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My second decision. At about 0500 I walked into the TOC. I did have scouts in good positions. They had a pretty good idea where the enemy was and it was only a motorized rifle company, three platoons. I have a good idea where they are. I've got an artillery and smoke plan that is pretty close to where I want the enemy and believe the enemy is.
I have confirmed that, and have scouts in the right position. I know where the enemy is. The terrain is good high ground in the south, high ground in the north. I felt like I could get in there and make the attack.
My intelligence "My artillery and smoke plan was just a update confirmed little bit off. At 0500 I said it was close my decision to continue the enough. It really wasn't close enough." attack south to north. The one thing I failed to do at my second decision was to specifically adjust my artillery and smoke plan on the grids my scout platoon leader had given my intelligence officer. I stayed with my maneuver plan, but in hindsight my artillery and smoke plan was just a little bit off. At 0500 I said it was close enough. It really wasn't close enough.
The decision was to stick with the plan. This time I’ve learned my lesson from two weeks before. I have reconnaissance in. I have a good idea where the enemy is. The terrain supports me attacking from south to north. And the terrain out in front of the enemy position is all open.
So, that’ll work.
At 0600 we attacked. Got into position. The enemy fired some artillery at us, got him focused on us. Brigade attacked. Went up in the north. The brigade commander's big decision was that he had committed the reserve armor company to the north. So as a result, we ended up with three tank companies and three mechanized companies in the
Lieutenant Colonel Tucker
north. The brigade commander told me I had to continue my mission with the combat power I had been allocated; one mech company, one tank company, and one engineer company. The brigade attack was successful, although the armor task force was destroyed in the north.
The brigade commander told me we still have to take the southern objective. I have to do it with what I have.
So, we continued the attack. We had an artillery prep and close air support go in on the southern motorized rifle platoon, which was fairly successful based on the reports of my scouts. As I said earlier, I had not adjusted my smoke plan. So, when I called for smoke it was off target.
My artillery was not quite on target. What destroyed the southern motorized rifle platoon was a combination of artillery and close air support. The smoke was not right where I wanted it and we tried to adjust the smoke. The artillery wasn't landing exactly where I wanted it to, but the reports from close air were that we were getting some battlefield effects. We see secondary explosions and we think we have either destroyed or rendered the southern motorized rifle platoon combat ineffective.
We continued the attack. We had a pretty good knowledge of the enemy and terrain. Friendly forces… I only had a limited amount of combat power for this fight. I am going to stay down in the south. We began to move toward the south and the two enemy northern platoons shifted. The true positions were a little further forward than we thought they were. As I began to maneuver my mech and tank company forward, with the engineer company in back, I started taking flanking fires from these two platoons. My S3 got into a position where he could "My S3 got into a position where he could see this whole area…and reported to me that if we would adjust our scheme of maneuver the center platoon would be out of range and we could maneuver around the dry lake bed."
see the whole area. It’s a bowl, Gary Owen Impact Area, behind these two terrain features. He moved north of McLean Lake, and reported to me that if we would adjust our scheme of maneuver, the center platoon would be out of range and we could maneuver around the dry lakebed using the northern ridgeline for protection.
We could fight one platoon at a time because he could see the targets and they were oriented to the south and to the east. He called me and said if we maneuver to the north, we'll only have to fight one platoon in the north, then the platoon in the center. The platoon in the center couldn’t shoot around this corner but he could shoot out into the area we were moving toward. Based on my S3's report of the enemy, his knowledge of the terrain, and the limited amount of friendly forces I couldn't afford to take very many losses - I made the decision to take a tank company, followed by the engineer company, north around this dry lakebed. I used the mechanized infantry company to establish a support by fire on the south side of the dry lake bed to fix the northern motorized rifle platoon and thereby enable the tank company to get into a support by fire position. I then bring the engineers forward to breach the obstacle, which was a complex wire mine tank ditch.
The other thing that helped me make this decision was my own personal knowledge of the terrain. Eight and a half years before, I had seen another unit make this similar move. As we began to move, it came back to me that because of the shape of the terrain, the tank company and the engineers would be protected as long as we could keep the platoon to the north fixed. The decision here was supported by my battalion operations officer based on his vision of the terrain and the enemy and his relaying that back to me. We changed the plan. So instead of attacking in the south, which the brigade wanted me to do, we attacked in the north. We made that decision on the move based on the enemy's initial effects and his direct fire weapons, and our read of the terrain and his position. When we changed the plan to attack to the north, most of my fire support plan went out the window. As a result, we had to call grid missions for smoke and artillery to attempt to suppress these two platoons.
The lesson learned from a late decision is that when you have the possibility of either attacking in the south or in the north, you have to have your fire support officer at least think through what happens if we can't go in the south, "I had not talked about contingencies should we have to go during my planning process. As a on a branch plan to attack in the north. We result, it took a very long time for the had never talked about artillery and smoke to get shifted." that. I had not talked about contingencies during my planning process. As a result, it took a very long time for the artillery and smoke to get shifted. Ultimately they never did. I could never get smoke exactly where I wanted it. We went to a field expedient
Lieutenant Colonel Tucker
means of calling in airburst smoke and HE on the ground. The combination of dust in the desert and the smoke provided enough obscuration so I could bring the engineers in, fire the MICLIC, open the minefield, bring ACEs forward, plow the tank ditch, and we were ultimately able to get on the objective. We destroyed the entire motorized rifle company and I still had basically half of the mech, tank, and engineer company left at the end.
The decision here was on my S3. He was on the other avenue of approach and he reported to me. Based on his vision of the terrain and the enemy, and based on the advantages of the terrain in the north and the enemy's inability to put direct fire effects along the route that went around the dry lake bed, I made the decision to go north. Although we did not have a contingency plan as part of our task force operation, he and I had talked about other options, and that’s why I had him move along the northern avenue of approach.
The key things that led to success on this decision were: one, using the battalion task force operations officer, my S3 to move on another avenue of approach; two, we ensured he had the commander’s visualization of the battlefield. He knew what I wanted to achieve.
Whether it was in the north or south, it doesn't make any difference. He knew what I wanted to have happen. So, when he got into a position where he could see the enemy and the terrain and the positioning of the friendly forces, he was the one who said the enemy is not in a position to orient their fires this way. The terrain will protect our right flank all the way around the dry lake bed. If you continue in the south, he will shoot you up. And so we made the decision to go north.
66. Battle Command Team One of the things that causes commanders to make wrong decisions is our gap in information about the enemy. The more we know about the enemy, the better decisions we can make. That’s a yeah, no kidding. What that means in training is that commanders must pay their main effort in their planning process to the development of intelligence and information about the enemy. The lesson has been learned for years at the National Training Center – Battalion Commander, you can't leave the planning of task and purpose of your scout platoon's mission to the battalion S2. I’ve seen that time and time again. It’s the S3, the S2, and the Scout Platoon Leader. I believe that as soon as you get that warning order from brigade and you do some initial mission analysis: the S2, with an initial template, and the commander, because he is the most experienced guy there. The commander, doing his commander’s estimate, then says very, very early, here are my PIR and here's what the scout platoon must find out. I believe the commander has to be personally involved in planning the scouts. It can’t be, “Hey, I’m going to eat an MRE, you two guys plan it all out.” It has to be more than just saying, what I typically saw and what I did, "Scouts, I want to know where the enemy is here and here.
OK?" The scout platoon leader in an infantry or armor battalion is a great 1st lieutenant. He’s one of your hoooah, hard charging guys, wants to impress the boss, be a hero. “Roger sir,” he’s out there. I call it blind aggression. We’re running out there searching for the glory and often the scouts find themselves dead and don’t have impact on the outcome of the battle.
"The scout platoon leader in an infantry or armor battalion is… one of your hoooah, hard charging guys, wants to impress the boss, be a hero. ‘Roger sir,’ he’s out there. I call it blind aggression."
The other factors that I think affect decision making that we don't use enough of are the battalion S3 and the battalion TOC. I think that the Battalion Tactical Operations Center is often left in the dust and most units have the battalion XO at that location; the guy who is probably the next most senior guy on the battlefield, by experience. So, if you are attacking and you have the S3 on an avenue of approach and the commander on an avenue of approach, all of that information, coming back in and being filtered, is back in the TOC. And the TOC is not necessarily under attack. They’re not running at a hundred miles an hour with guys shooting at them. They can be listening first and then thinking. The battalion XO can then come up on the net, “Hey sir, haven’t heard anything from Scout Six in some time, I recommend you slow down, don’t cross phase line X until we’re sure I’ve got artillery in position, smoke’s ready to be fired,” et cetera.
The XO is that guy who can be that little voice in the back of the battalion commander’s head saying, “I think you ought to do this, have you considered that,” and so on. Because for an infantry or armor battalion commander, you’re fighting from the turret of your combat vehicle. You have what I call the rocking syndrome. You're bouncing around in the desert, you're trying to hold on to your map board, you're Lieutenant Colonel Tucker trying to hold on to your hand sets. You're being shot at. It’s hard as heck to listen to everything and make the right decision.
"The TOC is not necessarily under attack, they’re not running at a hundred miles an hour with guys shooting at them. They can be listening first and then thinking."
We talk in our doctrine about the S3 being with the supporting effort. I feel the S3 needs to be your eyes on another location on the battlefield. Supporting effort or main effort is immaterial but his eyes need to be somewhere on the battlefield to give you that different look.
That different look in live fire led to our success. There are a lot of units where the S3 and the commander move near each other so they can be each other’s wingman but that leads to the two senior field commanders on the battlefield now having the same picture of the battlefield. May not necessarily be a good idea.
And the other guy is the executive officer. He has to be big brother.
The XO in the TOC, tracking the map, has to be like the analyst at the NTC Star Wars building. He has to be watching the whole battle to get the mental picture based on what the S2 is telling him about the enemy and about what he hears about the friendly. He has to listen. He has to do some analysis. The most important thing he can do for the commander to help with the decision making process is provide recommendations. There are a lot of XOs out there that carry all that information in and "Hooah, Sir! You're doing great. Keep it up." But it’s a more active role for the XO. The guy who truly synchronizes combat power at the task force is the battalion XO. He is in a place that is fairly dry and fairly not under stress and has a battle staff with him who can help him. The battalion commander has a Bradley or a tank or a HMMWV and generally he doesn't have all those guys around him. I do not advocate putting the battalion S2 or the FSO in the back of the commander's Bradley. They won’t see anything from there. They’re in the back of that armored vehicle, bouncing around, trying to look at a map.
Valley of Death, 5, 69, 97, 99, 125, 128, 183, 184 virtual, 20 vision, 18, 35, 88, 109, 156, 242, visualization, 11, 19, 63, 64, 96, 106, 109, 133, 149, 157, 160, 195, 243 Volcano, 53, 111, 113, 126, 127, 200, 204 Vtel (commercial videoteleconferencing hardware), 31 VTR (vehicle, tracked, recovery), wadi, 8, 10, 45, 118, 126, 151, 225, 231, 236 Warfighter (Division-level Advanced Warfighting Exercise, [DAWE or DIV AWE] supporting Digital Advance Warfighting Experiment [DAWE]), 49, 72,