Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rewriting Military History to Fit Doctrinal Whim and Whimsey

Sad Note:  This  piece was just rejected* by Military Review, a respected professional journal of the Profession at Arms*for reasons I understand, sad to say.

As I search the writings of the students and commentators in Military Review in order to “stay in touch”*, I find that the status quo ante Transformation depicted as dysfunctional, never happened.  The problems of Stove Pipes, De-Confliction, and the needs for Modular rotational deployment and an “Operational Reserve” force, never happened, were never a problem, were completely fabricated. *Therefore, the student of war should get in touch with what really was the case before Transformation by going to original sources.

**I place the reasons for said fabrication, falsification, and deception beyond the scope of this article and will stay strictly according to what was doctrine and my experiences in my 33 year range of experiences in each and every one of the components of the Army.  That which caught my eye in the Modular Brigade was the removal of task organization of modular units from the realities of METT-TC.  The argument noted was that the Combined Arms Battalions were already “task organized” by MTOE because it took too much time to “De-conflict” from unspecified missions.   This also was the justification for having only two maneuver battalions (except Stryker) in each modular brigade. 

I am aware of no credible study that the problem of de-confliction was any kind of problem.  Instead, the troops and the Congress were fed false propaganda asserting that “fixed divisions” couldn't task organize when there wasn't any such thing as a “fixed division”.

This is Transformation's Version of the 1st Cavalry Division
There is a strong resemblance of the Transformed Division to the "PENTOMIC"  Division of the Fifties which had no command slots for Infantry Lt Colonels except in the ARB of the Armored Division. It had to go, now perhaps it is back without the embarrassment that Armor, the Arm of Decision poses.


The standard for developing an MTOE was to make organic that which was the minimum resource for essential for independent operations.  Anything more than minimum was provided by higher or lateral units needed for the mission.  Echelons above those below were specifically designed to support forward forces depending on the nature of support (geographic, unit, process and/or product), to support the task organization needed for the mission.  Artillery provided fire support by mission (direct, reinforcing and general support) plus the Ammunition Supply Rate (ASR) depending on the mission and “priority of fires”.  Artillery was never placed in reserve, ammunition was.

Light divisions had no less than nine maneuver battalions, while heavy divisions could have as many as twelve depending on the mission.  Divisional brigades’ only organic unit was the headquarters with as many battalions and fire support necessary for the brigade mission.   Only “Separate” brigades had organic battalions.

Under JFK, the Pentomic Divisions lost two "Battle Groups" and the two O-6 command positions to the new ROAD division.  Ft Benning never forgot the insult.

 Attachment or detachment of units and support across division lines was affected only by the time it took to place the call.  I took one of those calls on the “Bat Phone” as duty officer in the 1st Air Cavalry Division DTOC in “I Corps” in September 1968 to speak to the CG.  On that call, the entire division was ordered to move into combat in “III Corps”, a distance of 700 kilometers. Lead elements were in contact with the enemy in III Corps in under than 72 hours. The rest of the division was fully operational by the end of the week.

Task organization to meet METT-TC goes back way before METT-TC at least to the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC (BCE).  The concept of task organization to match capabilities to vulnerabilities for any given mission was doctrine long before I was born, as my father used to tell me about his exploits in WW 2 in New Guinea, Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) and the Philippines.  

 It was the default doctrine and practice during my periods of exposure to combat, real or simulated. 

3rd Armored Division (Spearhead), Germany 1962-64

I was initially assigned to the 3rd Armored Rifle Bn, 36th Infantry which was redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 48th Infantry (Mechanized) of the 3rd Armored Division (Spearhead) between 1962 and 1964.  This was an adaptation of the WW 2 organization of the Armored Division which had three Combat Commands (later brigades) that had no organic subordinate units except as attached by the Commanding General.

Field exercises (FTX, TEWT) of size were conducted after the harvest and during the late fall, winter and early spring up to division on division exercises.  These exercises placed a premium of ad hoc task organization on the fly. As an Infantry Platoon Leader, I was often attached to a Tank Company, and Tank Platoons were cross attached with my own platoon and company.  Task organization could and did change more than once per day while in mobile operations.  This was the norm, “de-confliction” took minutes, not hours.  The larger the exercise, the more the conditions resembled combat conditions.

TACSIV II and the 1st Air Cavalry Division Vietnam (4/68-3/69)

Later, in Vietnam, I served as an intelligence observer in the battle test of the CEWI concept posted with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division then operating along QL-13 (aka Thunder Road) north of Lai Khe north of Saigon.  The day I arrived at the 2/2, I listened to the command net as the replacement of a company commander was killed along with his replacement when their helicopters collided.   A newly arrived Captain, as in a few minutes before, was told to fly out and take over command of the company then in a fire fight. 

When the 2/2 was taken off road security and given search and destroy missions in War Zones C and D (between Song Be and Saigon Rivers astride Thunder Road), the pace of battle and change of circumstance resulted in impromptu task organization to the point that the numbers and sources of companies attached could change more than once a day.  In one operation near the Michelin Plantation, we encountered more VC than was anticipated, and a company of airborne infantry from the 101st was flown in to us as reinforcements.  The battalion could wake up with four companies assigned or attached and by nightfall be down to two platoons of HHC.  

The battle test of the CEWI battalion created the 1st Combat Intelligence Battalion (Provisional) that brought together MI/EW assets formerly in support or attached to the 1st Infantry Division into a single battalion assigned to the Division.  The 1st CIB (P) also included a system of MI teams attached to each maneuver and fire support battalion, brigade, and DIVARTY with a dedicated radio network that also linked directly with MACV assets. 
The Enemy were extremely skilled in hiding a complete Combat Service and Service Support in the dense rubber trees and thick foliage in the Division Sector.  I was able to estimate the locations of their CSS/SS bases as about 10 km apart, on this estimate the 1st Cavalry Division committed a Vietnamese Marine Battalion which uncovered a major arms depot.

The large rockets on the right were 240mm warheads for the 122mm rocket for river interdiction
The dedicated intelligence net did not survive in the post-Vietnam denial process, as the consensus of opinion was that the commanders did not want an “MI Puke” reporting to division behind his back (like the Artillery FSCOORD did to DIVARTY).  This accounts for the lack of an intelligence network to the forces in the field in early OIF/OEF.   The wired generation rewired the connections we tested twenty five years earlier.

1st Air Cavalry Division

After my TDY in III Corps, I returned to the 1st Air Cavalry Division then in I Corps (north) based at Camp Evans by the Monsoon, to serve as a G2 Operations Officer in the DTOC.  The experiences with the 1st CIB (W) had whetted my appetite for combat intelligence and astounded the G1 Section with my preference for an intelligence assignment. Shocking for an Ex-Grunt Tread Head! 

My duties included one of the daily briefings for the Commanding General (George I Forsyth), drafting the lead for the Daily INTSUM, and the minute to minute posting of intelligence information. My briefings were done in tandem with the G3 Operations Briefer and as such gained an appreciation of the scope and intensity of task organization changes to meet changes in METT-TC.   The division had nine infantry battalions (three to four companies each), plus an Air Cavalry Squadron of three air cavalry troops. The equivalent of one of these battalions were airlifted somewhere else in or near the Division area of operations every 48 hours. Plus support including tube artillery.

The resulting tactical modus operandi was pure Patton-Rommel-Stonewall, to “grab them by the nose, and kick them in the ass!” First problem was to find the nose, which was done by offensive operations against the lines of communications of the VC/NVA which included what I call the “ant hill” approach.  That was to establish a fire base aka “LZ” in the middle of the enemy lines of communications and logistical bases.  The enemy then would swarm over these heavily defended bases where superior fire support (F-100’s. Spooky, DIVARTY and Corps Artillery) destroyed them in heaps.  105mm Beehive rounds at muzzle burst recalled battles such as Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg.

2/7th Cavalry in Harm's Way 1969

The other popular method was pure cavalry, by the 1/9th Cavalry which would deploy pairs of one Cobra and one OH-6 known as a “Pink Team” (white for scout, red for gun ship).  The OH-6 would nose around the bushes and the footprints on trails until someone spotted them or vice versa and the OH-6 would climb and the Cobra dove into the attack.   As the conflict spread, the Troop Commander could deploy (insert) his “Blues” which was an air mobile infantry platoon. If the contact continued, the Squadron commander or the supported unit commander could call on reinforcements.  In short, “piled on”

As contacts developed at division level, the CG could and did deploy any force that was in range of both the helicopters and the contact area, regardless of extant mission.  De-confliction for a force of relatively untrained Army of the late Sixties/early Seventies was never a problem.  1st Air Cavalry units including brigades needed in someone else’s AO went with or without division orders including Air Cavalry support of Riverine forces in the Delta (USN – 9th ID) called “Nav-Cav” missions. That’s called “marching to the sounds of the guns” (Gavin, 82nd Airborne, Normandy)

Fire Support.

In both the 1st Infantry and 1st Air Cavalry divisions, the decisive element in combat was fire support consisting of Air Force fighter bombers, and Spooky (aka Puff the Magic Dragon aka AC47) plus helicopter gunships and any field artillery within range regardless of ownership or alignment.   Doctrine and practice held that a request for fire support on the fire support net was approved by silence of everyone else in the chain of command and support all the way to Corps.  If a forward observer called for a fire mission on troops in the open, the response could be any asset capable of delivering ordnance, including Air Force fighter bombers.   Silence was approval.

Two minutes and the rounds should be “on the way” (aka “shot out”) or someone is going to die.  The enemy’s tactic was to grab our belts and hang on.  “Danger Close” would bring steel fragments whizzing over the force in contact. My father as a 105mm Howitzer Battery Commander in WW 2 did the same thing in registering final protective fires. 

Combat Service Support-75th Division.

As the tactical task organization was tuned according to METT-TC so did Combat Service Support and other Combat Support capabilities.  In fact, the MTOE of such as Civil Affairs, PSYOP, QM, Combat Engineers et al were designed to commit small forces of a few men with specific hardware in teams designated with a two letter code group.  In short an infantry battalion could receive as attachments specific maintenance personnel.  As a MI Battalion Command in the field in Operation Sun Burst (49th AD all at Ft Hood), I needed special electronic equipment maintenance capabilities. What I got were some very happy radio repair persons who now had “real broken stuff” to fix.

When assigned to the 75th Maneuver Area Command (MAC) USAR Texas, as an intelligence observer-player-controller first with a Combat Service Support units from TAACOM to RAOC I was able to observe and understand the flexibility of Combat Service Support, capabilities of which were not found on Active Component in the Garrison mode.  As such, the pace of changes of mission to meet the shifts in demand and supply incident to changes in METT-TC taught me that the pace of change that I experienced in Germany and Vietnam were child’s play compared to Combat Service Support.

I was transferred on promotion to LTC to be the G2 of the Division Exercise Group that exercised National Guard divisions according to the Operations Orders (Corps) orders we wrote. I devised the intelligence support for these and other MAC exercises to create a coherent “enemy” capable of being defeated through Intelligence-Operations Cooperation.

Fortunately for me, I had served in Headquarters DARCOM aka Army Material Command as the “Strap from DC” to “inspect” the Arsenals and Depots of the Army.  My first question was “what do you guys do here?” and got one hell of a good lesson in logistics at CONUS.  Note: I asked the folks at the OH-6 repair facility at Corpus Christi, TX what the difference between “damaged” and “destroyed” was. 
The answer was simple. “If we can flatten the data plate, we can fix it”

Stove Pipes?

As far as I can tell from a distance, it appears that the Stove Pipes abolished in Transformation were fire support, combat support, and combat service support. Not only has the corps centric support system been abolished, so has combat service support, as well as the Corps itself.   The common ingredient in these now disavowed elements is that they were primarily in the Guard and Reserves.

The Operational Reserve

I enlisted in the 352nd General Hospital USAR in August of 1957.  I later served as a Platoon Sergeant in E Company, 3rd Battle Group, 31st infantry of the 63rd Infantry Division (West LA Armory).  After my first tour on active duty as an Infantry 1LT, I joined a Tank Battalion of the 26th Division (Yankee) MANG. It was during these assignments that each unit did not have a specified combat mission.  In the spring of 1966, all of us in the Guard received orders to not leave town without clearing with company or battalion for more than 48 hours. 

Then we stood down. MacNamara had decided to toss the previous decade of training and preparation for Guard and Reserve Deployment at the same time as the Army was shedding combat veterans of WW 2 and Korea at the mandatory 20 year limit. Time in grade from 1LT to CPT went from seven years to one.
After Vietnam, the Congress demanded that each and every Guard and Reserve unit had to be tied to a war contingency plan or not get paid.  This led to the creation of the “Capstone Program” which did just that.  My MI Battalion was “Capstone” to the 49th Armored Division (Lone Star) TXNG which had a “Capstone” mission with III Corps which had a Capstone Mission with NORTHAG in Germany.  In this effort, planning for the Capstone Mission was more important than the plan.

As such, my METL (Mission Essential Task List) of Action-Condition-Standard had to match the dynamics of war on the North European Plains opposed by the Warsaw block.  All 75th Division exercises had to factor in the supported unit’s Capstone METL in the design of the exercises.  After my tour as a battalion commander, I reverted to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) with an initial tour of duty with HQ, USARJ (US Army Japan) as a stand in for the USARJ Chief of Intelligence during the annual Yama Sakura joint US-Japan command post exercise. It was interesting to meet some 49th Armored Division troops in Japan enroute to Sendai as the 49th had an additional Capstone mission with USARJ.

As such, the term “strategic reserve” applied to the state of the Guard and Reserve did not apply.  They were not only not a strategic reserve they were already committed. As such unit commanders and staffs traveled overseas to personally check their prospective battle positions.  My assembly area for the 304th MI was in the Teutoberger Wald where the Romans lost three Roman legions to Arminius the German in 6 CE.   The planning (MDMP) was more important than the plan as Desert Storm and OIF proved.

The net result of Transformation was to take committed troops and place them in a strategic personnel reserve.
None of the Brigades are aligned to a realistic contingency in order to focus the METL to a real METT-TC wherein planning is more important than the plan.  Having served in units with and without a real mission, the latter degenerate into micromanagement.

 TRADOC did wonders in finding out the optimum METL for the units rotated through.  The net result of the effort to save de-confliction time actually increased it, as well as calling on the greatest of ingenuity of our forces to reach standards of ad hoc and immediate beyond that of my years’ experience noted above.  The individual rotation system to combat units lost about half the replacements before the old guys would accept the FNG.  The Modular Brigade Rotation eliminated the FNG.  

Bottom Line

The bottom line for the student of war and combat operations, is to check the source of the data you use for comparison to what new ideas you may want to write or act on.  Go to primary sources or as close as one can get, rather than predigested summaries of officialdom.  There has to be proof somewhere that the battle proven hierarchy of Army Group, Field Army, Corps and organic division that took us from Louisiana to Berlin and Baghdad was magically found wanting.

 You won’t find any.