Bob Shepherd served in 22 SAS from the mid 70s to the mid 90s

We’ve all seen in today’s current conflict between Russia and Ukraine just how modern warfare has changed greatly by the use of both high and low tech.

Whether satellite use or a low tech small drone, you no longer need to be in line of sight of the enemy in order to target them.

Like any wars of the past, proxies are involved directly or indirectly. Western tools of war are being tested, many for the very first time in war, as opposed to the training areas.

Back in my early days from the tender age of 17, I was involved in a war in Dhofar Province, Oman…named at the time the “Secret War” due to the fact that initially the British tax payer knew nothing about it. Today however, books, documentaries and films have been made on the subject. Back then war was simple. Defend with sangers, barbed wire, mines, mortars, artillery and personal weapons. Dominate the area with patrols, and Strike Master aircraft could be called in weather dependent to soften up the target.

Weather dependent…well there’s one thing that can fcuk things up badly…even today.

Over my 23 years in the military, the weather whenever it chose to come against us would put us back to basics. The only way to recognize and target the enemy was to get out there and get human eyes on.

It happened many times in conflicts such as Dhofar, The Falklands War, and the First Gulf War. Thick cloud, fog, sand storms, snow storms…all adding to getting out there and getting close to the enemy, whether reporting on their positions or taking out their positions.

Yes, no doubt the art of warfare today is hugely different to that of the conflicts from the last century. But even so, there are certain points that have to be made from the last century in order to be successful.

I’ve just covered weather, and how it plays against the use of tech. Leading of course to eyes on, which can only be done by getting on the ground and closing in, line of sight.

Another major point is that there is no I in team…no matter the size of that team…a 4 man patrol or the British Military deployment as a whole. In every conflict I’ve taken part in as a serving soldier, I’ve seen the pissing matches between mainly senior officers of the Army, RAF, Navy and Royal Marines…all fighting one another as opposed to concentrating on fighting the enemy. How sad is that!? And of course just how many deaths of their own men and women does that childishness lead to, let alone the possibility of losing the conflict overall?

In this relatively new century as a civilian security adviser working with the media in places like Iraq and Afghanistan over the years I watched and listened first hand to the very same infighting. Fighting over assets, fighting over who should take what target, fighting for their individual legacies at the end of the day…shameful.

When I look back on my time as a last century soldier, I love the fact that I can feel positive about how many of us at the lower ranks shared what was available, and went the extra mile to ensure that whatever we were given as a task, it was carried out to the best of our abilities with or without the required goodies. In other words we got on with the job by working together, whether with the Navy, Army, RAF, RM or just on our own.

So for any future wars (which there will be) during this century, never lose your basic skills no matter how much high tech is available to you. Don’t think that high or low tech is there for you throughout, tech warfare is huge, we’re all in the era of cyber warfare after all. And remember something as simple as the weather may be against you. Lastly for the senior officers, don’t play the “political officer” of the past 50 years (I’m generalizing of course), be there for your soldiers, sailors and airmen, men and women…and put them well before any individual legacy that you may be trying to write up…as it never fits with winning a war.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit www.bobshepherdauthor.com

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4 thoughts on “A LAST CENTURY SOLDIER”

  1. Wise words as always Bob, thank you for sharing! Terry, Ex 2 Sqn, ‘84 – 87.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Hi Bob, I was very proud of my short time with B Troop from 1985 to 1989. It was not until many years later that I have asked a much more important question…. Which is who is controlling the whole situation, why and what are the powers beyond that group of mortals that have the real power…. Yes I know real heavy for our human minds to try and understand but I feel a much more interesting journey….

  3. Well said, I to was in Dofar, NI, Gulf One seeing and remembering the camaraderie of troops on the ground. I to saw the changes when the politics became more important than what we were trying to achieve. Then the media moved in, they have their place but need to decide whose side they are on.

  4. Spot on Bob,
    The powers that be, talk about reducing numbers by back filling the empty spaces in the line, with technology.
    But the truth of it is, we will always need boots on the ground and the ability to survive and fight in the field in all weather’s and terrain.
    Looking at the maths, we buy 10 all singing and dancing pieces of equipment, the enemy build 100.
    Wars are won, in the field, in places like Mirbat, Rorkes Drift and Waterloo.

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