The following is the preface from “Fight, Win and Survive”, which is a white paper published almost exactly one year ago and culminates with the modern incarnation of the patrolling tips, the predecessors of which can be found here and here, along with Bayo’s One Hundred and Fifty Questions To A Guerrilla. In this version, the authors detail several critical needs at the small unit level as well as pointing out tactical deficiencies as a result of two decades focused upon counterinsurgency. Our peers, however, understand those realities of today’s fire and maneuver.
In bold are personal highlights, as these are observations I have made as well and incorporate into my training paradigm across all of my courses. You may notice a continual theme of issues with small unit communications and most notably, the inferred sloppy use at the tactical level. It is for that reason the RTO and Advanced RTO Courses are structured the way that they are, forcing the students to understand that even with basic equipment, proper operating techniques and planning will outwit a technologically superior force, 100% of the time. And I have the professional experience to back that up.
Originally a 96 page document, the relevant portions will be broken down into two posts with the second containing the tactical level insight. You can download the original in its entirety here.
Our aim with this paper is simple; we hope to help units fight, win, and survive on the battlefields of today against peer competitors in multi-domain operations. It is well understood that the U.S. military has a host of assets available that can deliver positive effects at the strategic level but how does this translate into success for the average Soldier in conventional brigade combat teams across the force? Our peer adversaries have been studying our every move for the better part of two decades. While we have focused on counterinsurgency they have been making solid gains in research and development. Specifically, with electronic and cyber warfare. Operations in eastern Europe and the South China Sea have shown us that our adversaries are willing to push the envelope in the competition phase to further their geo-political goals. Their objectives are predicated upon the assumption that we won’t risk all-out war to halt them, and it is working.
Russian New Generation Warfare
Studying Russian New Generation Warfare has yielded alarming results in our gaps in capability to compete for overmatch in every domain. Our measures remain largely reactive in nature to preserve combat power which is what this document aims to achieve in the short term. We want to provide techniques, tips, and procedures to the conventional force which have been previously reserved for reconnaissance or special operations forces. Every unit must be able to disperse in the face of an enemy that is willing to mass fires to destroy entire formations as evidenced in Ukraine. We also need to be able to bring our formations together at the decisive point when permissive conditions exist in at least three of the five domains. The tactical, operational, and strategic advantages we have enjoyed since the end of the Second World War are now a thing of the past and we must rely on exceptional initiative from commanders at all levels to develop unique solutions to battlefield problem sets. The game of checkers has now turned into chess and we need to expose the force to as many ‘moves’ as possible.
Risk will now be a staple in the American routine and something we must embrace during every phase of operations. Leaders who have grown accustomed to serving in a zero-defect force will have considerable trouble outsmarting an enemy that values human life far less than we do. Mitigation will continue to be of paramount importance to our battlefield repertoire. Risk aversion however will result in disaster. We must resist our temptation to micromanage every aspect of warfare and allow subordinate leaders to execute Mission Command. Understanding that the excessive radio transmissions you send to subordinate elements could result in the annihilation of the very force you’re trying to preserve. Our enemies mass fires to delete entire grid squares with robust indirect fire assets by calling for fire on simple signal transmissions. Our force has paid lip service to understanding, visualizing, describing, and directing for the past 17 years due to our embroilment in our seemingly endless counterinsurgency campaign. The potential impact of the ‘strategic private’ has caused us to keep many decisions close to the chest at every echelon of command for fear of losing the information operation battle. It is imperative that we take our lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan for what they are; situationally important but fail to translate into success during total war. If we aim to defeat the enemy decisively then our operations may need to look like what Robert E. Lee did at Chancellorsville in 1863. Splitting up his numerically inferior army into smaller elements tasked to execute bold attacks in keeping with the characteristics of the offense to rout a superior force. We hail battles like this in academia yet struggle to allow squads in an infantry platoon to operate unilaterally for any length of time. In the fight to come, it is the Staff Sergeant, not the General, who will be the primary instrument of victory. This paper will highlight proposed changes the Task, Organization, and Equipment of Squads in Brigade Combat Teams to make them more lethal than at any point in our 243-year history.
Deception is an artform that will be crucial in the fight to come and must be practiced at every level to throw off an enemy who has taken copious notes on how we do battle. Our reputation for veering from the very doctrine we aspire to master will continue to give us a competitive edge but only if we sharpen our skills. This goes far deeper than the example of Field Marshall Montgomery effectively juking Field Marshall Erwin Rommel during the Second Battle of El Alamein; causing him to commit his reserves elsewhere. While this may be a great example of mastering deception in the land domain, our forces in 2018 need to compete electronically, in the air, and in space. The enemy disruption zone now spans to our home shores. Using social media, cyber warfare, and real time tracking 24 hours a day, our adversaries aim to prevent us from building up combat power on their doorsteps like we have in the past. Once we are engaged in the fight, the need to creatively deploy our assets to throw the enemy on their back foot will be crucial. This paper aims to arm our Soldiers with some tips to use technology to deceive. What we need from the force are more in-depth measures to achieve this.
Changing the Rules of Warfare
The rules of warfare need to be revisited if we truly hope to gain traction during the competition phase with our adversaries. Are we willing to adapt and loosen our rules of engagement or will we continue to remain parochial in our attempt to be the good guys? Our military can continue to be the force which does battle with the armies of darkness and remain a force for good in the world. However, we can only achieve this if we are alive. If our enemies infiltrate areas with entire brigades in civilian clothing, then how do we compete? Insurgency and asymmetric warfare are in our blood, therefore it’s important we harness that to our fullest potential. When we took to the field on April 19th, 1775 during the Battle of Lexington and Concord we found out the hard way that going toe to toe with the British led to tactical disaster. Our ancestors then harassed their formation all the way back to Boston while inflicting heavy casualties by using unconventional tactics of the period. The British were frustrated that we refused to engage them honorably in open warfare; instead using cover being rock walls and trees to engage. Their inability to adapt to our methods led to their demise. We run the risk of repeating the same mistakes of the empire we gained our independence from. If America is going to continue to be the greatest force for good in the world then we must change the rules of the game that has defined us for the better part of a century. The only unfair fight is the one we lose.
Task Organizing Intelligently
Task organizing is both an art and science we have failed to master in our recent campaigns; mostly due to lack of resources and inability to accept risk. Our infantry formations remain largely unchanged since World War Two and this is not the case for our adversaries. A Russian commander can program different assets for an upcoming mission with relative ease. All while powering these combat multipliers to the lowest level. One of their squads in Ukraine can be up to 18 men in size and include cyber, air defense artillery, electronic warfare, drone, and enhanced fire support assets. Many of those capabilities in the U.S. military are reserved at the strategic level while our adversary enjoys them tactically. They will also drastically adjust load and uniform to meet operational needs. How many of you reading this remember suffering a casualty in Iraq or Afghanistan which prompted a blanket policy on the uniform within the battlespace? Instead of plate carriers or a more movement friendly uniform in general, the unit was forced to wear full IOTV with groin protector, deltoid axillary protector, and side small arms protective inserts. This obviously drastically reduced a Soldier’s ability to maneuver and decisions on uniform posture were often reserved at the brigade level or higher. Being weighed down by excessive amounts of gear will be a hinderance against a peer competitor that can mass effects on large portions of the battlespace. A react to indirect fire drill would be a sad sight to behold due to our inability to move quickly out of the kill zone. As you can see this is a recurring theme for this document. We must empower our subordinates in every way.
Our execution of ‘snap drills’ is sorely lacking in our current training methodology. We have assumed for far too long that CTC rotations adequately prepare our forces to fight a conventional war with a peer. Adversaries conduct these last-minute exercises frequently which serve to create a more resilient and adaptable formation. Not to mention it also stresses the logistical systems in place to make such a maneuver possible. While we can execute these frequently within a Company formation at home station, it is another thing altogether to move a Battalion or Brigade from Fort Riley to Alaska with a seven-day turnaround. This is an extreme example but if we aim to keep our formations sharp then stressing them to this degree will be crucial. Such a change to our training methodology would also send a clear message to potential enemies that we will break the mold to overmatch them decisively at first contact.
Mobility Is Life
Russians maintain mobility in all formations which increases their effectiveness during operations. Every infantry unit has some sort of vehicular asset to move them across the field if needed. 3,000 years of warfare tells us that firepower equilibrium equals attritional warfare. Attempts to mitigate such effects lead to formations spreading out to absorb that firepower more effectively (think skirmisher formations in Napoleonic Warfare). Those widely dispersed elements are highly vulnerable to mobile assets and our adversaries balance these two battlefield doctrines well. One of our greatest under-utilized strengths lie in our mechanized formations which are in sore need of revitalization both technically and mentally. We need to reinvest in our mechanized formations and actively remove the stigma that light infantry is where our highest performers often end up. An increasing number of officers are snubbing the vehicular imperative and remaining in the light world for this very reason. These units are the most lethal on the field when the right leadership comes together to provide exceptional purpose, direction, and motivation. Our investment in understanding combined arms warfare at the lowest level possible will pay dividends in the wars to come since they are the mobile striking force needed to take advantage of dispersed enemy formations. This paper aims to show light forces how to remain alive, but our heavy formations need to be the big stick deterrent to our enemies.
Analog Imperative: Being Comfortable in the Fog of War
Until research and development catch up to our peers, we need to embrace the analog nature of warfare to reduce our signature on the field. We will be facing jammers, sensors, drones, and hackers. Our short-term Ace up the sleeve is our ability to go completely dark in the face of our enemy’s watchful eye. The Navy still executes similar drills with excellent results. We must train our units to operate without any emitting assets to preserve combat power until conditions are set to achieve overmatch in the electronic warfare domain. Tied to this is the need for proper simulation of enemy-caused degradation to our electronic capabilities during exercises. This paper contains several drills to ‘disappear’ on the field of battle.
Communication of Emerging Doctrine Internal to the Force
Second Lieutenants were tasked to provide several inputs to this document for specific reasons. They are recent Infantry Basic Officer Leader, Ranger, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leader, Joint Fires Observer, Airborne, and Pathfinder course graduates. Equipping them with Russian New Generation Warfare strategic context and other problems we face by peer adversaries, we sent them off to all this additional schooling to see if there were answers to the problem we face organic to our force. What we discovered was that our solutions to tactical, operational, and possibly strategic problem sets largely exist in schools on Fort Benning alone. Many entities are working on outstanding outputs but are doing so in vacuums. General Milley has expressed frustration that our main problem is we don’t communicate with one another. Putting together these lessons learned has shown us that we need to actively reach out to organizations, send Soldiers to schools, talk to proven professionals, and unite them under a common flag for maximum efficiency. Bridging the gap between several subject matter experts on this base alone has created outstanding opportunity.
Roadblocks to Doctrinal Creativity
It’s important that we as leaders understand the difference between what is urgent and important. Winning the first battle of the next war should be first and foremost on the mind of every Soldier in the formation. Fostering command climates which reward creativity and create permissive environments for revolutionary thought will have advantages on the field. Often times we get caught up in day to day minutiae because our organizations tend to prioritize administrative tasks. These often become urgent in our eyes and can consume most hours of the day for even the most efficient among us. Establishing a solid battle rhythm and delegating tasks accordingly is crucial to freeing up time for leaders to execute the critical thinking necessary to win future wars; this is important work.
Fort Benning went through a significant revolution during the interwar period led by legendary leaders George C. Marshall and Omar Bradley. They were forward thinkers who rebuilt our doctrine from the ground up based on their assessment of what future wars would look like. Our performance during the Second World War would have been far worse if we used tactics from 1918. The study executed by DG Don Starry during the 1970s-80s led to the establishment of Air Land Battle doctrine. The result of which led to our overwhelming the Iraqi army during the Gulf War.
The common denominator between the aforementioned examples is that those students of war had the opportunity to sit back and watch other countries fight far away wars while they took notes. We find ourselves in a similar situation with Eastern Europe and the South China Sea. The lessons we need to learn are right in front of us. We need only create the time and environment to facilitate such thinking.