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Close Combat

I stand ready to deploy, engage,
and destroy the enemies of the
United States of America
in close combat.
Soldiers Creed

Land combat systems may be divided among close combat, air defense and deep battle programs. Close combat is inherent in maneuver and has one purpose-to decide the outcome of battles and engagements. Close combat is combat carried out with direct fire weapons, supported by indirect fire, air-delivered fires, and nonlethal engagement means. Close combat defeats or destroys enemy forces, or seizes and retains ground. The range between combatants may vary from several thousand meters to hand-to-hand combat.

Infantry is the basic ground gaining arm of the Army. The mission of the Infantry is to close with the enemy by fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or to repel his attack by fire, close combat, or counterattack. Modern infantryman fight dismounted or mounted on a number of fighting vehicles both tracked and wheeled and are organized in various units consisting of the Airborne, Ranger, Air Assault, mechanized infantry and Stryker Brigade Combat Teams. Armor became a separate branch from the infantry in 1940, tracing its roots to the Cavalry and the American Tank Corps initially part of the Infantry Branch. Contemporary Armor and Cavalry tactics incorporate cohesive and aggressive emphasis upon mobility, firepower, and shock action to overcome an enemy force. The combined arms team concept includes tanks, armored and air cavalry, mechanized infantry/artillery/engineers, and army aviation, all supported by a flexible and swift communications network and a highly mobile and responsive combat service support system.

A new Army badge recognizing troops who have been in combat was announced in February 2005. The Close Combat Badge was to recognize specific Armor, Cavalry, Field Artillery and Combat Engineer Soldiers, colonel and below, serving as infantry in units purposefully reorganized to routinely conduct infantry-unique close combat missions and personally present and under fire while conducting those types of missions. Instead, on 02 May 2005 the Combat Action Badge (CAB) was authorized for any Soldier personally present and actively engaging or being engaged by the enemy. Although the Close Combat Badge was once considered an option, Army leadership created the CAB instead to recognize all Soldiers who are in combat.

Despite any technological advantages that American armed forces might have over an enemy, only close combat between ground forces gains the decision in battle. Close Combat consists of Armor and Infantry systems, as well as their supporting elements such as combat engineers. Close Combat includes Infantry/Soldier and Mounted Maneuver Systems. Assisted by non-organic planned fires, they organize to deny the enemy access to terrain by use of organic fires and close combat. On today's battlefield, there are no definitive lines and every unit, no matter what kind of unit or its location on the battlefield, must be ready to engage the enemy in close combat on a moment's notice.

All tactical actions inevitably require seizing or securing terrain as a means to an end or an end in itself. Close combat is necessary if the enemy is skilled and resolute; fires alone will neither drive him from his position nor convince him to abandon his cause. Ultimately, the outcome of battles, major operations, and campaigns depends on the ability of Army forces to close with and destroy the enemy. During offensive and defensive operations, the certainty of destruction may persuade the enemy to yield. In stability operations, close combat dominance is the principal means Army forces use to influence adversary actions. In all cases, the ability of Army forces to engage in close combat, combined with their willingness to do so, is the decisive factor in defeating an enemy or controlling a situation.

These units locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat. This close personal fight requires combat-ready troops that are the result of a tough, thorough, and demanding training program. From training to employement, Marines and Soldiers must have the skill and the will to dominate the close fight. Their inherent mobility dictates a need for it to be prepared for rapid deployment. The potential locations and possible enemy threats they may face requires that maintaining a high state of readiness. It is the need to maintain this high state of readiness that drives training.

Close combat in urban areas places a premium on accurate, timely information. Where is the enemy? What weapons does he have? To the degree that this information can be generated and then shared among ground and air units, the enemy's "shelter" in an urban area can be wiped away, and the mobility and firepower of modern American forces can be brought to bear. Armed helicopters, artillery support and air support effectiveness is blunted by the nature of close combat in an urban area. Aircraft that loiter over an intense battle in an effort to make sure that they attack only enemy soldiers run a high risk of being shot down by shoulder- fired antiaircraft missiles.

The reality of close combat challenges the desire for stand-off engagements. Transformation aims at dramatically reducing and even eliminating in some instances the need for US land forces to engage enemy units in close combat. The Army's "medium-weight" combat-unit transformation aims at US land forces that can deploy quickly and maneuver rapidly after their arrival in-theater. Transformation reduces or eliminates close-combat requirements in several ways. Long range precision fires make it possible to halt enemy units before they can move close to friendly land forces. These attacks also create an important maneuver advantage by allowing friendly forces to avoid close combat in less-than-ideal conditions because enemy forces subject to long range attack cannot, or are unwilling to, move quickly.

As combat operations commence, force commanders seek decisive advantage quickly, before close combat if possible, by exploiting full dimensional leverage to shock, demoralize, and disrupt opponents immediately. Dominant battle-space awareness makes transformation possible, rendering obsolete the assumption that close combat would play ae major role in the defeat of enemy land forces. Without dominant battle-space awareness, commanders assumed that information on the location and strength of individual enemy army units would not be reliable or precise. Without reliable information on opposing army forces, commanders often depended on the actual contact of close combat to determine an enemy's location, strength, and intentions.

Transformation has sometimes been described as an effort to replace "real" combat with attack by precision munitions fired from a distance. The development of precision attack from great distances is indeed an element of transformation, but it's not the most essential element. The most essential element is information-the information that leads to awareness. Thus, by 2005 most military UAVs were operating in Iraq in "close combat" situations.

The historic role of close combat becomes increasingly critical as potential adversaries adjust tactics to minimize tremendous US superiority in precision strike against identifiable targets. Adversaries will logically attempt to force confrontations toward scenarios intended to maximize US casualties in hopes that US national resolve will be weakened. Hence, close combat, particularly in high clutter, densely populated or urban environments, is an increasing likelihood. It is in such environments where human senses and the interface between human senses and portable electronic audio and visual devices can be critical. While it is not anticipated that research in this area will produce large advances in human sensory awareness, in close combat even small advantages can produce highly non-linear consequences.

This is the new operational concept for tactical warfighting. It is about exposing the enemy by combat action, setting conditions, and destroying them in close combat. The concept is capabilities and threat-based to compensate for the capabilities of expected threats on the highly ambiguous, complex, and dynamic battlefield of the future. Objective Force Units of Action will be designed for success in any type of operation while optimized for major theater war. They will require a new framework of action enabled by advanced technologies, executed by well-trained, disciplined, determined soldiers and leaders marked by mental agility and rapid tactical decision making. They will be adaptive and self aware-able to master the transitions in the diversity of 21st Century military operations.

The Army's Close Combat Test Directorate traces its roots through the Infantry Board, the Armor and Engineer Board and the Mobile Army Sensor Systems Test Evaluation and Review (MASSTER) Ground Combat Directorate.

The Infantry Board was established on 31 March 1903 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under the command of the General Service and Staff College, now known as the Command and Staff College. The Infantry Board was dormant from 1911 to 1919 when it emerged at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1931, it absorbed the Tank Board, which had been stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. In 1940, tank testing was removed from the Infantry Board and placed under the control of the Armored Force Board at Fort Knox, Kentucky. In June 1940, the Airborne Test Platoon was formed under the control of the Infantry Board. It later became the Airborne Board and was moved to Fort Bragg in 1945. On 1 October 1945, the Infantry Board was re-designated the Army Ground Forces Board Number 3, and remained at Fort Benning. On 1 January 1957, the U.S. Army Infantry board was established. On 2 October 1988, the board was redesignated the Test and Experimentation Command (TEXCOM) Infantry Board. On 21 March 1991, the Infantry Board was closed at Fort Benning and the mission was assumed by the new TEXCOM Infantry Test Directorate at Fort Hood, Texas.

The Tank Board was created in 1920 at Fort Meade, Maryland and in 1931 was incorporated into the Infantry Board. It remained there until 1939 when it was transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky. On 16 July 1940, it was re-designated the Armored Force Board and later re-designated as the Army Ground Forces Board Number 2, remaining at Fort Knox. On 18 March 1948, it was re-designated Army Field Forces Board Number 2, with no change in mission or structure. On 1 January 1957, it changed to the U.S. Army Armor Board, and in 1965 merged with the Engineer Board at Fort Knox. On 2 October 1988, it was re-designated as the TEXCOM Armor and Engineer Board. On 21 November 1990 it was deactivated at Fort Knox and reactivated as the TEXCOM Armor Test Directorate at Fort Hood, Texas.

When mechanized operations are considered, it is not uncommon to picture German "Panzer" divisions rolling across the plains of Russia in massed tank formations, firing their main guns, and maneuvering against equally large formations of T-34s. While this was often the case, and the tanks were the principal weapon of the campaign, all other aspects of combat power played equally critical roles in the victories both sides realized during World War II. In fact in its truest sense, successful armor/mechanized operations relied on the total combined arms integration of a force's complete array of combat capabilities. In those instances where mechanized operations were not successful, it can often be traced to a disregard or a breakdown of the combined arms effort on the part of one or another of the forces engaged.

The close and effective coordination between infantry and armor was developed and later most effectively employed by the Germans in the years between the world wars. Although strategists like Fuller or Hart of Britain, or De Gaulle of France, theorized regarding the use of mechanized vehicles in future conflicts, it was primarily the Germans (Guderian and later Manstein) who successfully wed the "infiltration tactics" of the Western Front and the hardware innovations of the period (internal combustion engine, aircraft, mobile artillery, and wireless communication) that resulted in the kind of tactic known as "blitzkrieg."

These comments are not meant to suggest that Allied (primarily British and French) successes with tanks and infantry during World War I on the Western Front were totally insignificant. Their approach was one in which the tank was employed in a way that would support the infantry as a mobile bunker or "pill box." The pace of the attack remained that of a man on foot. The objective of the attack continued to be the mass penetration of the barbed wire protected trenches as it had been since 1914.

The distinct difference between the use of tanks and infantry by the Allies during World War I and in the opening stages of World War II and the newly formed German "Panzer" units was the relationship between the individual arms (armor, artillery, and infantry). As stated above, the Allies used tanks to support foot-borne infantry. Inherent to the new and revolutionary "Panzer" concept, the tanks now set the pace of the attack and were complemented by mobile, vehicle-borne infantry and fire support. By freeing the tanks and vehicle-borne infantry to move as fast and as far as logistics and mechanical engineering made possible, the overall tempo of the battlefield was dramatically increased.

This revolutionary means of making war put the Germans in the driver's seat and allowed them to dictate the terms of combat from 1939 until at least 1941. The United States and all European nations at that time continued to view the tank as an infantry support asset and were thus overwhelmed by the Germans' tactical innovations. Singly, tanks and infantry are powerful forces on any battlefield. Together, taking advantage of the speed and shock action provided by mechanization and the formidable characteristics of dismounted infantry, the Panzers initially proved unstoppable.

It should be noted that prior to actual "combat testing," the Panzer divisions were organized with a ratio of 16 tank companies to 10 infantry companies. It was almost immediately realized that this ratio was inadequate. It was therefore modified almost continuously during the war with the "normal" Panzer division eventually being composed of eight tank companies and 12 infantry companies. The structuring of the World War II German Army is generally considered the foundation for modern day mechanized forces. Therefore, with the trials of combat in both Europe and North Africa as the proving grounds (later confirmed by the Israelis in 1967 and 1973), it has become almost axiomatic that although the tank possesses tremendous firepower, shock effect, and a relatively high degree of mobility, it cannot survive on the battlefield without the close and continuous association with infantry forces.

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Page last modified: 27-07-2016 18:53:32 ZULU