265. Located, Isolated, and Distracted – An Infantry Platoon Leader’s Experience

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist launched our Information Warfare Vignettes Writing Contest to crowdsource our Community of Action’s innovative and insightful visions of Information Warfare and to complement what we learned during this Summer’s series of Weaponized Information Virtual Events. Mad Scientist has found storytelling — creative fictional writing and narrative building — to be a most effective tool for envisioning how emergent capabilities can be operationalized, both by us and our adversaries.  Today’s post, a semi-finalist in the aforementioned contest by COL Scott Shaw, U.S. Army, is no exception!  Our adversaries will continue to employ personalized warfare to target our Soldiers (and their families!) from home station installations (i.e., the Strategic Support Area) all the way forward to the Close Area fight.  Past Leaders have had to enforce strict noise and light discipline with their Soldiers — so too must today’s Leaders enforce strict cell phone discipline. As stated previously on this blog site, “Virtual Space is the decisive terrain and securing it is the decisive operation.” — Read on to learn COL Shaw’s cautionary tale below!]

Location:  Battle Position (BP) 3 (2nd Platoon, C/3-67 Armor BP), North side of Highway E67, Kalvarija, Lithuania (near the Kalvarija Circle K).

Situation:  1300, Tuesday, Sep 15, 2020. Platoon defense as part of the Company and Battalion Defense. The crew of C21 (PL’s BFV bumper number), an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, is the Platoon Leader (LT Allen – PL), Gunner (CPL O’Quinn – Q), and Driver (PFC Perkins – P). SGT Kennedy is the dismounted team leader in the back of C21. SGT McKean is the PL’s wingman and is on her left. C21’s afternoon starts with the lieutenant talking on the intercom and asking CPL O’Quinn, “Hey Q, what are you doing?

Gunner (G):  “LT, I just got a Facebook from my girlfriend that says our company was hit. I didn’t hear anything on the radio. You tracking anything on the BFT?

Platoon Leader (PL):  “Nope. Let me call the CO [company commander]… Cobra 6, Cobra 26, over.

Company Command Post:  “Cobra 26, Cob….” —static—

PL:  “Hey Q, eyes up. I was able to start my radio call but didn’t get through to the CO. I think we’re being jammed. P, tell SGT Kennedy and her guys eyes up too.

G:  “Jammed? Here? In Lithuania? I thought the Lithuanians were on our side.

PL:  “THEY are – but there may be someone out there who’s not.

G: Ma’am – my Facebook keeps going off. Buzzing like crazy. My Twitter too. All kind of notifications.” Soldiers in the back of the Bradley can be heard saying the same thing.

PL:  “Put that phone down and scan! I got nothing on my sight, you?

G: I’m working on it. Nothing on the left…dang phone is buzzing non-stop. Seems like it’s getting really hot too. Perkins, yours?

Driver (P):  “Yeah, Q. It is…what was that on our left front? HEY, SGT McKean’s Brad is on fire!!

PL: Q, target. Slewing you on with my sight. Gunner, COAX, Troops [initial fire command].”

G:Identified.

PL:  “Fire.

G: On the way!

Post-engagement AAR:  During the post-incident AAR, the PL discovered the missile team that shot SGT McKean’s Bradley was inside C21’s sector of fire. The missile team geo-located 2nd Platoon’s American cell phones with locally procured Lithuanian sim cards, then pinpointed their location through social media geo-location trackers on recently uploaded photos and identifying their Blue Force Trackers and military radios. The missile team used near real-time commercial space-based imagery to correlate signals to “see” the platoon’s disposition. Finally, the missile team then isolated 2nd Platoon using a small radio jammer, and, working in coordination with another team, sent messages to CPL O’Quinn’s Facebook and activated the apps on his and others’ cell phones causing them to overheat. Located, isolated, and distracted, C21 was all alone.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the following related ones:

Three Best Information Warfare Vignettes, by Rob Kunzig, Tony Stark, and Davis Ellison

Weaponized Information: One Possible Vignette

Nowhere to Hide: Information Exploitation and Sanitization

Weaponized Information: What We’ve Learned So Far…

You can watch all of the presentations from this Summer’s series of Mad Scientist Weaponized Information Virtual Events here [via a non-DoD network] and explore all of the associated content (presenter biographies, slide decks, scenarios, and notes from each of the presentations) here.

Colonel Scott Shaw commands the U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group. The above is a fictionalized version of a real event; then Second Lieutenant Shaw was the Bradley Commander on C21 (but in C Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, Camp Hovey, Korea) in 1997.

Disclaimer: All views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

2 Replies to “265. Located, Isolated, and Distracted – An Infantry Platoon Leader’s Experience”

  1. Bravo, Colonel Shaw. That was good scenario of how unsecured devices from the cyber domain can affect the land domain. Maybe we should make all cellphones and OS software MIL SPEC and in the US. Unfortunately , we live in a world were our phones track all of our actions like Focus Groups. Say hi to the constant cameras or practice good phone discipline : )

  2. What?!

    I left active duty in 1994 after 10 years (E2 11B in the 101st to Infantry Company Commander in the 7th ID).

    Are our troops allowed to use their personal phones in the field?

    How soft have we become to allow this? At the very least they should be in the off position and sealed/tamper proofed for the duration of any field event.

    We are always prepared to fight the last war. It’s time to take the initiative and introduce some serious digital discipline. Otherwise, we are in for a world of hurt.

    I’d love to understand current policy and digital standards for today’s elite units.

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