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Old 12-15-2007   #41
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When I was in 72-75 the rule was to fight 3 to 1 if you had a choice. In other words a platoon would attack a squad. We did have an annual squad ORTT (operational readiness training test) which was done squad vs squad. But the platoon was the main unit, squads would do recon patrols or ambushes but it was always done as part of a platoon operation. Our platoons and squads were pretty small. When I first went in they were still drafting people and I think it was about 90 days later the draft ended. This put us at an extreme personnel shortage for awhile. In my company 1st platoon was 15 men for almost a year and a half, 2nd platoon was a little better and 3rd platoon my platoon was the largest at about 40 men. Which was broken down into 3-11 man squads and the rest was a Hq section to include PLt. Leadr,Sgt. and RTO's.
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Old 12-15-2007   #42
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Looks a bit like the old German system again, or a light version of the weapons platoon, or a mini-company. 24 men rifle pool, GPMG teams, 60mm mortar teams, AT4 teams. 45 men.
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Old 12-15-2007   #43
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Hi Distiller, a full platoon was actually 53 men as I recall. 3 rifle squads and a weapons squad, which consisted of 2 M-60 machine gun teams of 3 mean each plus a squad leader.

I have read your posts about the squad size relative to the vehicle you are using for transport and while not the main consideration of how big a squad can be it does have an impact. Example on Airmobile ops my squad (11 men) would have 8 on 1 Huey helicopter, the remaining 3 would be on another helicopter along with part of another squad to fill up all the spaces. I did not like breaking up my squad like that for movement and then sort them out and put them back togather to continue the mission.
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Old 12-20-2007   #44
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I thought a little bit about it. Two developments I postulate: (i) the threshold for combined weapons ops is getting ever lower , (ii) new C3 technology enables a flat organization. Thus: If there is an echelon you could abandon it's the platoon. And you could organize the company - as the largest pure/non-combined unit - 100% flat along rifle-, GPMG-, MGL/mortar-, and guided missile teams. What you don't have at company level, you don't get. Non-combined-weapons units of battalion size and upwards (thinking about regiments here) will become rare I think, esp in small wars.
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Old 12-20-2007   #45
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I thought a little bit about it. Two developments I postulate: (i) the threshold for combined weapons ops is getting ever lower , (ii) new C3 technology enables a flat organization. Thus: If there is an echelon you could abandon it's the platoon. And you could organize the company - as the largest pure/non-combined unit - 100% flat along rifle-, GPMG-, MGL/mortar-, and guided missile teams. What you don't have at company level, you don't get. Non-combined-weapons units of battalion size and upwards (thinking about regiments here) will become rare I think, esp in small wars.
Err.... Want to give an example? How does C3 Technology alter the span of control? A Coy Commander Controls 12 Teams?
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Old 12-20-2007   #46
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By giving the individual teams more freedom and responsibility, use technology to get away from micro-management (not the other way round, as it looks like now).
By turning unit leaders more into managers. (You might be familiar with the German "messen - steuern - regeln", inadequatly translated into English as "instrumentation, control, and automation", so more "regeln" than "steuern").
Then I think the question could be not about controlling the teams, but the action vectors (attack/defense/movement/...). And how many action vectors could you have in a company?
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Old 12-20-2007   #47
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By giving the individual teams more freedom and responsibility, use technology to get away from micro-management (not the other way round, as it looks like now).
By turning unit leaders more into managers. (You might be familiar with the German "messen - steuern - regeln", inadequatly translated into English as "instrumentation, control, and automation", so more "regeln" than "steuern").
Then I think the question could be not about controlling the teams, but the action vectors (attack/defense/movement/...). And how many action vectors could you have in a company?
Expanded Auftragstaktik.
I appreciate the innovation Distiller, but I must say that I very much doubt that what you propose is practical. One of the problems with it is that if, say the Company leadership is killed or incapacitated or communications is seriously disprupted (and it happens even with the Company Commander and the Company 2i/c in two separate locations), Command and Control breaks down almost completely. With the Platoon Level still there, one of the Platoon Commanders takes over the Company and the Coy carries on.

And Management does not work even at Higher Echelons - Leadership is necessary even there. In the Field, Management does not work at all, even in peacetime - there is just too much pressure and too much adversity and too many things going wrong, even on Ex - for Management to do anything but exert a dead-weight at best, or become a positive hindrance at worst. All the Echelons are necessary, and prior attempts to change that have all failed, because the basic needs of Command and Control revolve around Leadership; Management Theory and the like are hopelessly detached from its practical realities. Put no stock in them.
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Old 12-20-2007   #48
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SOG Teams, as concerns OPS-35 Ground Studies Branch, were entirely task organised, and there was no standard configuration. I interviewed 12 SOG patrol leaders for my novel (Blackfoot is Missing), and I discussed this particular issue with them at some length, as it was dear to my heart. Smallest "recon" team I know of was 4 men, (done only once) and the largest recon team I heard of was 12-13.

Dirty little secret - SOG OPS-35 Ground Studies Branch was the model for my Patrol Based Infantry concept - so while I understand all the reservations folks have posted, getting up to speed on SOG operations between 1965 and 71 may give some clues as to where I am coming from. - should anyone really care and I am amazed that some of you do!!
Wilf,

Point taken; however, I'm still not convinced that it's the way to go for standard infantry. Both flexibility and modularity have advantages, of course, but so does habitual association. Where to strike the balance?

The very experienced Special Forces NCOs leading Nungs and Montangnards in SOG made flexibility work to their advantage. But then again they finished the conflict with more Medals of Honor, per capita, than any other unit in Vietnam. That's a tremendous testimony to their ability. Do we think that most green 2d Lieutenants could or would be capable of operating that way?

It's also worth noting that some other SF projects like Popular Forces, Mobile Strike Forces, and Mobile Guerrilla Forces pretty much stuck to a traditional infantry organization.

I'll have to order a copy of Blackfoot is Missing. By the way, did you happen to interview retired Command Sergeant Major Samuel Hernandez? He was a one-zero at CCN and made the first HALO jump in Vietnam with RT Florida. John Plaster's book SOG mentions him. He was also my Battalion Command Sergeant Major from 1984-1988.
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Old 12-20-2007   #49
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Why? What is so important about squads/sections. How is 30 men organised as 2 x 15 man squads different from 3 x 10 man squads? These squads are not normally acting in isolation of each other, so where do we see clear blue water between the Squads and 30 men (or whatever number you choose) as being 6 x 5 man teams able to form 15 man or 10 man sections or teams?

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

I hope I'm making sense.
Wilf,

You're articulating your position very well, so yes, you are making sense.

It's just that if I was a green 2d Lieutenant and you gave me six fire teams, some heavy and some light, I would be tempted to habitually group the same teams together into defacto squads of two or three teams each, instead of mixing and matching differently for each contact.

I don't think I'd be alone in doing that either, so now we're back to where we started from.
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Old 12-20-2007   #50
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I posted this in the platoon weapons thread. I think it is relevant here:

I see there as being two things that the platoon needs to do as concerns weapons. First you need Teams (3-5 men?) to conduct reconnaissance so that weapons teams – again 3-5 men – can get weapons into places where they can do the most damage to the enemy. This is as old as the hills and has been around for years. Wigram detailed this in his 1941 “Battlecraft” pamphlet, and then added to it in his post Sicily battle notes.
The USMC squad seems to have been doing this well since 1945. Their squad design allows you to use one team as a scouting fire team.


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The “Recce” Teams should be lightly loaded so as they can best do their task. The weapons teams would then be optimised to support the weapons they are equipped with.
The USMC teams have always been balanced - at least on paper - instead of light and heavy, but that's not carved in stone. Ken White wrote of a USMC squad leader in Korea who would sometimes consolidate his BARs into one team.


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

Quote:
...so why not emphasise F&M at the Platoon level instead of at the Squad/Section?
I'm not in a position, or experienced enough, to say that the platoon should or shouldn't be the focal point for fire and maneuver. In fact, I think with the U.S. Army it really has to be that way, since their squads are not really big enough to fire and maneuver.

Fire and maneuver usually became a platoon function for the Army in Vietnam anyway. Their squads - two fire team squads on paper, of course - always ended up as a machine gunner, grenadier, and a handfull of riflemen. More or less the German Gruppe. You can see this portrayed in the film Hamburger Hill and the novel The 13th Valley.

I will point out though that some people, people with more experience than me, think independently operating squads are necessary for some of the fights we're facing in Iraq. I think independently operating squads really need to be big squads.

Wilf, keep writing please. I'm not always in agreement but it's always a pleasure to read.....so far.

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Old 12-20-2007   #51
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Default Good post, Rifleman.

I've stated my preference for the 13 man USMC squad, it is totally flexible and provides adequate power for almost every conceivable mission. The USMC organization also puts the crew served stuff at Co level where, as Norfolk says, it is best trained and controlled. It doesn't need a lot of tinkering.

Army squads can and do use fire and maneuver (as most understand that term) and are capable of independent operations -- and squads DO get (and should get) independent missions. The only time they don't is when a lack of leadership capability above their level gets on a "force protection" kick and is lacking in the testicular fortitude to trust 'em and let them do their jobs. Admittedly, that happens entirely too often nowadays...

Even with the smaller Army unit size, you effectively get six four man recon (or whatever) teams and while I'd rather see the MG and Javelins * at Co level, the Weapons squad concept does work and does have the advantage of forcing the PSG and PL to think of weapons and support on a constant as opposed to an as required basis.

( * The Javelin is a good if heavy weapon; its predecessor, the Dragon, was an unmitigated -- and unsalvageable -- disaster and didn't die soon enough.)

Still, having been in both in conventional and COIN ops for real as well as in peacetime, stateside training -- the Marines have it right. The Army model will work and I have no doubt a competent Pl and PSG in either can do anything I've seen suggested in this and the related threads.

Either model can be reorganized internally and for specific missions as the Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant decide; at least in my experience, they don't have to ask anybody. That said with the caveat that at the beginning of a war, some senior NCOs and Officers can be unduly hidebound -- but that is their problem and those types aren't likely to get to close to the booms, bees and snap of combat and can generally be politely and discretely ignored.

At the rifle Company level, bigger is better. There are a lot of force multipliers out there but at the level of the Infantry company, most are not terribly helpful; adequate strength to deal with human frailty, combat losses and other attritional factors is imperative. The Marines understand that; they also understand the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule...

The factor many miss at that level when they start with the reorganizing what-ifs is the training value of Teams and Squads. Many theorists operate on the fallacy that every one in the Platoon (or any other level) is well or at least adequately trained in his job. They aren't and never will be; humans fail, need leave, dozens of factors -- there are ALWAYS new people coming in and, particularly in war time, they will never be fully trained and competent -- particularly at combat troop leading. That's why the civilian penchant for "flattening the pyramid" does not work for combat organizations (not to mention that it doesn't work all that well in civilian industry, either ). Being a Team leader is the elementary school, Squad leader is Middle School and the PSG is the High School -- none of them need a degree, much less an advanced degree but..

Don't go to war without them.
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Old 12-20-2007   #52
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( * The Javelin is a good if heavy weapon; its predecessor, the Dragon, was an unmitigated -- and unsalvageable -- disaster and didn't die soon enough.)
Oh boy, I gotta tell you a story. It has nothing to do with this thread, but I gotta tell you a story.

March of 1988: 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment - that great unit of units - has finished an FTX in Grafenwohr, Germany and is flying back to Vicenza, Italy. That great Alpha fire team leader extroidinaire (that would be your's truly, folks) who is due to ETS in one month has been selected by his platoon sergeant for the distinguished honor of jumping back into Italy with an item known as.....a Dragon Missile Jump Pack.

Why not, huh? We've got a squad full of cherries and the Bravo fire team leader is about 5'5". The cherries don't have enough jumps to be trusted with the thing and the Bravo fire team leader can barely get out the door without dragging his rucksack on the floor anyway. Your's truly is 5'11", had forty-something static line exits at that point, and used to jump the M60 regularly. So it falls to me. Who can fault the platoon sergeant's logic?

With a DMJP I should have been the lead jumper in the starboard side stick but I got bumped back to #3 somehow. IIRC, the jumper who took my door position was wearing gold oak leaves and was an "S" something or other but I might not be remembering that correctly. I believe #2 was the assistant "S" something or other.

We started in-flight rigging at two hours and twenty minutes out. Unlike the others I didn't do a complete rig, just main and reserve. At the twenty minute warning I stood up and the starboard side safety helped me hook up my ruck and the DMJP. I sat back down to watch a cherry across the isle blow chunks into a barf bag for a few more minutes of nap of the earth till the ten minute warning.

Oh boy, this is my last jump and I'm going to make it my best ever.

Red light, jump commands, doors open, fresh air, jumpmaster door check, green light!

Like a cherry that I wasn't supposed to be I brushed the DMJP on the leading edge of the starboard side troop door and staggered off the step in one of the sloppiest body positions I ever had. I more or less just fell into the prop blast.

Twists! Twists! Twists! Past the risers and halfway up the suspension lines.

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle!

When I cleared the twists I lowered my ruck and just got that *x#@* DMJP lowered when I heard my ruck hit the ground. The DMJP didn't make it all the way down my 15' lowering line.

I did get my feet and knees together but I didn't get much of a slip pulled.

Balls of the feet, buttocks (what happened to calf and thigh?) pushup muscle, and back of the head (added that one for good measure). Hey, at least I managed not to smack an elbow.

Ah, memories. Some days I miss it and some days I don't. Today.....I miss it!
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Old 12-20-2007   #53
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Default Heh, hear that...

We all get one like that sooner or later. I hit a tree one day and swung into it, smacking my canteen in to my kidney; cussed the AF, the tree and the canteen, finally climbed down my reserve and dropped ten feet to the ground, started to the Assembly point which meant crossing a corner of the DZ --and after I saw all the barbed wire fences and people with cuts was ready to go back and kiss the tree...

Lemme dispel a Jump School myth; body position has nothing to do with twists, it's the Static Line. If, in the process of unhooking it, tossing it over your shoulder and then eventually hooking up, you keep it perfectly straight, you won't have any twists; let it get twists in it before you hook up then exit the bird and that flat doubled over nylon strap will straighten itself out by twisting your deployment bag after the suspension lines are out and before the chute fully deploys. I convinced the 82d Jump School of that, they took it to Benning, Benning didn't want to hear it so they're still teaching it wrong. The Glory (and rep) of the School transcends mere reality...

Having said that, don't change your story, it's great...
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Old 12-20-2007   #54
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Airborne!
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Old 12-21-2007   #55
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Wilf,

@The very experienced Special Forces NCOs leading Nungs and Montangnards in SOG made flexibility work to their advantage.

@It's also worth noting that some other SF projects like Popular Forces, Mobile Strike Forces, and Mobile Guerrilla Forces pretty much stuck to a traditional infantry organization.

@ did you happen to interview retired Command Sergeant Major Samuel Hernandez? He was a one-zero at CCN and made the first HALO jump in Vietnam with RT Florida.
@ Yep, but the Yards were pretty basic (every brave) folks. What works for them could well work elsewhere.

@ I had long talks with Ken Bowra who trained FANK Battalions in RVN. He even gave me copies of all their training programs. This was primarily to do with scaling equipment and inter-operability with conventional US Forces.

@Never met him. Doug Miller had agreed to talk to me and then fell ill and died. All the other guys I talked to are listed in the book. I have talked to many more since.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post

@ Fire and maneuver usually became a platoon function for the Army in Vietnam anyway. Their squads - two fire team squads on paper, of course - always ended up as a machine gunner, grenadier, and a handfull of riflemen.

@I will point out though that some people, people with more experience than me, think independently operating squads are necessary for some of the fights we're facing in Iraq. I think independently operating squads really need to be big squads.

@ Oh, how do you like my avatar and signature?
@ In WW1 it certainly was and became so in WW2, for the UK. I have written extensively on the fact that the whole concept of section/squad F&M was a mistake caused by badly written manuals.

@ In Northern Ireland they just grouped 2 x 8 man sections together and formed "multiples," which were 3-4 x 4 man teams. Generally the platoon was split into 2 halves, one lead by the Platoon Commander and one by the Platoon Sergeant. This works. We have 25 years of continuous proof! In 1995 the UK did documented field trials which showed the same basic principles worked well for the Platoon attack as well.

@ Ah yes, the Avatar. Are you by any chance, an American?

...and when Washington gives back all the plantations the rebels stole from my family, I'll be a lot happier!
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Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 12-21-2007   #56
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( * The Javelin is a good if heavy weapon; its predecessor, the Dragon, was an unmitigated -- and unsalvageable -- disaster and didn't die soon enough.)
I don't doubt the weapon sucked, but don't fixate on that. It's the idea. Look at the AT-7/13. Guided weapons in the Platoon is IMO, a very good idea, but Javelin is just too expensive for most armies, and maybe even the UK. We have now faired our entire war load of Javelins in Helmand!!
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 12-21-2007   #57
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Default Don't know what Spike costs but an Eryx will work

The idea is not which missile (I'd even go with a Carl Gustaf), it's just to avoid one that does not work and is unlikely to be made to do so.

Your ancestors went in the wrong direction. My Tory Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather headed west to Kentucky and did rather well for himself... So did my equal number of greats Rebel Grandfather. Alas, their Great, Great, Great Grandchildren married and squandered it all leaving me like unto a Churchmouse...
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Old 12-21-2007   #58
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On my mother's side (specifically through her mother's side), my ancestors were tarred and feathered and driven out of New England, Tories they were. As United Empire Loyalists, they made their way to Ontario. Once again, on my mother's side, a hundred years or so after the Great Tax Revolt Across the Great Lakes, more of my ancestors (specifically through her father's side) ran away from home in the logging camps of Michigan and came to Ontario. And my father's side were British soldiers, and English Bluebloods at that, for which they received Imperial landgrants for their service in the Boer War; my paternal grandmother (she was a US citizen) always complained that "The side of the family that stayed in England got the Lordship, and the side that came to Canada got the work."

And I have always viewed Rifleman's signature with much amusement; and a lot of those Hessians settled around the area where I live in the years after the Tax Revolt by Those People Down There and again after the War of 1812.

Ken, I respectfully object to the Eryx: after the Government bought them, the Infantry Battalions promptly put them into storage and kept using the Carl G's because the Eryx wasn't as good and the Gunner had to track the missile all the way to the target. At ranges of 600 m and less, that was not considered conducive to the survival of the Missile crew in the seconds after launch. The Carl G's of course could be fired and then you just got out of there macht schnell.

After a few years, DND got curious as to why they hadn't heard anything about the Eryx being used, and when they found out that the Battalions had simply locked them up and tossed the key away, DND got pretty unhappy and ordered the Carl G withdrawn from service and stored and the Eryx to be used by the Battalions. That, and a few other bright ideas like deleting the Assault Pioneer (since restored after battle experience in A-Stan) and Mortar Platoons (still waiting to hear if they will be restored) from the Infantry Battalions made DND even more popular with the Troops than they already were.

Last edited by Norfolk; 12-21-2007 at 01:49 AM.
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Old 12-21-2007   #59
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Ken, I respectfully object to the Eryx:
Eryx is a frigging joke, and yes Carl Gustav M3 with 1,000m HEDP, and the Simrad sight is a winner in comparison.
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 12-21-2007   #60
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Default No real knowledge or experience with the Eryx,

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...
Ken, I respectfully object to the Eryx: after the Government bought them, the Infantry Battalions promptly put them into storage and kept using the Carl G's because the Eryx wasn't as good and the Gunner had to track the missile all the way to the target. At ranges of 600 m and less, that was not considered conducive to the survival of the Missile crew in the seconds after launch. The Carl G's of course could be fired and then you just got out of there macht schnell.

After a few years, DND got curious as to why they hadn't heard anything about the Eryx being used, and when they found out that the Battalions had simply locked them up and tossed the key away, DND got pretty unhappy and ordered the Carl G withdrawn from service and stored and the Eryx to be used by the Battalions. That, and a few other bright ideas like deleting the Assault Pioneer (since restored after battle experience in A-Stan) and Mortar Platoons (still waiting to hear if they will be restored) from the Infantry Battalions made DND even more popular with the Troops than they already were.
I just grabbed a name -- as I said, the issue was not to select a particular missile or system but to not select one particular missile.

As for the CG, not a great tank stopper but great for a lot of other things, if a bit weighty.

Re: the troops and DND -- world wide story...

I hope the Troops win.

Last edited by Ken White; 12-21-2007 at 02:36 AM. Reason: Typo
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