Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tutorial 2.0 - Rifle Company conducts night attack on urban area.

Situation:   US forces are attacking north to seize a major city.  Mechanized forces are spearheading the attack along a narrow front.   For this phase of the campaign it is decisive that US forces seize the bridges across a major river that lead into the city.  Intelligence on the area indicates the bridges are probably lightly defended but may be rigged for demolition.  The Corps commander decides on a bold operational maneuver: a turning maneuver utilizing airmobile forces.  Light infantry forces will air assault into the enemy’s rear, seizing key terrain (including the bridges), and force the enemy’s Main Line of Resistance (MLR) to collapse once their rear is threatened.  The mechanized units will then push forward and link up with the air assault force (sound familiar?).

Your Brigade is tasked with seizing pieces of key terrain that lead to the area with the bridges in order to(IOT) allow the rapid advance of relief forces.  Your battalion is tasked with seizing two small towns along Route Texas IOT allow the rapid advance of relief forces.    One company reinforced (the Battalion Decisive Operation) will seize a large town to the north of your objective.  One company (Supporting Effort 2) will secure the BN support area and the supporting artillery battery (105mm) to your east.  Your company (Supporting Effort 1) will seize the town of Al Jabal.  Your rifle company, reinforced with an AT platoon, will air assault into an LZ a few kilometers west of the Al Jabal at night with a few hours of darkness left to seize the town.  Lead elements of advancing forces are expected around 1000 hrs.

Al Jabal is a small crossroads town, consisting of paved streets, relatively widely dispersed buildings (some with two stories), and long straight avenues.  It is believed to be defended by an understrength motorized company, possibly recovering from an earlier battle.  Only a few BTRs have been spotted in the area, most in the vicinity of the School.  The town will not receive a lot of attention from air assets prior to the air assault in order to deceive the enemy to its level of importance.  There are four key structures within the town that will need to be seized: The Hotel, School, Police Station and Government Building.  Civilian presence south of the major river is very sparse due to refugee evacuations north. 

MissionA Company/1-502nd PIR seizes Objective Al Jabal NLT 230500JUL10 IOT allow the rapid advance of friendly forces.

Execution:  Advance from west to east toward OBJ Al Jabal.  Seize key structures in sequence.  Try to preserve all structures as much as possible but quick and efficient seizure of objective is the priority.  105mm fires are available.

Al Jabal (view from the North):

Friendly Forces (from the Southeast): One Rifle Company with three rifle platoons and a HQ element plus an AT platoon

Ok, so you just started the scenario, read the mission brief, looked at the map and your forces.  Now what?  If you are an actual Army officer you apply one of two planning processes: Troop Leading Procedures or the Military Decision Making Process.  TLPs are mostly for company and below, MDMP for battalion and above.  As a planning template they can go from ridiculously easy to mind crushingly complex.  It really all depends on the time available and the anal-retentiveness of your boss.   What I am aiming for here is a simplified process for CMSF players to pull out and apply anytime they find themselves in this situation in front of their computer.  I hope to keep it to a simple list of questions, so here it goes.

1.      What do I have to do?
2.      What do I know about the terrain?
a.      Key terrain
b.      Avenues of approach
c.      LOS
3.      What do I know about the enemy?
a.      Strength/capabilities
b.      Position
4.      What forces do I have at my disposal?
5.      At what point do I begin to win the battle (decisive point)?
6.      How can I most take advantage of the enemy’s weakness?
7.      Can I deceive the enemy to my intentions in any way?
8.      Where do I want to focus my combat power?
9.      What tasks do I need to accomplish?
10.   Which forces can be assigned to accomplish these tasks?

By the time you answer these ten basic (but not so simple) questions you will pretty much have formulated your plan.  All you need to do then is make some notes or draw some graphics to keep yourself on track and roll on out.  Here’s how:

Question 1:  What do I have to do?
This is simply a review and understanding of your mission statement.  I realize that a lot of CMSF mission statements may not be that well written but we have to take what we can get.  A mission statement should include who, what (Task), where, when, and why (Purpose).  For our purposes, who, where, and when are pretty obvious (you, the scenario map, and now).  So that leaves us with Task and Purpose.  And these are the really important pieces anyway. 
My commander can call me on the radio and tell me to go to such and such a grid by a certain time and I can do that.  But I am not going to know what to do when I get there without a Task.  The Task defines what I need to do; the Purpose will often add depth to the Task and give me a better understanding of my commander’s intent and how success is defined.  Worst case, given an emergency situation, a commander should be able to give a verbal order to a subordinate consisting of nothing more than a standard mission statement and the subordinate will have all the info they need to carry out the task.

Common tasks associated with offensive operations:
               Destroy                               Clear
               Isolate                                 Occupy
               Assault                                Secure
               Attack-by-fire                     Seize
               Breach                                Suppress

Common purposes associated with offensive operations:
               Enable                                 Open                                   Allow
               Deceive                               Envelop                               Create
               Deny                                    Cause                                  Support
               Prevent                                Protect

Our mission statement for this tutorial:  A Company/1-502nd PIR seizes Objective Al Jabal NLT 230500JUL10 IOT allow the rapid advance of friendly forces.

Our Task: Seize
Our Purpose: allow rapid advance of friendly forces.

Seize is usually defined as taking and holding ground that is currently occupied by the enemy.  Our purpose indicates we need to ensure that the main route through the town is free of enemy fire and obstructions.   Objective Al Jabal encompasses the entire town so that makes defining success rather easy.  But if the town itself was larger than it would be more difficult to define.  We would have to make a determination of what parts of the town we needed to seize/secure IOT prevent the enemy from interdicting our relief forces.  That is an example of how closely the task and purpose can be interrelated.  That is also a good example of what the Army calls “Implied Tasks” but I will get into those in another tutorial.

So our answer to Question 1: attack and seize the town of Al Jabal (as defined by the scenario objectives) by game’s end.  That’s pretty easy to understand and straight forward.

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