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Sustaining the Operational Momentum

by MAJ Jay Peterson, O/C, JRTC

Fighting as the Combat Security Outpost
Table of Contents
Public Affairs Annex: What Do You Want the Public to Know?

At 1800 D-2, a battalion inserts scout reconnaissance squads into Cortina to check the suitability of the designated landing zones (LZs) that follow-on forces will use during the D-Day insertion. The reconnaissance squads would also evaluate the enemy situation and report. It was decided during the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) that the focus for the battalion's follow-on missions would be based on the success of the scout insertion and the follow-on air assault.

At 0200 D-Day, CPT Jones, A Company commander, reports to battalion that his 3d platoon linked-up with the company, completing the brigade air assault. Because of heavy enemy indirect fires, the battalion commander orders CPT Jones to move to the vicinity of a possible enemy 81mm mortar that was identified by OH-58 aircraft. Jones asks the battalion if there are any friendly units near that location that could assist in locating the enemy position. He is told that currently all units are in the vicinity of the LZs and that the scout platoon will be pushed into zone the following morning after they conduct link-up and resupply through the battalion tactical command post (TAC). A little hesitant to go out in the blind, CPT Jones gives a final update to the platoon leaders and issues the order to begin the movement to contact to destroy the Cortina Liberation Force (CLF) in zone. CPT Jones feels confident he can succeed. His platoons are green on personnel, ammunition and water, and the 60mm mortar section is available but shooting hand-held only (baseplates expected in on the ground convoy). Because of the fact that the air assault includes multiple LZs, the battalion has attached an advance trauma life support (ATLS) team to his company to quickly treat any wounded.

As the sun begins to peak over the horizon, 3d platoon is greeted with a fury of gunfire; the platoon executes the proper battle drills quickly and finishes off the enemy, but in doing so sustains 14 casualties. The platoon medic immediately goes to work treating the wounded; the walking wounded are treated, and then under a security effort, escorted back 2 kilometers to the ATLS team. Litter casualties are consolidated and moved to the company collection point to await evacuation but the battalion's front-line ambulances (FLAs) are not due in until 1100 with the ground assault convoys. Furthermore, the ATLS team has no transportation to move forward to assist in stabilizing the wounded. Because of limited aircraft, air evacuation will not be available until the forward area arming and refueling point (FAARP) can get established with the brigade support area (BSA). The enemy has had time because of these delays to identify the platoon-size formation and begins to disrupt the evacuation process.

By 1000 CPT Jones has one combat-ineffective platoon due to casualties with his other platoons fighting through the enemy to get to the 3d platoon to secure the casualties. Since the company outdistanced its 60mm mortars, the battalion mortars are now low on HE rounds. Additionally, with no ground lines of communication (LOC) cleared, two anti-tank (AT) vehicles sit, destroyed, in a minefield, while attempting to provide support to the 3d platoon. CPT Jones ponders quickly, "What did I do wrong?" Unfortunately, back at the battalion tactical operations center (TOC), the commander, XO, and S-3 are thinking the same thing.

What Happened?

  • The intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) did not go beyond the initial insertion.

    • Reconnaissance efforts primarily focused at the LZs.
    • Lack of prediction on the enemy reaction to the insertion, and no eyes forward to confirm or deny any prediction.

  • Maneuver plan desynchronized due to lack of intelligence.

    • Quick movement of unit prevented reconnaissance; however, the company commander could have certainly done this with his organic assets.
    • 60mm mortars not prepared to support with fires.
    • Lack of a combined arms plan, i.e., availability of attack aviation, coordinated fires plan or use of mechanized or motorized infantry.

  • Logistics plan not prepared to support the plan.

    • Ground or Air LOCs.
    • Casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) plan.

This article discusses the relationship of logistics and support operations to the maneuver plan, which is based on intelligence, particularly in the area where units conducting operations at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) are not adequately allowing the build-up of combat power in the initial Operational operation. This article assists units in developing tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) that allow time for the identification of the enemy forces, initial combat operations, and the sustainment of those initial forces and the introduction of follow-on assets.


Operational Logistical Momentum Comparison

Figure 1. Operational Logistical Momentum Comparison

The illustration above attempts to explain how both operational and logistical momentum must be linked for continuous operations to actually continue. By using this methodology, the battalion staff would apply time to the operation for events to occur in a prepared manner. Typically, as soon as units hit the ground in Cortina the hunt for the enemy begins. By not expanding the reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) to develop information for the next phase of the operation, enemy activity cannot be confirmed, or denied, and units move out blind. Having small elements out conducting the R&S provides flexibility to the commander. First, less personnel prevents a strain on what may be limited CASEVAC and resupply assets available early in a mission. Second, by keeping the maneuver close initially allows the area from which the unit will expand to be cleared of the enemy and prevent the loss of critical high-value targets (HVTs) (command and control (C2) nodes, mortars, and the limited resupply already mentioned). Thus, this force sustains itself until it is fully prepared to go after the enemy in a larger zone. While the R&S plan is being executed, the unit can also focus on the build-up of combat power, i.e., logistics trains moving into the zone of operations.

Looking at the opening scenario and comparing it to Figure 1, what occurred is the maneuver going from the R&S plan straight to maneuver, not allowing the R&S to be executed, and thus causing the logistics chain to accelerate. This can prove difficult if no prior planning is conducted and the key elements to support the maneuver are not in the position to support.

Execution of the R&S of the build-up of combat power

Figure 2. Execution of the R&S of the Build-up of Combat Power

As information arrives through the intelligence chain, the battalion can task-organize for future operations. This task organization, not only within the maneuver forces, but also the supporting elements for the intelligence gatherers (Figure 2 depicts only scout elements), can include other intelligence sources such as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), low-level voice intercept (LLVI), or remotely monitored battlefield sensor system (REMBASS). Supervised by the XO, the S-1, S-4, and medical platoon leader can develop the support plan for maneuver forces. While the commander develops the maneuver plan with the S-3, FSO and S-2 determining task organization and missions for units for targeted areas, the XO can supervise the parallel support plan. From continuous, updated staff estimates, task-organizing support elements can include:

  • Casualty Estimate.

    • Where are casualties most likely, can the battalion push internal CASEVAC assets forward safely?
    • Where can ambulance exchange points (AXPs) be established in close proximity to assist in moving casualties immediately to a higher level of care?
    • Identification of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) LZs in the zone of operation.

  • Logistics Estimate.

    • What do the maneuver forces need prior to execution of follow-on operations?
    • To where, when and how will essential supplies (food, water, fuel, ammunition and batteries) be pushed?
    • What ground LOCs are available?
    • Availability of aerial resupply.

  • Use of Available Assets.

    • Use of trucks for unit movement rather than foot march.
    • Means of extraction of intelligence gatherers.

Now the maneuver forces are prepared to conduct offensive operations outside the initial entry point (i.e., airhead line); they have both the equipment and assets to support their operations. As contact is made with the enemy, XOs, both at battalion and company levels, must supervise the location of the supporting assets to maintain the operational momentum. Ensuring the ammunition is pushed to the right place and time needed or requested by the maneuver forces can mean success over the enemy. This ammunition resupply applies throughout the battlefield and not just to the units in contact. Failing to maintain a ready supply of ammunition for the 81mm mortars or fuel to the AT platoon held as a reserve can prevent the commander from using the overwhelming combat power he has available to destroy the enemy.

When contact with the enemy is broken, the support plan to evacuate casualties, resupply and units must be known and understood by the maneuver commanders to prevent casualties from being left on the battlefield and their units in need of critical supplies. This will preclude the unit being held at one location too long, securing casualties, ultimately allowing them to maintain contact with the enemy. Additionally, if not done in a timely manner, this will degrade the S-2's ability to gain information on the enemy from those involved in the contact.

While intelligence drives maneuver, ensuring that logistics are linked in detail to the operational momentum, a battalion can gain and maintain contact with the enemy. Units will know they have what is necessary to carry out their operations and that casualties are taken care of quickly. This synchronized effort will keep the battle rhythm continuous within the commander's intent. In addition, the effort enables the MDMP in continuous operations to flow into the next expected fight and keep the battalion focused on the enemy.

What must units do at home station to prepare for combat operations?

  • Train the execution of the R&S plan - time must be allotted to assets such as the scout platoon, in continuous operations, to plan, prepare, and move into zone or sector to build the intelligence plan for the battalion. This should include company commanders conducting link-up with scouts, either FM or in person, to have real-time knowledge of the area they are about to enter.

  • Move the TOC, administrative/logistics operations center (ALOC) and trains to the field. Understandably the operational tempo (OPTEMPO) of today's Army is fast and furious, but by allowing these staff agencies to train on sustaining the force from the field, the development of planning guidance and detailed logistics standing operating procedures (SOPs) can be known and understood.

  • Staff exercises (STAFFEXs) will allow the different agencies within the TOC and ALOC to predict timings between the maneuver and logistics personnel.

  • Thoroughly wargame logistics during the MDMP. CSS takes a back seat in the synchronization process far too often - usually resulting in slow reaction drills because of the number of agencies that are involved to maintain logistical and personnel issues.

  • Add a logistical backbrief to operations orders. Just as company commanders provide the commander with their plan, the battalion XO (HHC Cdr, medical officer, S-1/S-4, and Spt Plt Ldr) can describe their plan to support combat operations. Four of the six mentioned are typically lieutenants. The backbrief also serves as professional development at the same time.

  • Tie routine reports to company training. Make the company commander fully aware of what a late personnel status (PERSTAT) or logistical status (LOGSTAT) will do to his operation. These reports will gain his attention quickly. Furthermore, if not already incorporated into the LOGSTAT, add an area where the company commanders can predict what they will need in the future (24 - 48 hours).

Fighting as the Combat Security Outpost
Table of Contents
Public Affairs Annex: What Do You Want the Public to Know?

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