IS STILL A TENDENCY IN EACH SEPARATE UNIT . . . TO BE A ONE-HANDED PUNCHER.
BY THAT I MEAN THE RIFLEMAN WANTS TO SHOOT, THE TANKER TO CHARGE, THE ARTILLERYMAN
TO FIRE . . . THAT IS NOT THE WAY TO WIN BATTLES. IF THE BAND PLAYED A PIECE
FIRST WITH THE PICCOLO, THEN WITH THE BRASS HORN, THEN WITH THE CLARINET, AND
THEN WITH THE TRUMPET, THERE WOULD BE A HELL OF A LOT OF NOISE BUT NO MUSIC.
TO GET HARMONY IN MUSIC EACH INSTRUMENT MUST SUPPORT THE OTHERS. TO GET HARMONY
IN BATTLE, EACH WEAPON MUST SUPPORT THE OTHER. TEAM PLAY WINS. YOU MUSICIANS
OF MARS . . . MUST COME INTO THE CONCERT AT THE PROPER PLACE AND AT THE PROPER
GEORGE S. PATTON, Jr., FORT BENNING, GA. 1941
As the smoke and dust began to settle on the battle position of TEAM BAYONET, the commander, CPT Jack Crafton, felt a painful silence around him . . . a silence broken only by the random pop and crackle of ammunition burning within smoldering hulks that had once been his weapons of war.
As his mind slowly cleared, Crafton began to realize the enormity of what had happened to his team. The enemy motorized rifle battalion he and TM BAYONET had been ordered to defend against had sliced through them as if they were not even there. As Crafton began to search for a reason why, a thousand thoughts ran through his mind.
LTC Steven Bryant, the task force commander, had given TM BAYONET a very sound mission. They were to defend the center sector of the task forces' Battle Position DAUNTLESS. The terrain, weather, and the engagement areas were ideal for defending and destroying the enemy Motorized Rifle Regiment facing Bryant's task force.
The teams on either flank had held their ground and done their jobs. Close air support, field artillery, and mortar fires had been devastating when the other teams needed them. Still, Crafton needed to know why his team's failure almost lost the day for Task Force BRYANT at BP DAUNTLESS.
Crafton had been confident before the battle. "Every task had been done to standard," he thought to himself. The engineers had done their job just as they were supposed to. He was pretty sure the platoons had positioned themselves exactly were he told them to be. All the leaders knew his battle plan; he had even asked them if they understood after their hurried rehearsal. They had completed most of the preparation work before the battle started. Almost everything was dug in with at least a few inches of overhead cover. Even ammunition, fuel, maintenance, and air support planning had gone well.
Still, in spite of everything he had done, something had failed miserably in their execution. It seemed nothing worked when it needed to or as it was planned. It nagged Crafton that once the battle began, everything seemed to go against him and the team.
POINT: Synchronization, or "Harmonizing" as General Patton described it, is the integration of all available assets at the right time and place on the battlefield. Synchronization does not necessarily occur just because each separate asset knows its job well.
Crafton noticed that even his old trusty thermos had not worked right as he poured himself a tepid cup of coffee. He watched with detachment as his hands began to shake. The coffee had no taste. As the first gulp hit his cotton-dry throat, he choked.
A deafening silence surrounded Crafton. Staring into the coffee cup, he began to see the young faces of the soldiers he lost. Each looked older than their years. Each begged him to know why they had died. He could not answer.
The saving grace for the task force, Crafton thought, was when LTC Bryant had been able to conduct a last minute counterattack with Team SABRE. They had crushed the enemy force that had laid waste to his team. Crafton was relieved the attack had been stopped before the defense of BP DAUNTLESS was overrun. It seemed ironic to him that CPT Tom Bolten and TM SABRE had made it look so easy when they punched into the enemy force and shattered them much like the enemy had done to Crafton's team. Why did it have to be TM SABRE that had saved the day?
Why had this happened to TM BAYONET? They were well trained and disciplined, Crafton thought to himself. The equipment was good, modern, and well maintained. Why had someone else been able to do the job he had been unable to accomplish?
As the survivors from TM BAYONET began to pick up the battered pieces of the team around him, the destruction and carnage of the battle began to haunt him. Throwing down the cold dregs of his coffee, Crafton began to slowly move around the devastated battle position. The revulsion of what he saw began to make him ill. Fear of not knowing the cause of their defeat kept him moving. He had to find the answer. He had to know.
Could he be the reason? Were there flaws in his plan? Was someone to blame? Was their preparation inadequate, or was it just bad luck? Why didn't everything come together the way the battalion commander had described in the Operations Order? What happened? Why? What should they have done differently? Crafton needed answers, and the enemy would not wait.
Had LT Flynn, the S-2, given him the right picture of the battlefield? It seemed to Crafton that the enemy was everywhere but where he wanted them to be. No, he thought, even the scouts reported the enemy formations just as Flynn briefed the commanders and staff.
The Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) had seemed complete and thorough. Maybe, Crafton thought, Flynn and that "boy wonder" platoon leader, LT Jacobson, were wrong and he had, in fact, faced a much larger force. It bothered him that he had bean defeated so easily. Crafton had never lost anything to anybody before, and this hurt. Crafton realized that "maybe's" would not give him the answers he needed to tell to the soldiers he had lost.
As he walked around the shattered remains of the battle position of Second Platoon, the weight of the battle settled on him. Even simple thought required tremendous energy . . . something he did not have anymore. Crafton sat down next to the burned-out shell of the M-2 that had belonged to LT Wyse, the platoon leader. Both had died to enemy jet fighters and attack helicopters that descended on the platoon a half hour before the battle started. Crafton's Stinger team never even saw them, much less had a chance to fire a missile before the damage was done. Staring into the still smoldering pyre, Crafton began to think about the battle.
Crafton had to know why his tanks, Bradleys, and ITVs had not been able to hit, much less kill, the multitude of enemy vehicles in the engagement area. Crafton pulled his crumpled map out of the side pocket of his tattered BDU pants and began to study it.
Crafton thought to himself, "The engagement area we had been given by the S-3 appeared to be well-thought out. I did have to reposition the platoons for better cover and concealment once they actually got on the ground. After all, you always have to do that. Besides, everything was exposed if they would have gone where MAJ Daniels had wanted them to go."
Thinking back to his Officer Advance Course (OAC), Crafton remembered something he had saved. Somewhere in his battlebook LTC Bryant had insisted they make and carry with them, he had stuck a handout with the effective engagement ranges for his direct fire weapons. After a few minutes of digging through the little pocket-sized book, he found it. It showed 3000 meters as the effective range of the M1, Main Battle Tank. With his mind's eye, he traced on the map an arc 3000 meters to the front of both tank platoon battle positions.
A sick feeling came over him as he realized most of the engagement area was well beyond the range of their guns. Frantically, he searched the table for the ranges of all his direct fire weapons systems. As he found them, he traced the range arcs on his tattered map. All with the same haunting story.
By repositioning his platoons for better cover and concealment, Crafton realized he had put them into positions that prevented them from killing the enemy force while they were in most of the engagement area. Worst of all, nobody realized it before the battle. If they did, nobody reported it.
POINT: The company/team commander and platoon leaders must focus on the engagement area when organizing a defense. Positioning of weapons, obstacles, and indirect fires must allow for the massing of fires on the enemy while they are in the engagement area.
A chill shook his tired body. "Why had nobody caught the mistake?" Crafton was sure everyone knew where the engagement area was. "Didn't the platoons set up their Target Reference Points? What about range cards? Didn't anybody check them before the battle? Something should have keyed somebody that they could not reach the engagement area before the battle started!"
Crafton angrily rubbed the stubble on his face, thinking aloud, "Maybe, if I had been able to take the time to walk each of the battle positions with the platoon leaders, I might have been able to catch the mistake. If I had required every one to tell me how they were going to fight the battle during the briefbacks, I could have checked to make sure they had understood my plan and I had understood theirs." He thought to himself, "Maybe the platoon leaders had not had or taken the time to walk the positions with their NCOs; after all, they were just as busy as I was."
POINT: Rehearsals and backbriefs are key to synchronization. They surface disconnects in the plan. Shortfalls noted in rehearsals must be fed back up the chain of command. The basic plan may be flawed and may require change. Their is no substitute for personal recon . . . walking the line. The map is often subtly, fatally wrong.
Realizing there were still questions to be answered, Crafton began to replay each catastrophe that had befallen TM BAYONET. Even though they could not kill the enemy in the engagement area, he wondered why his platoons had not been able to deliver accurate fires when the enemy did come into range. It should have been easy for them to hit what they shot at. "Sure," he thought to himself, "we did kill a few of them, but it seemed like we fired a lot of rounds before we hit anything."
Thinking back to those miserable days at the National Training Center, Crafton began to think out loud to himself about what his platoon Observer/Controllers had told him--"Boresighting is absolutely and positively critical to maximizing the accuracy of the fire control systems."
One of the OPFOR (Opposing Force) commanders Crafton knew from OAC had once bragged to him about the OPFOR boresighting four or five times a day, especially just before a battle. Crafton had once chided him about wasting all that time. Maybe it was not such a waste of time after all. Crafton began to wonder if his young lieutenants and platoon sergeants had taken time to make sure everything was boresighted. He wasn't even sure boresighting was a requirement in team TACSOP, and if it was, when and how often. Crafton began to wonder if maybe the OCs had been right after all.
POINT: Boresighting and pre-fire checks must be part of every unit's SOP, and be enforced.
What had happened to the obstacles the engineers had worked on so hard? The enemy had gone through them as if they had not even been there. Crafton looked out at the engagement area and saw the remains of them, mumbling to himself, "Why had nobody seen the enemy force breaching and reducing the obstacles? Why didn't anyone try to fire on the breaching force while they were in the obstacles?"
Crafton knew he had repositioned a couple of the obstacles to make better use of the terrain. He had even reported the changes and the new locations of the obstacles to the task force S-3. Why had they failed to stop the enemy?
During the battle, Crafton remembered, he had told his Team Fire Support Officer to put steel on one critical obstacle. It was being breached in front of the Mech Platoon that had been destroyed in the air attack. Crafton shook his head. That incompetent FSO of his had called in the fire mission 500 meters from the enemy force. The impacting rounds fire had done nothing to stop the enemy force trying to breach the obstacle. As he looked out to where the powerful shells landed, Crafton realized his FSO had put them in where the original obstacle had been planned before it had been moved.
Crafton began to wonder why the Direct Support Artillery had not moved the target when he moved the obstacle. Why didn't his Team or Task Force FSO update the target location? Crafton's stomach knotted up as he realized he never told his FSO he had moved some of the obstacles around. Crafton began to wish he had included his FSO in the rehearsal. Maybe, he thought to himself, he was the incompetent one, not the FSO.
POINT: Include everyone in rehearsals. Changes in obstacle locations must be reported to everyone.
Crafton began to examine each of the obstacles around the battle position, comparing them against the target list he had received from CPT McBride, the Task Force FSO. He checked locations and looked to see if each target had an observer assigned to call fires. Crafton sensed something was not right. Most of the locations were pretty close, except for the targets planned on the obstacles he had moved. As he stood up and moved closer to the smoldering Bradley, Crafton began to look for one of the obstacles for which the Second Platoon Fire Support Team Chief was responsible for calling fires on. Crafton could not see it. Thinking to himself, "It wouldn't have mattered anyway. The FIST Chief had died along with LT Wyse in the Bradley during the air attack."
POINT: Every obstacle must have someone assigned as a shooter . . . and not just the FIST or FSO. The shooter must know radio frequencies, target numbers, and alternate commo means. Every obstacle must have someone assigned to see it and secure it from breaching/reduction by dismounted forces.
Crafton asked himself, "Why didn't we put the observers where they could see the obstacles, or have patrols check each one periodically? Why didn't the platoon leader check? Why didn't somebody else know to call fires on the obstacle when they knew the Mech Platoon FIST Chief was dead?" The answer hit him. The fire support execution matrix had not assigned anyone to fire the targets if the primary observed didn't or couldn't shoot.
Crafton became angry, mostly with himself. He had heard people drone for years about making sure each target had someone designated to shoot it, as well as someone to back up each shooter, and also to make sure that both observers were positioned to see their targets. Crafton had always wished they would shut up and leave him alone and not bother him with the details of fire support. "After all that's what the FSO is for." Now he wished he still had his FSO and everyone else who was gone.
It didn't make Crafton feel any better to find answers to some of his questions. Each answer seemed to produce more questions and more guilt. Crafton slowly walked over to what remained of the battle position of Third Platoon, one of his tank platoons. The young lieutenant leading the platoon had inadvertently called artillery fire on his own vehicles as they moved to get into the fight. They never got there.
Crafton began to replay Third Platoon's part of the battle again. He remembered telling LT Smithson to reposition his tanks to fill the gap that was created with the loss of Second Platoon. He remembered the confusion in Smithson's voice as he jammed the radio net with questions about the enemy.
Crafton shook his head remembering how the unfortunate young man found the enemy tanks trying to breach an obstacle in front of the position he was moving into. In his haste, Smithson forgot the target reference number for the artillery target on the obstacle. He had called for fire with a grid location. Unfortunately for him and his platoon, the grid he sent was his own. Before Smithson and the other soldiers of Third Platoon realized something was wrong, 144 rounds in six volleys of armor busting, 155mm, Dual Purpose, Improved Conventional Munitions mixed with High Explosive rounds rained down on them.
Crafton looked around in disbelief at the devastation and destruction his own artillery had inflicted on the platoon. Half the tanks had been knocked out. The blast from one HE round had taken half a gun tube, both front sprockets, and the drivers hatch off of a tank without the round striking it. The round had impacted a few feet away. Nothing at any Combat Training Center could have prepared them for this.
The surviving remnants of the platoon had still been in shock from the concussion a few minutes later when the enemy tanks and fighting vehicles breached the obstacle and attacked them. They could not defend themselves from the onslaught.
All Crafton could do now for Third Platoon was to make sure the few surviving members of the platoon were treated and evacuated as quickly as possible.
POINT: Rehearse in day, rehearse at night, rehearse in MOPP 4, rehearse with simulated jammed commo, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
In despair, Crafton began making his way back to his Command Post. "Why had this happened?" he thought. He had thought the team had done everything just as he had learned in OAC, but on reflection, had they? "The vehicle and individual fighting positions had looked like something out of a field manual, yet they didn't keep anybody or anything from being killed. The use of terrain for cover and concealment had been good, yet the enemy still found them before they could find the enemy. Obstacles were well built and indirect fires timely, yet they never seemed to do what they were supposed to. Why? Had nobody seen the problems with the engagement area, or with anything else?"
Crafton began to wish he had spent more time checking things before the battle instead of assuming everyone else was. Time, he thought, would have given him the opportunity to look at everything a little closer.
Back at his Command Post, Crafton stumbled on the sand table model of the battle position his driver and NBC NCO had so carefully constructed for the rehearsal. Surprisingly, it was intact, save a few scattered artillery fragments. Crafton, staring at it, began to realize they had only gone through the motions during their rehearsal.
The platoon leaders echoed everything just as it was in the operations order. Nobody had questioned anything. Nobody had actually looked at the battle position from the enemy perspective. Worst of all, nobody had checked their planned positions against where they actually were on the ground. Nobody had looked at how they fit into the team plan, or what they would do if the enemy did not show up exactly when and where predicted.
POINT: Rehearsals must be done to standard. If not met, do it again. Elevate problems up the chain of command.
Realizing he had found another failure, Crafton sat down on a fallen tree and began to assess what had to be done next. This battle was over but there would be more. He knew he had to do things differently.
Crafton reflected on the training he received in OAC and all the other military schools he had attended. The training had been excellent, but like so many of his peers, he had done things differently in the "Real World." Now he began to see why each school had placed more emphasis on many of the less glamorous aspects of the battle than others. Now in defeat he understood that the doctrine, tactics, and fundamentals were correct.
Crafton wanted to make sure the lessons he learned from this battle did not get filed away like the other ones. These had been hard and expensive, and his soldiers had paid the bill.
Table of Contents
TASK FORCE BRYANT (Tactical Operations Center) (H-24 Hours)
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