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Old 01-11-2007   #1
Rifleman
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Default Rifle squad composition

I posted this on another board and didn't get much response. I'm curious to know what people here might think of it.

I was brought up in the doctrine of balanced fire teams, two in the army light infantry squad that I knew, or three in the bigger Marine Corps squad.

I've read some articles that advocate a squad design made up of a light fire team and a heavy fire team. This is somewhat closer to the WWII squad design of scout group, rifle group, and gun group. The light fire team is usually envisioned as riflemen and grenadiers, with the heavy fire team as some combination of belt fed weapons, rocket launchers, and designated riflemen (squad sharpshooters).

Your ideas about the exact specifics of weapons mix; squad size and numbers; two fire teams v. three; four man fire teams v. five man fire teams, etc., isn't what I'm asking about.

I want to know what folks think about the current doctrinal principal of balanced fire teams v. light and heavy teams in the same squad.

I'm more comfortable with balanced fire teams from experience, but I find the light/heavy idea interesting.

What say you?

Last edited by Rifleman; 01-11-2007 at 07:44 PM.
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Old 01-11-2007   #2
Tom Odom
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Default Article in Military Review

I wrote an article for Military Review (with a retired Sergeant Major of the Army and a former CSM of Ops Grp) on the subject of small units. We started at the company and went down to squad.

We argued for a larger squad built on 3's and providing a maneuver, support, and a breach element. We wanted to make the squad as much a combined arms element as we could and we also sought to make it more self-sustaining. I advocated 3 man versus buddy teams; 3s provide greater duration and depth.

My argument also looked at tests run by GEN DePuy as the 1st TRADOC commander. DePuy tested everything; in this case, he tested the various combinations of support and maneuver ; by a clear margin the best ratio of support to maneuver was 2 to 1. A balanced squad cannot do that as it is organized; it must reorganize and/or be reinforced.

You can read about DePuy's tests in Gorman's Secret of Future Victories

My article is at Military Review

Best

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Old 01-11-2007   #3
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I wrote an article for Military Review (with a retired Sergeant Major of the Army and a former CSM of Ops Grp) on the subject of small units. We started at the company and went down to squad.

We argued for a larger squad built on 3's and providing a maneuver, support, and a breach element. We wanted to make the squad as much a combined arms element as we could and we also sought to make it more self-sustaining. I advocated 3 man versus buddy teams; 3s provide greater duration and depth.

My argument also looked at tests run by GEN DePuy as the 1st TRADOC commander. DePuy tested everything; in this case, he tested the various combinations of support and maneuver ; by a clear margin the best ratio of support to maneuver was 2 to 1. A balanced squad cannot do that as it is organized; it must reorganize and/or be reinforced.

You can read about DePuy's tests in Gorman's Secret of Future Victories

My article is at Military Review

Best

Tom
In support of Tom's point, when you look at the operational requirements of the missions typical to a squad, there are usually three elements there (for instance, in an attack there are operational requirements for an assault force, a suppression force, and a breach force). It seems to make sense that the types of units who will routinely have three operational requirements would have three different sections or teams.
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Old 01-12-2007   #4
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In support of Tom's point, when you look at the operational requirements of the missions typical to a squad, there are usually three elements there (for instance, in an attack there are operational requirements for an assault force, a suppression force, and a breach force). It seems to make sense that the types of units who will routinely have three operational requirements would have three different sections or teams.
I think Tom makes a good argument, here. I'd be interested, however, in seeing what people think about this when we take highly varying terrain and ROEs into account. Part of the reason for this is that I have been thinking about possible squad level IO/intel training/use.

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Old 01-12-2007   #5
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Although army doctrine during my time on active duty called for two balanced teams we often used two or sometimes three teams of different compositions due the availability of personal and weapons. While this prevents a squad leader from having interchangeable fire teams it can give some advantages; for instance a heavy team (2-3x M249 1-2x M203) can generate a lot of suppressive fire allowing a lighter team more freedom of maneuver.
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Old 01-13-2007   #6
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I think Tom makes a good argument, here. I'd be interested, however, in seeing what people think about this when we take highly varying terrain and ROEs into account. Part of the reason for this is that I have been thinking about possible squad level IO/intel training/use.

Marc
While terrain is a factor, I think ROEs are less important. Remember that in the Marine Corps, we already have a mantra that every rifleman is a collector, if that's the thrust of what you're saying marct.

Now, does this translate into profitable collection exercises? Not always, especially if you are in high-intensity COIN ops, conducting multiple offensive ops, or even keeping your head down during the last month of rotation.
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Old 01-13-2007   #7
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Default The problem is our system

You needn't coach me on our personnel system, I am painfully familiar with it, but this is the essence of the majority of our problems, and why I think we'll more outsourcing of security in the future (see John Robb's blog for details on outsourcing). Our military organization does not adapt quickly, so we're forced to fight with inefficiently designed organizations. Our non-state enemy on the other hand can adapt overnight. We're forced to some extent (though commanders can task organize the forces they have within limits) to fight with what we have, and a squad and platoon, and company and so forth we're designed to fight a major land battle in the Fulda Gap (and we're not ideally organized for that). The danger is we design tactics based on the design of our organizations, thus in reality we define the tactical problem to fit our preconceived solution. What is a particular mission called for a 15 man squad, and another called for a 6 man squad? Of course we can do it, but how often do we? Buddy you can't grab my people, stay out of my rice bowl.

METT-TC should drive task organization, not just we need two squad here, a platoon there, but we need two squads that look like this, and a platoon with this capability.

Obviously our MTOE system doesn't allow us to simply have a pool of bodies that we can plug and play with. Furthermore unit adhesion is a combat multiplier, so the risk of too much flexibility is limited cohersion. I think our enemy gets past that with a powerful ideology.

O.K., I got that off my chest, so back to the ideal squad (presumably for combat maneuver). I think it is 12 men. A four man assault/manuever force, a four man support section, and a four man C2/floater section (sqd ldr, medic, two rifle men) that not only direct the effort, but can weight the effort either towards maneuver or support element, depending on where the squad leader places this section. I went with four per section instead of three to facilitate maintaining a viable force even with a certain % of casualties. No I didn't base this off an ODA, a perfect ODA should probably be around 15 men, and they shouldn't be maneuvering like a squad.
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Old 01-13-2007   #8
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O.K., I got that off my chest, so back to the ideal squad (presumably for combat maneuver). I think it is 12 men. A four man assault/manuever force, a four man support section, and a four man C2/floater section (sqd ldr, medic, two rifle men) that not only direct the effort, but can weight the effort either towards maneuver or support element, depending on where the squad leader places this section.
So, am I safe to assume that your assault team would be a light team and your support would be a heavy team, sort of like I described in my original post?
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Old 01-13-2007   #9
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No I didn't base this off an ODA, a perfect ODA should probably be around 15 men, and they shouldn't be maneuvering like a squad.
So who are the other three guys? When I was in ANCOC last year they were kicking around the idea of a jr. 18F.

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Old 01-13-2007   #10
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Default Sort of

Rifleman, I allowing one element to be a floater that can either work in the assault or in support situation dependent. Obviously being dual hatted doesn't allow you to arm ideally for both options, but flexibility is more important in most cases. There are definitely times when the support element would serve to be reinforced. Tom mentioned a breacher element, but I'm not sure what context he was making reference to: a breacher element to push bangalore torpedo's through concertina wire obstacles, or a breacher element for a urban environment. If we're talking urban, I think each section needs it own breaching capability, once you enter the structure, it is controlled chaos, and you need the flexibility to operate in separate four teams (another reason for the four man section, closer to ideal for room clearing). If you're breaching a flintstone house in Afghanistan, you may only need one breach, but if you're going into an apartment building or other structure, there may be a requirement for several breaches, thus the requirement for every team to have some breaching capability.

For the ODA, I recommend a MAJ as a Team Leader (CPTs need more grooming time) due to the amount of responsibility. We simply more gray hair at the tip of the spear. UW isn't a kid's a game. The WO will remain the Ast Det Cdr, who most likely will lead specially task organized elements on the from the ODA on speciality missions ranging from intelligence collection to civil military operations. For the additional three pax I would add another intelligence specialist and two additional weapons Sgts.

Justification: The 12 man team is frequently tasked to execute combat missions (hopefully the majority of the missions are through, by and with indigenous forces, instead of unilaterally), which means all MOS's are busy preparing for the next mission, conducting rehearsals, planning, getting kit ready etc. Unless there is a high degree of trust of in the indigenous forces, you want U.S. personnel in all the key positions. The problem this creates is the intelligence Sgt rarely has time to do his job, and his job is absolutely critical. Having a two man 18F (intell cell) could produce volumes of value added intelligence at the ODA level (for ODA use and for higher, which then goes laterally, etc.). The additional 18Bs, gives the team command the addtional bodies needed to combat advise without disrupting the 18F's work.

We have the right MOSs, the ODA has proven to be a versatile organization, but that doesn't mean we can't make improvements on it.
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Old 01-13-2007   #11
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Bill,

If I understand you right your 12 man squad has: an assault fire team, which I'm assuming to be riflemen and grenadiers; a support fire team, which would probably be MG based; and a C&C fire team that can go either way. That's an interesting take on it and one I've never heard before. It occurs to me that a designated marksman would combine well with an MG team to make up the support fire team.

It also occurs to me that we could have this squad now by breaking up the current weapons squad and distributing them into the three rifle squads. It's still 36 men either way.

About your proposed 15 man ODA. I think a WWII era OSS Operational Group was 15 men.
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Old 01-13-2007   #12
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Rifleman,

You captured my thoughts on the squad correctly, but that task organization is for fighting. For stability operations it may need to be tweeked, not sure we need MG'ers (always situation dependent) patrolling the streets in a town that somewhat secure, because every soldier needs the ability to respond with the appropriate level of force to insurgent attacks. The last thing we want is collateral damage, because it could push the citizens into the insurgent camp. We must avoid to the extent possible creating PSYOP opportunities for our enemy, or we'll risk pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Actually I there is a point in a conflict where you shift from infantry formations to constabulary formations. I don't know if the Army can afford to stand up full time constabulary units, so more likely it will be the next unit in line designates so many Bns to train as constabularies during their pre-mission train up. Task organization for a constabulary? Like many I hate breaking our infantry formations, for fear that once it happens, it will happen frequently, and we'll start eroding our combat capacity. If you buy into 4GW 100% (I'm not convinced that we can afford to lose our conventional combat capability, but we also can't afford to build different type of units in the depth that we would need them).

You're right, the OSS Ops Det's were 15 men, but the task organization I'm proposing for the ODA isn't based on that. I need to go back and take a look at it, thanks for the reminder.

Last edited by Bill Moore; 01-13-2007 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 01-14-2007   #13
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Rifleman,
Actually I there is a point in a conflict where you shift from infantry formations to constabulary formations. I don't know if the Army can afford to stand up full time constabulary units, so more likely it will be the next unit in line designates so many Bns to train as constabularies during their pre-mission train up.
Are there any case studies of this type of dual formation unit?
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Old 01-15-2007   #14
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Speaking strickly of "leg" infantry.

In my mind, the foundation should be a 3 man buddy team. Fire team is two 3 man teams. One 3 Soldier element is lead by the SGT team leader and the 3 Soldier element is lead by a competent E-4 or junior SGT, preferably a CPL instead of a SPC. A squad is 13: Two six Soldier fire teams and a squad leader. Platoon is 3 squads and then the platoon headquarters with Signal MOS RTO, 13F forward observer, and medic, all organic to the platoon, as well as 2 three man M240B machine gun teams.

Three Soldier buddy team weapons: One M203, one SAW, and the SPC/CPL leader in every other buddy team carries an M4/M16/M14 as the situation requires. Team leaders, squad leaders, platoon leader, and platoon sergaent carry M4/M16 with optics and IR/laser designators. Machine gun team: gunner carries a M240B and an M4 and the AG and the ammunition bearer in the team both carry M4/M16s. The AG would double as the spotter and group leader and would carry an optic and IR/laser designator on his weapon to help the gunner put rounds on target.

For wheeled and mechanized forces, the platoon described above would also have a vehicle section lead by a SSG. The SSG is responsible for the vehicle crews and once the "crunchies" are dismounted he is also responsible for getting the vehicles where they are best able provide supporting fires. I do not understand the value in having 11B (and 21Bs) driving Bradleys, perhaps a return of the 11M (and 12F, respectively) MOS? Also, if fighting in a linear conflict environment, the PSG could take control of the vehicle section, or a part of it, for logistics runs while the rest of the platoon digs in or otherwise remains in a stationary position as the situation mandates.

As the fight changes you change the weapons mix based on the mission.

For breaching: Infantry squads/platoons can handle their own manual, mechanical, and ballistic breaching with the issuing and training on shotguns and "SWAT style" battering rams and other speciality tools. For explosive breaching, you task organize an element from the Sapper company, "Echo" company, now organic at the battalion level. You build in redunancy by having the 11Bs learn about demolitions by training and qualifying with explosives with the Engineers and by sending them to advanced course like the Urban Breacher course.

I do not think that platoons need to be lead by CPTs. Platoons should be lead by a 1LT while a 2LT shadows/learns and is there to assume leadership of the platoon if needed. I was a "platoon XO" of a combat engineer platoon for a couple months and I learned an immense amount from the 1LT I worked with/for, more than I learned from the company commander honestly.

I think that the Army should lengthen LT time to atleast 4 years and keep 2LT time to 18 months. I also think that the "day count" for TIG should start when the officer hits a platoon and begins his/her shadow time while TIS would continue to be counted the way it is now.

And, while I am on my soapbox: All newly commissioned 2LTs should go through the following prior to attending OBC: CLS, Level 1 Combatives, a week to two week long hands-on course covering BFT, FBCB2, and current radio systems (SINCGARS, ANCDs, MBITRs, ICOMs, satellite phones, TACSAT...), a week to two weeks of weapons (Mk19 on down to include hand grenades and perhaps the bayonet assault course) PMI and standard qualification along with an introduction, with familiarzation fire, with optics and the various designators, and an introductory weeklong classroom symposium, with assigned reading, covering the history and basics of COIN and also "cultural awareness" courses on the current relevant culture(s) (New 2LTs will get firehose fed 3rd generation/"march-up" tactics at their OBC). Also, the new 2LTs should get option of attending airborne and/or air assault prior to OBC. However, they should wait until after their OBC to attend schools like Ranger or Sapper Leader.

This block of instruction could easily be given at any of the major TRADOC basic training posts like Benning or Leonard Wood.

I get the impression the new BOLC was supposed to do something like that, but it mutated into what the new ROTC graduates call "Camp 2."
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Old 01-16-2007   #15
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I do not think that platoons need to be lead by CPTs. Platoons should be lead by a 1LT while a 2LT shadows/learns and is there to assume leadership of the platoon if needed. I was a "platoon XO" of a combat engineer platoon for a couple months and I learned an immense amount from the 1LT I worked with/for, more than I learned from the company commander honestly.
If there really is an advantage to having an assistant platoon leader, what would be the matter with making him the RTO also? Well, other than the obvious jokes that will ensue about how many officers it takes to operate a radio. He can learn quite a bit from following the platoon leader around. He can also learn quite a bit by always monitoring the net. It also keeps an enlisted man available for duties within a squad.
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Old 01-16-2007   #16
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If there really is an advantage to having an assistant platoon leader, what would be the matter with making him the RTO also? Well, other than the obvious jokes that will ensue about how many officers it takes to operate a radio. He can learn quite a bit from following the platoon leader around. He can also learn quite a bit by always monitoring the net. It also keeps an enlisted man available for duties within a squad.
The purpose of the A/PL for a new 2LT to learn "the ropes." Initially, that may be following the PL everywhere they go. However, as the 2LT develops, the PL would hopefully begin to entrust him/her with leading sections of the platoon, like leading the outer cordon on a small platoon level cordon and knock.

With "vehicle-centric" operations and with the miniturization of electronics leading to the smaller "brick" SINCGARs and now the MBITRs, I do know if there is a need for the traditional radio humping RTO. However, with all the digital systems organic within a platoon now other than the radio, a Signal MOS Soldier adds value as being the hands down SME on those systems.

I described the Signal MOS Soldier as an RTO. A better duty description would be something like "Digital and Communications Systems Specialist" and his realm would encompass radios, FBCB2/BFT, PLGRs/DAGRs, and any other mission related communications or computer equipment is carrying like toughbooks and digital cameras.

When talking about the small radios like the MBITR, I do not see a reason why both the PL and A/PL would not both carry and monitor them, even if the A/PL is still in the "follow the PL" everywhere stage.
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Old 01-17-2007   #17
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Here's a link to a pdf document about Marine Corps distributed operations. It sort of goes along with what we've been talking about here in that the Marine Corps DO squad design is very similar to the one Bill Long advocated.

http://www.mcwl.usmc.mil/SV/DO%20Cap...20Jan%2005.pdf

Evidently this platoon/squad organization was tested. I've never heard anything about it being adopted.
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Old 01-28-2007   #18
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Default Composition of the Squad

Rifleman,

Back in 2000-2001 the Battalion I was part of was tasked with this very same question you ask. The three line companies each redesigned the basic squad organization from the standard 3, 4xman teams. We had to form two 5 man teams with a squad leader (11 man squads). While this was mainly a reaction to the under manning of the battalion at the time we did get the opportunity to try different squad design.

My rifle company reset the squad to have a heavy squad and a light squad. I spent a great deal of time researching different organizations from history to find the best design I could. What I found was that basing the squad on the light machine gun or SAW was still the best approach. The design I put in place massed two SAW/LMG in the heavy or support team. The team had two assistant automatic riflemen armed with M16A2's and a team leader armed with a 203.

The other team was the scout/assault team and had a team ldr (M16A2), a grenadier (203), a designated marksman (M16A2 with ACOG), and 2 rifleman/scouts.

We tested this formation for a period of 7 months mostly on UDP to Okinawa (to include in the NTA), on Guam and Camp Fuji on mainland Japan.

The company operated mainly as a helicopter borne unit and spent most exercises as footmobile light infantry.

That said the experiment worked fairly well when we could keep our manning level up. That was a difficulty that caused our AAR to carry the load of two men and to support two SAW's. However, that aside the massed firepower and 'talking guns' capability of massed SAW's was excellent for covering the assault team as it manueverd onto objectives. The downside was that the squad would split and the potentiality of the a team becoming isolated was a reality.

-T
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Old 01-28-2007   #19
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Default DO in Afghanistan

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Here's a link to a pdf document about Marine Corps distributed operations. It sort of goes along with what we've been talking about here in that the Marine Corps DO squad design is very similar to the one Bill Long advocated.

http://www.mcwl.usmc.mil/SV/DO%20Cap...20Jan%2005.pdf

Evidently this platoon/squad organization was tested. I've never heard anything about it being adopted.
Former Marine Westhawk has a post about DO experimentation at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab and in Afghanistan...

Quote:
... The Marine Corps is actively experimenting with distributed operations concepts. The latest issue of Proceedings, the professional journal of the U. S. Naval Institute, described the training and employment of a Marine Corps DO-capable rifle platoon in northeast Afghanistan earlier in 2006. Prior to its deployment to Afghanistan, 1st Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines was sent to two training bases in California. There, it was given special attention by a training team from the MCWL, joined by teams from the British Royal Marines and the Australian army. The results from the platoon’s subsequent experience in Afghanistan are classified. But as a result of that experience, a Marine Corps battalion is now undergoing an upgrade to DO status and will deploy to combat next year...
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Old 02-03-2007   #20
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Rifleman,
Actually I there is a point in a conflict where you shift from infantry formations to constabulary formations. I don't know if the Army can afford to stand up full time constabulary units, so more likely it will be the next unit in line designates so many Bns to train as constabularies during their pre-mission train up.

Are there any case studies of this type of dual formation unit?
Chris,

Please see responses to my RFI for PRC measures for links to this. Go to Small Wars Communities of Interests, then RFI's and Member's Projects, then see my RFI for Popualtion and Resource Control Measures. The Council provided numerous references. I tried to paste the link here, but couldn't get it to take. Bill

Last edited by Bill Moore; 02-03-2007 at 08:21 PM. Reason: Trying to get the link to take
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