Dummies Guarding Iraq Garrison

When Bill Jempty forwarded me this article about dummy guards, I thought it was just another piece on the sad state of our correctional system. It turns out to be about actual dummies:

British troops are manning watchtowers with dummies at the Army’s main garrison in southern Iraq, it was disclosed last night. They have used mannequins to take the place of real soldiers during darkness in up to eight of the 16 watchtowers at the Shaibah Logistics Base, west of Basra.

The Grenadier Guards came up with the tactic after being sent out for a six-month tour 47 men short, The Sun reported. Every two-hour shift change the figures, equipped with desert combat fatigues, helmets and rifles, were moved about.

The Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night that every guard tower that needed to be manned was manned. “Deception techniques have played a major role in military operations across the world for thousands of years,” he said.

The tactic itself strikes me as sound, although allowing wind of it to get to the press, not so much.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Military Affairs, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Veeshir says:

    They stole that from Beau Geste.

  2. legion says:

    I’d be more concerned that they were sent out without the manpower necessary to perform their mission – does anyone know what percentage of the Guards’ force 47 men is?

  3. kenny says:

    “does anyone know what percentage of the Guards’ force 47 men is?”

    Well normal strength would be around 550-600[1], so around 7% of their normal strength. However if there had been secondments from another battalion then these probably wouldn’t have been counted in the guards strength but counted on the strength of their home battalion. And most battalions will be technically under establishtment strength at any given moment anyway due to training,secondments,illness etc.

    I suspect than given there’s 2,500 troops based at Shaibah a shortfall of 47 guardsmen isn’t really the reason for using fake guards.

    [1] A guards battalion will normally be around 100 men higher than this as they have a company for ‘public duties’.

  4. Steven Plunk says:

    I wonder if manpower problems would have been reported during WWII in the same manner? Reports of fake armaments dotting the English countryside in order to fool NAZI Germany before D-day were never published from what I have read.

    I guess the English press figures letting the insurgents know that many of the guards in the towers are fake is no big deal.

    We let them know our war plans, we let them know our troop strength, what’s next?

  5. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Dummies, huh!!! How do you tell the difference?

  6. legion says:

    Wow. For the second time in two days I find myself agreeing with Steven. While I think it is important to report on things like units being sent out unable to perform their missions – just so pressure can be put on the Powers That Be to actually outfit units properly – even a lefty like me gets itchy at the idea of printing specific tactics like this; especially tactics that require misdirection to keep the troops safe. This story shouldn’t have gone through…

  7. Triumph says:

    Jeremy Bentham came up with this idea about 200 years ago.