Come on you apes!

| September 15, 2020

“You want to live forever?” Robert Heinlein attributed that line to an “unknown platoon sergeant, 1918.” In reality, the line came from Sergeant Major Daniel Daly, USMC circa 1918 in the trenches of France. I discussed him here, but his quote is said to have been something along the lines of “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

Anyway, the reason I bring up apes, is apparently the military is gleaning insight from apes to better understand the interactions of men. Chimps and people, according to the research (with Army mathematicians confirming it), both the apes and us humans communicate most effectively in teams of 5, 15, and so forth to a peak around 150, then in groups of 50 until you reach 500 people.

The original research came from,

anthropologist Robin Dunbar in the 1990s. The research hypothesized that 150 was the largest group that humans can maintain “stable social relations.”

Recently, Army Research Office Chief Scientist Bruce West and students at the University of North Texas were able to test the decades-old theory.

“The layering sequence is interesting because each number in the sequence is within a factor of two of the empirical magnitudes of entity sizes in the U.S. Army, ranging from a squad of roughly 15 to a platoon of approximately three times the squad size, next to a company consisting of three platoons and followed by a brigade the size of roughly three companies and so on,” West said.

Understanding how the information flows in a group, then analyzed and either accepted or rejected, is critical both within a single team of any size and how individual teams work with other teams, West said in an Army statement.

West and his team were the first to “computationally capture” the dynamics of how information moved through the group, where it flowed or stalled.

That’s a major factor in unit cohesion and combat effectiveness.

These numbers will probably seem pretty familiar to any vet as all of the branches have, independently and organically, arrived at these numbers for many common military formations.

Read more at Army Times

Category: It's science!, Military issues

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5th/77th FA

HEY!!! Who daHell you calling an ape? What if they self identify as a Gorilla? And are you using the term “ape” as a noun, verb, or adjective? Didn’t somebody here get their britches bunched over the perception that a certain segment of the population were compared to apes, in their actions, not their appearance? Ex-PH2 can get away with such cause, well…she can cook, you know that don’t ya.

We will HAVE TO take this ground breaking knowledge as the gospel according to Mason, since, after all, you did quote the empirical magnitudes showing that entity sizes matter.

Somebody got way too much time and research $ on their hands. Remember when you could find out how information flowed in a group and where it broke down by putting everyone in a circle and whispering something in the ear to the one next to you? Then analyzing what the last one heard?

Layering? Imma wanting me one of them 7 layer caramel cakes…with vanilla bean ice cream.

Hack Stone

Slow Joe

A Brigade have 3 companies?

Wow. Have Trump been cutting the military budget?


I was wondering that, too. They could be big ass companies, I suppose.


Could be itty bitty brigades.


We did away with battalions?


Why not? It’s been done before.

” The core of the division was five infantry battle groups, each containing five infantry companies, a headquarters and service company, and a mortar battery”


There’s a reason we went back to a more traditional organization at the division level, timactual. The Pentomic organization didn’t work out all that well in practice. It was abandoned after only a few years.

We’re not the only ones who tried it and shortly thereafter abandoned same because it was a bad idea. Australia, New Zealand, West Germany, Turkey, and Spain all did likewise.


Couple of thoughts. . .
The Army Research Office? Who know that existed (apparently since 1951)

University of North Texas – graduated from there in ’98 (won’t say how long after high school graduation but I will say there were two semesters off for basic, MCT and NBC school before hitting the reserves). I’d love to say I’m a fanatical alumi, but not really. I do hear there’s still a school there, however.

Jeff LPH 3, 63-66

I heard about the Sergeant Major many years ago and I believe he is buried in Maspeth Queens, NYC, NY.



In fairness, Heinlein wasn’t cursed with the Internet.

Slow Joe

That sounds like a weak excuse for poor research.

Just saying.

Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman

Remember who his core audience was at the time, and the culture of that time.
Not the same as when he wrote his later, more adult, books.


It’s difficult to have much faith in a study regarding the Army that confuses a battalion with a brigade.

Are you sure it wasn’t CNN who did the study?


Dunbar’s number is an absolutely fascinating rabbit hole to go down. Well worth the trip.

Thanks for posting this!


When I first went to college the optimum span of control was said to be five to eight. Today, after a half century and God knows how much money spent researching this burning issue the number has been reduced to five.



I was taught it was four or five.


In part, I think that is why there are three or four platoons in a rifle company.


Submarines typically run about 120-135 for a fast attack and 150 give or take on a boomer.


Hack Stone

All of this research should be helpful in developing gorilla warfare tactics.