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Old 12-20-2010   #1
Seerov
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Default Mechanized Infantry Perceptions 2010

I left the army in Dec 2003. I remember before Iraq many people were certain (especially in the light infantry community) that vehicles could not work in cities and other difficult terrain. Mechanized infantry was truly morally inferior to light infantry. Even during basic training light infantry 11b drill SGTs would advance anti-mech stereotypes and proclaim the superiority of light infantry. APCs and tanks were "coffins." It wasn’t even the same Army in "mech world." Finding out you were 11m was like finding out you were born into a lower caste.

Of course, sometimes there is a hint of truth in stereotypes. It was possible to find more out-of-shape soldiers in mechanized units, than in light infantry units. Some of these people were just more skilled with their Bradley job than with infantry skills.

At that time (while in the Army), I somewhat looked down on these people. But now I think I may have been wrong, in that maybe, that was just what they were good at? I had no interest in being a Bradley gunner or driver and made it perfectly clear(I only served in dismount squads). So I was basically the same thing. Maybe some people should be allowed to spend their career just being a Bradley crew member(driver, gunner, BC, platoon sgt)? Maybe some people should never have to do the jobs on a Bradley (they would spend their whole career in light infantry units)? The best platoon SGT I had in the Army was one of these guys. He would fall out of the company run, but knew everything about the Bradley and his platoon sgts duties.

Anyway, I’m wondering if this divide (between mech and light infantry) is still as deep today (2010) as it was in 2003 when I left the army? Since 2002 or 2003, the Army started force integrating these groups. So now infantry soldiers have to serve in both. Has this decreased the cultural biases towards mech? What about striker units? Are striker units "in between" mech and light on the "true infantry morality metric?" With the large scale use of humvees, isn't it all just blurring (the line between mech and light infantry) anyway? Is the fitness level of the average soldier negatively correlated with vehicle size? lol

Most important, how have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan changed solider perceptions of mech infantry, and amour in general? Are there still soldiers/leaders who insist that APCs and tanks are useless in cities?

Are mech infantry soliders still just "tankers" to the light infantry world, or are they real infantrymen now?

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Old 12-21-2010   #2
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Begrudging a useful tool due to chauvinism is foolish.

Unless your fighting in the mountains or in swamps, vehicles have some utility and "lightfighters" can abandon them to their own folly.

In our own Army the sails from the "lightfighter" ship deflated when, after proclaiming that COIN was a lightfighters environment, the utility of a LAV in surviving and fighting in an environment like Southern Afghanistan was apparent to all - the fact that a Canadian battle group had to pull out a besieged British "light" force that was, in some places, resorting to drinking ditch water was instructive.

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Old 12-21-2010   #3
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Begrudging a useful tool due to chauvinism is foolish.
True.
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Unless your fighting in the mountains or in swamps, vehicles have some utility and "lightfighters" can abandon them to their own folly.
Among other places...

Jungles, cities and your taiga forests can be problematic as well. So can sandy desert -- or heavily fenced farmland (not even counting what newly plowed fields can do in a rain).
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...the utility of a LAV in surviving and fighting in an environment like Southern Afghanistan was apparent to all...
Emphasis added, KW
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...resorting to drinking ditch water was instructive.
As one who's drunk a good bit of ditch and rice paddy water, I really have to ask, what's your point?

Amazingly, before there was bottled water and ROWPU, that was de rigueur. However, vehicles do enable hot coffee often and that's a major plus.

For all else, METT-TC applies...
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Old 12-16-2011   #4
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Anyway, I’m wondering if this divide (between mech and light infantry) is still as deep today (2010) as it was in 2003 when I left the army? Since 2002 or 2003, the Army started force integrating these groups. So now infantry soldiers have to serve in both. Has this decreased the cultural biases towards mech? What about striker units? Are striker units "in between" mech and light on the "true infantry morality metric?" With the large scale use of humvees, isn't it all just blurring (the line between mech and light infantry) anyway? Is the fitness level of the average soldier negatively correlated with vehicle size? lol

Most important, how have the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan changed solider perceptions of mech infantry, and amour in general? Are there still soldiers/leaders who insist that APCs and tanks are useless in cities?

Are mech infantry soliders still just "tankers" to the light infantry world, or are they real infantrymen now?
Having served in both time periods 94-97 and 01 to present in the Infantry I will attempt to answer. Yes the divide has diminished, though yes, PT scores are still negatively correlated to vehicle size. Big armored vehicles take a lot of training time, time not spent training in other things. Knowing how to operate a Bradley is almost like having a second MOS (like say a 19 series MOS, just sayin'). However opinions of the support that armor provides has improved.

Strykers are viewed as an in between and well liked by most light infantry types that I have spoke too. Strykers provide additional support, but do not use up all the resources for infantry training. Even the mythical Ragnars use them down range often and tend to like them. That was probably as clear as mud, sorry for necroing an old thread.
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Old 12-17-2011   #5
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Yes the divide has diminished, though yes, PT scores are still negatively correlated to vehicle size.
I’ve seen a couple of write-ups of studies comparing pre- and post-deployment physical fitness (LINK to one of them). The research designs aren’t perfect—no idea how one would get a control group for such studies—and the findings differ a bit, but the ones I have seen all report some loss in aerobic fitness. Would that seem to be a testament to most units operating as de facto mechanized infantry, or would it be more likely to be about lack of PT?
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Old 12-18-2011   #6
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I’ve seen a couple of write-ups of studies comparing pre- and post-deployment physical fitness (LINK to one of them). The research designs aren’t perfect—no idea how one would get a control group for such studies—and the findings differ a bit, but the ones I have seen all report some loss in aerobic fitness. Would that seem to be a testament to most units operating as de facto mechanized infantry, or would it be more likely to be about lack of PT?
Not an expert, but I would hazard a guess that it has more to do with lack of PT, poor rest plans, and poor nutrition downrange then it does with riding in vehicles. There are incredibly fit mechanized infantrymen and sandbagging lightfighters. My comments have more to do with the culture and training focus of said units.
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Old 12-27-2011   #7
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A good friend of mine is a Platoon Leader with a Mechanized Infantry unit here in Korea and he said that even within his Platoon, the "light is glory mentality is all pervasive." Very few of his Soldiers view themselves as Mechanized Infantryman. Instead, they are merely true-blue, 11B, light infantrymen who happen to be trapped in mech purgatory for the time being.
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Old 12-27-2011   #8
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Default That's due to the stupidity of HRC in deleting the 11M MOSC...

There was a good reason for that MOS and no reason to eliminate it other than to make life easier for the Personnel Management types. There are very different skill sets and attitudes involved and the two approaches to ground combat, both needed, do not mesh at all well...

It also is, in Korea, partly due to the fact that a lot of Airborne types, light to a fault, go there on an unaccompanied tour in order to get returned to Bragg or to jump status somewhere rather than go for a leg long tour and ending up elsewhere.
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Old 01-17-2012   #9
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Would it be possible to have a basic, standardized infantry unit ("light"), and put it on trucks or HMMVVs (making it "mot"), APCs or IFVs (making it "mech" or "heavy"), and helicopters (making it "airborne/air assault"), just as the operations require? Making the mobility component a modular attachment to a standardized infantry building block, say a platoon? Could that work? And going one step further, making it "amphib", and thus taking the same standardized basic infantry unit all across the ground combat environment?
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Old 01-17-2012   #10
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Would it be possible to have a basic, standardized infantry unit ("light"), and put it on trucks or HMMVVs (making it "mot"), APCs or IFVs (making it "mech" or "heavy"), and helicopters (making it "airborne/air assault"), just as the operations require? Making the mobility component a modular attachment to a standardized infantry building block, say a platoon? Could that work? And going one step further, making it "amphib", and thus taking the same standardized basic infantry unit all across the ground combat environment?
http://www.army.gov.au/lwsc/docs/Owe...l_Infantry.pdf


Possible? - sure.

Good idea? - Probably only for small armies (smaller than corps-sized).
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Old 01-18-2012   #11
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Would it be possible to have a basic, standardized infantry unit ("light"), and put it on trucks or HMMVVs (making it "mot"), APCs or IFVs (making it "mech" or "heavy"), and helicopters (making it "airborne/air assault"), just as the operations require? Making the mobility component a modular attachment to a standardized infantry building block, say a platoon? Could that work? And going one step further, making it "amphib", and thus taking the same standardized basic infantry unit all across the ground combat environment?
Modern IFVs are fairly complicated and take some serious training to operate. So if you had a separate unit with a MOS that specialized in being an IFV crewman, then yes you could, and unlike Fuchs, I think that is a good thing. Otherwise no, like Ken says, mechanized infantry and "light" infantry often have different skill sets (like knowing how to operate an IFV) and attitudes.
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Old 01-19-2012   #12
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Modern IFVs are fairly complicated and take some serious training to operate. So if you had a separate unit with a MOS that specialized in being an IFV crewman, then yes you could, and unlike Fuchs, I think that is a good thing. Otherwise no, like Ken says, mechanized infantry and "light" infantry often have different skill sets (like knowing how to operate an IFV) and attitudes.
Reed
Which is probably why the British army got rid of the arms plot (rotating units through different roles). Personally I always thought it was a good idea rotating units which acquired experience of different roles and equipment. Perhaps those with experience of the arms plot would like to chime in? Wilf's idea seems similar in intent although I don't know if it would work (sounds a little too SF inspired) plus the cost may be prohibitive (which was one , if not, the reason it was cancelled IIRC).
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Old 01-21-2012   #13
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Modern IFVs are fairly complicated and take some serious training to operate. So if you had a separate unit with a MOS that specialized in being an IFV crewman, then yes you could, and unlike Fuchs, I think that is a good thing. Otherwise no, like Ken says, mechanized infantry and "light" infantry often have different skill sets (like knowing how to operate an IFV) and attitudes.
Reed
People know my views - I disagree with this statement. The skills to operate a modern IFV are not really serious - nothing more serious than learning to operate any dismounted piece of kit. For example, a Delco turret with a 25 mm Bushmaster requires that one learn a new weapon and some sequencing for turning on optical devices, but that's about it.

It ain't rocket science, and I've seen soldiers that are more than able to handle "light" and "mech" missions equally well without any significant skill loss.

As for the Arms plot, Tukhachevskii raises an interesting point. I wonder what was deemed more difficult - having guys rotate on different specializations or transfering kit all over the place ever few years?

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Old 01-21-2012   #14
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Default No question it can be done in peacetime.

It can be done in war time as well -- if one is winning as were the Allies in Europe 1944-45. Whether it can be safely done in other aspects of major war is arguable.

The real issue is not whether it can be done -- as most anything can be if one wants it badly enough -- the issue is should it be done. I'd say for a small well trained Army under most circumstances it makes a great deal of sense. For a large, mobilizing Army, perhaps a little less sense. There is also the issue of affordability; all well and good to train broadly but if either time or funds or constrained, it may be inadvisable to train soldiers in skills they may never use...

A point to recall is not the raw skills, they're easy -- it's the cognitve skill enhancement and, even more importantly, muscle memory that become important to survival and success in intense combat and that argues for specialization.

Yet again, it's a METT-TC and situational issue -- there is advisedly NO one size fits all in warfare.
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Old 01-21-2012   #15
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That's a good point Ken. We have a small, long-service Army up here so it is easy to pile on the skills.
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Old 01-21-2012   #16
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A point to recall is not the raw skills, they're easy -- it's the cognitve skill enhancement and, even more importantly, muscle memory that become important to survival and success in intense combat and that argues for specialization.
Within the U.S. military is there good recognition of the perishability of skills? Even fairly gross motor skills like swimming and skiing that are there to stay once acquired require maintenance to be done well at the drop of a hat.
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Old 01-21-2012   #17
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Would it be possible to have a basic, standardized infantry unit ("light"), and put it on trucks or HMMVVs (making it "mot"), APCs or IFVs (making it "mech" or "heavy"), and helicopters (making it "airborne/air assault"), just as the operations require? Making the mobility component a modular attachment to a standardized infantry building block, say a platoon? Could that work? And going one step further, making it "amphib", and thus taking the same standardized basic infantry unit all across the ground combat environment?
Your questions have been often asked. They were particularly well examined and answered by commentators like Ogorkiewicz and Simpkin in their books and also articles in Military Technology published several decades ago.

And the general answer is ‘yes’. To do anything else would be careless because all infantry are firstly trained to be resourceful and aggressive when fighting on their feet, essentially as light infantry. Fighting from within vehicles demands a different type of endurance and a different skill set including maintenance. Neither of those require a vehicle crew of eight or more men. And a standard section of about eight infantry is about the minimum for versatility and staying power. A section of that size can also be augmented by a three or four–man weapon team from the platoon or company without becoming too cumbersome to control and manoeuvre.

However, light infantry operations can – without exception – benefit from vehicle support as a means of rapid, less tiring and protected transport, sometime source of observation and offensive/defensive fire, systems support and mobility and also as an arms-room, Q-store, kitchen and casevac post. What varies is the distance between dismounted infantry and their supporting vehicle – whether that be a GS truck or light-medium-heavy ground-based armour vehicle or watercraft, or in another context a STOL or VTOL aircraft. And a standard infantry section of about eight enables the overall size of that vehicle to be restrained.

Light infantry/armour co-operation was around for more than a millennia before Hannibal and his elephants. Modern infantry/armour co-operation has been productive in most environments since WW I and generally the closer together the better. Armour – MBTs, AEVs and APCs - proved unexpectedly useful in heavily vegetated areas in WWII and more recently in South Vietnam.

The result is that close coordination of armour and dismounted infantry is generally regarded as beneficial in defence and productive in offence for all environments and all forms of conflict – extending from prompt delivery of heavy firepower, combat engineering resources and concentrated and diffused infantry manoeuvre to passive overwatch and less vulnerable sentry in peacekeeping operations. APC concepts and capabilities have also been enhanced to produce not only AIFVs but also heavier armoured ‘battle wagons’ such as the German Lynx and Israeli Namer. And there are Ogorkiewicz and Simpkin concepts that have yet to be realized.

Usage improves with applied training, familiarity and frequent exercise but that does not require the infantry-carrying armoured vehicle to be operated by infantry. As implied by you, the mobility component or crew – driver, vehicle commander and gunner(s) or systems/weapon operator(s) - is better composed of personnel from an Armoured Corps. Most armoured vehicles have specialised systems and weapons and the vehicles themselves need attentive maintenance. So who better to crew infantry-carrying armoured vehicles than those specialists who already crew generally similar armoured vehicles that transport cavalry scouts. And the pool of Armoured Corps personnel can anyway be boosted by cross-corps recruiting of infantry who may have ‘lost’ some agility or fitness due to age or accident such as to an ankle during a parachute jump. That and other types of accident are prevalent in active training and often result in premature retirement.

It is in the nature of campaigns that after operating with one type of armoured vehicle for some period, a light infantry unit might be deployed to another operational area as light infantry, or as infantry mounted in another type of armoured vehicle more suited to that operational area. That type of rota is especially likely during operations conducted on a basis of periodic deployment or re-deployment.

There is the old furphy that an Armoured Corps crew may lack the knowledge and drive to deliver the infantry section where and how it needs to go. So some stalwarts strenuously argue that the infantry section commander should - instead of advising the vehicle commander – have command until the infantry dismount. However, after basic training and reasonably frequent exercise together (plus in some instances specific-to-operation rehearsal) the typical vehicle commander and typical section commander are likely to function well enough regardless of which is in substantive command.

But there is almost always an exception. And here is one such. There are several distinct types of infantry carrying armoured surface vehicle: light, medium and heavy wheeled and tracked. The least capable but also the least expensive to procure and operate is the light (less than 20 tonnes) wheeled APC. The Australian Army has decided that it is generally adviseable to transport an infantry section in an armoured vehicle. As a result many of the GS trucks in its regular and in some reserve light infantry battalions are being effectively replaced by about 800 Bushmaster 4x4 Protected Mobility Vehicles: an austere type of APC with V-shaped hull, blow-off external lockers and sacrificial wheel stations, some with Platt mounts but all currently without a shield or small turret. ( There are also two so-called armoured infantry battalions equipped with a mix of obsolescent M113A1 and modernised M113A3 APCs with an extra wheel station and upgraded engine, systems, spall liner and turret.)

The exception is partly due to the Bushmaster PMV having only ten seats. Hence - whenever it is required to carry a standard 8-man infantry section plus a 2-man command, engineer or other special team - an infantryman from the section has to be the designated driver and vehicle minder. And that seems to anyway be standard procedure in order to avoid having to increase battalion strength by about 100 drivers.

However, it is pleasing to note that AustArmy are ahead of the pack at the lightweight end of the protected mobility field. The US Army and USMC might find it convenient to employ the lighter variants of their MRAV vehicles in much the same way, provided they have independent springing rather than beam axles.

Unfortunately as a bitter aside AustArmy have mucked up the heavy end. It has only 59 M1A1(AIM)D Abrams MBTs on strength and not even one squadron can be deployed because for mobility support there is only a batch of M88A2 Hercules ARVs that rely on dissimilar spares. There is strangely not one AEV nor AVLB. So AustArmy may continue to perform at the light end but will have to rely on some other force such as the US Army and/or USMC to do any heavy lifting.

Returning to the basic question, it is generally preferable for each infantry battalion to be trained and primarily equipped as light infantry ? The answer has to be 'YES'.

If a battalion is issued with austere wheeled PMV-type vehicles then the unit might itself provide the driver and any weapon/systems operator for each vehicle. All other types of wheeled and tracked armoured infantry-carrying vehicles should be crewed by specialist drivers, commanders, gunners etc from an Armoured as opposed to the Infantry Corps. And groups or units of such vehicles should be attached to infantry units for periodic training and exercise, for specific operations and for more extended periods of use.
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Old 01-21-2012   #18
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And the general answer is ‘yes’. To do anything else would be careless because all infantry are firstly trained to be resourceful and aggressive when fighting on their feet, essentially as light infantry.
That kind of training is awfully outdated, and on top of that pretty much ignorant of actual historical infantry missions. Aggressive actions are sometimes called for, but that's extremely rare in comparison to what infantry does during war overall.


I'd emphasize self-discipline (especially patience, thoroughness in camouflage and observation) and elusiveness instead - even and especially for offensive purposes.
These traits are required for vehicle crews as well, and it's more difficult for them since their vehicle's size makes it more difficult to meet the requirements.
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Old 01-22-2012   #19
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Would it be possible to have a basic, standardized infantry unit ("light"), and put it on trucks or HMMVVs (making it "mot"), APCs or IFVs (making it "mech" or "heavy"), and helicopters (making it "airborne/air assault"), just as the operations require? Making the mobility component a modular attachment to a standardized infantry building block, say a platoon? Could that work? And going one step further, making it "amphib", and thus taking the same standardized basic infantry unit all across the ground combat environment?
The Marine Corps already does this. We train our infantry lieutenants and captains as such to operate precisely as trainer/leaders for this sort of optimum utility force.

When we motorize infantry in mine-resistant vehicles, it is typically through the use of infantrymen trained as incidental drivers. With amphibious tracked vehicles, those crewmen originate in a separate military occupational specialty.

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Old 01-23-2012   #20
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German experience was that APCs (SdKfz 251 mostly) halved infantry losses. APCs were only employed in motorised/armoured formations which tended to use aggressive (offensive) tactics, of course.
Above is quote of four weeks old item 177 on MRAP JLTV concept of infantry mobility thread. Followed here by:
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That kind of training is awfully outdated, and on top of that pretty much ignorant of actual historical infantry missions. Aggressive actions are sometimes called for, but that's extremely rare in comparison to what infantry does during war overall.
At least we agree that infantry-carrying armoured vehicles can be/are useful.
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