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LESSON LEARNED: Protecting the force is especially critical to liqht units and requires additional attention to survivability and counterfire programs to reduce the effects of enemy indirect fires.

"I have seen war, and faced modern artillery, and I know what an outrage it is against simple men." -- (T.M.Kettle: The Ways of War, 1915)

Without properly prepared positions and cover, light forces are more vulnerable to the effects of enemy indirect fires than heavy forces. To reduce unnecessary losses of light forces to indirect fires, counterfire operations are essential. An enemy force that can find an unprotected light infantry force with indirect fires can destroy it. Even in prepared positions, light infantry faces a significant risk.

A light infantry company in well prepared survivability positions lost 58% of its combat strength during an exercise when the opposing forces concentrated indirect fires on the unit for three hours without the heavy force providing counterfire.

A light infantry battalion task force suffered almost 100% casualties to indirect fires during an attack because the heavy force failed to plan or provide the light force with counterfire.

The range of the light artillery systems is not sufficient to protect the force from long range enemy artillery or mortar fires. Light forces must rely on the longer range weapons of the heavy division or corps to attack enemy indirect fire systems.

Survivability must be planned to protect light forces when they are moving or when they are vulnerable to observation. Light forces on the high intensity battlefield must be supported with counterfire.

The target acquisition assets available to the light force from its parent unit are limited and cannot provide sufficient coverage for the entire force. The heavy force must create the target acquisition umbrella over the light force if they are to be protected.

LESSON LEARNED: Light forces frequently require augmentation when attached to heavy forces in mid- and high-intensity operations.

"Every unit that is not supported is a defeated unit." -- (Maurice de Saxe: Mes Reveries, 1732)

Light forces by doctrine and design are very austere. They are designed to fight for approximately 48 hours in a low- to mid-intensity conflict without external support. To conduct operations beyond 48 hours or in a high-intensity conflict, it is often necessary to augment light forces with non-organic assets.

Augmentation of light forces provides the heavy force commander with the ability to flavor an operation by giving a light force a capability that they do not ordinarily have. Caution must be taken to not augment a light force with more than they need to perform their mission.

Light forces are strategically very deployable. Tactically, their mobility is constrained by the speed they travel. The transportation assets organic to a light force are limited. To enable a light force to rapidly move the large distances frequently required in heavy-light operations, it is essential that the heavy force augment the limited vehicle and aviation assets of the light force.





The engineer capabilities of the light force are designed to support the force in a low- intensity conflict. To meet the mobility, countermobility, and survivability requirements of a mid- or high-intensity battlefield, it is frequently necessary to augment the light force with engineers. Light forces do not possess the heavy equipment assets to create extensive permanent obstacles capable of halting a large enemy force for long periods of time.

Without engineer augmentation light forces can only create point obstacles that can cause the enemy to pause or hesitate for short durations.

As one OPFOR unit found out at the NTC, augmentation of a defending light force with engineer assets of the heavy force can be catastrophic to an attacking force.

A heavy-light brigade task force augmented its light infantry battalion with some heavy earth moving equipment and hand shovels in order to prepare an obstacle across a small mountain pass. The OPFOR elected to use the mountain pass to bypass the heavy portion of the force that was defending a main avenue of approach to the flank of the pass.

Unknown to the OPFOR battalion commander, the light infantry battalion, with its engineer augmentation, created an effective obstacle with a tank ditch, mines, and concertina wire.

As the OPFOR reached the obstacle, the artillery of the heavy force closed the pass behind them with FASCAM. The light force systemically attacked and destroyed the OPFOR vehicles and crews with the small arms and anti-tank weapons. Within 30 minutes only 1 of the 43 OPFOR vehicles remained combat effective, and it was soon captured by the light force.

Until light forces receive their version of TACFIRE, heavy forces should plan on providing TACFIRE or using voice nets to support the light force artillery.

Augmentation of light artillery will ensure fires of the force are integrated and synchronized into the maneuver fire support plan of the heavy-light force.

Consider augmenting the target acquisition capabilities of the light force artillery. Target acquisition and counterfire are essential to employment of light forces on the mid- and high-intensity battlefield.

In addition to engineers and artillery, heavy forces must plan to augment the light force with additional air defense, military police, logistics, and intelligence assets.

LESSON LEARNED: Light forces require resupply more frequently than heavy forces but with less materiel.

"The soldier cannot be a fighter and a pack animal at one and the same time, any more than a field piece can be a gun and a supply vehicle combined." -- (J.F.C. Fuller to S.L.A. Marshall, 1948)

The logistical challenge burden of a light force is not as large or difficult to shoulder as many believe. The "light" infantry soldier is exactly that. The total requirement for all classes of supply required by a light infantry company is measured in pounds, not tons. Light infantry soldiers carry all of their supplies in their rucksacks and pockets. The more they carry, the slower they move.

The greatest difficulty facing any logistical planner supporting a light infantry battalion is to think small. Fuel must be in five gallon cans, not 600 gallon fuel pods. The light infantry battalion does not have vehicles that can pull a fuel trailer or carry bulk containers larger than a 55 gallon collapsible fuel blivet. Water must be in canteens or collapsible 1 gallon jugs, not in water trailers. A HMMWV cannot pull a full water trailer and soldiers cannot carry five gallon water cans over great distances without trading something else from their load.

Planning factors for resuppling light forces must include contingencies for rapidly resuppling a company sized unit with only essential quantities of supplies that can be easily transported by the individual soldier.

As a unit discovered at NTC, too much of a good thing is worse than none at all. A heavy brigade determined that its light battalion needed an airmobile resupply of Class IV material for constructing obstacles. The resupply was done quickly and efficiently, depositing several thousand pounds of prepackaged barrier material at a landing zone fourteen hundred meters from the location that the barriers were to be emplaced. In spite of a noble effort to move the materials by hand, the light force was unable to effectively move enough materiels to construct even the most rudimentary obstacles within the time required.

LESSON LEARNED: Push Combat Service Support to light forces.

"Logistics comprises the means and arrangements which work out the plans of strategy and tactics. Strategy decides where to act; logistics brings the troops to this point." -- (Jomini: The Art of War, 1838)

Heavy forces use a combination of supply point or unit distribution systems to sustain the force in combat. Light forces are not structured to use the same system as a heavy force. Heavy-light operations require more logistical planning and coordination for both the heady and light portions of the force than independent operations.

Logistical planning and coordination for a light force is done at the brigade level. The light battalion, unlike a heavy battalion, does not have the organizational structure or capability to plan for their logistical requirements.

Requiring a light infantry battalion or company to conduct its own logistical planning and support diverts its attentions and resources away from its primary combat mission.

A heavy brigade that has a light force must be prepared to plan and provide logistical support for the unit. This includes all classes of support and supply from casualty evacuation, to food and water, to maintenance.

Logistical support for a heavy-light force must be planned for and pushed to the force.

LESSON LEARNED: Effective orders must be timely, simple and easy to execute.

"Many generals believe that they have done everything as soon as they have issued orders, and they order a great deal ...Few orders are best, but they should be followed up with care." -- (Maurice de Saxe: Mes Reveries, 1832)

Effective planning is the key to successful employment of light forces in a high- or mid-intensity conflict; orders must be written for the people who will use them. Plans and orders must be timely, simple, standardized, and easy to execute.

If the intent of the commander is known and understood, a leader can execute any plan with minimal guidance and orders.

During a recent exercise a light infantry battalion was able to operate for four days without communications with their parent headquarters because they understood the heavy commanders intent. The operations order that they used was written in its entirety on the same 2'x3' sheet of acetate as the battalion operations overlay.

An effective written order need not be long. Terminology and graphic must be standardized in accordance with doctrine. Units can ill afford the time required to develop such orders or to explain the meaning of non-standard terminology or graphics.

A brief order that clearly defines the intent of the commander requires less effort to execute. It is better to provide a good plan quickly and to refine it later than to delay preparation until the best plan is completed and time limited.

Consider the impact of orders on a heavy-light force. A routine action to one part of a heavy-light force might be an unrealistic requirement for the other.

Effective orders must account for the differences in the operating tempo of heavy and light forces. The terms used to define actions and intent must be clear to all parts of the heavy-light force. Because of the slower speed at which a light force can react once the battle is closed, it is essential that combat orders provide as much preparation time to the light force as possible. It is unrealistic to change mission orders of the light force at the last minute and expect as quick a reorientation on the battlefield as a heavy force.

Table of Contents
LESSONS LEARNED: Employment of Light Forces

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias