by CPT Thomas Duffy
Headquarters and Headquarters Companies (HHCs) of mechanized engineer battalions normally do an adequate job completing service and support missions, but they often do not "survive to fight again" in order to continue supporting engineer battalion operations.
Observer/controllers (O/Cs) at the National Training Center (NTC) have observed that engineer battalion field trains frequently do not have adequate tactical standard operating procedures (TACSOPs). If a TACSOP exists, it often does not include:
- Efficient occupation layout within the brigade support area (BSA).
- Priority of work to establish security IAW the forward support battalion's (FSB) BSA defense plan.
- Casualty evacuation within the BSA.
- Reaction to contact drills.
DISCUSSION AND TECHNIQUES:
HHC commanders and first sergeants must take a more active role in training these skills at Home Station so that their units and soldiers can continue to support the engineer battalion at their maximum capabilities.
Efficient Occupation Layout Within the BSA.
HHCs too often do not have SOPs for the physical placement of command posts (CPs), equipment, sleep areas, and vehicles within their assigned sector of the BSA. This causes problems with communications to the engineer battalion rear CP and the FSB, and significantly impedes quick occupation and security of the engineer battalion field trains. There are several deficiencies within the HHC's physical layout:
A layout solution that can be duplicated in a HHC TACSOP is shown below. Practice this layout during HHC FTXs, engineer battalion FTXs, and FSB FTXs.
Priority of work to establish security IAW the forward support battalion's (FSB) BSA defense plan.
Most HHC commanders do not brief or publish a BSA occupation/security priority of work in the company OPORD. The observed trend is that the priority of work plan lacks the following detail:
- Standard execution control measures
- Not later than completion times
- Unit responsibilities
- Reporting requirements
- Commander's inspection time
If, for example, the initial security work is not completed at the new BSA site before service and support missions begin (or continue), then it usually does not get accomplished to standard and leaves the field trains vulnerable to attack.
A recommended matrix for insertion into paragraph III of the HHC OPORD is shown below.
Units in the engineer battalion field trains must execute to standard a comprehensive security priority of work before executing service and support missions. If the HHC does not complete the priority of work after arriving at the new BSA site, they will not execute security operations to standard against Level I threats. HHCs must work on the skills associated with security operations during sergeants' time and company FTXs at Home Station to decrease the number of casualties normally associated with Level I attack.
Casualty evacuation within the BSA.
Another "Survive to Fight Again" collective task that is normally forgotten within the engineer battalion field trains is casualty evacuation (CASEVAC). Many HHC 1SGs will use the close proximity of "Charlie Med" (the medical company of the FSB) in the BSA as an excuse not to have an internal company CASEVAC plan. The died-of-wounds (DOW) rates at the NTC show that much improvement is needed in BSA tenant CASEVAC planning, rehearsals, and execution.
HHC 1SGs can conduct the following five tasks to improve CASEVAC operations:
A large number of casualties occur in the field trains due to inadequate planning, rehearsals, and execution of reaction-to-contact battle drills. All field trains need to improve their reaction-to-contact drills, especially the react- to-direct fire, indirect fire, air attack, and NBC attack battle drills. HHC commanders and 1SGs can do three things to correct this weakness:
-- The commander must lead company rehearsals and supervise platoon rehearsals (see CALL Newsletter No. 98-5, Rehearsals).
-- At a minimum, the commander and 1SG must conduct a react-to-direct-fire battle drill and CASEVAC drill that requires the company to deploy to fighting positions on the perimeter and evacuate casualties to CCPs.
The HHC must practice "Survive to Fight Again" skills so that combat service and support missions can be accomplished throughout a long-term operation. Leaders must include these tasks in company TACSOPs and, as a minimum, brief them in all unit OPORDs. Section leaders must train at Home Station and rehearse these tasks before every mission. The HHC must take care of itself or it will not be able to take care of the engineer battalion.
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