The Marines' Combat Logistics Battalion 3, based out of Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, had a problem. They'd been driving off-road, to avoid bombs planted by the Taliban. They'd been taking different routes, too, but the Taliban always seemed to know where the trucks would be.
It took quite a few GPS units, maps, and analysis, but they found out that they'd been driving different routes: that tended to converge on a few spots. It wasn't so much careless behavior, as a matter of the terrain. Those were natural bottlenecks, sort of like fords in rivers or the solid ground between marsh and swamp you'll find in parts of Northern Minnesota.
The solution this time was pretty straightforward: take a careful look for bombs already planted, and set up sniper teams to discourage "militants" from planting more.
In this case the problem and the solution are perfectly clear - with 20-20 hindsight. Before someone started tracking the exact routes, I'm not so sure that the convergence on spots in remote areas of Helmand Province was all that obvious.
I've made the point before: The American military makes mistakes, and learns from them. (June 30, 2008)
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Danger Room, Wired (August 21, 2009)
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