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Thread: Abandon squad/section levels of organization?

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    I’ve been following this thread and the “Rifle squad composition“ and I just have to point out/ask a few things.

    • What type of operation is the best “squad” being created for, or is it a “one size fits all.” Can one size fit all? Is there a better fit depending on service or section there of.
    • I have been seeing a big range in size of platoons, squads, etc. and I am wondering if it is even reasonable to compare and 8, 13, 17 man squad. Are they even the in the same ball park?
    • Should the concept be better trained fireteams 3-7 men (for the sake of argument 4) with the capability to be combined into squads of different sizes and capabilities based on the demands of the operation. What I am really asking is should there be “sub” parts to squads and platoons to enhance flexibility. Should a 16 man squad be able to break down into 2 x8 man squads, or take 2 x 16 man squads and break it into 2 x 12 man squads + and 8 man squad. My point and question is should there be more of a move away from doctrine that will never meet every requirement and towards a more flexible system?
    Now, please tell me whats wrong with this.

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    What type of operation is the best “squad” being created for, or is it a “one size fits all.” Can one size fit all? Is there a better fit depending on service or section there of.
    I would like any squad to be capable of accomplishing the various roles found in MCWP 3-11.2, The Marine Rifle Squad. I forgot to reference that pub as a little evidence that the Corps has applied a lot of thought to the business of fighting the squad.
    Last edited by jcustis; 10-28-2007 at 02:35 PM. Reason: Norfolk caught the error. It's 3-11.2, not 3-11.3 (Scouting and Patrolling)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam L View Post
    I’ve been following this thread and the “Rifle squad composition“ and I just have to point out/ask a few things.

    • What type of operation is the best “squad” being created for, or is it a “one size fits all.” Can one size fit all? Is there a better fit depending on service or section there of.
    • I have been seeing a big range in size of platoons, squads, etc. and I am wondering if it is even reasonable to compare and 8, 13, 17 man squad. Are they even the in the same ball park?
    • Should the concept be better trained fireteams 3-7 men (for the sake of argument 4) with the capability to be combined into squads of different sizes and capabilities based on the demands of the operation. What I am really asking is should there be “sub” parts to squads and platoons to enhance flexibility. Should a 16 man squad be able to break down into 2 x8 man squads, or take 2 x 16 man squads and break it into 2 x 12 man squads + and 8 man squad. My point and question is should there be more of a move away from doctrine that will never meet every requirement and towards a more flexible system?
    Now, please tell me whats wrong with this.
    Adam L, I think we're looking for a basic and generic rifle squad to build upon. I might be wrong, but it seems that a rough consensus is emerging in favour of larger squads. Tom, Ken, jcustis, and I like 13-14 men in a squad, and Rifleman likes it too, but would settle for the old 11-man if he could get it. And the reason for that preference seems to comes down to three major things.

    The first is a preference for "1 Up, 2 or 3 Back" formations, especially in the attack, in order to maximize suppression of the enemy and minimize friendly losses. Of course you can get away with just two fire teams in a squad in a company or a platoon attack, but it's harder to do in an independent squad attack, since you don't have that third team to perform the assult while the other two suppress.

    The second is the size of the rifle squad after sustained battle attrition. Cleary, an 8 or 9 man squad doesn't have to lose very many people before it becomes just a fire team, whereas a 13 or 14 man squad may still muster two small fire teams after suffering very heavy losses.

    The third is that the 3-fire-team squad seems to naturally lend itself to adaptation, either by detaching fire teams out, or receiving attachments from elsewhere; the 3-team squad's triangular structure is shared more or less all the way up the hierarchy of echelons, where all sorts of task-organizations and cross-attachments occurr as a matter of course. And with this concept of the 3-team Squad in mind, it only seems natural that the Squad can likewise be task-organized when tactically appropriate. So, it can be expanded by adding fire teams or heavy weapons teams, or it can reduce or split up as needed (patrols, OPs/LPs, guard duties, etc.) But the 3-team structure always acts as the base, a basis for change. The 2-team squad seems a little more rigid in some ways, not least because if it detaches just one of its teams, it's reduced to a single team itself.

    As for your "mix'n'match" proposal Adam, there's nothing particularly wrong with that. I don't see any particular difficulty in reorganizing a platoon or its squads as its commander sees fit to meet the tactical situation. But it seems that a large squad, of 3 teams, and a large platoon of 3 such squads, normally organized along the lines the USMC prefers, works quite well for most conventional infantry combat with little or no major modification.

    And in those situations where major reorganization is required to meet less conventional (unconventional?) tactical situations, this organization provides a good, solid base upon which to make necessary changes. I think that a smaller squad, and a smaller platoon might be much more hard-pressed to make such changes out of hide, not least because it's starting out with less, and with only 2 rather than 3 teams per squad, it has less flexibility to begin with.
    Last edited by Norfolk; 10-28-2007 at 02:56 PM. Reason: Spelin' n' syntx

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    As for your "mix'n'match" proposal Adam, there's nothing particularly wrong with that. I don't see any particular difficulty in reorganizing a platoon or its squads as its commander sees fit to meet the tactical situation. But it seems that a large squad, of 3 teams, and a large platoon of 3 such squads, normally organized along the lines the USMC prefers, works quite well for most conventional infantry combat with little or no major modification.

    And in those situations where major reorganization is required to meet less conventional (unconventional?) tactical situations, this organization provides a good, solid base upon which to make necessary changes. I think that a smaller squad, and a smaller platoon might much more hard-pressed to make such changes out of hide, not least because it's starting out with less, and with only 2 rather than 3 teams per squad, it has less flexibility to begin with.
    I know I'm going off topic here, but read what Norfolk wrote substituting brigade for squad and battalion for team.

    There have always been times when two battalions were enough. There have always been times when four were needed. Hasn't a three battalion brigade proved to be a good, common sense sized base element to task organize up or down from? I'm talking about line battalions in a brigade. I'm not counting the cavalry squadron.

    I remember reading somewhere that in light units some of these new two battalion brigades have deployed with a third battalion attached.
    Last edited by Rifleman; 10-28-2007 at 02:51 PM.
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    Since when did military logic dictate the size of a force?

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Heh. too true, too true...

    Benefit of 'civilian control.' Good news is that the "Force" allotted will make it work, mostly. If at considerably more cost than was expected...

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    I believe the standard SOG spike team was a seven-man element as well. Three Americans and four or so indigs (either 'Yards or Nungs) was common, although there were some larger teams and other elements on occasion (CCC tended to make heavy use of Hatchet Force companies if memory serves, although all three Command & Control elements had them).
    SOG Teams, as concerns OPS-35 Ground Studies Branch, were entirely task organised, and there was no standard configuration. I interviewed 12 SOG patrol leaders for my novel (Blackfoot is Missing), and I discussed this particular issue with them at some length, as it was dear to my heart. Smallest "recon" team I know of was 4 men, (done only once) and the largest recon team I heard of was 12-13.

    Dirty little secret - SOG OPS-35 Ground Studies Branch was the model for my Patrol Based Infantry concept - so while I understand all the reservations folks have posted, getting up to speed on SOG operations between 1965 and 71 may give some clues as to where I am coming from. - should anyone really care and I am amazed that some of you do!!
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coldstreamer View Post
    Since when did military logic dictate the size of a force?
    Since when did we create military logic?
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    Adam L,

    1. I think we're looking for a basic and generic rifle squad to build upon.

    2. I might be wrong, but it seems that a rough consensus is emerging in favour of larger squads.

    Why? What is so important about squads/sections. How is 30 men organised as 2 x 15 man squads different from 3 x 10 man squads? These squads are not normally acting in isolation of each other, so where do we see clear blue water between the Squads and 30 men (or whatever number you choose) as being 6 x 5 man teams able to form 15 man or 10 man sections or teams?

    The 1936-1983 UK Section was a 8-10 man formed into two Fireteams - except they were called the Rifle group (5-6 men) and the Gun Group (3-4men). Occaisonally, when operating in Jungle, the 10 man sections composed three groups - usually a Gun group x 4 men, and two 3 man scout groups.

    I hope I'm making sense.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Why? What is so important about squads/sections. How is 30 men organised as 2 x 15 man squads different from 3 x 10 man squads? These squads are not normally acting in isolation of each other, so where do we see clear blue water between the Squads and 30 men (or whatever number you choose) as being 6 x 5 man teams able to form 15 man or 10 man sections or teams?

    The 1936-1983 UK Section was a 8-10 man formed into two Fireteams - except they were called the Rifle group (5-6 men) and the Gun Group (3-4men). Occaisonally, when operating in Jungle, the 10 man sections composed three groups - usually a Gun group x 4 men, and two 3 man scout groups.

    I hope I'm making sense.
    How do you see the question of keeping the squad small enough to fit "as one piece" into APCs (provided you procure/design one that can take 9+crew) and UH-60-type air assault helicopters?
    You might be able to pack 14 men (another nice number for a 3 team squad) into a helicopter, but never into an APC.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Distiller View Post
    How do you see the question of keeping the squad small enough to fit "as one piece" into APCs (provided you procure/design one that can take 9+crew) and UH-60-type air assault helicopters?
    You might be able to pack 14 men (another nice number for a 3 team squad) into a helicopter, but never into an APC.
    I believe Platoons should be optimised for their dismounted role. Mounting them in a vehicle or APC is just getting them from A-B. (MICVs are a whole different box of frogs!)

    You do have to make a choice about total number of men versus available vehicles, so that does have an effect. "If" your platoons are 30 men, and your vehicle only carries 6 men, you'll need 5 APCs versus the 4 you'd need if they carried 8 - so the budget might not be their, and there might be logistic penalties as well. 3 APCs or MRAPs that can carry 10 men would life the whole platoon, but you'd have no spare seats.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I believe Platoons should be optimised for their dismounted role. Mounting them in a vehicle or APC is just getting them from A-B. (MICVs are a whole different box of frogs!)

    You do have to make a choice about total number of men versus available vehicles, so that does have an effect. "If" your platoons are 30 men, and your vehicle only carries 6 men, you'll need 5 APCs versus the 4 you'd need if they carried 8 - so the budget might not be their, and there might be logistic penalties as well. 3 APCs or MRAPs that can carry 10 men would life the whole platoon, but you'd have no spare seats.
    Wilf, completely agreed on the point that all Infantry Platoons need to be optimized for thee dismounted role. Closing with and destroying the enemy is their raison d'etre.

    I think our concern with Section/Squad size has to do with their ability or inability to perform Fire-and-Manoeuvre. It's the old, does the Section/Squad do one or the other (the "Old" way) or does it do both (the "New" way)? The "Old" way, when the Section/Squad either Fired or Manoeuvered within the context of the Platoon Attack made it possible to have maybe 10 men between the Gun Group and the Rifle Group, and Bob was your uncle. Now, the "New" way of course has two Fire Teams/Assault Groups alternating Fire-and-Movement all the way in during the Platoon Attack, as if the rest of the Platoon isn't even there.

    That's wrong, and with only 8 men in the Section or 9 men in the Squad and no more or less stable base of fire to support them (like the old Gun Group did), they take a lot of looses on the way to the objective. In The RCR, we were told that an 8-man Section would take 60% losses in the first 24 hours of offensive operations (this was presumably against an entrenched Soviet Motor-Rifle Troops, with dug-in Tanks, IFVs, the lot).

    If you have the time, sometime, these two pieces by my Regimental Adjutant
    may provide an idea of where we're coming from:

    http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/sect_atk.htm

    http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/sect_atk_part2.htm

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post

    I think our concern with Section/Squad size has to do with their ability or inability to perform Fire-and-Manoeuvre. :

    [/URL]
    I posted this in the platoon weapons thread. I think it is relevant here:

    I see there as being two things that the platoon needs to do as concerns weapons. First you need Teams (3-5 men?) to conduct reconnaissance so that weapons teams – again 3-5 men – can get weapons into places where they can do the most damage to the enemy. This is as old as the hills and has been around for years. Wigram detailed this in his 1941 “Battlecraft” pamphlet, and then added to it in his post Sicily battle notes.

    The “Recce” Teams should be lightly loaded so as they can best do their task. The weapons teams would then be optimised to support the weapons they are equipped with.

    As a straw man and in the absence of any other ideas, I’d have 3-5 “Recce” teams under the platoon commander, and 2-4 weapons teams under the Platoon Sergeant.

    ...so why not emphasise F&M at the Platoon level instead of at the Squad/Section?

    Yes, read the Regimental Rogue stuff some years ago.
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    ...so why not emphasise F&M at the Platoon level instead of at the Squad/Section?
    Agreed, and we'd like to, but unfortunately "Peacetime Doctrine" has this fixation upon organic fire and movement within the Section - admittedly, that's a mindset that has to be fixed at higher echelons - the ones who write the doctrine - but it does spawn a "pepperpot straight into the enemy's guns" tactical mindset at Section and Platoon levels. In practice, Platoon and Section commanders are often discouraged or at least not encouraged to develop and use their own tactical judgement, and so just settle for a rote prescription.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
    Agreed, and we'd like to, but unfortunately "Peacetime Doctrine" has this fixation upon organic fire and movement within the Section - admittedly, that's a mindset that has to be fixed at higher echelons - the ones who write the doctrine - but it does spawn a "pepperpot straight into the enemy's guns" tactical mindset at Section and Platoon levels. In practice, Platoon and Section commanders are often discouraged or at least not encouraged to develop and use their own tactical judgement, and so just settle for a rote prescription.
    The basic reason why larger squads/sections seem to be favoured here, is to provide greater flexibility and ability to sustain battle losses in order to make F&M at that level work.

    Edit: I pressed the wrong button: that's why this ended up being its own post, rather than just being an edit of the previous post. And I certainly did not intend to quote myself!
    Last edited by Norfolk; 12-14-2007 at 04:28 PM.

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    Random query from an amateur observer: What about psychosocial issues in terms of span of control?

    From my life experience, limited as that is, I've found that once you get much beyond 10 people (self included), you begin to need to split things up in order to be able to know the people involved (and coordinate their actions) to any substantive level. I can only imagine that gets worse in the environment faced by combat forces.

    Is my perspective horribly broken? Is there something I'm onto here?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Penta View Post
    Random query from an amateur observer: What about psychosocial issues in terms of span of control?

    From my life experience, limited as that is, I've found that once you get much beyond 10 people (self included), you begin to need to split things up in order to be able to know the people involved (and coordinate their actions) to any substantive level. I can only imagine that gets worse in the environment faced by combat forces.

    Is my perspective horribly broken? Is there something I'm onto here?
    No Penta, you're asking very valid questions. Some of that is covered in the monographs that Rifleman has posted links to on this thread already. But unless we're going to dig up Granicus and other Span-of-Control Theory writers, the monographs are probably good enough. That, and especially the personal experience of the Infantrymen on this thread. Offhand, the US Army Infantry School's own studies indicate a ratio of leader to led of 1 to 5 is the max before things takle a slide; Granicus 40 or 50 years ago figured 3-6, with 4-5 as optimum. Penta, we're struggling with some of the same questions you are here.

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    I was around when the first Police SWAT teams were being formed in the late 70's and the model which still largeley exist today is a 5 man fire team. if it is a large incident and more teams are involved they are used in a similar manner as Wilf has described, and I just recognized the similarities at least if I understand him correctly. Some federal SWAT teams operate as larger units but we stayed away from them because it ended up turning in a cluster f...

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    ... Some federal SWAT teams operate as larger units but we stayed away from them because it ended up turning in a cluster f...
    Personalities and span of control can do you a job...

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    The British Platoon of 1918-1936 was comprised of 4 x 7 man sections/teams. 2 sections were rifleman, and the other 2 each had a Lewis gun and carried a lot of ammunition. The HQ was 3-4 men. Sergeants commanded most platoons. When the BREN was procured in 1936, the idea was to give each section a Bren gun, but to save money they reduced the sections to 3, and made them 8 men instead of 7. The 3 men now spare manned the new 2-inch mortar.

    In 1943/44 Lt Col Lionel Wigram suggested, and may have practiced, what I call the Wigram grouping concept. Taking an under strength platoon of 24 men, 7 men under the platoon Sergeant manned the three Bren Guns, 3-4 men manned the 2-inch Mortar, and the rest under the platoon commander, formed 2 rifle sections. The Rifle sections main task was to get the Bren Guns as close to the enemy as possible, to kill the enemy. So the rifle teams found postions for the Bren group. Once the Brens were in place and firing the rifle teams went off to find or gain a closer or better position.

    The Australians are experimenting with Platoon 1/39, which is 40 men organised into 6 x 4 man fire teams, and 3 x 4 man fire support teams. This can be configured anyway the platoon commander sees fit. Either as 3 x 8 man sections with a 12 man FS group or as 2 x 12 man sections of 2 fire teams and 1 support weapons team. David Kilcullen, whom I have met and discussed this at length with, was instrumental in this concept.

    The IDF infantry have 36 man platoons (Machlaka) comprised of 3 x 12 man section (Klass) of 3 x 4 man teams (Huliyah). There is no platoon HQ. The Platoon commander leads one of the Klass. He is free to alter the exact number in each team or number of teams in each section, as best suits the mission.

    All in all team based modularity aimed at making the Platoon the minimum manoeuvre unit does seem to be catching on, in sharp contrast to the current US and UK approach.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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