choosers, but those date to World War II. They can’t possibly fight American M-1s. Couldn’t you spare us something a little more modern, like T-72s?”
“T-34s are exactly the right tanks for us,” I replied. “They are crude, simple, and reliable. They always start and they always run. If they do break, any machine shop can fix ’em. We don’t want tanks to fight other tanks. That’s what anti-tank weapons are for. The best way to stop an M-1 is with a mine that blows a tread off. We want tanks for real armored warfare, which means to get deep in the enemy’s rear and overrun his soft stuff, his artillery and logistics trains and headquarters, so his whole force panics and comes apart.”
“The Tsar guessed the Chief of your General Staff would understand tanks and what they are really for,” said Father Dimitri.
“As usual, older and simpler is better,” I added. “Retroculture also has its place on the battlefield.”
“What about an air force?” Browning asked. “We’ll get killed from the air.”
“No air force has yet won a war,” I replied. “Air power is pretty much useless against light infantry in our kind of terrain, because it can’t see them. Night and bad weather still protect vehicles effectively, unless they can find columns on the roads. Our shoulder-fired SAMS and Triple-A will make them fly high, and from 20,000 feet they can’t see or do much. Plus, we have some ideas for fighting their air force in ways they won’t expect.”
“And we will have an air force of our own,” I continued. “We have mobilized ultra-light aircraft and their owners, which we’ll use to help our infantry see over the next hill. We’ll have other light planes for deeper reconnaissance and also to serve as fighters to shoot down drones. As has been the case since World War I, the most useful function of aircraft is reconnaissance. Bombing serves mostly to piss the enemy off and make him fight harder, especially when it hits his civilians, which it usually does. Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘precision weapon’ in real war.”
“And we’ve got some guys working on a navy, too,” I added. “It won’t have ships like the U.S. Navy, but it will have a sting to it.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” I concluded. “The feds will have a lot more gear than we will. But there are tactical counters to most of it. The more automated a weapon or a system is, the less it can deal with situations not envisioned by its designers. And the feds are deeply into automation and “systems.” Any system is fragile, because they all have lots of pieces, and if you counter any piece the whole thing falls apart. We’ll just have to be imaginative and creative and out-think their systems. Other people have done that, like in Afghanistan. So can we.”
“It’s clear the General Staff has been doing some good work,” said Fred Gunst, who led a battalion of militia in southern New Hampshire. “But General Staffs are supposed to be about planning. I’d like to know what kind of campaign plans our General Staff is developing.”
“You’re right, and we haven’t been idle there either,” I replied. “The most important planning is for mobilization and deployment. We’ve got some stuff in draft for you to take back and talk to your people about. We need their feedback to know if where we’re going is practical.”
“But the gist of it is simple, as plans in war must be,” I continued. “We will have three types of forces. The first will be active-duty, mobile forces. We want to have the two regiments of light armor, plus one heavy armor regiment with the T-34s. With those will be three regiments of motorized infantry, in trucks, of three thousand men each. Each regiment will have some heavy mortars for artillery, but we want to keep the focus on infantry. We want lots of trigger-pullers, not mechanics and communicators and other support personnel.”
“They will be the first line of defense. Behind them will stand ten more regiments of light infantry, made up of first-line reservists. They will be subject to call-up in 24 hours. They will be usable anywhere, but long-distance transport will have to be provided with civilian vehicles. Tactically, they’ll move on their feet.”
“Finally, behind them will stand a universal militia, which will include every male citizen of the Northern Confederation between the ages of 17 and 55. We’ve got enough AKs and RPGs coming from Russia to give one of each to every militiaman, plus a machine gun and a light mortar to every squad of twelve (three fire teams). They will operate only in their local area, because we can’t transport or feed all those folks. But they will form a “web” of resistance to any attacker which will set him up for a counter-attack by our mobile forces and mobilized light infantry.”
“We’ve already done some gaming, both of deployment plans and possible enemy options. We’re looking to do more, so identify your best war-gamers and we’ll tell them what we need worked on. More minds beget more options.”
“Great,” said Gunst, “but you haven’t answered my question. What about campaign plans. We need something like the Schlieffen Plan. Aren’t you working on that?”
“No, and we won’t,” bellowed a deep voice behind me. Startled, I turned around to find Bill Kraft. Big men can move remarkably quietly. “We want to be Moltkes, not Schlieffens,” he continued. “War cannot be run by time-table, like a railroad. Like Moltke, we know what we want to do. If the federals attack, we want to draw them in, encircle them, and wipe them out. But exactly where and how we will do that depends on what the enemy does, which can never be foreseen with certainty. We are gaming some possibilities, as we should. But we must be prepared to act creatively and above all quickly when the federals move, according to the situation they create and the opportunities it gives us. The key to good planning is to understand what can be planned and what cannot.”
“I agree with that,” said General LeMieux. “It always drove me nuts in the American Army the way they would develop some elaborate operations plan, and then become prisoners of the plan because it took so much time and effort to create. When the enemy did something unexpected, we would still follow the plan as if nothing had happened. Of course, that was in an exercise, so nobody paid a price. But God help them if they do the same thing against us.”
“I suspect they will, and I also suspect He won’t,” I replied.