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TOPIC: Engagement Areas in Open Terrain

DISCUSSION: CTC experience has identified a current problem in the control of direct fire. This problem is exasperated in open terrain where the reduced presence of identifiable terrain features makes it difficult to construct engagement areas that are well defined.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Clear identification of engagement areas is necessary to facilitate the massing and distribution of fires. In the absence of identifiable terrain, target reference points (TRPs) can be created with damaged/destroyed vehicles that are moved into required locations at the direction of commanders invested with the responsibility for specific engagements areas. Other types of TRPs could be used. For example marker panels, visible and infrared chemical lights, flags, and white phosphorus/illumination rounds. The German army made use of smoke rounds to facilitate fire distribution during World War II.

TOPIC: Because of the wide open terrain, commanders often fail to appreciate correctly the time-distance relationships in planning the battle.

DISCUSSION: The effort to synchronize Battlefield Operating Systems during the planning process can be negated by the failure to continue the synchronization effort during the preparation phase of a mission. This is especially true in the construction of engagement areas for defensive operations. Direct fire, indirect fire, and obstacles are linked, and the adjustment of one requires the adjustment of all. The commander must know and have a good feel for what his unit can do, how long his unit takes to do it, and what he really wants his unit to accomplish.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Adjustments of the elements of the Battlefield Operating Systems can unravel the focus of a commander's intent. This is especially true in open terrain. Tactical commanders should personally direct the synchronization of engagement areas. Obstacles should be positioned, indirect fires adjusted, and direct fires rehearsed under the personal supervision of the commander. The commander must take his unit out and actually time them performing certain actions to his standard so they understand his intent and he knows exactly how long they need to reach his goal. The unit must practice moving, digging, and fighting, and the planners must know the planning factors for that specific unit.

TOPIC: The soldier usually does not get the whole story.

DISCUSSION: History has shown that sometimes the troops are misinformed on the capabilities of a piece of equipment or a unit's capability to execute a mission in a specified time. This misconception is enhanced by limits to training and shortcuts in training to meet mission goals. As an example, Tack Force Smith, which as a well-trained unit, was not told of the inability of the 90mm rocket to penetrate the frontal armor of North Korean tanks. Panic set in after rounds bounced off the front of the tanks. Another area of misinformation is staff actions. During training exercises, we approved actions like movement requests and air support to enhance training or the play of an exercise. this may lead the subordinate to expect it that fast during an actual conflict or war. This false perception can cause units major problems.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Command information programs which provide the soldier realistic capabilities, information and solutions are required. TC 90-16 (Armor/AntiArmor Operations on the Integrated Battlefield) is one source which provides capabilities and solutions. Soldiers need to know! Explaining why certain TTPs are required during training is another method of providing the soldier with the information. Tying the capability to TTP reinforces the information. An especially effective technique used on North Africa was for all soldiers to fire their weapons at enemy vehicles and equipment on training ranges to gain confidence in the weapons and to see first hand the effects of the weapons on the enemy vehicles and equipment.

TOPIC: Overheating of Signal Shelters and Generators

DISCUSSION: Sand, dust, and heat combine to degrade the performance of signal equipment and cause the equipment to overheat or even fail completely.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Use "target cloth" over signal shelters/generators and additional fans in shelters to reduce the incident of equipment failure due to heat. Operators must change/clean the equipment and filters several times each day to prevent overheating. Also, based on poor ground conditions, problems can be anticipated with equipment electrical grounding. Exposed radios should be shaded or covered.

TOPIC: Time Management

DISCUSSION: Time is always lacking, especially in desert operations. The travel time associated with the open expanses of the desert has generated some practical procedures adopted by successful commanders.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: The following procedures warrant special consideration:

  • Warning orders enjoy greater emphasis.
  • Units must routinely move without the presence of commanders. They must train to this requirement.
  • To the maximum degree possible, commanders and staffs should go forward to issue orders. This buys critical time for subordinate commanders.
  • Don't drive when you can fly. Maximum use should be made of aviation assets to buy commanders time. This is true at all levels of command.

TOPIC: C2 Effectiveness under Stress

DISCUSSION: There are many factors that can create stress in combat operations: fatigue, anxiety, time, intense heat, battlefield uncertainty, etc. Reactions to stress are varied, but there are clear indications, from combat experience and less stressful research and training environments, that soldier performance in command and control C2 operations can suffer.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Do not underestimate your opponent. At the outbreak of conflicts, there is a common tendency to underestimate the opponent's military abilities. At the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, both soldiers thought they could win quickly and easily. In many training exercises, U.S, planners seem to assume that because the opponent is culturally different, not a world power, or technologically inferior, he will be easy to defeat. After the enemy is more successful than anticipated, then it is common to overestimate his capabilities. Maintain a realistic, balanced perspective on enemy capabilities. Plan ahead. The reality of violent combat can cause commanders and staffs to concentrate on just the immediate battle. This is especially true if operations do not go exactly as planned. Yet most of our potential adversaries fight in echelons, and, in a fast-paced battle, we must be preparing to meet the second echelon while fighting the first. Eliminate future surprises by planning for the next battle during the current fight. See the entire battlefield.. Under stress it is more comfortable to narrow your focus to your immediate control and within your own boundaries. What is happening on your flanks and rear is critical to accomplishing your mission. The support you might get from the flanks and from higher command could be critical to accomplishing your mission. Commanders and staffs must consider the bigger picture when planning and conducting their operations. Decide early, then plan in detail. After the concept of the operation has been decided, there is still much detailed planning to be done. Do not let the search for a perfect concept consume all your time and effort or use up time your subordinates need. Numerous CTC exercises have shown that a good workable concept, planned in detain, rehearsed, and well executed, is a winning strategy.

Simple concepts, thoroughly planned! Making complex, tricky-to- execute plans is asking for trouble. Keep plans simple, but plan them in detail. Achieving synchronization depends on working out the time, space, and force details. Whenever possible, determine the criteria for key decisions in advance. for example, rather than simply ordering a unit to "withdraw before becoming decisively engaged," pre-establish the criteria for making the decision to withdraw.

Plan to surprise!

Under stress most people attempt to reduce their mental workload. Thus, deception planning can easily be forgotten, especially is its benefits are not immediate or immediately apparent. "Besides, the EW guys will take care of it." Yet deception is often the overriding factor in winning, and a battlefield necessity when you are fighting outnumbered. Commanders and staffs should plan part of their battle plan -- not as an after-thought!

Planning is a team effort!

Some leaders try to analyze and decide by themselves. They isolate themselves from open discussion of their ideas and plans. Under stress, individuals' judgement is typically degraded, and it becomes more crucial than ever for leaders to use their senior staff to test the validity of their ideas.

The enemy is planning too!

Remember to wargame your plans dynamically. Do not just attack a static template or assume he will stand still for you.

Consider troop morale in planning!

Troop morale is a real factor that training exercises cannot realistically portray. In actual warfare, troop support factors become vital. If casualty evacuation is inadequately planned, the troop morale will suffer. Unit cohesion is perhaps the most important factor in maintaining the will to fight. Cross- attachments, especially at company level and below, will reduce unit cohesion if the units have not trained together sufficiently to build a unit bond. Although cross-attachments may become a tactical necessity, their effect on combat efficiency must be weighed against the tactical advantage.

Do not assume success!

Lessons learned form classroom, NTC, and Battle Command Training Program exercises indicate that often a successful orientation gets in the way of developing adequate plans. Planners assume the plan will work exactly as planned, when in fact, it rarely will. As planners your must consider ways that plans can go wrong. Make plans robust and flexible. Recognize and develop contingencies for ways in which the plan may not succeed.

Do not stop assessing the situation!

Situation assessment is not something you do just during mission analysis. It must be a continuous activity to avoid delays in comprehending important changes and events and to maintain the ability to respond rapidly. A good understanding of the situation is a start point for all staff operations.

Do not ignore uncertainties!

One way to reduce the mental workload under stress is to treat assumptions as facts. Once this is done, the uncertainties inherent in any tactical situation are forgotten or ignored. The inflexible, single-track plans that result will not survive the first engagement.

All uncertainties as to enemy status and responses, friendly capabilities and successes, terrain conditions, etc., should be resolved or reduced if possible, given the time available. If they cannot be resolved, then they must be treated as uncertainties -- not assumed away -- and contingencies considered for the most likely branches.

Do not fall back on the familiar!

Under stress we revert to doing the things that are easiest and that we know best. Try to recognize when you are spending too much time doing simple tasks such as collating or sending messages. Make sure you are not focusing on simple, rote tasks to avoid difficult, but more important thinking tasks. Do not limit solutions to your branch specialty. Maintain a combined arms perspective and remember that staff coordination is essential to battlefield synchronization.

Do not over control your subordinates!

Commanders often seek to maximize their control of the situation under stress. This may result in detailed orders to subordinates that stifle their initiative and reduce the flexibility to respond to contingencies.

Mission-type orders are more effective in fast-paced modern warfare with all its uncertainties. However, the opposite extreme should be avoided. Commanders should clearly specify intent and provide sufficient control measures to ensure unity of purpose.

Make sure you are understood!

Good communication is always difficult, but stress and fatigue will greatly increase misunderstandings. Just because something is very clear to you, do not assume that it is clear to everyone else. Double-check communication. Use backbriefs and rehearsals. Staff visits and follow ups also foster good communications and can keep problems from recurring.

Get sleep each day!

The mental abilities required for effective C2 are those which first and foremost suffer from sleep loss. Sleep loss has been proven to decrease performance on tasks requiring calculations, creativity, anticipation and planning ahead. While we all can recognize the physical signs of fatigue in us and others, we seldom recognize mental lapses. Do not judge your level of degradation by low well you can still perform physically. Although there is the temptation to remain awake through intense planning sessions and engagements, adequate sleep discipline is fundamental for maintaining the abilities to develop and adjust plans. Three to 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep each day will maintain mental performance only for 5 to 6 days. Less sleep will lead to rapid declines.

Do not fall victim to "groupthink"!

Widespread agreement among the staff is not necessarily a healthy sign. It could mean that the desire to find agreement is overriding critical thinking. In times of stress there will be a natural desire to reduce that stress by increasing group harmony and ignoring problems. Be alert for groupthink and when you suspect it is occurring, take a devil's advocate position and actively find the flaws that everyone is missing.

You are not infallible!

There is a human tendency to listen only to information that confirms our own beliefs and ignore or minimize information that is contrary. This appears to be especially true in stressful situations. Commanders and staffs must remain open to opposing opinions and assure that they have good reasons for rejecting contrary information.

Find the errors before they find you!

Battles are won and lost on the basis of errors. Commanders and staffs must be on the constant lookout for flaws in concepts, omissions in synchronization, and errors in critical estimates. follow these guidelines for eliminating errors:

  • Reflect on what is being done and why.
  • Make a rough first guess for comparison to calculations.
  • Have others check critical work.
  • Check for consistency in estimates, concepts, and orders.
  • Make sure that your message is understood.
  • Follow good sleep discipline.
  • Watch for waning concentration and automatic behavior.

Learn from mistakes; do not let them haunt you!

Do not let stress make the situation appear worse than it is. Be calm and confident during the fight. It is inevitable that you will make mistakes. And some may be costly. Let your mistakes make you a better soldier instead of a worse one.

Table of Contents
AirLand Battle: Combat Service Support (CSS)
The Iraqi Threat: Tactics and Organization

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