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CALL Newsletter 04-13
Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
CAAT II Initial Impressions Report (IIR)

Chapter 3: Engineer
Topic A: Mobility, Counter-Mobility, and Survivability

Observation Synopsis

Engineers faced many and varied tasks/missions upon arrival in Iraq. Forward operating bases needed to be constructed. Base infrastructure became the primary engineer mission and with the development of force protection for entrance gates and fighting positions. Because their mission was going to be a temporary one based upon mission guidance, class IV materials were not included in their basic loads. They soon found out that class IV materials were very short in the theater. Some units had had the foresight to prefabricate guard towers before moving into the AO. These towers worked well to a point, but lacked the structural integrity to support the sandbags necessary for overhead and side protection. Hesco-bastion baskets and New Jersey barriers proved to be the items of choice for serpentine traffic layouts and vehicle checkpoint locations. Care had to be taken in their installation to insure that IEDs could not be hidden in or around these devices. Baskets needed to be capped so that devices could not be buried in the dirt fill material on top. Baskets also needed to be keyed into the earth to avoid being blown out when mortar rounds landed close in front.

Berms, Hesco barriers and New Jersey barriers were difficult to construct and move. The combat engineer brought the bare minimum of equipment to complete this type of construction and found that leasing the necessary equipment in country was not an easy task. The biggest equipment shortfalls included front-end loaders, cranes, small emplacement excavators (SEEs), and bobcat-type loaders. The armored combat excavator (ACE) commonly found in the combat engineer battalion proved adequate for berming operations but had its hands full when trying to penetrate hard or rocky soil. Maintenance of the major drive systems on the ACE proved to be a challenge to company mechanics. Equipment associated with a combat heavy battalion was needed to perform the construction mission of base camp development, but few of those resources were available.

On top of the base camp development task, it was soon determined that not enough personnel were available to support cordon and search operations, convoy security operations, and general site patrolling. Because fighting as infantry is a secondary engineer mission, combat engineer personnel were chosen to plan and execute these missions. Problems surfaced immediately. The combat engineer did not have the infantry weapons, laser sights, and night vision devices necessary to insure operations success. In addition, the engineer vehicles needed were not up-armored and most lacked crew served weapons mounts. If a vehicle did have weapon mounts, most did not include armor around the mount to protect the firer. The engineer Soldier went about his business and fabricated what he needed and mounted it where he needed it. Things have improved dramatically since the beginning of the war. More up-armored vehicles are arriving and laser sighting equipment is being provided to the units needing these systems. Improvements can still be made by equipping HMMWVs with infrared headlight systems to enable drivers to move in a blackout mode but be much more aware of their movement area than what blackout drives allow. Special portable lighting systems could be provided that would shine high intensity light away from a vehicle checkpoint or security gate, thus making it more difficult to see the Soldiers manning that point.

The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and their small tributaries provided safe haven to many of the insurgents trying to destabilize the U.S. mission in Iraq. Both rivers had small islands that needed to be patrolled because, in many cases, they were part of the terrorist escape route. Boats for patrolling and insertion of forces were inadequate for the mission requirements. The engineer began using bridge erection boats when the initial bridging tasks were completed. They also had access to small assault boats found in the multi-role bridge company inventory. Neither type really met the requirement. The assault boats were too slow and hard to maneuver in the swift currents encountered. The bride erection boat, although powerful, still lacked the speed for insertion operations and did not come equipped with the proper types of weapon mounts for crew served weapons.

Although the combat engineer lacked the mission essential equipment to conduct cordon and search operations, convoy escort duties, and general site patrolling, they were able to utilize what they had to complete the mission. The ability for individual Soldiers to communicate with one another during tactical operations was a significant shortfall. Walkie-talkies bought at home station were the radio of choice. Although they lacked secure capability, they were effective for man-to-man communications. Squad leaders needed immediate contact with squad members during cordon and search operations. Convoy commanders had to be able to talk to all of their vehicles to coordinate a response in the event of terrorist attack. Patrol leaders required immediate information to respond to challenges caused by civilian traffic flow in their area of operations and movement of civilian personnel. Individual communications equipment is essential for tactical movement and movement to contact operations.

The most significant shortfall faced by engineer commanders concerned training for the fight in an urban environment. Training for this type of combat was completed during much abbreviated training sessions at mobilization stations or while at home station. Emphasis was not placed on these missions because combat engineers usually are involved in breaching operations and general engineering missions. The same can be said of other types of CS and CSS units. Training for fighting in an urban environment was secondary or even tertiary to their primary missions. Brigade combat teams had active duty and reserve military police units interwoven into their structure. This resource provided the training help needed by commanders to prepare their CS and CSS personnel for fighting in an urban environment. The civilian police skills brought to the battlefield by National Guard and Army Reserve units was, without a doubt, the centerpiece of cordon and search operations.

Lessons Learned

  • More up-armored vehicles with crew served weapons mounts need to be provided to engineer units faced with tactical convoy security operations, cordon and search operations, and general area patrolling missions.
  • Individual communications equipment that can operate both secure and non-secure needs to be included in the combat engineers equipment requirements.
  • Weapons for tactical squad operations must be provided to combat engineers. Thermal night vision goggles and laser sights should be a part of this package.
  • Boats for river patrolling should have crew served weapons mounts, have high speed capability, and be capable of carrying at least a complete squad with weapons.
  • Class IV materials may not always be available in the theater and may have to be brought forward during initial movement to contact. Pre-fab construction of guard towers must take into consideration total load requirements to support sandbag walls and roofs.
  • Urban combat training for combat engineers must be incorporated and prioritized in their training plans.

DOTMLPF Implications

Material: Change the combat engineer battalion MTOE to include weapons, vehicles, and equipment to support infantry operations, especially cordon and search operations.

Training: Prioritize infantry combat operations in the engineer battalion training criteria.

Table of Supporting Observations


Observation Title CALLCOMS
File Number
Weapons 10000-22970
Communications in convoy operations 10001-89551
Utilization of night vision goggles 10001-04895
Bridge erection boats 10000-34188
Constructing entrances and traffic control devices at forward operating bases 10000-51480
Role of the combat engineer in phase IV operations 10000-39917
Engineer equipment 10001-03824
Soldier fighting positions 10000-19872
Headlights on HMMWVs 10000-10263
Laser sights on weapons 10001-21670

Table of Contents
Chapter 3: Engineer
Chapter 3-Topic B: Combat Engineer Operations




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