The Rhodesian Bush War upended the conventional military tactics of the day, stressing resourcefulness and efficiency amongst the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Rhodesian SAS, and the Selous Scouts. The traditional olive drab combat blouse and trousers designed for fighting on the northern European plain between Russia and Germany were discarded for the more functional camouflage t-shirts, shorts, and canvas sneakers ideal for fighting in the “bush.”

The definition (or lack thereof) of “unconventional warfare” was truly tested in this conflict as soldiers learned to emulate and morph into the guerilla forces that harassed them. While the merits and applications of the Rhodesian model can be debated, the lessons of their unconventional-warfare curriculum and training are without equal.

To be successful against an insurgency, resources and manpower are crucial—especially in a political climate worn ragged from a decade mired in land wars, where taxpayers shudder at any expense that clamors louder than the whisper of a drone’s blades. In short, the “boots on the ground” required to win an insurgency must wrestle the hackneyed slogan of “doing more with less”—a death knell that has haunted every American counterinsurgency.

As noted in the previous article, this series is a study of speculative counterinsurgency kinetic tactics, not strategy. These tactics have been composed to facilitate a winning strategy, but they are merely drum beats pounded out by an assault rifle. Without the greater symphony of strategy, the beats are meaningless, droll, and out of context.

These kinetic tactics make up the miniscule amount of counterinsurgency warfare that is dedicated to decimating the enemy. However, the versatility of these tactics would allow the U.S. to deliver an efficient blow to ISIS by using pseudo-operations to attack the insurgent military/government, degrading their ability to fight and rule while also starving their morale. To effectively employ these tactics, a potential Scout would need to possess or show proficiency in the following:

  1. Work independently or on small teams (All phases)
  2. Mental/physical toughness (Phase I)
  3. Resourcefulness and problem solving (Phase 2)
  4. Cultural and social acquisition (Phase 3)

The above litany of seemingly contradictory traits can be found plastered on recruiting posters, in boardrooms, and in admissions offices, but despite their overuse, these are the basic functional qualities in a pseudo-operator. Though the “boy-scout” qualities (self-sacrifice, duty, loyalty, ect.) would no doubt be found in each pseudo-operator, the rigorous training course would not hone these traits but rather make them more apparent.


Most “white” Rhodesians who applied to the Selous Scouts had a considerable amount of knowledge of the indigenous culture, customs, and language of the “black” majority that inhabited the English colony. In creating a modern parallel to this unit, commanders would need to seek the talent for “cultural knowledge” that Rhodesians were raised with. Between SOF language/cultural specialists (drawn primarily from SF/MARSOC), intelligence-community personnel (mainly budding young men from the NCS pipeline), and mentally/physically fit academics possessing the necessary skills, the Scouts would be able to muster up at least a hundred worthy applicants for each class from which 10 operators might be distilled.

Given the rigors of the selection process, a pre-selection course would be designed along the lines of pre-SFAS, pre-BUD/s, ect. The purpose of this course would be to introduce the hardships of life in an unconventional unit to conventional soldiers and civilians alike. Physical fitness (functional CrossFit), ruck marching, land navigation , and weapon maintenance/basic usage would be the primary course of study. Constant psychological evaluations (by former Rhodesian Scouts/SOF) would measure whether applicants truly have the fortitude and self-sacrificing nature to continue training.