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Category Archives: Training

‘ARGO’: The other side of the story


Despite the latest cinematic adventure celebrating a successful joint personnel recovery operation thanks to the collaborative work of Canadian and U.S. agencies, we must not forget the far less successful endeavour to rescue others during this time.

In this article, James P. Farwell explores the long-term impact of Operation Eagle Claw, the aborted personnel recovery effort that cost lives and careers, including that of President Jimmy Carter. Could a single question that went unasked have turned this tragic story into a Ben Affleck worthy sequel?

Decades may have passed since this misstep, but personnel recovery remains a burning issue today with recent experiences in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa demonstrating the importance of effective planning.

As such, many in the global personnel recovery field will be gathering in London for the annual Joint Personnel Recovery conference this May, where topics of discussion will range from training operators in isolated situations and developing the capability to rescue military and non-military alike from behind enemy lines.

For more information on how to be a part of this important conference, visit



What does it take to become a maritime security expert?

Guest post for Defence IQ by Fred Burns

Maritime security is a fascinating, and sometimes dangerous field that requires specific training and licensing. It will require you to become trained in preventing sabotage or subversion, and in identifying terrorist threats that might threaten the security of the individuals or shipments you are protecting. As a Maritime Security Officer, you’ll deal in insuring security in port, onboard, and for personnel and facilities.


Quite a lot of maritime security companies will only recruit ex British Royal Marines or Royal Navy that possess past ship service and specific anti piracy experience. But in the event that you become trained via a professional organisation the training for becoming an MSO is varied and fascinating. You will learn personal survival techniques. This will be both for survival in hostile natural environments and in connection with hostile personnel as well.

You’ll also learn basic firefighting. This will be crucial onboard ships and in dock. You will not only be responsible for assuring the safety of the ship, but of the crew as well. Therefore, you’ll be trained in personal safety.

Social responsibilities are crucial for the MSO, as you will be exposed to the public in many instances and will need to know how to conduct yourself as a security officer, but to recognize threats as well.

You will become proficient in handling different weapons. This includes hand held weapons such as various pistols and knives, but in heavier machinery such as the AK47.

A MSO will need to be able to administer first aid in a hostile atmosphere, and to assess the need for oxygen and defib.

You will be certified in radio communications and in radar, as well, and will receive certification in risk management.


Members of your group will turn to you is crisis that include medical emergencies. Therefore, your ability to administer front line first aid will be crucial. The main purpose of first aid is to prevent death or further injury. As the MSO, you will evaluate situations requiring medical first aid, administering CPR, stopping bleeding, and hooking up oxygen for those who need it. You will learn how to help a person who is being asphyxiated, or who is going into shock. You’ll also learn how to relieve pain. In most of the situations in which you’ll find yourself, there will probably be a medic onboard. However, it is crucial that you are trained to assure the health and survival of those to whom you have committed to protect.

Another level of medical certification is the Hostile/Hazardous Environment Medic. This is a more advanced certification that will train you in the handling or moving of an injured person, along with basic life support. You will learn how to use suction, extricating trapped persons, and field treatment in such trauma as burns, heart attack, and fracture. You’ll learn cannulation, cricothyrotomy, and chest decompression.


You will first be trained to use the Browning long-trac rifle and Glock. Aiming techniques such as breath and trigger control will be taught as well as firing from different positions such as standing, prone, shooting from cover, and kneeling. Your experience in small arms will aid you in your job as an MSO.


Fred Burns has been working in the defense industry for many years. He currently works for a company that supply access to training courses and jobs in security in the UK.

Prince Harry arrives in Afghanistan, show some respect

by Andrew Elwell, Editor, Defence IQ

Captain Wales has arrived in Afghanistan for a four month tour of duty as an Apache helicopter pilot five years on from his first stint at Camp Bastion.

It’s been 47 minutes since media outlets were allowed to report on the story after being given permission to do so by the MOD following an agreement to keep it under wraps until the Prince had safely landed in Afghanistan. All of them (that I’ve read, so far) have made reference to his antics in Las Vegas and Twitter has come alive with “chopper” jokes.

This is poor form, surely?

It’s difficult to ignore the furore that Harry created a few weeks ago in Nevada, and it would be naïve to think it wouldn’t get a mention following today’s news, but taking a more responsible tone should be the order of the day.

Regardless of background, Harry is a Captain in the British Army.

He is a highly trained soldier with skills invaluable to the mission in Helmand Province. It’s not cheap to train an Apache pilot – last year he said, “You become a very expensive asset, the training’s very expensive and they wouldn’t have me doing what I’m doing (otherwise).”

Over the last decade the British Armed Forces have come to be seen as a highly prized institution by the public, achieving a level of admiration not seen since 1945. Harry is a part of that institution and he should be afforded the same respect we would endow to any other soldier serving in Afghanistan.

So please, no jokes. Nor sniggering.

Good luck Captain Wales.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts – do you agree or disagree with this post? Email comments or article submissions to: or comment below.

Questions answered about the Dutch F-35 debacle

After former Dutch defence chief Dick Berlijn, and defence expert, Peter Wijninga, wrote an article espousing the argument FOR the Dutch government to acquire the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Defence IQ’s Yousuf Malik casts a critical eye over the article and asks: are there better alternatives to the F-35?

The pair were recently interviewed [in Dutch] by the popular news website NU for a well-meaning article meant to counter The Hague’s dismay with the growing cost of the stealthy aircraft.

But the argument has holes like Swiss cheese…..or perhaps gaping spaces like slow-moving windmill blades is more a more appropriate description.

The F-35 is more expensive and isn’t as fast or manoeuvrable as has been claimed – it’s hugely delayed and questions have been raised about it’s stealth capabilities. These are the arguments we look at – please read the article in full here.

We’re keen to hear your thoughts – do you agree or disagree with this article? Would you like to write a follow-up article in response? Email comments or article submissions to:

Strategic Communications should tell a story…

Chief Storyteller Tony Quinlan from Narrate ( has spent 20 years shaping communications and change programmes for blue chip companies, international aid organisations and the public sector. He’s addressed international cultural differences, gang recruitment, and is helping the Information Operations Global delegation next week to better understand how militaries can use grassroots narratives to better formulate a communications strategy…

Why is narrative important to a communications campaign today, and how does this relate to international governments and militaries?

Narrative is how we all perceive the world – the thousands of micro-narratives our brains have collected over a lifetime immersed in our culture and family are the way we filter information and make decisions. Too often, communications is phrased in terms of values and facts that clash with our existing narratives and experiences.  And narrative wins every time.

Nowhere is this more critical than where cultures meet and mix – the international arena and military deployments. Subtle, almost invisible, cues for narratives can be easily triggered by communications without ever realising that they’re missing their intended mark. From the use of metaphor to accidentally recalling past negative experiences, it’s easy for decision-makers in alien environments to create more problems than they resolve.

You’ll be talking on the subject of “using local narrative rather than countering it”. Can you give us an idea of what you mean by this?

In the field of COIN and CT, the idea of developing a “counter-narrative” is a seductive but misleading approach.  It implies that it’s possible to construct a narrative that will meet and annihilate an undesirable narrative – a communications version of matter meets anti-matter. The problem is that it’s not how the world works. For one thing, it’s very difficult to construct a perfect narrative – Hollywood wastes billions of dollars every year on constructed narratives that it then turns out that people don’t like. But more importantly, we know that the implementation of counter narrative tends to reinforce the original narrative – by drawing attention to the area of concern.  If a particular narrative has a strong grip on a population – has become a fixed point in their culture and beliefs – you need to take a different approach.

It’s far more effective to see where there are fixed myths and perceptions – and then look for emerging new narratives that might offer alternatives.  And working with those new emerging narratives can involve far more than simple communications – we’ve seen opportunities for taking unexpected myth-breaking and myth-making actions. Thinking that understanding a local culture in narrative terms leads only to counter-narrative is to miss the real benefits.

  …So there’s a risk in trying to impose a non-locally sourced narrative?

Absolutely – risks of introducing narratives that are perceived as fantasy and irrelevant to the culture is probably the best one can hope for.  The greater risk is making a problem worse. It is the problem with using experts to construct narratives – it’s easy to lapse into transferring concepts or characters or viewpoints from the experts’ own culture into a proposed narrative for another culture in ways that will not resonate and may antagonise the intended audience.

To give you an example from a recent Narrate project in a country with a perceived problem with police corruption. There was a proposal for a telenovella or soap opera revolving around a police officer battling corruption in his department. And naturally giving him a back story with a family and his own tensions and temptations.  From our work, we could see that cultural archetypes in this country are that men succumb to problems, only women overcome them – having a male-focused story where the protagonist succeeds would be seen as fantasy – or just another western cultural import – with little effect on the local culture.

How can strategic communicators actually deliver a message within a culture or community that they are not part of and cannot truly understand in depth, as well as with language barriers, delicate social layers, and many other obstacles?

A perfect understanding of a culture – and hence being able to deliver a message within it – is impossible. You would need to participate in a community for many years in many roles to fully understand it.  (I’ve lived in my village in Bedfordshire for ten years, but am forever hearing new stories. And I’m certainly not a local yet.) What we need to be able to do is gain a sufficient understanding of a culture – and the key dispositions, narratives and interactions within it.

Understanding the culture on its own terms is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one – we use anthropological methods to gather not just  significant stories and day-to-day micro-narratives from within communities, but also the meaning that those stories have for individuals in the culture. Looking at the underlying dispositions and attitudes, coupled with examples of experiences and contexts in which those attitudes lay out, helps build a better understanding – along with those areas that should be avoided in StratCom operations and potential areas where shift might be feasible.

Are there tools or methods that have been proven to work?

Some, but it’s early days in terms of the sophistication of their use.  We’ve had considerable success using mass narrative capture and software from Cognitive Edge to help generate better cultural understanding, but I think the real power has yet to be unleashed – operationalising the research to improve live decision-making and integrating it beyond just StratCom seem to me to be the real opportunities.  It’s easier to disrupt a narrative through unexpected actions than through any other method – so the connection between theatre operations and StratCom seems to be an important bridge to build by demonstrating what we can offer.

On a topical note, you’ve spoken out against social media being as much of an influence during the Arab Spring as many other people have proclaimed it to be. Can you explain your viewpoint?

It’s an interesting point.  I think social media was an important facilitator of influence here – but not an influence itself.  Where I truly differ on some of the early analysis of the Arab Spring is around how “on-message” communications was through social media. 

I regard social media as a highly effective echo chamber – what we saw in terms of social media messaging was an accelerated process of evolution.  In the early days, social media allowed huge variations of messages and contexts to be played out into the wider world. Some ideas and narratives died out quickly, some started to merge and others started to cluster around messages that had greater resonance – until within a relatively short period of time, there were dominant ideas and messages that everyone seemed to agree with. Too much analysis assumed “Intelligent Design” of the communications, rather than an evolved ecology emerging from the involved population.

There’s an important lesson in that for all StratComs in theatre – planning may help reduce failures, but evolution will generate success.

What are you looking forward to discovering at Information Operations Global?

I haven’t been invited to Information Operations Global before, so I’m looking forward to the interesting conversations and intellectual stimulation most of all.

Book your place now at Information Operations Global, September 27-28, in London!


Paramount Group the next Google? An African success story

In an interview with Defence IQ, Ivor Ichikowitz, the founder of South Africa’s Paramount Group, discusses the state of the African defence industry and the company’s unique, indigenous AHRLAC programme.

Read the full interview here.

Streit Group unveils new Jaguar armoured vehicle

This week at Eurosatory the Streit Group, a manufacturer of armoured vehicles based out of Canada with offices worldwide, unveiled its new offering: the Jaguar.

Read all about the new APC here.

F-35: B vs. C

ITEC: The top 5 technologies

Falklands dead honoured at National Memorial Arboretum

Today the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s centre of rememberance based in Staffordshire, had a ceremony to officially open its newest memorial – this time to remember the brave that fell during the 1982 Falklands conflict. Here’s a few pictures:

Crowds gather for the unveiling

The Falklands memorial

The Vulcan bomber fly past

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