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From Cowpens to the California Desert:
Integrating Reserve Component Units
into Tactical Operations

by LTC Aaron R. Kenneston, Commander,
1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry

Future battles will require America's downsized active Army to depend heavily on what its leaders call a seamless integration of active and reserve forces. This is not a new approach. General Daniel Morgan, America's Revolutionary War leader on the southern front, accomplished this feat more than 200 years ago at the battle of Cowpens. His troops defeated Tarleton's British regulars in a well-orchestrated battle that ended in a classic double envelopment.

A recent rotation at the National Training Center (NTC) again proved the strength of this seamless integration. Nevada Army National Guard soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry, augmented the NTC's Opposing Forces (OPFOR), as it would if the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (11th ACR) went to war. The 11th ACR Commander employed the National Guard unit in close parallel to Morgan's use of citizen-soldiers. The National Guard troops fought as an independent tank battalion for the feared Krasnovian OPFOR, using visually modified M1A1 tanks. They were a major factor in an OPFOR victory.

Morgan would not have been surprised. In his classic battle, the outnumbered Continental force was charged with defending a vast southeastern area. Morgan realized that his success depended on wise use of citizen-soldier volunteers. He knew that there was a tremendous difference in the levels of training between the regulars and the militia. His battle plan maximized the strengths of both elements.

The battle developed at Hannah's Cowpens in rural South Carolina. Morgan's plan was to use three lines of defenders and a reserve. He placed his best marksmen in the first line of skirmishers. He then put his least experienced militia in the second line. He integrated experienced Continental infantry with the most experienced militia soldiers in the third line. The cavalry was his reserve.

Tarleton attacked, his troops taking casualties from the skirmisher's fire. As the first line drew back, Tarleton pressed forward. Two volleys from the second line further attrited the British assault. The second South Carolina line then drew back. Certain now that he had the colonial force on the run, Tarleton charged. Morgan's third line took up the defense. Their violent fire halted Tarleton's force long enough for the cavalry to bite into the British right flank. Reorganized militia then thrust hard into the left British flank. The crushing double envelopment forced Tarleton to retreat with massive casualties.

Morgan's success at Cowpens greatly influenced future battles.1Clever tactics and surprise were certainly major factors in his victory, but his real genius lay in a strategy that integrated the different experience levels of his soldiers.


American citizen-soldiers have continued to demonstrate an ability to fight alongside their active duty counterparts from Cowpens to Operation DESERT STORM. However, the difficulties of integrating active and reserve forces continue to plague our great nation. Morgan's achievement of integrating active and reserve soldiers seems to elude our Army today.

Enter the OPFOR, played by the vaunted 11th ACR at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA.

The NTC OPFOR performs as a former Soviet Union client state. They represent the fictitious nation of Krasnovia. Their weapons array reflects current arsenals used by friend and foe alike in this redefined "Brave New World." After RAND Corp. verified the need for citizen-soldiers to augment the 11th ACR at NTC, the Army selected the 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry "Wildhorse." This unit is part of the Nevada Army National Guard.

With the arrival of the National Guard unit, the 11th ACR commander was thrust squarely into General Morgan's dilemma -- how best to use mixed active duty and citizen-soldiers. He, as General Morgan before him, successfully integrated the citizen-soldiers into his force. He developed them into competent, capable, and efficient soldiers by using active duty personnel as role models and by teaching simple, repetitive drills. He was also careful to assign missions that matched their levels of proficiency.


To achieve an "OPFOR level of proficiency,"2the National Guard soldiers began an aggressive training program:

Phase 1. The first phase of training was the OPFOR academy. This basic three-day OPFOR soldiers' course focused on individual tasks and provided a common point of reference between the National Guard and active duty soldiers. The State of Nevada purchased desert BDUs, berets, and other accoutrements of the Krasnovian OPFOR soldier to further ensure commonality.

Phase 2. Training progressed from individual tasks to crew drills. The Motorized Rifle Company Handbook was used in conjunction with the OPFOR Tactical Standing Operating Procedures (TACSOPs). These publications contain the essential collective, individual, and leaders' tasks that form the Krasnovian version of our Army's Mission Training Plans (MTP).

Phase 3. The 1/221 Cavalry began practicing simple OPFOR battle drills. Gunnery and maintenance were also emphasized. The focus began on section/platoon lanes, then shifted to troop-level operations with the 11th ACR providing like-sized elements to serve as sparring partners.

Phase 4. Blackhorse evaluators certified the National Guard on troop-level offensive and defensive operations. General Morgan spent four months observing and training his militia prior to his amazing victory. The 11th ACR found that National Guard augmentee certification took about two years (from early 1995 to the middle of 1997). An exercise conducted between active duty and National Guard troops at Gowen Field, ID, during the summer of 1997, validated that the Nevada National Guard unit was ready for their augmentee mission at NTC.

Phase 5. The strategy then shifted as the Nevada National Guard unit assisted the 116th Heavy Separate Brigade, Idaho National Guard, in preparation for their summer 1998 NTC rotation. The 1/221 Cavalry fought over 30 battles against elements of the 116th Brigade. The 1/221 CAV took OPFOR pride in winning all but a couple of engagements during the entire two weeks.

Daniel Morgan could have predicted the outcome. Citizen-soldiers, given an active duty force to emulate, properly trained, highly motivated, and doctrinally employed, will always meet or exceed standards.


The 1/221 Cavalry was now ready for the final test - an NTC Rotation. They would fight as an OPFOR unit. Their opponent would be an active duty brigade. The 1/221 Cavalry, designated the 60th Guards Independent Tank Battalion, would fight under the control of the 125th Guard's Tank Regiment as an asset of the 60th Guards Motorized Rifle Division.

Just as Daniel Morgan wisely used his available time prior to the destruction of Tarleton's forces, the 1/221 Cavalry carefully planned the last six months leading to their NTC rotation.

  • Company lanes focused only on the most critical skills, to include obstacle breaching, setting firing lines, and simple maneuvers to positions of advantage.

  • The unit constantly practiced boresighting MILESs and target acquisition.

  • Training included OPFOR ride-alongs, terrain walks, and continued study of "Decision Point Tactics."3

The squadron used Visual Modifications to their M1A1 tanks to produce a vehicle that became known as a Krasnovian Variant Tank. The squadron fought one last force-on-force battle against the uncooperative, free-thinking, 11th ACR.

The day before the first battle was filled with feverish activity.

  • Squadron soldiers worked hard at all echelons while their leaders attended the regimental orders briefing.

  • Executive officers worked supply and maintenance issues.

  • First Sergeants pushed support forward as tank commanders focused on maintenance, boresighting, weapons test fires, and other pre-combat tasks.

  • Squadron orders were issued mid-day.

  • After completing the afternoon brief-back at regiment, the squadron rehearsed their mission. Every member of every tank crew attended this event. Each tank commander was required to have a map with the mission graphics posted. The rehearsal was done on a giant sand table and focused on orders and actions at each phase of the battle. After several walkthroughs, crews were released for final preparations.

Before the Battle of Cowpens, Daniel Morgan moved from campfire to campfire, explaining his plan and answering questions, while talking and joking with his men. He stressed to his militia that they owed him "at least two fires."4With that in mind, squadron leaders moved from vehicle to vehicle late into the night talking with soldiers about the next day's battle. They reviewed required actions and discussed crewmember responsibilities. Every trooper knew that he was personally accountable for the destruction of at least two enemy vehicles. Every trooper understood that the success of the squadron rested directly on his individual actions.


First Battle. The National Guard troopers were employed as an enveloping detachment for the regiment's attack against the defending Brigade Combat Team during the first fight (see Figure 1). Their mission was to fix forces in the north while the regiment attacked to the south. As the squadron attacked across the Line of Departure (LD), one tank threw a track. That crew worked furiously to repair their vehicle and then moved 25 kms on their own, following the sound of gun fire to aggressively enter the fray. BLUFOR defenses were fixed and penetrated. The "militia" had accomplished their mission in good order.

Figure 1

Second Battle. Ten of the National Guard tanks were detached to reinforce the advance guard. The "squadron minus" then served as the second echelon for a regimental meeting battle (see Figure 2). BLUFOR moves were surprisingly aggressive, threatening the regiment's Tactical Operations Center. The OPFOR second echelon (the NG troopers) was immediately committed. Building on confidence gained during the first battle, the National Guard squadron was threatening the BLUFOR TOC by 0900.

Figure 2


The Nevada National Guard 1/221 Cavalry's goal is: "to add value to both the 11th ACR and America's Army."

Much like General Morgan before him, the 11th ACR commander was very pleased. He said "The 1/221 Cavalry knew that they would have to fight as hard as the active duty OPFOR, and they did. They exceeded everybody's expectations." Like citizen-soldiers throughout history, the National Guard troopers returned home to their families, communities, and civilian jobs, rightfully proud of their contribution to Army readiness.

Nevada Army National Guard's NTC rotations allowed the 11th ACR to improve force ratios for difficult missions within the Combat Battle Instructions established by the NTC. Two factors enhance this unique Active/Reserve Component partnership:

1. The 1/221 Cavalry troopers are desert dwellers from the nearby Las Vegas, NV, area.

2. The 11th ACR took the time to train with the National Guard.


General Morgan's spirit is alive and well at the NTC. Citizen-soldiers fill active duty roles as part of a world class OPFOR. They are employed in a manner that complements and strengthens their abilities; their motivation level is high. This close cooperation is in line with Morgan's historic precedent. The partnership is a superb example of active and reserve cooperation. It should serve as a model for future citizen-soldier employment. Thanks to the visionary leadership of the 11th ACR, Nevada senior officers, and Fort Irwin, CA, seamless integration is a reality. An effective, mutually beneficial AC/RC relationship has been achieved. Daniel Morgan would be proud!



1. Don Higginbotham, Daniel Morgan, Revolutionary Rifleman (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1961), pgs 133-141.

2. Lt. Col. Jim Zanol, "Training to Achieve an OPFOR Level of Proficiency," Combat Training Center (CTC) Quarterly Bulletin No. 97-20 (Ft Leavenworth, KS, Center for Army Lessons Learned, December 1997), pg. 57.

3. Lt. Col. Pete Palmer, "Decision Point Tactics (Fighting the Enemy, Not the Plan!)," Combat Training Center (CTC) Quarterly Bulletin No. 97-4 (Fort Leavenworth, KS, Center for Army Lessons Learned, April 1997).

4. Don Higginbotham, Daniel Morgan, Revolutionary Rifleman (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1961), pg 134.

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