Infantry: September 6, 2002

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: You can expect a huge fight inside at least one major Iraqi city as part of the upcoming US invasion of Iraq. The Republican Guard has switched its training to mostly urban scenarios, and Iraq has relocated key heavy weapons inside cities. The US has previously avoided city fighting due to its complexities, high casualties, and effects that neutralize many key US weapons. Some recently-learned lessons from Army and Marine wargames:

@ New equipment doesn't reduce casualties, but a month or more of intense city-fight training will cut them in half. Even that reduced rate amounts to 15% of the engaged US infantry per day.

@ Units easily become lost and separated in cities, and their radios (designed for open country) are less than effective at bringing units back together.

@ The wholesale loss of an entire generation of E-5s during the Clinton years will hurt the US Army and Marines in city fighting. While platoons have good lieutenants and good platoon sergeants, as well as good soldiers, what is missing is the core of highly trained and skilled squad and team leaders. Many soldiers in those positions were hastily promoted to fill vacancies and need intensive training in how to act as independent unit leaders.

@ The US military has gotten away from having "any soldier with a radio" trained to call in artillery fire, leaving this to the "high priests of artillery" (forward observers with their super-neat Tacfire computers). This was a mistake. In city fighting, it is hard to get into position and every leader needs to know how to call in supporting fires. 

@ Relatively few US infantry troops are trained to work directly with tanks in a city-fighting scenario. Every squad leader should have had training in how to do this, but few of them actually have received it. 

@ While the US military has prided itself for a decade on the slogan "we own the night", commanders want to avoid night fighting in cities because it is even more confusing and likely to produce fratricide casualties. 

@ Troops easily get bogged down dealing with barricaded enemy positions. All plans should be worked out one step at a time and assume that every step will involve delays as some units have to deal with these "tough nut to crack" positions.

@ It would help facilitate the collection and use of intelligence if every platoon included an extra sergeant with his own radio who did nothing but radio his observations to the battalion intelligence officer (S-2) and received processed "next building to either side" information back from him. In both Army and Marine battalions, the S-2 does not have his own radios or have anyone who reports only to him on what he needs to know. 

@ Firepower is needed on the front line, and that means a 7.62mm machinegun that can hammer through walls and barriers. The 5.56mm squad automatic weapons just cannot do the job.--Stephen V Cole

 


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