Fire Teams and Ice: Green Berets Discuss How They'd Take Down House Lannister in 'Game of Thrones'

Friday, 12 April 2019 - 11:49AM
Game of Thrones
Friday, 12 April 2019 - 11:49AM
Fire Teams and Ice: Green Berets Discuss How They'd Take Down House Lannister in 'Game of Thrones'
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U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Steven Young/Released CC BY 2.0 (link in article)

From the very start, House Lannister has been the villains of the TV version of Game of Thrones. They've murdered some of our favorite characters and attempted to maim, rape or kill the rest. So far there have been at least two attempts to overthrow their rule over Westeros - both unsuccessful - leading us to wonder as we move into the final season: what would it take to successfully depose Cersei Lannister and refocus Kings Landing onto the existential threat of the White Walkers? If only there were a group of people professionally trained in overthrowing governments that could tell us what would work…


Fortunately, there is: the U.S. Army's Special Forces - also known as the Green Berets.

For this article Outer Places staged a detachment mission planning session with real-life Green Berets – Brady Moore, Chris Papasadero, and Zach West, all members of the New York City chapter of the Special Forces Association – and applied it to the Game of Thrones universe to show how these veterans of real-life military strategy choose the actions they take, and why it's critical to their success on the battlefield.  The exercise shows how science fiction/fantasy, modern strategy, and Machiavellian tactics all blend together. 

A Brief History of the Green Berets and Unconventional Warfare

Photo Credit: U.S. Army/Dave Chace, SWCS Public Affairs Office

The Green Berets exist to raise armies from oppressed populations to turn the tide against America's enemies in their own territories. Formed in 1952, the U.S. Army Special Forces Regiment has taken part in every major and minor American conflict with actions ranging from reconnaissance to counter-terrorism. But their core mission - and what they were designed to accomplish that no other part of the US military can - is Unconventional Warfare.


Unconventional Warfare is defined as "enabling a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary and guerrilla force in a denied area."Some favorite fictional UW fighters include Star Wars' Rebel Alliance; the Envoy rebels in Altered Carbon; the Wolverines in Red Dawn; Æon Flux and the Monicans, and the Inglorious Basterds. In these instances, as in real life, special operations troops would infiltrate their enemies' support areas and gather, train, and help lead a "phantom army" to strike their adversaries in ways that compromise their ability to fight a war.


But the very nature of training and fighting deep behind enemy lines dictates that Green Berets don't get the kind of material support that regular troops do. More often than not, they're out in the middle of some place the old and new gods forgot, with nothing but a Humvee, some fuel, and their Yarborough knife. This means Green Berets have to carefully plan their operations with deep knowledge of their adversary, the terrain and the people that inhabit their area. Unlike most military units who receive and execute plans made by a higher headquarters' staff, Green Berets develop their own plans, consisting of multiple courses of action, which they wargame to choose the best one. In that sense, it's like D&D, except the eventual stakes are life and (real) death — no backups. All the cool room clearing and HALO jumping footage you see in U.S. Military recruiting propaganda?  That's just Green Berets rehearsing to get the plan right so when things go wrong, they can respond rapidly to the changing environment.

To make these plans, Green Berets use a 7-step, modified form of the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP), where the detachment carries out the operation they plan. We'll describe how we came to our decision by taking you through the steps in order 
on the next page.

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