Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ad Hoc, Hellish, and Hectic

The movie, We Were Soldiers Once, shows the courageous fight of the 1/7th Cavalry Bn. The book of that same name told of that battle and the one that followed in which the 2/7th Cavalry was virtually wiped out. The 2/7th wasn’t rotated stateside, it was filled up and send back into battle. And that is the way a serious war is fought.

The VC/NVA against whom we fought along the Saigon River south of the Fish Hook in 1969 formed special anti-tank battalions to ambush the mechanized and armored cavalry units operating in those jungles and rubber plantations. They would set up an elaborate ambush, knock off one or two armored vehicles out of a company or troop before being mowed down by the armored troops like a line of Kansas reapers. The enemy then returned to “dwell” for about two or three months, then be back for more

During WW 2, German units often were battered beyond resemblance to their tables of organization, but did not dwell but reorganized on the fly under the nearest able leader who had the initiative to take charge.
These were called “Kampf gruppe” (Battle Groups) under the name of the commander such as Kampgruppe Peiper that operated in the Battle of the Bulge. These formations were ad hoc and mission oriented.

Historically, combat units that were badly shredded in battle either stayed in contact with an ad hoc structure or were taken to the rear only so long as they could be refilled, reequipped, and a short period of training to shake out the new arrivals. This is the way war is normally fought by competent forces. Those less than competent usually lost troops through desertion or defection. In the War Between the States on both sides, battered units were not refilled with replacements but simply reduced in size still under their original colors.

This then is the single most important Action under adverse Conditions to achieve battle Standards that any unit, be it combat, combat support or combat service support to master and maintain be they stateside or hell side, A commander must be able to fight whomever is presented by the fates or the will of God, with what is in hand. This includes the creation of new chains of command from whoever is left standing.

Ad hoc task organization is the norm in combat operations, except that it is done to meet the conditions of METT-TC. Reports from the field in Iraq and Afghanistan show a remarkable adaptability of our troops in a very eclectic and hectic operational environment. This constant state of shifting task organization to fight with what one has to do what needs to be done is simply keeping the edge of the sword sharp.

This process focuses on the fundamentals of whatever line of endeavor the fates have cast. It requires a firm understanding of the fundamentals of the trade. It means that combat arms personnel must understand the fundamentals of fire and maneuver, and the use of terrain given the weapons at hand to deny the enemy movement or enhance your own over the terrain in place. And it must done under severe pressure. There is no dwell time, no time for reflection. It is a time for action and decision making by command and staff on the fly.

To train to this standard, one never leaves collective and concurrent training. There are no stepping stones, building blocks, or rotations. And the edge of the sword never is allowed to get dull as one never knows when, where and how fast it must be drawn.

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