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Military

MINEFIELD EMPLOYMENT
by SFC Edward Bruning

"War makes extremely heavy demands on the soldier's strength and nerves. For this reason make heavy demands on your men in peacetime exercises. The best form of "welfare" for the troops is first class training, for this saves unnecessary casualties."

--Field Marshall Erwin Rommel

Issue

Platoons at the National Training Center (NTC) take much longer to emplace live minefields than they do to emplace inert training minefields. During their after-action reviews, platoons claim that the emplacement time is not accurate. Units claim that the longer time comes from unrealistic standards forced upon the unit by the NTC rules of engagement (ROE). They blame such things as having to put up fratricide fencing on all four sides, emplacing the rows straight with accurate mine spacing, using end row markers, and having to properly fill out a Minefield Record (DA Form 1355). These standards are neither unrealistic nor are they NTC ROE. The standards are stated in FM 20-32, Mine/Countermine Operations, w/change 1. Units quite simply are not training to standard at Home Station.

Discussion

There are two main reasons for the increased time problem:

1. Pressure from the chain of command to "get mines on the ground," and
2. Lack of technical knowledge and competence to emplace minefields to standard.

The first reason accentuates and reinforces the second. Platoons try to make senior leaders in the chain of command happy and end up cutting corners.

Quite often, the chain of command does not plan for the platoon involved with the live minefield to do much else. However, the platoon emplacing the inert minefield will normally be tasked with 50 percent more mines to emplace. The chain of command must lead and direct the platoons to treat all minefields as if they are live. All parties must also understand and accept the longer emplacement times. This is a hard pill to swallow because of the pressure and determination to "beat the OPFOR." Units must ask the question, "Is the short-term goal of putting up a good fight against the OPFOR worth the life of an American soldier in an actual deployment?"

It is not that platoons cannot emplace live minefields in the same amount of time they do with training minefields; it is just that most platoons do not know how. Platoons have not been taught how to emplace minefields to standard. Furthermore, they have seen "wrong" for so long that it looks "good." And then the platoon is told they did a great job against the OPFOR.

Recommendation

The following is an example of how a platoon could emplace minefields. It is nothing new or flashy. In fact, it is the doctrinal solution (FM 20-32, Mine/Countermine Operations, 30 Sep 92). Also included are some corrections to misconceptions and trends that have been observed at the NTC.

1. Organize parties. (This organization of the parties represents a 22-member platoon -- 3 squads of 6 soldiers each.)

a. Siting and recording: Squad leader, team leader, and squad driver (the platoon leader and his driver may assist).

b. Marking: Squad leader, 2 team leaders, squad driver, and 2 squad members.

c. Laying: Squad leader, 2 team leaders, squad driver, and 2 squad members.

d. Mine dump: Platoon sergeant, team leader, HMMWV driver, and 2 squad members.

2. Platoon leader sites minefields.

a. Platoon leader identifies locations for obstacle groups with the overwatching commander.

b. Platoon leader works with siting party leader and emplaces individual minefield marking.

3. Siting Party Operations - Responsible for siting, recording, and reporting the minefield.

a. Identify and, if necessary, mark Landmark 1.

b. Emplace the end row markers visual control measures and label them with azimuth and distance.

c. Make notes of all azimuths and distances.

d. Identify and, if necessary, mark Landmark 2.

e. Make sketch of area to be used later for the inside of DA Form 1355.

f. Repeat the process for remaining minefields.

g. After all minefields have been sited, or as soon as possible, the party leader begins filling out DA Form 1355. Add information from the strip feeder reports as it becomes available.

4. Marking Party Operations - Responsible for installing fratricide fencing and marking the minefield.

a. Load vehicles with fencing material.

b. Receive guidance from the platoon leader; fence minefields separately or as a group.

c. If the end row markers are emplaced, the marking party may begin emplacing the fratricide fence.

5. Laying Party Operations - Responsible for laying and arming the mines.

a. Load laying vehicle with enough mines to complete the desired row. If there is no minefield sited, the laying party assists in the establishment of the mine dump until it can begin laying mines.

b. Follow control measures that were emplaced by the siting and recording party.

c. Fill out a strip feeder report as rows are completed. Deliver the strip feeder reports to the siting recording party as soon as possible.

d. Arm mines.

e. Bury the safety pins and clips.

f. Return to the mine dump and reload the vehicle for the next row.

6. Mine Dump Party Operations - Responsible for preparing mines for emplacement, tracking Class IV and V, and setting up row packages.

a. Set up the mine dumpsite.

b. Inspect and fuse mines.

c. Emplace mines in minefield/row packages.

d. Track Class IV and V materials and request supplies as necessary.

e. Provide local security for the mine dump.

7. DA Form 1355, Minefield Record

Block 1 - Complete to include laying authority, laying unit, and the name, rank, and SSN of OIC.

Block 2 - Complete to include dates and time group for start and completion and the name, rank, and SSN of the recorder.

Block 3 - Enter the copy and sheet numbers. The actual numbers will depend on unit requirements. One copy for the overwatching unit, one copy for the next higher command, one copy for corps, and, where appropriate, one copy for the national territorial authority.

Block 4 - The complete and proper 11-character obstacle number. (See FM 20-32, pages 5-9 and 5-10 or FM 90-7, Appendix B)

Block 5 - Complete map data as stated on the map(s) used.

Block 6 - Include an accurate description of each of the locations to include any additional marking (example: three pickets wrapped with engineer tape). Include an eight-digit grid to each.

Block 7 - Describe the intermediate markers. Intermediate markers must be used if the landmark is more than 200m from the minefield or the strip/row reference stake cannot be seen from the landmark.

Block 8 - Accurately describes the marking fence, the type of fence, and what sides are fenced.

Block 9 - Enter the number of strips/rows and describe them and their emplacement. The markers should be metallic.

Block 10 - Complete an accurate description of lane marking and instructions for closing all lanes.

Block 11 - Cross out incorrect descriptions and lines not needed. Do not count mines from omitted clusters. Count the irregular outer edges (IOE) fingers as a separate row, if the row is the base row for the IOE.

Block 12 - At a minimum (also include any information that would be useful in removing the minefield).
1 - Mine clusters at ____ meter spacing.
2 - Number of live IOE clusters (all others are numbered but omitted).
3a - Numbered omitted clusters in regular strips.
3b - Omitted clusters for clusters for lanes and gaps.
4 - Clusters with anti-handling devices (AHDs).
5 - Clusters with tripwire activated antipersonnel (AP) mines.
6 - Strip cluster composition.
7 - Location of safety clips/pins (should be broken down per row, not for the entire minefield).
8 - Location of mines for closing lanes and gaps.

Block 13 - The OIC's signature, rank and date (completed after he has verified the form).

Block 14 - The enemy arrow will always point toward the top portion of the form. The north arrow will follow one of the graph lines (this allows for easier, more accurate use of the protractor when transferring the azimuths onto the form).

Block 15 - Indicate the systems used to measure azimuths and distances. Indicate the scale; "Not To Scale" is a scale.

Block 16 - Include the following information:

  • Frontage of minefield in meters, not including the fence.
  • Depth of minefield in meters, not including the fence.
  • All end row markers marked and labeled properly.
  • All turn points marked and labeled properly.
  • Both landmarks marked and labeled properly.
  • All centerlines have an accurate azimuth (in degrees) with an arrow showing the proper direction and distance (in meters).
  • Show the fratricide fence.
  • Show important landmarks such as: roads, rivers, lakes, tree lines, etc.
  • The sketch is to scale (use a protractor for the azimuths and ruler for the distances).

Block 17 - Enter the security classification for the form; use "SAMPLE" for training.

Block 18 - The OIC's signature and rank (completed after he has verified the form).

Conclusion

The challenge to all units is for commanders to hold their platoons to the Army standard presented in FM 20-32, Mine/Countermine Operations, w/change 1, and FM 90-7, Combined Arms Obstacle Integration. Platoons must treat all training minefields as if they were live, even during recovery. Remember that the goal is not to do well against the OPFOR - it is to train soldiers to fight and win AND SURVIVE against a real enemy.

Training M21 mines improperly loaded into a M105 trailer.


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