Shepperd: The art and science of surrender
(CNN) -- Just days since hostilities began, hundreds of Iraqi soldiers have surrendered -- an expected, important and dangerous part of the coalition war plan.
CNN military analyst and retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd discussed the dangers and guidelines for surrender, as well as the vital role these prisoners could play in a future Iraq:
The five S's -- search, silence, segregate, speed and safeguard -- are extremely important, because if you don't go through those steps, you can get yourself in trouble.
The primary example is Mazar-e Sharif [in Afghanistan], where you had unprofessional forces improperly securing POWs and it ended up with a disaster -- a prison revolt.
Our forces are trained, as early as basic training, how to take care of both combatants and noncombatants and very carefully go through those five steps.
You have no idea about concealed weapons until you disarm a person, and you have no idea what's in these people's minds: It could be that they're tricking you into thinking they're surrendering, then they'll shoot you in the head.
You get a few surrenders, then it looks easy, and all of a sudden you get sloppy. You can't get sloppy.
There are two ways you get people to surrender. One is you fight them and they surrender. The other is you drop leaflets, which coalition forces have been doing for the better part of a month now, telling people they should surrender and also the rules of how to surrender.
In this particular case, coalition forces also have instructions, written in Arabic, that they hand to the prisoners. It's critical for a prisoner, because if you run to [capturing forces] with a white flag and your weapon, you're liable to get shot.
[The capturing forces] take care of their captives' immediate needs: You make sure they have food and water and you take care of any injuries. The Geneva Convention governs everything, but this is basically common sense.
Some of the POWs will be interned at POW camps, others will be simply released to go back home -- some before the conflict is even over. All it does is tie up resources to house these people, and you want to make sure that you're not unduly hampering your own operations.
A time-consuming process
It takes a lot of time to seize captives. One of the S's is speed -- get them the hell out of there, away from the frontlines where they can cause the most trouble, as soon as possible.
If you come upon would-be prisoners, you're going to stop, have them surrender, then going to move on. You can't just bypass groups of prisoners and say the heck with it, because they may be injured, they may need food and water, all sorts of things.
Taking captives can jam up coalition resources, but they have got in their plans exactly how they're going to handle these. They will handle them initially with U.S. and allied forces, then move them further south where military police will intern and interrogate them.
We will segregate them for information. Here's the typical thing: There are all these oil wells on fire. Who ordered this? Who did it?
A psychological operation
Some people are going to surrender without fighting. Others are going to fight a little bit, then surrender. And others are going to fight to the death.
We've seen some of that already, and I think you'll have that mix all the way. The whole idea is to get as many people surrendering as quickly as possible, so you don't kill them.
We try to contact the commanders and say, 'Look, you know that you and all of your men are going to be killed. We're offering you a way out.'
The existing Iraqi army is very important to Iraq. So you want to reconstitute it very quickly, with Iraqi leadership policed by the U.S., and have them function as an army for internal security. That will be one of the objects of the interim authority.
Ideally, it's a good story on both ends: Those that surrender will be treated well, and they will also be a key part of a future Iraq.
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd served in the U.S. Air Force for almost 40 years and flew 247 fighter combat missions in Vietnam. He served at the Pentagon as the Air National Guard commander and was directly involved in planning the use of Air National Guard forces during the Persian Gulf War. Shepperd now runs his own defense consulting firm called The Shepperd Group. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.
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