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Military

MOUT and the U.S. Army:
Give Us Time to Train

by MAJ Brett C. Jenkinson, CMTC MOUT OIC

Public Affairs Annex: What Do You Want the Public to Know?
Table of Contents
The Battalion/Task Force Fire Support NCO and the MDMP

In this article I will dispel any doubts you have about the Army's Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) fighting abilities and will offer an interim fix for the Army's perceived MOUT shortcomings. I will analyze the changes in MOUT training conditions over the past 10 years and outline the steps the Combat Maneuver Training Center is taking to improve the MOUT fighting abilities within U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR).

The bottom line from an officer who has been at the Infantry Battalion and below for the past 10 years: The sky is not falling on the Army's MOUT fighting abilities!

  • MOUT skills in the U.S. Army are better now than they have ever been.

  • Technological development is not the interim fix to any perceived shortcomings.

  • The fixes to any MOUT shortcomings lie in continued training and refinement of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP).

Scores of studies, conferences, and other initiatives have brought MOUT fighting directly to the front of the Army's key leaders and the nation's political leadership. There is no dispute that, given current trends toward peace support operations and the global political situation, deployment into an urban combat scenario is inevitable and the Army must focus some of its training in a MOUT environment. The 75th Ranger Regiment anticipated ".our most probable combat situation -- physically grueling, lethal operations encountered in a night, MOUT environment" (75th Ranger Regiment's FY99 training guidance). However, the prevailing concern for lacking MOUT skills is not wholly founded.

TRAINING CONDITIONS

In the early 1990s, the Army conducted MOUT training in an unconstrained environment. Collateral damage and treatment of noncombatants were not considered at all. Infantry battalions did not execute target discrimination in the close fight. Use of indiscriminate indirect fires and close air support were commonplace in MOUT training. In the close fight, the first object to enter any uncleared room was always a fragmentary hand grenade, followed immediately by two soldiers firing indiscriminately. Anyone in the way was a casualty. This technique is now used only in high-intensity conflicts but used to be considered the "cost of doing business" in any MOUT environment.

From World War II until the early 1990s, the MOUT training skills at the tactical level in the conventional MOUT arena had changed little. However, today's rules of engagement (ROE) and other constraints do not permit such collateral damage and noncombatant casualties. Since 1995, the Army is expected to conduct precision MOUT. The unfortunate by-product of these increased constraints has been higher (simulated) casualties in training and the appearance of lower overall readiness to fight in built-up areas. This probably raised the eyebrows of the Army's senior leadership and left them wondering what had happened.

Several things happened. Shortly after losing 18 Rangers in Somalia, outsiders falsely concluded that this tragedy resulted from the Army's loss of its urban fighting skills. On the contrary, if any battalion-sized unit in the Army could have made the mission in Somalia successful, it was a battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 3d Battalion, 75th Rangers were as well trained as any unit in the Army could be. Unlike conventional U.S. Army units, the Rangers are not hindered by the Training, Mission, and Support cycle. The Rangers train. The Rangers execute. They do both extremely well. Their lethality in battle is awe-inspiring.

Since their organization under the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), Rangers have attended the Special Operations Training (SOT) Course, a course that trains Close Quarters Combat (CQC) techniques. SOT, offered only to USASOC units and staffed by the best of the best in close quarters fighting, teaches the latest short-range shooting skills, breaching and barrier penetration techniques, and room-clearing techniques.

The Ranger Regiment has, consequently, incorporated techniques from SOT in their standing operating procedures (SOPs). Rangers who attend this course are the subject matter experts and trainers for CQC skills in the Ranger Regiment.

The training methodology used in SOT was also incorporated into the Ranger Training Circular 350-1-2. As Rangers rotated into conventional Army units and shared their lessons learned, these special operations techniques began to appear in conventional Army units' close quarters battle SOPs.

To fill the void in MOUT doctrinal guidance after Somalia, some of the close quarters combat techniques, already used by special operations units, were included in the Army's Change No. 1, 3 October 1995, to FM 90-10-1, An Infantryman's Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas. These techniques were not new to the special operations community. They were new to the conventional Army and immediately became the new standard for the conventional Army.

These techniques, specifically the use of the four-man stack during room, hallway, and stairwell clearing, were originally used only in special operations units. Because special operations soldiers are specially selected, they are inherently more highly skilled and experienced upon recruitment. They possess a greater ability to assimilate difficult fighting skills more quickly and easily than their conventional counterparts. Moreover, because of the training cycle of special operations units, they have the time and assets to create highly trained, hyper-performance soldiers, leaders, and units.

Conventional units, on the other hand, have limited time and resources to train and rehearse close quarters battle skills. Mastery of these techniques demands perhaps one hundred times the hours, ammunition, and facilities that the conventional Army can resource. On top of this, many Infantry battalions do not even have Change No. 1 to FM 90-10-1 in their unit libraries. So, expecting conventional units to conduct precision MOUT equally as well as the special operations units has resulted in an unrealistic standard. Because conventional units are playing catchup, interim assessments of conventional units' performance leads to the conclusion that the level of performance has apparently dropped. This is not so.

Conventional units are better than they ever have been, despite being well off the mark set by special operations units. Additionally, conventional units' ability to validate their skills with live ammunition is all but impossible on most Army installations. To add to the precision MOUT challenge, the average infantry unit now trains in a complex battlefield: one with a mixture of combatants and non-combatants under restrictive ROE.

Increasing battlefield complexity has also raised the bar for the junior enlisted soldiers who have probably not even conducted a squad maneuver live-fire exercise in a high-intensity conflict scenario without non-combatants. We now expect these inexperienced, junior enlisted soldiers to conduct a precisely executed combat task in the most challenging terrain imaginable while limiting collateral damage and without non-combatant casualties.

Today, MOUT is complicated by legal liability of non-combatant casualties, restrictions on weapons and munitions, strict ROE, and thousands of split-second ethical dilemmas -- all in the same incredibly challenging terrain. The Army has not lost its MOUT fighting skills. The Army has dramatically increased its standards. It takes training time, resources, and qualified trainers to meet these higher standards.

THROWING MONEY AT PROBLEMS

To overcome the technological parity in MOUT, the DoD has funded some outstanding technological advancements. A few of the current projects are: see-through wall technology, an infrared friendly/enemy/noncombatant marking system, miniature, remote controlled optics, and position location systems for use inside buildings. These are all great ideas and certainly needed to gain the technological advantage over an enemy who knows he can even the odds by fighting us in built-up areas. However, the probability of fielding these items within the next 10 years is remote, while the probability of fighting in a built-up area, we have decided, is highly likely.

Another leap in technology development is an integrated system worn/carried by individual soldier. It is digitally linked to a higher headquarters command post. The system will allow the command post to see exactly what the soldier sees, in real time. It boasts a position locator and has a heads-up display for the soldier. The display is linked to a night sight for his individual weapon. To the casual observer, all this sounds like a great idea. Soldiers and their commanders will receive more information than they are currently receiving.

Unfortunately, this system has two significant drawbacks: 1) it weighs 46 pounds, and 2) the average soldier cannot process any more information than he is already receiving. Leaders who have not fought in a built-up area and the R&D community may not have an appreciation for the sensory input the soldier in a complex MOUT environment already receives:

  • The enemy threat -- in three dimensions (not just at ground level).
  • Smoke (becomes oppressive inside buildings).
  • Increased noise (echoes inside rooms).
  • Difficult, compartmentalized terrain.
  • Increased casualties in a confined area.
  • Target discrimination difficulty between combatants and non-combatants.

After MOUT training, most soldiers readily admit some involuntary sensory gating which results in a loss of situational awareness. A soldier cannot be further burdened by more sensory input and an additional 46 pounds atop his 100 pounds of body armor, seven 30-round magazines, four hand grenades/flash bangs, smoke grenades, breach kit, demolitions, marking kit, and radio.

We are simply expecting too much of the Infantryman. If one compares what the average Infantryman must have to fight in MOUT with the equipment that Army's special operations units currently use, there is a significant disparity. Of nearly 100 special operations direct action soldiers and leaders personally interviewed regarding what tools were needed for MOUT, none of the above technological advances made the list. They all listed the requirement for a set of basic protective equipment and lots of hands-on training. We cannot expect more from the average Infantryman than we do from the specially selected, most highly trained soldiers in the U.S. Army.

The question remains: Does the Army have adequate equipment to fight and win in the MOUT environment? Yes. Some of the basic protective equipment (knee and elbow pads) may require local purchase, but all the really necessary equipment is already in the Army supply system.

BOTTOM LINE: MOUT proficiency demands time to train, first and foremost.

MOUT FIXES AND TTPs

As interest in MOUT increases, the Army continues to sharpen its focus on MOUT. The Army is conducting more MOUT training than ever before. Proficiency is improving exponentially. The Army must be given the time and resources to train MOUT.

The Army is taking several steps in the right direction:

1) Along with revising current training manuals, the Combined Arms MOUT Task Force (CAMTF) has taken the first step by standardizing the overarching MOUT training strategy. CAMTF is moving by leaps and bounds beyond other DoD organizations in this arena. The U.S. Marine Corps has been touted as leading the way in MOUT doctrine and training. Yet, comparison of the Corps' doctrine (MCWP 3-35.3) with that of the Army (FM 90-10-1, w/Change No. 1) reveals no substantial improvement over the Army's current doctrine.

2) In USAREUR, Infantry brigade commanders are designating "MOUT battalions" to be their "go-to" guys in MOUT. They realize that their battalions cannot be experts in all combat tasks. Since MOUT requires so much training time in specific tasks, certain units are specializing in MOUT.

3) The Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC), USAREUR's CTC, now offers a MOUT Leader's Course. This program is tailored to fit the unit's available training time and can be one through five days in length. The program is designed to "Train the Trainer" and is the only one of its type in the conventional Army. The program is a stepping stone program which teaches the unit leadership, from fire team leader to the Battalion Commander, everything from individual movement techniques in a built-up area to organizing, planning, coordinating, integrating, synchronizing, and executing a battalion-level MOUT mission.

These fixes certainly do not address all the variables in the equation to MOUT success. They are, however, steps in the right direction. Coupled with the above fixes, the Army must continue to improve in the following areas:

1) The Army must provide additional time and money to train MOUT.

2) CMTC and the NTC undoubtedly need instrumented MOUT sites to improve feedback and After-Action Reviews (AARs).

3) More importantly, USAREUR and all CONUS Army installations must develop a live-fire-capable MOUT site to validate units' training and SOPs.

4) While the current FM 90-10-1 w/Change No. 1 is adequate, doctrine writers must address MOUT above the tactical level. There is little written about MOUT planning and execution for Brigade staffs and above.

CONCLUSION

The Army's state of MOUT is not as bad as some would like to believe. The Army has been sold short on its MOUT skills. The shortcomings are mostly a result of setting higher standards, increased restraints, more complex battlefields, misplaced funding efforts, and a lack of adequate training time. The Army can produce "hyper-performance" MOUT units -- if the Army's leadership resists the temptation to believe that technology can correct the near-term performance shortcomings. They must believe that training time is the single most important factor in mastering combat skills in the "most probable combat situation - physically grueling, lethal operation," MOUT.

Public Affairs Annex: What Do You Want the Public to Know?
Table of Contents
The Battalion/Task Force Fire Support NCO and the MDMP



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