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Dismounted Mechanized Infantry
in the Deliberate Attack:
What is the Purpose?

by CPT David B. Batchelor
In his book, Third Army Standing Operating Procedures, General Patton stated the following in reference to the use of infantrymen:

"The heavy weapons set the pace. In the battalion, the heavy weapons company paces the battalion. In the regiment, the cannon company paces the regiment, but it is the function of the rifles and light machine guns to see that the heavy weapons have a chance to move. In other words, the rifles and machine guns move the heavy weapons in to do the killing."

This concept of integrating the dismounted elements into the heavy task force sheme of maneuver is not new or strange in today's doctrine. Most FM 7-series and FM 71-series manuals address to various degrees the integration of dismounted and mounted forces into the fight.

QUESTION: In a desert environment such as that of the National Training Center (NTC), can a dismounted element be used to guide the mounted element to a position of advantage where it can more effectively be used to "do the killing" as General Patton stated?

ANSWER: YES - - IF adequate planning and preparation are conducted at all levels, from task force to fire team.

BUT, when heavy task forces attempt to conduct dismounted operations at the NTC, they often fail to adequately plan and prepare for the mission. A dismounted operation that is located forward of the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA), not properly planned and coordinated, and out of supportable range of the mounted element is doomed to failure.

The following is a brief discussion of some of the most obvious planning, preparation and Home-Station training problems observed at NTC when heavy task forces attempt to integrate their dismounted elements into the task force mission. Some recommended solutions to those problems are also offered.

SEE THE TERRAIN

Problems:

1. Terrain analysis, as a part of describing battlefield effects, is frequently overlooked as a part of the intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) process. When defining the battlefield environment for a dismounted element of the task force, some commanders and staffs do not understand that the area of operations and interest for the dismounted element may be different from that of the rest of the task force.

2. The military aspects of terrain are rarely considered when planning for dismounted operations. Usually, the biggest concern on the mind of the operations planner is "how much walking is the mission going to require?" He seldom considers the steepness and openness of the terrain or where the enemy may be positioned in relation to that terrain. In the end, the unit fails to reach the objective area in enough time to achieve the assigned purpose. And because it took so long to reach the objective, they may have lost their protection of darkness as well.

OR, they may get to the objective, but are combat-ineffective because they spent the night climbing up and down mountains along the route.

OR, worse yet, they may blindly stumble into an enemy position and become compromised.

Techniques:

1. Conduct terrain analysis to determine the battlefield environment in which the dismounted element will operate. Be sure to consider how the terrain will impact their ability to reach the objective area in the time alloted. They must also know how to use the terrain to conceal themselves from enemy positions.

2. Light data plays an important role as to the scheme of maneuver the dismounted elements use. Obviously, movement during the cover of darkness offers some concealment to the dismounted element. Time-distance factors involved in the move, and mounted element time-distance factors must all be carefullly considered. Especially important to the dismounted element is the time of moonrise, percentage of illumination and the beginning of morning nautical twilight (BMNT). The dismounted element needs to understand how dark it is going to be during its movement and especially what the light conditions are relative to when it plans to engage the enemy or be engaged by the enemy.

3. Careful consideration must be made regarding the likelihood of premature disclosure to the enemy. Make sure the dismounted element is well-trained in actions on contact drills.

SEE THE ENEMY

Problems:

1. Some company commanders are not using the task force situational template (SITEMP) and are not adequately conducting IPB at their level. They are not considering enemy disposition when planning their units' operations, and often simply duplicate the task force S2's platoon position templates, rather than actually templating vehicles on the objective in relation to the terrain.

2. Commanders seldom consider what actions the enemy may take if a dismounted attack is launched against his flank early in the morning. Even a perfectly executed dismounted attack, if launched too early without the support of the mounted section, can easily be overcome through a counterattack by the enemy.

3. Dismounted infantry elements are frequently expected to conduct night movements exceeding 8 kilometers forward of the FEBA without visibility of the enemy composition, disposition, or strength in the objective area. Essentially, the deliberate attack becomes an unsupported search and attack.

Techniques:

1. Company/team commanders must conduct IPB at their level and template to individual vehicles for their companies. Terra Base products from the S2 may help the company/team commander in his analysis.

2. Consideration should be made for the use of chemical strikes and FASCAM to tie the enemy's defense to the restrictive terrain. The dismounted element could be used to confirm or deny the use of special munitions, but, as a minimum, should not be surprised by this type of action by the enemy.

3. With the exception of the M220 TOW system, all dismounted anti-armor weapons must be employed within the ranges of the enemy tanks and BMPs that the dismounted element is trying to destroy or find. Therefore, commanders should give much consideration to the avenues of approach they will use to move into the objective area and the positions from which the assault will commence, whether mounted or dismounted.

4. Care must be given to plan the dismount and remount points along the route to avoid detection or direct fire if the dismounted element must remount in a hurry for some reason.

SEE YOURSELF

Problems:

1. Commanders sometimes forget to see themselves when planning for dismounted operations. The love of dismounted operations in all true infantrymen sometimes leads commanders to believe their units are at a higher level of conditioning than they actually are.

2. Dismounted infantry elements are frequently overloaded. They pack and carry much more equipment than is necessary to achieve their assigned purpose. A dismounted patrol with a purpose tied to the task force reconnaissance and security effort does NOT require all the anti-armor systems it can carry! The extra equipment simply compounds the problems encountered at night and frustrates soldiers that may have started the operation very motivated.

3. The task force often creates a consolidated dismounted element under the leadership of one platoon leader or company/team commander who has never trained with the unit before. Squads from different companies and platoons within the task force are suddenly thrown together. These squads may have different SOPs established, and these different SOPs must quickly become one set of procedures for the new organization to function properly. The problem then becomes an issue of time management for the newly-created dismounted element leader.

4. Some task force and company/team commanders are almost totally removed from the planning and preparation of the dismounted mission. This sometimes leaves new 2d lieutenants on their own to plan and prepare without the benefit of the experience of the commanders.

Techniques:

1. Commanders must understand their units' level of training and what they can realistically accomplish as they are conducting terrain analysis and route selection. A highly motivated "hooah" element does not necessarily make it to the objective if the commander has not honestly considered the training level of his unit.

2. Tied to the understanding of a unit's capabilities is an understanding of what combat load a unit can carry and what combat loads are required to achieve a specific purpose. FM 7-10 contains good information about the soldier's load and what is really required to achieve a specific purpose.

3. Task organization must be carefully considered. How can a commander establish one set of procedures for a new element that has not previously trained together, while at the same time planning and preparing this new element for a combat operation that will commance that same night?

a. A task force that has been training their mounted elements cross-attached for months would never suddenly throw different squads and platoons into new elements just before deploying. Likewise, they should not place their precious few dismounts in this situation. If the commander wants to consolidate the task force's dismounts into one or two elements, then they should train as such at Home Station.

b. Do not expect company/team commanders to decide the time and location of the linkup for these elements. The task force can save precious time for the dismounted element by task-organizing early in the planning process, and dictating the time and location for the linkup to occur. The task force dismounted effort must be given the same level of attention during planning and preparation as would be given to any other task force effort.

TASK AND PURPOSE

Problem: The task force often assigns a myriad of tasks to the dismounted element without linking them to any specific objective or end state that the commander wants the task force to achieve.

EXAMPLE: A dismounted element of 35 soldiers receives the following tasks for one task force mission:

  • clear a route.
  • reduce an obstacle.
  • destroy a combat security outpost (CSO).
  • conduct detailed reconnaissance for the task force.

They are to accomplish these tasks over a wide geographic area, far forward of the FEBA, in a time window of five to eight hours.

The result is usually a dismounted element which does not know which task to focus on and has no clear understanding of what they are to achieve for the task force.

Techniques:

1. The dismounted element's purpose should be linked to the task force main effort and accomplishment of the task force purpose at the decisive point.

2. The task force commander must consider how the potential loss of all or part of the task force's precious few dismounts will impact the success of the task force. In other words, is the use of the dismounted element so important to the success of the task force that the commander is willing to risk their loss forward of the task force? If so, the commander should properly focus the dismounted element on that clearly-defined and achievable purpose. If not, then he should conserve the combat power of the dismounted infantry for another effort.

COORDINATED ATTACKS

Problems:

1. Units rarely plan a coordinated attack in which the dismounted element is attacking an objective in conjunction with the mounted force or in which the dismounted element clears a route along a flank of an enemy position to guide or assist the mounted element in getting to the position of advantage. Instead, the dismounted element often attempts to conduct an attack forward of the task force, hours before the mounted forces of the task force cross the LD. Even if the dismounted attack is successful, the delay of the mounted element gives the opposing forces ample time to reposition forces as required.

2. Units that are conducting offensive operations often forget to plan for, and conduct, defile drills as required. Generally, the fundamentals of the drill are understood, but commanders at task force and company/team level lack the patience for the dismounted element to adequately clear the defile. Habitually, as a force begins to conduct the clearance of the defile with the dismounted element on the ground, the commanders involved will lose patience with the dismounted element's speed and order the movement of the mounted force through the defile. The end result is usually the loss of all or most of the company/team.

Techniques:

1. In keeping with General Patton's idea of using the infantry to get the heavy weapons into a position to kill, have the dismounted element begin its attack on the enemy's flank at the same time the mounted forces are making contact with the enemy.

a. The dismounted element would cross the LD in darkness, the night prior to the attack, to seek an assailable flank along the dismounted avenue of approach. The dismounts can accomplish a thorough reconnaissance.

b. The task force attack would commence prior to BMNT, while there is still sufficient darkness to protect the dismounted force (see Figure 1). The end result can be an attack conducted against one enemy force using converging routes, or a dismounted attack supported by the mounted force which forces the enemy to fight in two directions at once.

2. Another technique is to use the dismounted element as a reconnaissance force with the mission to guide the mounted elements into attack-by-fire or support-by-fire positions which they have reconnoitered and know will provide protection for the mounted force and provide the best fields of fire on the enemy vehicle positions.

a. If at all possible, these positions would be established along the enemy's assailable flank with covered routes as close to the positions as possible (see Figure 2).

b. In this situation, even if the dismounted force was unable to identify a clear route for the mounted force, the confirmation of the enemy template could provide the task force commander with enough information to determine whether that flank is a viable flank to commence his mounted attack.

3. Commanders at all levels should remenmber that proper clearance of a defile takes time. Detailed rehearsals of this drill will give a good feel for the amount of time it takes to clear a defile. A key for success in all of these operations is the ability of the dismounted element to remain uncompromised until such time they can bring both the fires of the mounted and dismounted force to bear against an enemy if required.

Figure 1. The task force dismounted element and
a mounted element conduct a simultaneous attack.

Figure 2. Dismounted infantrymen have led a mounted company
to a position of advantage from which "to do the killing."

FIRE SUPPORT

Problem: Task force fire support officers (FSOs) have a tendency to concern themselves with planning fires for only the mounted elements of the task force.

Techniques:

1. If the task force commander feels the dismounted purpose is so important to the task force to warrant their use forward of the task force mounted line of departure, then the dismounted element certainly warrants the planning of indirect fires specific to their scheme of maneuver. The task force fire support officer (FSO) must be involved in the planning of fires for the dismounted element, and the company/team FSO must fully understand the dismounted element's scheme of maneuver in order to plan, and especially refine targets as necessary.

2. The company FSO must carefully consider his role in the dismounted mission. If deemed he will travel with the dismounted section, he must not neglect the planning of fires for the mounted elements of the company to support their assigned mission, nor can the observation plan be overlooked for the company fire support team (FIST) traveling with the mounted element.

COORDINATION

Problem: A high risk of fratricide exists when other task force and brigade elements are not aware that dismount elements are operating forward of the task force. Conversely, dismounts may unknowingly fire at friendly elements in their zone of attack if they are not aware of their operating locations.

Techniques:

1. All units in the task force and applicable brigade elements must understand that friendly dismounted elements are forward of the task force.

a. The task force security company, scouts, brigade COLTs, air defense and electronic warfare assets that are positioned forward must understand where friendly dismounts are operating.

b. The dismounted element must understand the locations of friendly elements in the brigade that may be in their zone of attack.

2. Establish and disseminate restricted and no-fire areas. The direct fire plan specific to the dismounted unit and the supporting mounted company team must be understood. Measures to control fires in support of the dismounted element must be established if the mounted element is to work in support of the dismounted element. Care must be taken to ensure the dismounted element avoids the sabot arc of both the BFVs and supporting tanks.

3. Plan linkup points and remount points.

4. Conduct detailed rehearsals! Probably the most critical rehearsal is the direct fire fight of the dismounted and mounted elements and how they position and orient their fires into the objective area in relation to each other. Rehearsals must be actual rehearsals and not simply coordination meetings or a place where fragmentary ordrs are issued.

5. If dismounted infantrymen are to be air-inserted into the area, and their unit SOPs lack information on air assault/mobile operations, leaders should reference the Air Mission Briefing and Air Assault Operations Order formats in FM 90-4.

COMMUNICATION

Means for the dismounted element to dommunicate with the company and/or task force must be planned. The task force signal officer must be a part of the planning process and predict the ability of the element to communicate given their scheme of maneuver and the terrain. He then must offer the solution to the potential communication problem. A task force retrans or a company relay may be the technique to employ to ensure effective communications. If the plan calls for the relay of the dismounted radio traffic through a company/team, then the company command post (CP) must be prepared to execute this mission. Consideration must be made for the commander, XO, or first sergeant to be up and operating on the net to provide clear command and control.

CASUALTY EVACUATION (CASEVAC)

Problem: Lack of detailed planning concerning the treatment and evacuation of casualties from the dismounted element results in a high died-of-wounds (DOW) rate for this element.

Techniques:

1. Units should plan for the use of company wheeled assets positioned forward to assist in the evacuation of dismounted casualties, or the use of the company's attached M113 ambulance or the first sergeant's M113 if so equipped.

a. If the company does use the M113 ambulance forward, then the task force medical platoon leader should plan to support the company's mounted element and request support through the forward support battalion (FSB) medical company as required.

b. The dismounted element should include as many combat lifesavers with properly stocked lifesaver bags as possible.

2. Consider using the task force physician's assistant (PA) to move as a part of the dismounted element. Careful consideration should be given to this technique given the potential impact the loss of the PA would have on the task force and the limited amount of Class VIII he can physically carry with him.

3. When predicting potential casualties for the operation, consider how many casualties will make the dismounted purpose unachievable. The dismounted soldiers must understand at what point they should go to ground and conduct casualty evacuation, versus continuing on with the assigned mission.

SUMMARY

Only with proper planning, preparation and Home-Station training can heavy task forces successfully integrate their dismounted elements into the task force mission.

  • Commanders must focus their training efforts not only on the abilities of the dismounted soldiers to move and fight at night, but also on the ability of task force staff and company/team commanders to adequately plan for their employment.

  • Specifically train the IPB process, direct and indirect fire planning, conducting unit coordination, and giving clear and achievable task and purpose to the element.

  • Task-organize and conduct consolidated dismounted operations as early as possible during trainup. Develop one set of SOPs for the entire element if the intent will be to consolidate them "on the fly," and establish a clear chain of command for the element.

This kind of focus on the precious few dismounted infantrymen in the heavy task force will improve their ability to accomplish their assigned task and purpose and strengthen the killing power of the total task force.



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