Saturday, 22 January 2000

From "Rifle squad composition" thread

(By wm, on the Small Wars forum).

Unfortunately, what you find out at Squad level is that those doctrinal principles sound fine and work well on paper -- or even in a MILES engagement. OTOH, when there are a lot of real caps popping, that goes by the wayside. Really. It becomes a rock to rock or tree to tree or room to room effort in disjointed gaggles and Team members get mixed up, the SAW gunner gets hit, Murphy is everywhere. Just isn't as neat and pretty as it is in the book.This is true at all levels. I suspect we would all agree to the old saw that no plan survives first contact. My point was that some things are, or should be, pretty much second nature: things like performing immediate action on a jammed weapon, assaulting directly into an ambush, getting fuel, ammunition resupply, and fire support well forward but still in a position to be coverd and able to una$$ the AO quickly all apply as basic principles that get tailored continuously as the situation unfolds.

Consider also that if you are a Division OpO, Drowning Creek at Camp McKall you will not even notice in your planning; at Bde level you may or may not notice it, probably not but you almost certainly will not think of it as an obstacle. Nor, likely, will the Bn S3.

As a Company Commander, you'll note that it IS an obstacle and as a Platoon Leader, you will flat know it's an obstacle -- and a significant one. Fact of the matter is that Drowning Creek ought to be significant to all levels of the command. How siginificant varies by echelon, but if the Division is dependent on 1-A/1-509 crossing it to seize an objective that is the lynchpin to the division's plan (and the Div 2/3 planners need to look at that level quite often), it needs to loom much larger at higher echelons. I remember having signifcant discussions with my ADC (M) about the terrain in the North German plain--we actually grappled for hours with 1:50,000 map sheets of most of the area, debating such things as how easy it would be to execute a division level or higher delaying action against the Group of Soviet Forces, Germany. Streams that didn't look like obstacles to a Bde-sized force turned out to be significant issues when we started talking about getting an M-88 across them to recover mobility kills or a HEMMT fueler forward to the tank company task organized to a mech bn Task Force. Failure by senior planners to view the problems that could be caused by using one narrow road and a blown bridge (things a good company plan would have noted as issues) had a lot to do with the Arnhem debacle in WWII.

Echelons matter. Significantly. Your stated tenet is one of the major flaws in our doctrine today; all people of the same rank and specialty are interchangeable (they aren't) and all doctrine is echelon immaterial -- it flat is not. Agree conmpletely. I think you missed my point. I never argued that all people of a given grade and/or speciality are interchangeable. Rather I urged us to start with some common basis of training that could be expanded and modified--a building block approach. We don't start our kids out reading War and Peace nor do we expect our budding linguists to be able to explain the grammar of Farsi after a week at DLI. We build to those capabilities through a series of steps.

As the Actress said to the Bishop, size matters... :wry:

As the poet Andrew Marvell said "To his Coy Mistress"
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day
But we have not enough of either so we need some shortcuts to get us trained to do what needs to be done a little faster.

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