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Old 10-16-2007   #41
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I'd like to see a reference to the Corps' scaling back to a 12 man squad, because this is the first place I've heard of it. Does it have to do with the incessant search for a true automatic rifle perhaps?
jcustis, here it is:

http://hqinet001.hqmc.usmc.mil/i&L/v2/L/Doc/SES.pdf

It's a schematic on page 22 showing the proposed new Distributed Operations platoon structure that's being tested at MCWL at the Sea Viking Division.

I don't like it already.
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Old 10-16-2007   #42
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Hmmm, an interesting point. Where does it leave us when we consider this type of "team" organization? It was definitely a different type of fight, but a COIN/small wars type of fight nonetheless:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodesian_Light_Infantry
Actually jcustis, I rather like that team organization. This is very similar to what a lot of SAS patrols used in the Falklands (exchanging SLRs for M-16s mind you). With 3 riflemen (granted, armed with SLR battle rifles rather than assault rifles, but the Rhodesians sure knew how to use them), that team was fully prepared for close-combat; if it had a grenade launcher though, that would clearly be reduced. Also, the FN rifle isn't exactly ideal for said because of its length, but still doable. The only big problem is ammo resupply for the MAG; well, that, and the lack of a grenade launcher, although I believe the Rhodesians still carried the requisite cups for rifle grenade (indirect to 150m). The Rhodesians (I think) tended to fight very light, so carrying a lot of MAG ammo might have been rather less of a problem, especially given that the Bush War was not over-all a high-intensity one, like NATO Armies have to prepare for (theoretically at least). That said, there's an important counter-example to that.

The WWII panzergrenadier squad (initially 12 men, plus 2 drivers, eventually 9 men with 1 driver) carried a pair of MG-34s or (later on) MG-42s. The Germans emphasized "effect over cover". Well, with two MG-42s per squad, you pretty much had all the cover you could ever want. In the attack, the Sqaud Leader would control both GPMG teams while the Assistant Squad Leader would lead the assault. The Germans did not use Fire Teams per se, nor even Battle Drills. Granted, the panzergrenadiers (theroretically) had either half-tracks or trucks with them, but ammo resupply must have been quite the challenge. So far as I know, there's not a standard rifle squad on earth that surpasses the firepower of the WWII panzergrenadier squad. But in its days of offensive successes, it doctrinally had 12 men; during the later defensive portions of the war, it was doctrinally down to 8-9 men.

There's a part of me that would very much prefer to have at least a pair of MAGS (maybe 3) per squad, and be done with the Minimi or any future AR. But I'm not sure that the ammo carry/resupply situation, never mind the unwieldiness of the MAG in CQB, could be satisfactorily overcome. Yet the Germans appear to have done so (from what info is available anyway). I think MCWL should maybe ditch MERS and test out a Rifle Squad with M-240s instead of M-249s. That would be interesting.
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Old 10-16-2007   #43
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The interesting this about firepower in a future distributed operations squad is that it does rely on fighting light, as the Rhodesians did. Lightening the load is one of the objectives clearly laid out on the document you graciously provided Norfolk (I had not seen that one before).

At 700 rds carried across a stick, that's close to what you might get out of an attached MG team anyway, and if the riflemen of a current squad are carrying extra belts, it's the age old problem of getting it to the team(s) or moving it once it's been dropped off. Similar issue with mortar rounds.

If I remember correctly, indirect firepower was achieved by the Rhodies through the use of rifle grenades, and Marine Gunner Eby wrote an excellent piece for the Marine Corps Gazette some years back that pushed for a rifle grenade capability. They've got bulk to them, but you're talking about a capability for all of the riflemen, not just you're M203 owners. I think better range and casualty radius were touted in the article as well. I don't believe accuracy is comparable though, but I'd have to research that a bit.
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Old 10-16-2007   #44
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The interesting this about firepower in a future distributed operations squad is that it does rely on fighting light, as the Rhodesians did. Lightening the load is one of the objectives clearly laid out on the document you graciously provided Norfolk (I had not seen that one before).

At 700 rds carried across a stick, that's close to what you might get out of an attached MG team anyway, and if the riflemen of a current squad are carrying extra belts, it's the age old problem of getting it to the team(s) or moving it once it's been dropped off. Similar issue with mortar rounds.

If I remember correctly, indirect firepower was achieved by the Rhodies through the use of rifle grenades, and Marine Gunner Eby wrote an excellent piece for the Marine Corps Gazette some years back that pushed for a rifle grenade capability. They've got bulk to them, but you're talking about a capability for all of the riflemen, not just you're M203 owners. I think better range and casualty radius were touted in the article as well. I don't believe accuracy is comparable though, but I'd have to research that a bit.
What really bothers me most about the DO platoon organization isn't just cutting the USMC rifle squad back to 12 men; it's all the "C2". Out of the 12 man squad, there are just two 4-man Fire Teams, and an entire 4-man Command and Control Team (albeit fully-armed). And if that's not sick enough, then the Rifle Platoon HQ has no less than eight men in it, in two 4-man C2 Teams, one led by the Platoon Leader, and the other led by the Platoon Sergeant.

As for the matter of grenade launchers and rifle grenades, I wonder if bringing rifle grenades back and replacing the actual grenade launchers with an RPG-type rocket launcher wouldn't be a better way to go; but then that would make it that much more difficult to mark targets and lay smoke...hmmm.
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Old 10-16-2007   #45
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After acratching my head, it looks like the three additions to the Plt HQ (riflemen) came from cutting them out of the squad organization. While this is a doctrinal change that cements things, it reflects the likely reality of having a highly-trained linguist handler, data communications Marine, and even perhaps a mini-UAV operator.

These types of personnel are a personnel tax out of the organization, and in current operations there could be considerable shuffling going on to deal with the added equipment/roles.

I think "Squad C2" is a misnomer, because each of those fireteams are likely to be in a solid fight during distributed operations. The squad leader essentially becomes the TL for a team as well, so that sort of makes sense.

If the Corps continues to follow the fighter-leader concept as well as guiding/flowing off of the base unit in assaults, then it also makes some sense to simply incorporate the SL into a team structure. That is, so long as the SL is unot encumbered with a heavy reporting requirement to adjacent or higher headquarters. Who fights that team them? Does it fight as a 3-man element?

As peculiar as this all seems, I suspect it reflects the reality of what is happening in Iraq right now. There are probably a number of troops who are not stepping across the line of departure as straight trigger pullers, but rather as what I call enablers (like an RTO or UAV operator). This doctrinal structure seems to address this reality and make it a standing organization. It is still peculiar though without knowing all the brainstorming that went on behind the scenes.
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Old 10-17-2007   #46
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I just clipped back through an earlier post and MCWL document provided by Rifleman, and it made me sit back and ponder these "Specific (additive) capabilities of a DO Platoon":

-Conduct mounted and dismounted combat patrols at extended ranges

-Interdict and/or destroy enemy forces
•Direction of Fire Support Assets
•Direct assault (greater lethality -increased ranges and close assault)

-Secure and Hold Key Terrain (at extended ranges)
•LZ, Bridge, Road Junction, Hill top, etc.

-Conduct ITG and provide guides to the Main Force

--Conduct tactical preparations in support of the Main Force
•Provide a “skeleton”to fall in on (i.e. SBF position)
•Provide an in-position Fire Support Team to assault elements

-Conduct zone reconnaissance patrols in greater depth and breadth

-Control or Influence key avenues of approach (isolate target area)

Mixed with mobility upgrades, we would have a force that remarkably looks a lot like a Long Range Desert Group patrol (mixed with a small band of Stirling's merry men).

It makes me ask the question of how well a DO platoon would do in the littorals and inherently built-up areas, because if you read the LRDG/SAS history closely, they almost always got into trouble behind enemy lines when they came across locals who weren't necessarily on their side.

The same thing holds true for the SF team that had a running gunfight after becoming compromised during roadwatch duty during the Gulf War, as well as the SAS patrol of McNabb notoriety. Now it seems that the team led by Lt Murphy, USN (and Medal of Honor recepient come 22 Oct) in Afghanistan ran into the exact same problems.

I think we tend to forget that when dealing with an even remotely organized enemy, it's not necessarily that he will find you and kill you, but rather one of the locals will find you...and then the enemy will come and kill you.

There is a lot of fieldcraft to snooping and pooping around the battlefield, and as with other skills, we are losing this in our current endeavours.

Anyone know if the DO folks are reading about the LRDG? I've got a whole shelf of books they are welcome to browse. They may learn some minor tactics that have always been known.
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Old 10-17-2007   #47
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Anyone know if the DO folks are reading about the LRDG? I've got a whole shelf of books they are welcome to browse. They may learn some minor tactics that have always been known.
Them thar' smart folk gots themselfs commmpuuuters to do that.
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Old 10-22-2007   #48
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Default So....

with all this deliberation, what is the ideal rifle squad and platoon organization, in all of yall's opinion.
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Old 10-22-2007   #49
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with all this deliberation, what is the ideal rifle squad and platoon organization, in all of yall's opinion.
ROKMAN, were you in the infantry, and if so, what rifle squad composition did you find yourself either favouring, or just simply having to make the best of while over in the Sandbox? Your platoon or company - mech, air asslt? Your command - Plt, Coy?

Last edited by Norfolk; 10-22-2007 at 03:30 AM.
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Old 10-22-2007   #50
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ROKMAN, were you in the infantry, and if so, what rifle squad composition did you find yourself either favouring, or just simply having to make the best of while over in the Sandbox? Your platoon or company - mech, air asslt? Your command - Plt, Coy?
No, I spent all my time with tanks. I lack the experience of small unit tactics since the use of tanks is inherently for large scale battle and often employed as a battalion. I know that the future wars most of the conflict will involve small units. Which I don't really have experience but do read quite a lot of.

There are four general options that I am currently studying, which led me to this forum.

The Commando 21 organization used by the British Royal Marines. On a large unit viewpoint I like it. Basically it is a battalion sized unit, consisting of a logistics company, a C4ISR company, 2 firepower support companies that "shoots in" the 2 close combat companies. Each close combat company has a dedicated firepower support company. Hence this battalion generally has two field commands mimicking the "Combat Command A/B" system used by the US in WWII. However the close combat company is based on the 8-man squad. Is this squad too light or does it matter at all, since they have the support of a firepower support company. Should or shouldn't such firepower assets be allocated at lower echelons, like Tom Odom's idea.

The US Marines Distributed Ops is another candidate, based on experience in Iraq and Afghanistan but are they too focused on COIN? What about the case for conventional wars where the enemy is not an insurgent?

Tom Odom's idea, tested in experiments but creates a rather large platoon of over 60 soldiers and a company of over 300 soldiers, do we have the manpower for this? Or is it the case where the brigade treats these units more like mini-battalions and thus will be employed as such? Also there seems to be a lot of specialization, wouldn't it be better to arrange for general purpose unit organization.

German Panzergrenadiers a squad of 10 soldiers, a Squad Leader and Assistant Squad Leader, 2 Machine Guns, 2 Assistant Machine Gunners, 4 Rifleman. The squad can be split into two just like how the British do with their 8 man squads. However this seems that the squad can only operate as part of a platoon. (They basically operate like typical platoon of 3 squads.)




Another question is which performs best in terms of Squad organization the ones in current usage that I have are these:

The old 11 man Army squad of 2 teams plus Squad Leader.

The Marine squad of 13 man of three teams plus Squad Leader.

The DO Marine squad of 12 man of three teams with the Squad Leader embedded in a team.

The Army mechanized infantry platoon of two 9 man squads plus a five man machine gun team of two machine guns (the 2 X 9 plus 5).

The German 10 man squad of two teams with a Squad Leader and Assistant Squad Leader.

The British 8 man squad operating (similarly to the German squad) within the British Commando 21 system in all its entirety.



Gotta ask.... and appreciate the responses.

Last edited by ROKMAN; 10-22-2007 at 04:30 AM.
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Old 10-22-2007   #51
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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).

...

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.

...

What say you?
From a practical standpoint, I'm just envisioning a 4-man fire team and a 3 to 5 man "heavy" team, bounding by team. One element is significantly slower than the other. Throw in a third team - you've still got a slow team. Task organize in a way to disperses the heavy weapons guys among the squad - now you've split up fire teams.

From a training perspective, how many skill sets is the squad leader going to be responsible for training and tactically employing? I already see this problem at the BN level, let alone company, platoon, or squad. Now that we've created heavy maneuver battalions composed of engineer, armor, and infantry, the battalion commander is no longer the guy blessing off on platoons. He handles the company of his branch. Hopefully the S-3 is another branch, so that he can take those companies. And then you've got one more branch. With an Armor BC and an Infantry S-3, who blesses off on the Engineer platoons? Delegate down from O-5 to O-3? Find an O-5 Engineer?

The heavy concept might make sense for a mech infantry unit where the vehicles are the designated SBF and provide an array of other benefits (most notably transportation for all of that heavy stuff). My old mech platoon dismounted with M240B's, Javelins, AT-4's - we were ALL heavy in one way or another.

From the standpoint of a light/aaslt/abn platoon, why so many tasks and so much equipment for one squad? Someone mentioned assault and breach - shouldn't this be a platoon effort? We've gone so far as to push out 3-man teams to operate independently for up to 72 hours, but those guys aren't doing raids - and they were not alone when moving into their hide sites. If you're doing an assault that requires a breach, I'm not comfortable sending a squad - not even if it is a 12-man squad. That is especially so if we're talking urban terrain. And as for better maneuver afforded by 3 teams or a heavy team, I again would ask where the rest of the platoon is. If the firepower and maneuverability afforded by 3 teams is necessary, then you might want to reconsider whether the men are embarking upon a mission appropriate for a squad. More often than not, I think the answer would be no. For that less frequent occasion when the answer is yes, a temporary task organization to plus up the squad seems more prudent than changing the MTOE for the less frequent occasions.

I'm just a fan of simplicity for the squad leader and two similar teams seems a good mix of simple and appropriate. He has enough weight upon his shoulders already.
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Old 10-22-2007   #52
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I'd want at least one kid who raised himself up and out of a ghetto carrying a Thompson if it's an urban environment and a hillbilly carrying the Thompson in a heavy bush environment. Heavy lead and the distinct bark of a Thompson can really anchor and center a crew with killing on their mind.
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Old 10-22-2007   #53
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Gotta ask.... and appreciate the responses.
ROKMAN - very good questions to ask, but I don't think you're as out of your league as you seem to think. General William E. DePuy, who gave the US Army much of its present tactical doctrine, obeserved that there was quite a striking correlation between infantry and armour small-unit tactics; the principles of movement, suppression, assault, and security were the same.

The RM Commando 21 organization is remininiscent of that of the Bundesheer's Mountain and Parachute Battalions (at least until recent years - they've reorganized, I'm not clear on their present composition): Two Rifle Companies and two Anti-Tank Companies, plus HQ and other CS and CSS elements. I'm not completely sold on it, but it offers intriguing possibilities.

The 8-man Rifle Section is a personal peeve of mine. That's what I had to use in the RCR (most Commonwealth Armies use an 8- or 9-man Rifle Section, the difference between 8 or 9 being dependent upon funds for troops slots, and when the 9th man is authorized, he's stuck carrying a Carl Gustav. The 8-man Rifle Section is easy to control, and responsive, but vulnerable. Having 8 men gives you almost no capacity to sustain battle losses, and as I was told in the RCR, such a Section would lose 60% of its strength in the first 24 hours of offensive operations (while attacking a dug-in Soviet Motorized Rifle unit, I presumed - and after attacking such a position on ex, I can see why). Clearly, there's a problem there.

The other problem with the 8-man Section is that the Section Commander and the Section 2i/c are not free to move about as necessary within the Section. The 8-man Section is divided into two 4-man Fire Teams (Australian, British, and New Zealand Armies) or Assault Groups (Canadian Army). The Section Commander personally leads one fire team/assault group, and the Section 2i/c the other. While discipline is certainly tight and control good (and the NCOs are practically indistinguishable from the other soldiers of the section - a good thing), the NCOs are necessarily divided in their attentions by fighting the section as a whole, fighting their own fire teams/assault groups, staying alive themselves, and handling commiunications and sitreps, etc., with platoon, company, etc. That's a lot of burden and a lot of potential distraction.

The final problem with the 8-man Section is its tactical use in offensive operations. It does not typically use the US technique of sending a fire team forward a safe distance with the other (or in USMC others) following, thus potentially avoiding the total destruction of a squad in the first bursts of enemy machine gun/mortar fire. The entire section, both fire teams/assault groups advance like an over-sized US fire team, while the rest of the platoon supports; the advantage of this is that, coming under fire, the entire section instantly responds, bringing its entire firepower to bear on the source of enemy fire; the disadvantage of this is as I described immediately above - the section might not survive the initial enemy fire to respond in kind.

Yeah, ROKMAN, I agree that the Marines' DO Squad is hardly ideal for non-COIN ops. This is a reconaissance/forward observer/raid element, not really a line squad.

I like Tom's ideas for a squad (except for the breech specialization by just one element). As for whether it and higher units are too large and too demanding upon manpower, I'll put it this way: using the present US Army organization and tactical concepts, you'll suffer up to twice the losses while having only 2/3rds of the manpower to begin with, compared to Tom's organization and the tactical concepts it uses. When the shooting starts in a high-intensity war, no one is going to like the fact that the infantry battalions are running out of rifleman at least a few times faster than the Army can train replacements for them - that's a real manpower problem. Tom's way goes a long way to avoiding that.

The German panzergrenadier sqaud was similar to British Commonwealth section with the following differences:

1. Used GPMGs/MMGs instead of LMGs - YEAH!
2. The Squad Leader had control over the Squads' machine guns, while ASL led assault; in Commonwealth Section, the Section commander "leads" the assault, while the Section 2i/c "controls" the cover fire.
3. The Germans did not use Battle Drill or Fire Teams; once the fire fight was won, the machine gun teams simply stayed with the SL, and the riflemen went with the ASL into the assault. But as the Squad reduced in size from an authorized 12 men and finally down to 8-9 men, it lost its offensive power. In the defence, the machine gun teams nominally remained under the control of the SL; in practice, the machine gun teams were the defensive line, as there were so few riflemen left by late in the war - so an NCO per machine gun team was not exactly unheard of.

The Germans, like the Commonwealth, held that the squad was not independent, but just a part of the platoon. But like the Commonwealth, the Germans found that independent squad/section operations were necessary.

As to your last question ROKMAN, the answer requires some explanation. The USMC Rifle Squad is best (but not quite ideal) in and of itself, provided that it has machine guns, rather than automatic rifles. But the RM Commando 21 organization follows the German Mountain/Parachute Battalion organization, which provides for the best minor-unit level suppression. In WWII, German infantry battalions either had a full machine-gun company, or each rifle company had a full machine-gun platoon (depending on circumstances), plus either a separate Heavy Company (mortar, pioneer, AT, AA platoons, etc) or elements of those attached from Regimental companies. With 4-6 MGs per platoon, and 2-3 platoons per machine gun company (plus mortar fire), German rifle companies were often able to more or less walk to their objectives (yes, I said walk, not pepper-pot/bound) with such fire support coordinated at either company- or even battalion-level.

The more recent German organizations are developments of this, and with the Royal Marines also adopting this organization, having 8-man Rifle Sections is only a problem when:

1. Either the terrain or cover masks the Fire Support Companies' fires.
2. Coordination with the Fire Support Companies breaks down or said companies come under serious attack.
3. When 8-man Rifle Sections are detached on independent missions by as a result of tactical circumstances.

In these circumstances, the 13-man USMC Rifle Squad is much better suited. It can provide its own heavy suppressive fires using two of its three fire teams while the other assaults; it can take heavy losses and still remain effective; the squad as a whole does not have to reorganize to accomodate unfamiliar and newly attached strangers who themselves are unfamiliar with this particular squad; and you don't have to take fire support (platoon weapons sqaud or heavy weapons attached from company) away from the parent platoon or company which is already having to deal with the loss of an entire squad while still facing the potential for contact with the enemy.

Finally, with the Squad Leader free to fight the squad and not have to fight a fire team as well, the USMC Rifle Squad's only major problem is that it does not have a dedicated ASL likewise free from fighting his own fire team in order to handle communications/sitreps/adminstration/logistics and the like in order to free the SL from having to deal with platoon/company when ever they get on the horn; and the ASL can deal with platoon/company over all the beans n' bullets matters while the SL deals with the enemy. I think Tom had that idea.

Sorry for the long response ROKMAN.
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Old 10-22-2007   #54
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Sorry for the long response ROKMAN.
It's all good. Your explanation is helpful.

So basically having an independent Squad Leader (SL) and an Assistant Squad Leader (ASL) to make up a squad of 3 teams each with 4 troops centered around a machine gun (GPMG) is the ideal? Then wouldn't that make the team too small, wouldn't there be a need for an additional ammo carrier? Essentially making it a 5 man team? If this is the case then that would make the squad have 17 troops. Also how would they be able to assault with the GPMG? Should the assaulters then be equipped with LMG (SAWs in fact) to make them effective assaulters?

Recently a friend of mine proposes that the Marines and Army should use a 20 man squad (more like section) built up of 3 teams and a HQ team. The HQ team has the SL, an ASL (communicating with the Company), 2 Sharpshooters, and a medic. Each line team has a fireteam leader, GPMG, 2 GPMG Assistants/Ammo carriers, and an assaulter/grenadier. Basically it seems like a heavier version of Tom Odom's idea. I argued that this itself is more like a section rather than a squad and can act independently from a platoon. Hence a company should be made up of 4 of these sections plus a CO HQ section or squad. He still insists on having platoon organizations to make this up. Resulting in a 300 man plus company. Which I think is too big.

This leads me to a another question. How is the modern German Bundeswehr organize their squad/platoon/companies. From what I can tell the Germans still use a derivative of their MG42 but now chambered for 7.62, which make it so that they are using a GPMG in their squads. Do they still fight in the same way that did since WWII or do they break it down into fire teams now? If so how many fire teams to a squad and how many troops in a fire team?

Lastly the Royal Marines use of the Commando 21 organization for a battalion sized force is a good system but the 8 man squad needs to be ditched for something more robust. Is that right?

Thanks
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Old 10-22-2007   #55
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Recently a friend of mine proposes that the Marines and Army should use a 20 man squad (more like section) built up of 3 teams and a HQ team. The HQ team has the SL, an ASL (communicating with the Company), 2 Sharpshooters, and a medic. Each line team has a fireteam leader, GPMG, 2 GPMG Assistants/Ammo carriers, and an assaulter/grenadier. Basically it seems like a heavier version of Tom Odom's idea. I argued that this itself is more like a section rather than a squad and can act independently from a platoon. Hence a company should be made up of 4 of these sections plus a CO HQ section or squad. He still insists on having platoon organizations to make this up. Resulting in a 300 man plus company. Which I think is too big.
This sounds like the same kind of thinking that brought the US Army the current Brigade Combat Teams that are supposed to be capable of extended independent action. I shudder to think about the sustainment tail needed for this "squad" and its associated platoon, company, and higher echelons.
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Old 10-22-2007   #56
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This sounds like the same kind of thinking that brought the US Army the current Brigade Combat Teams that are supposed to be capable of extended independent action. I shudder to think about the sustainment tail needed for this "squad" and its associated platoon, company, and higher echelons.
wm's right to be nervous, and that's just with the existing new BCT structure, never mind something else.

ROKMAN, Senator and former SecNav James Webb proposed something not too different in his "Flexibility and the Fire Team" article in 1972 in the Marine Corps Gazette - minus machine guns - and an 19-man Rifle Squad with three 6-man Fire Teams:

http://www.jameswebb.com/articles/va...teflexfire.htm


Well, here's another long-winded post.

Your observation about requiring 5-men in a fire team equipped with a GPMG is good, the role of the Machine-Gun in the Rifle Squad/Section is disputed. What I have to say is this: the current small-calibre Light Machine Guns lack sufficient firepower and reliability compared to the medium-calibre MMGs/GPMGs. The WWII Germans never complained about having two MG-34s or 42s in Panzer-Grenadier and certain other Rifle Squads, other Rifle Squads making do with just one. Until recently, the Bundesheer Rifle Squads carried a single MG-3 in 7.62mm in a 10-man squad (I think); this is now being replaced by two small-calibre (5.56mm) MG-4s in a 10-man squad of 2 fire teams.

The thing is, in order to get the same suppression as an FN MAG 58 (never mind an MG-3), a Minimi or other LMG in 5.56mm or some such requires about twice the ammo to do the same job. A good example of this is jcustis' description of the Rhodesian 4-man teams in the Bush War - 3 men with FN rifles and a GPMG gunner with about 400 rounds of ammo - sweet. A team with a 5.56mm LMG on the same op should carry about 800 rounds. When I was an LMG gunner, I carried a box mag (in bandolier) on each leg, one on my webbing, and another one the gun (of course). When I was a GPMG gunner, I carried no more than 3 belts, preferably 2 (I seem to remeber carrying 4 belts once, and I loathed the experience), with the one in the gun quartered into 55-round lengths (one in the gun, one in each leg-pocket, and the fourth in a shirt pocket with the other 220-round belt over my shoulders. The Germans got around this with those nice 50-round belt drum magazines

Effective suppression isn't just about the highest rate of fire - it's about keeping the enemy's head down, and killing whoever pops up - and the 7.62mm is much better at this than 5.56mm - not least because the GPMG has a larger cone of fire than the LMG, but about the same rate of fire with more destructive rounds - less ammo needed to do the same job. The GPMG in the light role is good to 800m - LMG is rather ambiguous at this range, and more or less useless beyond it - little point in putting it on a tripod. And that's another thing: with GPMGs/MMGs, each Squad/Section can have its own SF (Sustained Fire) capability if provided with SF Kit and Tripods. GPMG is also much more reliable than LMG, for technical reasons.

But as you point out ROKMAN, a GPMG in close-quarter battle is not fun; the LMG is somewhat better, but isn't of much use as an assault weapon either. Carbines and rifles are needed for trench- and room-clearing; machine guns just get you there. And this is where the GPMG/MMG runs into real difficulties. In a 4-man team, the GPMG gunner has to carry the ammo himself, which with 2 belts is fine, but an SF Kit and 6 more belts of ammo requires three more men to carry on the march; a five-man team just spreads this out a little better, and even six-men is nothing more than a full-strength foot-infantry MG crew. An LMG just requires the gunner, although preferably a second man to carry a little more ammo as well. But, with that 250-round belt rattling away inside the box magazine, don't expect to sneek up on someone.

The problem here is that the LMG is not quite IMO up to the job, but the GPMG may be a little much for the job. What is required is an LMG (not an Automatic Rifle as some maintain) that has a changeable barrel (unlike AR) with the gunner carrrying 2 spare barrels, is magazine-, not belt-fed (50 round drum would be ideal), bipod, and is of about 7 mm/.280 calibre, effective to over 600m, and weighs not more than 20 pounds loaded - quite a bill to fill. Then the 4-man fire team is in pretty good shape; otherwise, the GPMG should be used instead of the existing LMG, but the SF capability foregone (just as the Germans did) at squad/section level.

ROKMAN, I agree about the RM 8-man section, it should be changed to USMC-ish; Commando 21 otherwise sounds pretty good.

As for the Squad/Section argument, you're right about that. The "Fire Team" is more or less the Squad of old, but reorganizations over the years have confused terminologies, and thus, the existing US "Squad" is already really a "Section". The USMC Rifle "Squad" with its three 4-man "Fire Teams" is the archetypal Rifle "Section", never mind proposed larger organizations. But wm is right about the dangers of too large "squads" and "sections". Personally, I think that the USMC Rifle Squad, provided that it received a dedicated ASL free from any of the fire teams, to assist the SL, especially with communications, sitreps, resupply. etc., would be about the best you can expect to get, although at the risk of expanding too large, a 5th man per fire team would be doable, and perhaps advisable. A 17-man rifle "Section", with 2 NCOs in the Section HQ and 3x5-man "Squads" each led by an NCO (doubling as Grenadier) and composed of an MGnr and 3 Carbineers/Riflemen would be interesting. But I'd like to have it proven first.

As for higher-level fire support, I tend toward the USMC and German models: centralize MMGs, light mortars, and light ATGM at Company, detaching them to platoons only when cover and terrain compell it; and HMGs, AGLs/GMGs, medium/heavy mortars, medium ATGM, etc. at battalion, detached to companies when tactical circumstances warrant. Some people like heavy weapons assigned more or less permanently down to the lowest level possible; this reduces their overall effectiveness, except when terrain and cover mask their fires at battalion or company level. And it can be deceptive to think that it's an improvement having an organic weapons squad/section at platoon level; while the platoon (and a squad with such firepower attached) may enjoy the additional firepower under its own control, the rest of the company (or platoon) suffers its loss.

A platoon normally should have no more than a handful of riflemen IMO (equipped with bipods and scopes on their rifles - Designated Marksmen if you will) and a handful of light ATGM men - a lot to be sure, and these can be attached out to squads as tactically necessary, but while company and battalion suppress the main enemy positions, the Platoon HQ's Riflemen and light ATGM gunners take out enemy crew-served weapons and fighting positions/vehicles while the squads suppress the enemy positions on their own objective and try to break-in with one of them. With 3 fire teams, the squad can both rotate between fire teams clearing ahead in trenches and stil cover the break-in point, and while sustaining losses that would stop a two fire team squad. In room-clearing, the squad reorganizes its three teams, puts two of its three MGs on a roof with the security element, puts one with the support element, and leads with the assault element composed of a handful or so carbineers/riflemen.

I still suspect that the USMC and Tom Odom are on to something very good; for all practical purposes, the best. Thus endeth the lecture. Time for a beer... or two... or...

Last edited by Norfolk; 12-28-2007 at 09:40 PM.
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Old 10-22-2007   #57
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ROKMAN,

I'd offer that the ideal rifle squad configuration remains the 13-man Marine Corps rifle squad (though it could stand the 14th man addition as Norfolk mentioned) because of a number of factors.

1) In the USMC, infantry is infantry. We do not differentiate between heavy and light. The only real difference is the manner of tactical mobility to the fight (boats, AAVs, helos, etc.)

2) The USMC Rifle Squad benefits from the larger MTOE of the Rifle Company, and its structure of 3x Rifle Platoons and a Weapons Platoon of 6x M240G teams, 3 LWCM (3x 60mm tubes) sqds, and 6x MK-153 armed asslt teams. The weapons platoon can be tasked out in a mind-numbing number of ways, and that includes teams/sqds attached to any or all of the rifle platoons. even in the context of a meeting engagement, it is not far-fetched to see a 60mm sqd attached to the lead platoon/advance guard for imediate suppression support in a direct lay mode.

3) In the patrolling context, it allows for simple organization and tasking into Assault, Security, and Support teams and facilitates the accomplishment of ambush, security, etc. patrols

Earlier questions of where the remainder of the platoon is when the battle is joined with either a 9-man or 13-man squad are terribly appropriate to this discussion. The Marine Corps does have a mindset of "biting off" all that it can chew, in a sense. It's evident in some of our doctrine on satellite patrolling in an urban environment.

It is interesting to note that in terms of heliborne lift planning, it is not doctrinally correct to plan for a CH-46 to lift a full-strength rifle squad. We're fortunate that manning levels often mean we don't have to come to slicing and dicing the number too much, but adding a 14th squad member would pose greater difficulty in heliborne assault planning until our medium lift platforms transition to pure MV-22s (and assuming floor loading is a possible flight profile).
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Old 10-22-2007   #58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norfolk View Post
wm's right to be nervous, and that's just with the existing new BCT structure, never mind something else.

ROKMAN, Senator and former SecNav James Webb proposed something not too different in his "Flexibility and the Fire Team" article in 1972 in the Marine Corps Gazette - minus machine guns - and an 19-man Rifle Squad with three 6-man Fire Teams:

http://www.jameswebb.com/articles/va...teflexfire.htm


Well, here's another long-winded post.

.....

I still suspect that the USMC and Tom Odom are on to something very good; for all practical purposes, the best. Thus endeth the lecture. Time for a beer... or two... or...
Last thing so basically an infantry company is best organized with 4 17-20 man sections divided into "teams". Because these enlarged squads don't need to be organized into platoons. Right?
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Old 10-22-2007   #59
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Last thing so basically an infantry company is best organized with 4 17-20 man sections divided into "teams". Because these enlarged squads don't need to be organized into platoons. Right?
No, I wouldn't go that far. For a rifle company to use an organization of four sections of 17-20 men each wouldn't provide enough troops to take and hold ground, let alone after taking losses. Without all these squads/sections being part of platoons, they still don't have enough suppression or manpower to attack, or even to defend. Even with a squad or section of 13-14 men each, with three of these per platoon, and three platoons per company, there are going to be times when serious manpower shortages occur in high-intensity warfare. Take the authorized strength of a rifle company, and cut it in half, and that's what it will actually be operating with a great deal of the time, sometimes even less than that. Every single attempt that has ever been made to reduce the need for infantry in the line companies has failed come wartime, or been made necessary out of sheer lack of manpower.

The USMC Rifle Squad in WWII began with 8 men, was increased to 10 men in early 1944, and in late 1944 was authorized 13 men, which has stuck ever since - 63 years unchanged - the US Army meanwhile has gone from 12 men in WWII to 9 men since the 1980's, with at least half a dozen reorganizations, many more studies and tests, and is still no happier than they were in WWII. The German Army started WWII with 12 men auhtorized in each squad, but was forced by manpower constraints, and then manpower losses to reduce to 8-9 authorized, and they lost much of their offensive capacity doing so. As the USMC found, wartime loss rates made the large squad necessary. And going from 9 such squads/section per company down to 4 by removing the platoon from the equation, even with 17-20 man "sections" in their place, still leaves those companies with too little in the way of manpower (and firepower) to do their jobs and take losses doing so.

jcustis has it about right; the USMC Rifle Company has about the best organization there is, although I would make a few changes personally. Personally, I think that 4 GPMGs at Company level are quite good enough, along with 4 60mm light mortars and 4 light anti-tank missile launchers; in addition, I would like 4 light automatic grenade launchers to complement the GPMGs (a la the Chinese Type 87 35mm, with bipod range of 600m, on tripod 1,750m, 11m blast radius, 80mm armour penetration, 6 round drum mag in light role, 15 round drum mag in SF role, 45 rds/min practical rate of fire - very nice piece of kit - 12kg in light role, 20 kg in SF role - about the same as GPMG).

In the RCR, each Rifle Platoon and Company HQ included a Weapons Detachment with 1 GPMG, 1 60mm mortar, and 1 Carl Gustav 84mm, for a total of 4 of each per Rifle Company. I didn't like the dispersion, and often commanders would place all or some of them under centralized command when posible (with manpower constraints, it was not really possible to have a dedicated Weapons Platoon at Company, even though that was favoured by many). The point of having equal proportions of each heavy weapon was to provide the ability to place the enemy under "Triple Jeopardy".

The enemy had to duck to avoid GPMG fire, then they had to go into fortified postions to escape mortar fire, then they have to leave the bunkers when the Carl Gustavs took them out, and then they would die in their trenches as our infantry assaulted. If the Weapons Dets were operating in the Light Role, the SF Kits and Bipods for the GPMGs, 60mm Mortars and Carl Gustavs would be left at Company HQ, and each Weapons Det would accompany a Rifle Platoon (with one at Company HQ) and be used in the hand-held roles. If the Weapons Dets were centralized at Company (especially in defence), and used in the SF Role, then the SF Kits and Bipods would be used for the GPMGs, 60mm mortars and Carl Gustavs. Light Automatic Grenade Launchers would have complemented this arrangment perfectly.

So, side from adding a 14th man to each Marine squad, this is how I'd like the
weapons platoon at company organized - similar, but not quite identical to the Marines' version.
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Old 10-23-2007   #60
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I can see the advantages to the 13 man Marine Corps squad. Since I think that won't happen in the Army I would at least like to see the Army return to the old 11 man squad of two five man fire teams and the squad leader.

Organize the 11 man squads into big platoons of 50 soldiers: three 11 man rifle squads, one 11 man weapons squad, and two three man command cells. I wouldn't even mind seeing a platoon zeroed out of each company, if necessary, to fill up two big 50 man platoons. How many two up/one back company attacks are we doing these days anyway?

11 men is a bigger than usual weapons squad but I think it makes sense. Base each five man team around a GPMG gunner and his assistant. Now add in a grenadier to cover the gunner's dead space, a sharpshooter/DM (might as well put all the 7.62 weapons in the same squad), and maybe rocket launcher. It would probably be best to have the grenadier be the team leader.

The old 11 man squad isn't as flexible as the Marine Corps three team squad but it's more robust and sustainable than what we have now.
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