Operation Geronimo Learnings

It has been less than 10 days since the American forces carried out an audacious operation in the heartland of Pakistan to kill the most wanted terrorist in the world - Osama Bin Laden. 

Executed under the code name Operation Geronimo, this military campaign will go down in history as one of the most sucessfull anti-terror operations.

Under this context, it would be worthwhile to absorb and assimilate the learning's of this complex endeavour. Significantly, these learning's can be applied in different situations and facets.

Let us start with an overview of the operation itself.
  • Three to four helicopters fly from Afghanistan into Abbottabad, Pakistan, with American Navy Seals on board. 
  • They descend on Osama Bin Laden's compound in the dead of the night and engage in a massive fire fight.
    • Osama Bin Laden is shot dead. He is identified and his body is flown out of Pakistan. The operation is completed in approximately 40 minutes. 
    • The operation is controlled from The White House, America.
    The importance from the operation can be gauged from the fact that America has spent close to a decade in pursing Osama Bin Laden. They spent close to a trillion dollars, just to get this one man.
      So what are the learning's from the operation?
      Persistence Is The Key.
      You might have heard about the quote - Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” - by Bill Bradley. 
      The Americans relentlessly pursued Bin Laden and it was the persistence of the efforts which finally got them to their man. Of course, they had to throw in a lot of money. Yet, the will was never lacking.
      Mitigate Risks With Confidence.

      Think about the way the operation is executed. The Americans did not know with certainty that Osama was in that compound in Abbottabad. 
      The armed forces were to conduct an operation in a foreign land, without the permission of the country. The odds of executing this successfully without any collateral damage were high. 
      Osama Bin Laden Abbottabad Compound
      Under such circumstances, they beleived in this quote by the American car maganate - Henry Ford.
      No one can really guarantee the future. The best thing we can do is calculate the risks involved, size up our chances, estimate our ability to deal with them, and then make our plans with confidence.
      The Americans did just that. And they were successfull.

      Preparation and Practice Are Equally Important.

      Well, after tracking down Bin Laden to that compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad, just a few miles away from Pakistan's military academy, the Americans prepared a lot for the operation. They gathered huge amount of intelligence. They did the ground work. All of this formed the basis of the  sucessfull operation.
      In an very important comment, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter terrorism, said that the operation was well practiced at undisclosed locations. This practice made sure that the forces were well aware of the compound, its surrounding etc. It ensured that they do not comes across a massive unforeseen situation which would derail the operation itself.

      Share Information Only On A Need-to-know Basis.

      The Americans violated the sovereignty of Pakistan as a nation by carrying out an independent operation on Pakistani soil. As per current information, no one from the Pakistani Government knew about this attack before hand. Why?
      Barack Obama During Osama Operation - Code Named Operation Geronimo
      Well, here are Barack Obama's words. 
      "If I'm not revealing to some of my closest aides what we're doing, then I sure as heck am not going to be revealing it to folks who I don't know," he said. "I didn't tell my own family."
      Well, this says it all. Only those people who mattered were informed. This ensured that the operation was not compromised.
      Never Underestimate. 
      Never ever underestimate the risks in any endeavour. This will ensure that adequate back up plans are available for any kind of situation. 

      This did happen in Operation Geronimo when one of the copters crashed. The Americans are supposed to have switched onto the backup plan to execute it successfully.
      Obama himself talked about it. He wondered, "If Murphy's Law applies and something happens, Can we still get our guys out?"

      Set Clear And Precise Goals

      The aims and goals of the operation was set forth clearly to the men on ground.

      They were 
      • If it's Osama who is in there, try to capture him alive only if he is naked. Else, take him off.
      • If it's Osama who isn't there, just get the hell out of there.
      Well, these clear goals ensured that the men on ground did not have to think hard on what to do when they came across Osama. The rules were set forth and they were to be executed. 

      Well, there will be people who will support creativity in activities. Well, creativity is important - but it is to be done in the planning phase. The execution phase has to go on with mechanical precision. Nothing more, nothing less.

      Engage People In Positions Of Authority And Responsibility.
      A key highlight of this operation was the fact that this operation was controlled and monitored from The White House and the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. President Barack Obama and his closest aides watched the operation real time from the Situation (Control) Room in the White House.
      Operation Geronimo White House Situation Room
      This ensured two things. 
      The people who had the responsibility to execute were involved. As stakeholders, it was their job to ensure that the operation is taken to a logical conclusion.This could either mean ensuring that Osama is taken out or the American forces are flown out of the country, safely.

      Importantly, the people who had the powers to take the decision were involved. They could take decisions which could make the operation a success. They could take decisions in the event of any unforeseen situation. And decisions are most important in such massive operations.  
      Luck Is The Key. 
      The biggest of the endeavors needs the greatest of the luck. No one has spoken  about it outright. Yet, I consider that luck was an important factor in this operation.
      Just think how three to four helicopters fly into a country, go in undetected into a garrison town just 60 kms from the capital, and then fly out with the most wanted terrorist in the world - dead.

      Well, there might be several other lessons which can be grasped from this complex military operations. The one's highlighted here are not new themselves.
      Yet, incoporating them in any endeavor is important. All of them can be a strong tail wind in ensuring the success of a mission.
      Operation Geronimo Learnings Operation Geronimo Learnings Reviewed by Vyankatesh on Monday, May 09, 2011 Rating: 5


      1. God knows what our spineless leaders took from the whole action.. :(

        Nice post :)

      2. I loved how you pointed out the learnings from this whole operation.
        awesome :)

      3. i agree with all ur point n must say its kinda inspirationla bt at the same time i wud rather add that what gud it gonna do to India, why we makin such a hue n cry over it, our probs remain the same n infact remain the same