I wrote this several years ago during the earlier years of Iraq. This schema has to do not with grand strategy (COIN, etc) but what happens when the recipients of blankets, welldiggers, medical clinics, etc., say "to hell with this" and decide to fight you. Tactics. This is about tactics. I was an officer of this regiment.pl
Ground combat is not like sensitivity training where the idea is to insure that everyone's self image is preserved in an atmosphere of "consideration for others." No, engagements in ground combat are supposed to be conducted in such a way that you and your comrades survive and the other side does not. This is definitely a "zero-sum game."
In every well run ground engagement, there are two parts to the friendly actions/plan:
1-Fire (a hopefully withering barrage of bullets, artillery shells or aerial ordnance which either incapacitates the other side or forces him to take cover so that he can not shoot at you effectively. While that is going on –
2-Maneuver takes place. In other words while one group does the cowboys and Indians thing of "Cover Me," the other group "goes for" the enemy on the ground, hopefully not frontally. That's how things work.
Fire and Maneuver. Every soldier with any real knowledge knows that's how it works. It doesn't matter if the force engaged is a Rifle Squad (11 men) or an Army Corps (many, many men). That's how it works.
If you try to do it some other way, for example, not have enough available fire support to "shut the enemy down," then the enemy is going to be free to shoot the hell out of you and you can expect to loose a lot more people while trying to maneuver if you can maneuver at all.
Why am I going on about this? It is because I have finally grasped the fact that US ground troops in Iraq do not have anything like the fire support available to them that people of my "primitive" and backward generation were used to having.
Here is how things worked when I was young and spry. There would be a "meeting engagement." (troops meeting) The friendly commander would immediately request fire support from supporting artillery through his Forward Observer or an Air Force liaison officer. The first "ranging" fire from the artillery would arrive quite quickly. The fall of the shot would be adjusted with a round or two more and then "fire for effect" would be requested followed by a lot of shells falling all over the target area, maybe with some smoke thrown in for good measure. While that was going on the enemy would stop shooting, and our side would get up and "go for them." All of this would take place at a really low level of coordination with no seniors involved at all. This was routine AND the way to stay alive.
Apparently this is not the case in Iraq where "fire missions" seem to be approved at division level, far, far above the level of the action. From everything I can learn there is already a shortage of tube artillery in Iraq and as a result troops are often outside the "range fan" of friendly guns, a situation I was never comfortable with. Airplanes are nice but not all that reliable as to timing when you need them. They also often have a bad tendency to mistakenly drop their ordnance where it is not required.
To compound this problem, a desire to win "hearts and minds" and not to anger people by killing their relatives has made it a major issue as to whether troops engaged in a built up area should be given fire support that might (probably) would kill civilians. After all, the best text books on how to do counterinsurgency tell you that you can't upset the civilians. Sounds good.
As you think this over, I will give you my opinion that to be honest (intellectually honest) you have to accept the fact that by not making as much fire support available as is needed up front (as opposed to in the rear at Hq.) you are making a decision to have more Americans killed and wounded. Its a trade off.
Out in western Anbar, the Marines don't seem to be so sensitive since they shoot up towns as needed with artillery and their own dedicated air. They seem to have followed the same rules at Falluja as well. Primitives. (bless them)
Some Arab gentlemen with whom I was lunching today politely listened to this rant, and observed correctly that "no one in the Arab World would believe that we are holding back like this," especially at the expense of our people. They are right. No one in the Arab World would believe that, but it seems to be true. If it is not, let me know.
I would estimate that our casualties in killed and wounded would have been lower if it were not for this. Of course Iraqi casualties would have been higher.
What is this story about not defeating insurgencies or guerilla wars? I don’t know much about history, but since WWII:
Greece, communist guerillas.
Ukraine, anti communist guerillas.
Malyasia, Filipines, Thailand, at least one major movement in India, El Salvador, Mexico, Argentina…
it seems to me almost every third world country has had at least one guerilla war, it seems most lost.
This is kind of like countries with MacDonalds don’t fight each other or democracies don’t fight each other. A myth based on really questionable readings. Or not reading.
When I saw the assault of Iraq on TV, I assumed that there was artillery support, but most of the emphasis was on the tomahawks and “owning” the air space.
There have been several times that I wondered how this could be an actual war without the cannon. And why do we have cruise missiles that can place shells 200 miles away if we don’t use them when necessary?
It’s certainly true that this is an oddly restrained war but I don’t think it stems from an institutionally delicate approach to heavy firepower in the US military. There were complaints after Anaconda in the Afghan war that Air Support being substituted for traditional artillery by a Pentagon bent on the RMA transformation and that not working at all well.
The principle heavy support weapon, sometimes described as a “surgical” weapon without a trace of irony, seems to be the 500lb laser guided bomb; with a less than perfect record of accuracy. I suspect a well used battery of 105s is still a far more precise and flexible instrument. They are also considerably cheaper.
Still US units are fearsomely well equipped and now face an enemy that’s not stupid enough to concentrate to be destroyed by their firepower. It will be a different story when the US retires and the war intensifies. For the new Iraqi army old fashioned artillery could well be a decisive factor and yet they seem to have hardly any.
Incidentally, I recall reading a history of the IDF that reckoned the Syrians were the masters of counter-insurgency and it wasn’t just the Hama factor. Their key to success was always getting someone else to do the fighting.
Your argument seems internally inconsistent. Which is your position? Artillery yes or no? pl
I think Ali’s point is clear. The basic tactics of fire and maneuver break down when confronting an enemy who refuses to concentrate and who uses its own form of dispersed artillery, the IED.
Artillery got lots of US soldiers in Vietnam out of jams when they were ambushed by NLF or NV army units, but large scale, classic fire and maneuver was rarely usable in the SVN environment either.
A lot of artillery was used in SVN to destroy villages that were deemed hostile because the ARVN infantry were too scared to go into injun country. Accuracy was hardly an issue in these assaults. A lot of civilians were killed by this “harassment and interdiction” fire. Harassment and interdiction artillery fire was an important NLF recruiting tool.
To get back to Iraq – The fundamental strategic question was answered wrong at the very beginning of the operation. We should not have invaded. There was no compelling strategic reason to do so.
No tactical methods can correct this fundamental strategic mistake.
Ali rightly points out that in the current situation, resistance tactics in Iraq will not allow US soldiers to be successful using classic fire and maneuver. The guerilla always operates within the civilian population. Tactical suppressing fire will always kill lots of civilians in that situation, which only feeds the resistance, furthering their strategic goals.
Only when the US leaves will fire and maneuver become an option, not for the US soldiers, but for the Shia and Sunni forces in their more conventional engagements against each other.
The fact that Shia and Sunna in Iraq know each other, and will engage on approximately equal terms, means that their tactics will be much more symmetrical that those of the current US occupation. This symmetry will also increase the likelihood that both sides will invite the support or invasion by Iran or Syria or Turkey.
I am learning all kinds of things from commenters about the war in VN.
What is the basis for your statements about the VN war and the use of artillery there? pl
But they claim the majority of casualties have been from IEDs, and most of the rest from snipers and very small units with RPGs. How much good would artillery support have done for those?
If you don’t know where the tiny group of enemies is until they shoot at you and try to run away, what good is fire and maneuver?
Anyone who think that it is better to fight without adequate fore support rather than with it, just doesn’t know anything about war. pl
I have no quarrel with you that artillery is a vital tool to support infantry. I agree 100%. My point is that artillery is very effective in the right context and very ineffective in the wrong context.
We clearly don’t have enough artillery in Iraq to protect our soldiers. We also don’t have enough infantry there to protect our soldiers either.
Given the current strategic failures, I agree with you that more artillery is vital to defending the forces we have there.
Tube artillery yes, air power is not yet a substitute. It’s a 4th generation war over there but I can imagine situations in Iraq were the lack of close artillery support is getting US soldiers killed, this isn’t acceptable and soldiers deserve to have all the tactical options. In another war lack of artillery could be a major problem for US troops, they seem to be coping in this one.
The stupidly stoic British army would say sensible restraint in the use of firepower for force protection is appropriate in this sort of low intensity conflict; that is certainly a contradiction.
When the less able Iraqi military are left to fend for themselves in what may eventually revert back to a 2nd generation war artillery really does become vital.
I read an interesting piece on Moshe Dyan recently that stated the ARVN became heavily reliant on US air support. Don’t know if that’s true but we seem to be creating an Iraqi military that’s even more reliant on the whims of a fickle DC. As DC will soon have no dog in this fight that really can’t be a good idea.
Colonel Lang, I fully agree that we’re better off to have enough artillery instead of not enough.
My wonderment comes from the published claims that most of the casualties have come from these little pinprick surprise attacks. If that’s true, we wouldn’t have reduced US casualties much by having more fire support. And yet, the fire support we did have may have been what kept us from facing more large attacks or large attempts at defense, that would cause us casualties.
It appeared we did have enough artillery at Fallujah, where the report that got linked so much recently (because it mentioned the artillery using a whole lot of WP for “lethal” purposes and so fed a controversy) said they had enough artillery to nearly outrun their resupply. They said they had some small number of air sorties that delivered I believe 8 500-pound bombs. That fits what you were saying about the Marines.
Our soldiers in urban bases do seem to be using artillery very sparingly. A year ago I was reading about iraqis who’d set up a quick cheap mortar using PVC pipe and a timer to set the thing off, and our patrol would come looking later and find it. Now we’re getting people who get out of a car, set up a mortar in seconds and fire it and leave. There was a recent story about a mortar attack from a mosque, and a patrol searched the mosque and found several AK47’s and an ammo stash and confiscated them all. They saw an impression in the dirt courtyard that looked like it was made by a mortar. So an hour later they came back and detained the imam. They knew from experience that if they’d taken him the first time there would have been a big demonstration by the local people, but this way there wasn’t.
They talk like the bases are set up so the random mortar harrassment mostly does no damage, and they just shrug it off.
Facing that kind of attack we wouldn’t benefit from artillery duels.
I have the strong impression that for a great many of our forces in iraq artillery doesn’t fit the kind of war they’ve been facing. That doesn’t mean it won’t be necessary for the kind of war they *might* face later.
As a former 1542 it is a sobering thought that a fire mission must be approved by division. I’m wondering who at division would be responsible for the go/no go. Perhaps the JAG.
I was one of them as well, and I have a similar reaction as do various combat people who I have tried this out on.
Wolfhounds, great outfit. My first platoon sergeant in ’62 was a man who had been in the regiment at the Chosin Reservoir when his company CO got the Medal. pl
In reference to this topic, as well as the previous post “Retraining Support People,” this from strategypage.com:
“Marine Gunners Trained for Civil Affairs Work
December 11, 2005: The U.S. Marine Corps has told its artillerymen that they will now have to train for a secondary job in civil-military operations (CMO). This involves working directly with civilians in peacekeeping operations. Other marines would deal with the security issues, and go after any local bad guys. There has a been a tremendous need for CMO troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Army has several thousand of these, but most of them are reservists. The marines have 300 reservists trained for CMO work, but none on active duty.
It makes sense to cross train artillery troops for CMO work. In peacekeeping operations, the artillery don’t have a lot to do. These days, the troops prefer smart bombs, or use their own mortars, for fire support. In other words, there will be some peacekeeping situations where you can have the artillery troops leave their big guns behind, and take care of more critical chores dealing with the problems of local civilians.
The U.S. Army has retrained some of its artillery troops in Iraq to deal with infantry and security jobs. However, many army infantry units find themselves dealing with CMO type work anyway. The trend is for all combat troops to get more CMO training. The marines are taking that one step further with this dual-training for its artillerymen in some marine artillery battalions.”
I don’t know if “it makes sense” or not. Depends on what the goal is. Saving money?
Isn’t our minimal use of artillery and air support also a tradeoff of sound tactics for politics?
Remember the current batch of civilians at DoD doesn’t like the Army and especially the Artillery. This comes from the perceived end run that the Army made to the congress when the DoD Pols killed the automatic 155 artillery program. Whether the killing of the program was correct or incorrect, I can’t say, but the hate began then and has continued ever since. So we have artillery units organized and fighting as infantry but ineligible for the CIB and we depend on high-tech solutions approved at 5 command levels above where it should be. Enough to make you puke.
Still, look at the numbers. There have been a few occasion during the occupation where insurgents attacked us with a hundred or more men, and they got hurt bad. And there have been a fair number of times when insurgents attacked us with ten men or so attacking at a time, ane they got hurt. For awhile they were doing lots of RPG attacks where they have one or two guys with RPGs and 2 or 3 guys with AK47s, they’d get in one or possibly two good shots with RPGs before we neutralised them. I haven’t been hearing about those much lately. And there have been lots of IED attacks and sniper attacks (where somebody watches a particular soldier from a distance until he lifts his arm or something and shows an unarmored spot). And mortar attacks on our bases.
When the Marines attack iraqi cities they take their artillery along. When we’re defending bases and running patrols, and we don’t run into more than 10 insurgents at a time, what good is artillery?
Back when Saddam was talking about moving his army into Baghdad so we’d have to kill a lot of civilians to get him, he was violating the Geneva Conventions. Whether we would have been embarrassed or not by killing lots of civilians, it was wrong for him to try it and it served him right when his armies deserted rather than fight that way. (As it turned out we did kill rather many civilians, we saw tanks the iraqi deserters had left behind, with a bunch of civilians walking around them, and it looked like actual iraqi military units so we bombed them. It took us awhile to figure out that a lot of the units on our maps were just ghosts. I’m not clear how that could have been avoided.)
So we won, and now it’s our responsibility to protect the civilians in the areas we control. The places we control, we don’t need to use artillery now. We get little pinprick attacks that usually don’t amount to anything at all but that occasionally take a few casualties. (A few hundred attacks a day? Averaging about 2 casualties a day?) The places we don’t control we move in and blow things up and move out again, and there we are using artillery.
The higher-ups could be slighting artillery generally though. Just because it makes sense for this particular situation doesn’t mean it makes sense anywhere else they do it. And just because we have no use for artillery while we’re policing occupied zones, is no reason to lose the capability even for the units that shouldn’t be doing it right now.
‘Some Arab gentlemen with whom I was lunching today politely listened to this rant, and observed correctly that “no one in the Arab World would believe that we are holding back like this,” especially at the expense of our people.’
The way this is stated, it sounds like they’re saying that from first principles, nobody in the arab world would expect us to take casualties ourselves to save arab civilians. They wouldn’t do it themselves and they wouldn’t believe that we would.
But could there be another interpretation? The arab world has seen lots of news about US troops shooting arab women and children in cars because of the thought they might possibly be car bombers. The’ve seen lots of news about Fallujah and Najaf, where we did what surely looked to them like indiscriminate bombing. The april assault on Fallujah where our snipers shot ambulance drivers and women and children, and bombed clinics.
All of that except the suspicious-looking civilians approaching checkpoints, was in exceptional times when we were attacking places we didn’t control. But that’s most of the news, and would it be any wonder if they thought of it as the norm?
There are rational explanations for most of the things that look to arabs like war crimes. But given what they see for themselves on TV, would it be any wonder if they think we’re lying when we say we show restraint?
Yes, they are influenced by media imagery. Yes, they are also pre-disposed by an essentially tribal view of humanity to believe anything that is bad about “outsiders” that seems plausible.
In re artillery, I think that if your son were in Iraq doing operations of any kind, anywhere, you would want him to have the insurance provided by adequate fire support in the event of an action of any kind, pin prick or not. Abstract discussions about whether or not this or that area is “secure” or how big an attack might be leave me cold. Im not interested in abstractions with regard to the realities of life and death in a combat zone. To put it bluntly, if I have or had to choose between dead GIs and dead whatevers, the GIs win every time.
Col..Todays News is Four More Troopers killed by an IED …Again..
Thats Four less of OUR BOYS coming home to thier Familys and Friends..this Christmas or EVER AGAIN..
As`a Family Who suffered the Loss of Our daughters Husband..a Navy seal..on Active Duty..WE know what those deaths Mean and the Effect they have..
Unlike Mr. Bush and those driving His WAR~WAGON..
I commented a few weeks ago here about the Toll those IEDS are taking on our troops..accounting for 2/3s of all our Troopers lost..
it seems like Yesterday they were talking about reaching the 2000 KIA Mark..
I am MAD ~AS~ HELL about this..Every death Tears the heart Out of My Family..its like losing Our Rick over and over Again..because we value every single one of those troopers as a human being..
Why the Hell do we keep sending Troopers out in Hummers on patrol since that accounts for Most deaths..With the new Shaped Charges those Killers now have thwey can even penetrate a TANK..
Q. Are most IED incidents occuring along the same Routes..???
Then STOP using them you dumb ass Commanders..
Let the NEW Iraqi Poilce and Spec/Ops guys do those kind of Patrols…send them out in Ordinary vehicles..Trtucks..Jeeps..cars..even bus’s (possibly Reinforced but painted to look civilian..)
Our Hummers are OBVIOUS TARGETS..Hell Commanders why dont you just paint KILL ME on the Sides..???
STOP sending the Hummers OUT on these Patrols..Most are probably ROUTINE..and the iraqis can handle them
Save our troopers just for SUPPORT and FIRE FIGHT Responses..
THAT would significantly cut Our troop loss’s..
I keep hearing a Five to Ten year Period required for Our Occvupation and the BUSH Plan to WORK..
Do those Idiots have any idea how many troopers are ging to be killed during that time frame using Curret operational Methods..
THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF AMERICAN KIAS..
Why..because the Bad Guys aint going away…and thier methods will just get More Ruthless as .they continue to find new ways to KILL Americans and Get More Support and Assistance..
Just as thwey have improved thier capabilitys the past two years.. with FOREIGN STATE~SUPPORT..
Q. How are the improved IEDS put together..Armed and Detonated..?/
On TV they said its all electronic..Cell Phone or garage door Type Remote Firing..
Any possibilty that they also Have INFRA~RED..across the road ways tripping the devices…just like a Garage door Ifra red Sensor..??
Are the Hummers blowing up because the Badguys have figured a way to make the IEDS respond to some kind of Electronic Signature Unique to a HUMMER that triggers the IED..The Timing of the Explosions would almost indicate that to me since they are so Accurate..
Pat..If There is anything you can do about t5his..get anyones Attention..change some Command proceedures and Policys.Get them to reconsider thier Patrol Proceedures etc…that save American and Coalition
Lifes During this OPERATION..that will help SAVE LIFES..
Then Please TRY..
Lifes could be SAVED..
Colonel Lang, your attitude about risking our soldiers to protect their civilians shows why our army is fundamentally unsuited for peace-keeping.
What you say makes perfect sense for soldiers. But imagine if our police thought that way! A local unit tracks down a notorious and dangerous drug dealer to a particular apartment. They ask permission to do a 5 AM no-knock infiltration and maybe catch him asleep. The request is denied. “Too much chance of police casualties. We have the exact coordinates of that apartment building, we’ll call in an artillery strike.”
A bank robbery has gone bad, the robbers are holed up in the bank with 22 hostages. Police are beginning a long negotiated siege with SWAT teams ready to snipe. But higher command says it’s too dangerous for police. Pull back a safe distance while keeping the robbers pinned in the bank, a couple of 2000 pounb bombs will take them out safely.
Police accept the job of risking their lives for US civilians. They do it every day, although the casualty rate implies the risk is not usually all that high. Just the other month they knocked on my door and waited while I looked through the little spy hole to see it was them. For all they knew I might have been the kind of idiot who’d shoot them through the door on sight.
It’s completely understandable that americans would hesitate to risk themselves for iraqi civilians. But the mission calls for it. We aren’t suited for this mission.
So if the US military is going to stay in iraq, we need a mission that minimises contact with iraqi civilians.
You are talking to someone who has conducted counterinsurgency operations at the village level all over the world.
I really don’t need a lecture about the bloody civilians. I have always taken better care of them than their own people becuase that is what you do to get their allegiance long enough to finish off the guerrillas that they have been protecting. Did I love them? I loved the Montagnards. All us crazies in the funny green hats loved the Montagnards. Unfortunately, nobody else did.
Soldiers are not policemen. They are not law enforcement officers. Their business is to kill people and destroy things. Military counterinsurgency is about winning wars, not about nation building. I have dome a lot of nation building but I always understood that it was a means to an end.
If we went down the path you suggest we would abolish the real combat units as the Canadians did with the Canadian Parachute Regiment.
Send policemen to Iraq. See how well they do. PL
Colonel Lang, please forgive me for sounding as if I’m lecturing you. It seems when I write just a little it sounds like I’m saying something I don’t intend to.
As you point out, the war effort needs a lot of CMO. Just now a lot of our units need more CMO than they need artillery, at the moment.
What do you see as the place for killing people and destroying things in the current counter-insurgency? How do we kill insurgents in cities without killing so many civilians and destroying so much civilian property that we turn more people against us?
I doubt many US police would stand a chance in iraq. How can they do police work without being fluent in the details of the local culture? But most of them don’t even know the local language….
And US-trained iraqi police don’t seem to be doing all that well. I heard we gave them a bunch of unarmored police cars and more than half of those have been used up already. I may have that a little wrong and I don’t have links but if you want I could find them in a little while.
On the other hand, others seem to be doing police work pretty well. One of the militias appeared to be doing a pretty good job of keeping the peace in Sadr City. Various militias are maintaining order pretty well various places. Reporters who visited Fallujah before we destroyed it thought that an insurgent militia was keeping order pretty well there, except for the people who kidnapped people for ransom, some of whom apparently were getting away with it. But they caught and punished others.
I get the impression that our military counterinsurgency isn’t working real well at the moment. We’ve probably removed around 90,000 insurgents and it doesn’t look like it’s slowed them down much yet. (Estimate — our casualties are 18,000 killed and wounded. Their casualties are surely at least 5 times ours, and would be about 50% killed and 50% wounded. But their seriously wounded will have trouble getting medical care and might likely get detained while wounded, and if not will likely be hurt bad enough to become noncombatants. 5*18,000 = 90,000. A rough ballpark figure.)
What approach to counter-insurgency would you suggest for iraq?
ROGER THAT PAT..
This isnt police action..Its a WAR..People Die..American Lifes on the Line..Good people with familys sent by thier Commander in Chief..Doing thier Duty under Orders..
not only should we be grateful we as a Nation still have good Americans willing to serve..we should Always VALUE our Troops lifes first..Period..
When the politicans send them to War..They had better give them the best backing, equipent and support possible..MAXIMUM..
no politically correct wars
or rules..Let the troops kill the bad guys..and give them the tools to do it..
We learned alot about urban wars in WW..2..The Germans did it..and used and developed the Best equipment and Techniques..
We need a new type of half track troop transport..Reinforced.. Mounted Fiftys or better shielded and turreted..
The troops will be higher off the ground..and not crammed into a sardine can like the Hummer..Waiting for all that metal and shrapnel to penetrate and richocet around from IEDS..
The IEDS are set to penetrate the Hummers Profile..low and just off the ground..
Get the troopers up Higher..in Half track type Vehicle..possible open roofs so if the vehicle turns over the troopers have a better chace to get thrown out and survive and return fire..not be trapped in a Glorified Jeep..
Heavily armored sides along the vehicle..Possibly with Hard rummer outer Shells..Its the Metal and Frags that kill the troopers and do the damage..
Like the Germans..have the Vehicles tow thier own artillery piece or howitzer…suitable for urban War and Street fighting..Keep the ammo with the towed Piece for rapid access and away from the troop transport..
Then the Troopers dont need any damned hoop to just through in the middle of a fire fight..no one had to a ask permission during WW 2.. They were authorized to use all Means possible to win the battles and survive the conflict..
That included using FLAME THROWERS..
Yes..Wars are HELL.. People Get Killed..
But if OUR People are told to go to War, Under Orders, and Find and kill the Enemy..We had better damned Well support them..
OR…Keep Them at Home..Mr. President..
and Ladies and Gentlemen in the Congress..and do your Home work FIRST..
WAR aint a Video game.. where you get lots of New lifes..
Combat Vets like Pat Know..
Back to the original title of this thread. Everyone should remember that you don’t necassarily need air support, mortars, and artie for fire and manuever. Not to mention the fact that most on here are confusing fire and manuever for fire and movement. Yes there is a difference that I would love to explain. Fire and movement requires a base of fire, but the thing is that base of fire is broken, and not continous. The role of suppresion fire changes hands quite a few times while everyone is “leap-frogging”. Now this is fine and well, and easier to control than true fire and manuever, but it’s not by definition fire and manuever. Fire and manuever is one you have a fixed base of fire, that is allowed limited movement, that is covering for the manuever element to advance along a covered and concealed route to close within near-ambush range of the enemy.
Fire and movement example. Team 1 is providing a base of fire while team 2 moves up. Team 2 sets and takes over that base of fire for team 1 to move up. They move together in this manner untill the objective has been taken. Now there are variables to it, of course, but this is the basic principle. It is not as difficult to control, but the problem is the enemy knows the size of the force you’re attacking with. Your exposing (and giving away by firing) the position of all friendly forces to the enemy.
Fire and manuever example. Squad 2 moves up to take over an enemy OP. Team 1 moves into position and starts firing on the enemy OP from a support by fire position with good cover. Team 2, meanwhile, is closing with the objective at AS CLOSE TO A 90 DEGREE ANGLE OF APPROACH AS POSSIBLE. The reason for this is a geometry of fire issue. You want team 1 to be able to hold that base of fire as long as possible, and only cut it off right as team 2 reaches the objective. If team 2 approaches at a 30 degree angle, then they will mask team 1’s SBF position and force them to cut their fire prematurely to prevent fratricide. Now be aware that you will rarely get a perfect cover and concealed approach at exactly a 90 degree angle to the objective, but you should strive to come as close as possible. Fire and manuever is much smarter in most terrains, because it doesn’t expose all of the friendly force to the enemy. The point is for the enemy to not even know of the manuever element and get so wrapped up in the firefight with the support element that they don’t even see them coming. The bad thing about all this is that it requires alot of coordination, and is difficult to control. Especially when the support elemnt loses sight of the manuever element.
Now, air, artie, and mortars are more commonly (or were) used for fire and manuever. Throw a few mortar and artie suppression missions in with the base of fire and the last thing on the enemy’s mind is a manuever element. It’s very effective for a 3rd generation war (3GW), but it has it’s limitations in 4GW.
Fighting an insurgency is more like police work. Hardly ever does anyone fire on an objective in Iraq anymore before occupying it. In America, if a SWAT team went to go a suspected drug house to bust it, they’re not going to shoot the place up before they even go in. To preserve the lives of the innocent, they occupy the objective and detain/take out the bad guys. The same principle applies in Iraq. You have to kick the door and go in to see what’s going on if you’re on the offensive, you can’t soften it with mortars or artie. It sucks but its a fact of life. I don’t want to see any American die, but I also don’t want to see any Americans kill 30 innocent Iraqi’s by shooting blindly at what may be the wrong house. It’s an infantryman’s war. Yes it sucks, but there’s no other way.
To all that oppose the war and want all the troops home; I’m not thrilled that we have to be over there, either. The damage is done, however, and we have to clean up our mess. The comment I’ll make is this. When the war first started, I thought it needed doing. I supported it. Now, I think hindsight is 20/20, and I’m not sure the ends will justify the means. However, we can’t pullout now. We owe it to the good people of Iraq to fix our mess.
My last comment is for those that I know will try and say that I’m too soft to not risk using mortars that could save American lives for fear of killing too many civilians. I know there are those out there. Well, try going over there yourself, because I have. I don’t want my son to be going over there. The fastest way to make Iraqis hate us even more is to have another Haditha, or any killing of innocents. So drop a few dozen artie suppression missions in downtown Habinayah and see how many more insurgents we’ll be fighting next month because they’re mad at us for killing their wife/father/whoever. It’s an ugly way to fight a war, but it’s our only option at this point.
One last thing…
I said we can’t be firing immidiate suppresion missions in downtown or anything, that’s obvious. I should have, as a squad leader, every single tactical option at my disposal when I’m getting shot at. Being out of artie’s range fan doesn’t really thrill me, either. So I’m not downing artie at all. 81mm mortars saved my company in Afghanistan. They were awesome, we rarely even engaged enemies in a direct firefight. We should have every tactical option, including artillary and CAS. The key is haveing someone responsible enough to know when to use and use it well, and when the chance of collatoral damage is too great. Didn’t quite mean to get off the supporting arms argument so much.
Welcome to the board. pl
Fine and pretty site! Very good owner and design!
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Thinking there is merit to Sam’s comment. Whether the COIN of the Realm involves tube artillery is unknown to me but no doubt some education in what towed 105s can accomplish might be of interest to those interested in spreading the anti-taliban oilspots. Do they still exist or do we have to buy them from S.Africa? [I believe S.Africa at one time was largest producer of 105mm rounds in the world. Could be wrong!]Also are there foreign military observers attached to US forces that are not participants?
Joey Wheeler, great post, but when conducting an “L” ambush maneuver didn’t you use indirect fire you cover your flanks or pin the enemy by denying lines of retreat?
I believe the planting season is coming soon, if we continue to play “nice” what will happen to these poor people who will be even poorer?
Predators have ensured that they will hate us for a long time, so why try have “Stan the Man” apologize for collateral damage at this point?
‘As you think this over, I will give you my opinion that to be honest (intellectually honest) you have to accept the fact that by not making as much fire support available as is needed up front (as opposed to in the rear at Hq.) you are making a decision to have more Americans killed and wounded. Its a trade off.’
Of course. But surely this applies to going to war at all? If America had never invaded Iraq, fewer Americans would have died (and fewer Iraqis too, but let’s leave them to one side for now).
Whenever you launch an attack isn’t the same trade-off made? You order men to climb out of their foxholes, they are more at risk of death, but (you hope that) some objective is achieved.
I don’t think I clearly understand why accepting an increased risk to ‘friendly’ lives by limiting the use of certain weapons is a more emotive issue than accepting an increased risk for any other reason.
Is it because the control of weapons is retained at higher levels? I can certainly see that this shows a lack of trust in the troops to abide by the rules of engagement, which is a very serious business. Or is it because you regard the mission as futile? In that case any risk taken to complete it – however small – is surely unacceptable so the issue of artillery support is really beside the point. The point is the futility of what America is trying to achieve in Iraq.
I suppose I am also disturbed by this because I am a civillian in an American-allied nation. I had always thought that the point of soldiers is that they put their lives at risk to make us safe (and often, in practice, for policy goals much less clear-cut than that). This is why we hold soldiers in esteem, and other men of violence in comtempt. When you say to J Thomas ‘To put it bluntly, if I have or had to choose between dead GIs and dead whatevers, the GIs win every time.’ I see that this may not be true. Perhaps I am just a ‘whatever’ like those civillian Iraqis.