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Old 01-01-2008   #21
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Mr. Owen: Thanks for the heads up. I've spent some months mining what I lit I could find for empirical research on engineering small unit sustainability. I've unfortunately turned up nothing of the sort. Is there any research on the horizon that might shed some much needed light in this area?
1. Call me Wilf.

2. That's because there is none, and none on the horizon. However there are things we know because people keep doing them. They get written into manuals and they are testable. It is my opinion that researching the ideal squad or platoon is useless. What you have to have is principles of organisation that allow you to adapt to changing missions and circumstances Thus discussion should focus on the testing and validity of the principle, not the search for absolutes
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Old 01-01-2008   #22
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Thanks Steve, Wilf. I understand searching for an optimal squad organization for all seasons is most likely fruitless. What I'm looking for is literature on the small unit modeling process. I doubted it exists, and Wilf's pretty much confirmed my suspicions. What I do have is a lot lit on various time tested principles (Wilf calls them opinions), a set of three objective considerations for designing combat organizations (lethality, sustainability [I call this redundancy], flexibility [I call this mobility and modality]) and countless constraints imposed by targets, appropriate mixes of weapons, terrain, the available body of knowledge on manuever, etc. It's pretty overwhelming for uninitiated folk like myself and it'd be nice to if there were a family of model frameworks to handle all these inputs. Absent that, I lack the experience to understand why an 11-man squad is more optimal than one with 9 or 13 men (if that's true).

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Old 01-01-2008   #23
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. What I do have is a lot lit on various time tested principles (Wilf calls them opinions), a set of three objective considerations for designing combat organizations (lethality, sustainability [I call this redundancy], flexibility [I call this mobility and modality]) and countless constraints imposed by targets, appropriate mixes of weapons, terrain, the available body of knowledge on manuever, etc.
Also consider C2. Organisation is mostly about your ability to make things happen when people don't want to do stuff, cos they might get killed. Effective Span of control is actually pretty well understood. BUT remember the span of effective control, shrinks under stress and alters with task.
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Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 01-01-2008   #24
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You might consider looking at one or two things (the discussion of MIS got my attention).

Is you military organization an industrial entity or a knowledge entity? I know you will come back and say it is both but here is the thing. An industrial organization/entity responds very well to limited span of control and hiearchical arrangements. A knowledge organization/entity can be much flattter and based on information and training you have the reasonable expectation that loosely coupled entities will make the right decisions on their own. Flexibility in the face of decimation due to illness/injury/strike rapidly reduces the capability of a industrial organization. Whereas a knowledge based ogranization has a flatter more robust response to injury. I don't know if that helps the discussion much but there it is...
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Old 01-02-2008   #25
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You might consider looking at one or two things (the discussion of MIS got my attention).

Is you military organization an industrial entity or a knowledge entity? I know you will come back and say it is both but here is the thing. An industrial organization/entity responds very well to limited span of control and hiearchical arrangements. A knowledge organization/entity can be much flattter and based on information and training you have the reasonable expectation that loosely coupled entities will make the right decisions on their own. Flexibility in the face of decimation due to illness/injury/strike rapidly reduces the capability of a industrial organization. Whereas a knowledge based ogranization has a flatter more robust response to injury. I don't know if that helps the discussion much but there it is...
That's very interesting. I have looked at some stuff about the best size for software development teams, which would seem to span both industry and knowledge. That suggested that team over 6-7 took longer to get things done, which gells with information flow and oversight associated with larger organisations.
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Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 01-02-2008   #26
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Rifleman: If I'm reading "The Infantry Rifle Squad" correctly, Melody's work is essentially a lit review and he arrives at his conclusions and recommendations deductively; the same can be said of his student Timothy Karcher in "Enhancing Combat Effectiveness."
I just printed this out and read it in my lunch hour. To summarise,

Karcher believes the 11-man squad is better because it can take more casualties, and has more firepower, compared to a 9-man squad. Thus More men is better, when it comes to redundancy and weight of fire.

Would 11 man squads mean an SBCT Platoon would need 5 vehicles to carry everyone, not 4?

...and this took 89 pages to explain in support of an MA Thesis?

Am I missing something?
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- 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 01-02-2008   #27
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...and this took 89 pages to explain in support of an MA Thesis?

Am I missing something?
Seems to follow the same form as Col. Melody's argument for reshuffling the 9-man squad.
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Old 01-02-2008   #28
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Karcher believes the 11-man squad is better because it can take more casualties, and has more firepower, compared to a 9-man squad. Thus More men is better, when it comes to redundancy and weight of fire.

Would 11 man squads mean an SBCT Platoon would need 5 vehicles to carry everyone, not 4?
This thread strangely reminds me of the "8 minute abs" routine from "There's Something About Mary". Now seven minute abs....

If 11 is better, then why not 12, 13, 14? .....
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Old 01-02-2008   #29
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Also reminds me of Nigel from Spinal Tap..."But this one goes to 11."

:-)
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Old 01-02-2008   #30
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Until now I haven't posted on this thread; but now I will to say that a Squad or a Section requires a certain level of redundancy to (hopefully) last for a decent interval before being forced to extensively reorganize.

A single MG and a single UGL are sufficient to provide a base of fire for a Squad/Section. Likwise, a single RPG-type weapon is sufficient to deal with field fortifications and most armoured vehicles. And each of these weapons can be carried and fired by a single man. A second man for each of these weapons is best to have in order to carry extra ammo.

Most assault and clearing tasks require a pair of 2-man teams, or a single 4-man team. House-clearing can be done with a single 4-man team, but if something goes wrong, the rest of the Squad/Section may either be too far away to help in time, or may be tied up in their own fight. As such, for many house-clearing and similar tasks, a 4-man team may do the initial sweep, the rest of the Squad/Section needs to be on hand to maintain security and to be available for back-up if something does go wrong.

At it most basic, then, a Squad/Section requires 7 men. The Squad LDR/Section CDR can serve as the Grenadier (it's ideal for him to mark targets and lay smoke anyway) and he should be paired with the LMG Gunner so that he can direct its fires. Another man to carry extra ammo and provide security for the LMG Gunner is prudent; in short, 3 men for the Fire Element. A 4-man Assault Element is required, either to operate as 2 2-man teams, or a single 4-man team; they would carry the RGP and its ammo with them, as the RPG is best employed at the closest quarters practical.

Then there is the matter of battle losses. With an historical average loss rate of 20-30% as Melody and or Karcher report (based upon US Army studies), a 3-man Fire Element would require at least a fourth member to absorb battle losses, whereas a 4-man Assault Element would require at least 2 more men to have a practical chance of maintaining a 4-man assault element; given the added risks involved in assaulting and clearing, along with the added flexibility accorded to the Assault Element if it were habitually organized into a Leader and 2 3-man teams, a third addition to the strength of the assault element may also be prudent.

The result would be a Squad/Section of 11-men, with a Fire Element of 4 men including the Leader/Grenadier, LMG Gunner, and 2 Riflemen to carry ammo and provide an ability to absorb losses, and an Assault Element of 7 men including the Leader and 6 Riflemen, one of whom carries an RPG-like weapon, and another extra ammo. This organization can continue to perform its tasks at close to full efficiency before being forced to reorganize once it is depleted to 6 men. This is probably why both the Germans and the Commonwealth have traditionally favoured the 10-man Gruppe/Section (although the Canadian Army determined in the mid-1950's that 11 was actually required).

The balanced two-Fire Team Squad/Section throws everything into conflict. The US Army found in study after study that nothing less than a 12-13 man Squad, of two 6-man Fire Teams, could last in battle for any useful length of time before being forced to reorganize into a single-team Squad due to the taking of casualties. For a two-Fire Team Squad/Section to work, it still has to be able to produce a minimum 4-man Assault Element plus the necessary manpower for double the number of LMGs and UGLs as its counterpart with a single LMG and UGL; a minimum of 6 men is required for this, without taking casualties into account.

Taking casualties into account, the base 10 men required for the two-Fire Team Squad/Section requires no less than a minimum of 4 additional men, for a minimum 14-man Squad/Section. Once this organization is depleted by losses much below 10 men, then it requires extensive reorganization. Only the USMC Rifle Squad approaches this capacity.

8- and 9-man Squads/Sections have to be able to maintain 6-7 men out of their authorized strength to remain effective, using one LMG and UGL for fire support. Increasing that fire support with an additional LMG and UGL may allow for greater tactical flexibility, but it increases manpower requirements to a minimum of 10 men before casualties. When 20-30% casualties can be expected, 8- and 9-man Squads/Sections have no realistic chance of lasting long enough on the battlefield to make much meaningful use of their Fire Team organization, especially considering that the 11-man Squad could not retain its Fire Team structure in practice during Vietnam.

Another thing to bear in mind, of course, is the effect of Squad/Section organization on Platoon organization. The Germans found that 4 10-man Infanterie Gruppen (each with one LMG) were required to win the Zug/Platoon Firefight quickly, and transitioned to this structure in 1940 from 3 12-man Gruppen for the rest of WWII. When this kind of Platoon has most of its Squads/Sections with less than 6 or 7 men, then it has to break one of them up and reorganize the remainder. Ideally, the disbanded Squad/Section's LMG and UGL would be manned by the Platoon HQ.

Likewise, the Panzergrenadiere Gruppe with 2 LMGs, had 14 men each if Motorized, 12 if Armoured; each Platoon required only 3 such Gruppen. As manpower losses forced the Germans to reduce authorized establishments down to 8-9 men, the Panzer Grenadier Groups lost their offensive power. At such a point, with no prospect of immediate reinforcement, the Squad/Section's have to divest themselves of their second LMG and UGL and reorganize. Ideally, at least one LMG and UGL would be manned by the Platoon HQ.

Redundancy has to be built-in to Minor-Unit TO&E, and at two levels. The first level is simply to provide a certain amount of overstrength to each Squad, Section, and Platoon, etc., to absorb an anticipated level of battle losses; the 20-30% figure that the US Army identified is not exact, but it is based on past experience. The Canadian Army found the 10-man Section to typically consist of 5-6 men in practice, and not surprisingly sought an 11-man Section with one LMG to provide for the minimum 6-7 men necessary to carry out the Section's tasks.

The second level is reorganization, a sort of controlled self-cannibalization to simply make the most of what's left. The 10-11 man, 4-Section Platoon, with one LMG and UGL per Section, has the easiest time of this, being able to reorganize into 3 6-7 man Sections plus an LMG and an UGL at Platoon HQ, ideally. The two-Fire Team Squad/Section, has the worst of it, requiring at least 12-14 men to start with before casualties force reorganization. When it does reorganize, and if all 3 such Squads/Sections are in more or less similar circumstances, the Platoon must divest itself of nearly half its support weapons, or it will lose its offensive power almost completely.

Last edited by Norfolk; 01-02-2008 at 09:09 PM.
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Old 01-03-2008   #31
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Until now I haven't posted on this thread; but now I will to say that a Squad or a Section requires a certain level of redundancy to (hopefully) last for a decent interval before being forced to extensively reorganize.
Sorry, to go around on this but please explain to me how is there a difference between a 24 man platoon, organised between 3 x 8-man section, or 4 x 6-man section. How does section size make any real difference based on 6 KIA/WIA in a 24 man platoon?

A 36 man platoon can be 4 x 9 or 3 x 12. It makes no difference.

30% casualties in a 10 man section is 3 men. 30% casualties in a 6 man section is 2 men. 30% of a 24 man platoon is 10 men. Combat is not iterative or deterministic. You can't determine where and at what rate casualties will occur.

An 11 man squad, loosing 30% has lost 3 men. If those 3 men are the LMG group, then the LMG group is down to 1 and F&M for the section. What if the section takes 30% casualties having taken 30%?

No one ever says fighting or recce patrols need to be able to sustain 30%.

Platoon organisation is about effectively controlling X number of men. Manpower is limited. The idea that 11 man is more effective than 9 is merely a function of absolute numbers. Why not have a 20 man section, composed of 4 x 5 man fireteams?
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Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 01-03-2008   #32
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30% casualties in a 10 man section is 3 men. 30% casualties in a 6 man section is 2 men. 30% of a 24 man platoon is 10 men. Combat is not iterative or deterministic. You can't determine where and at what rate casualties will occur.
I'll disagree with that based on one simple thing. Your casualties will be a factor of enemy response and expectation of leatheality and effect. Your most effective or lethal elements will be attacked first (e.g. machine guns or mortars?). I'm NOT the great military strategist you all are, but take one of your examples, flip it on end, and attack it. Where would you attack each of these formations exposed to your withering fire? That is your likely if not perfect answer to how casualties would be received.
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Old 01-03-2008   #33
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I'll disagree with that based on one simple thing. Your casualties will be a factor of enemy response and expectation of leatheality and effect. Your most effective or lethal elements will be attacked first (e.g. machine guns or mortars?). I'm NOT the great military strategist you all are, but take one of your examples, flip it on end, and attack it. Where would you attack each of these formations exposed to your withering fire? That is your likely if not perfect answer to how casualties would be received.
Based on a snap shot of current operations from Iraq and the Lebanon, section losses maybe 100%. You might loose an MRAP or APC full of guys to an IED, or a the house you are holed up in, get hit by 2-3 ATGMs. You cannot pre-determine, or plan, for casualty rates or effects. The ultimate sense of the argument if that 200 man Company can sustain 50% more casualties than a 100 man Company. Manpower is finite and resources are limited.
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Old 01-03-2008   #34
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Sorry, to go around on this but please explain to me how is there a difference between a 24 man platoon, organised between 3 x 8-man section, or 4 x 6-man section. How does section size make any real difference based on 6 KIA/WIA in a 24 man platoon?

A 36 man platoon can be 4 x 9 or 3 x 12. It makes no difference.

30% casualties in a 10 man section is 3 men. 30% casualties in a 6 man section is 2 men. 30% of a 24 man platoon is 10 men. Combat is not iterative or deterministic. You can't determine where and at what rate casualties will occur.

An 11 man squad, loosing 30% has lost 3 men. If those 3 men are the LMG group, then the LMG group is down to 1 and F&M for the section. What if the section takes 30% casualties having taken 30%?

No one ever says fighting or recce patrols need to be able to sustain 30%.

Platoon organisation is about effectively controlling X number of men. Manpower is limited. The idea that 11 man is more effective than 9 is merely a function of absolute numbers. Why not have a 20 man section, composed of 4 x 5 man fireteams?
It makes a great deal of difference considering the amount of firepower, and thence, the ability to win the firefight, when considering the difference between 3x12-man Sections and 4x10-man Sections. The former has 3 LMGs and 3 UGLs between its 3 Sections, whereas the latter has four of each; and at the end of the Firefight, the enemy position still has to be assaulted. At the minimum, this means that one Section must perform the Assault while the other Sections continue to suppress the enemy position. With only 3 Sections, you suffer a much greater loss of firepower than with 4 Sections; while seemingly small, the Germans thought it so significant that they reorganized their Infantry Platoons into 4 Groups each with an LMG from 3 Groups after the Polish Campaign, and retained it through the rest of the war. And the Bundesheer retained it until just the past couple years for their non-Armoured Infantry.

It's also pretty tough to reorganize your Sections and your Platoon in the midst of a Firefight or an Assault to make up for casualties sustained in the midst. Bulding a certain level of anticipated casualty-replacement into your Sections helps to mitigate, though not entirely eliminate, the potential for such inconvenient situations arising whilst under fire. Yes, you can certainly lose 3 out of 4 men in your Fire Element, and the Section will be in a right state after that, but you also may lose those 3 men across the Section as a whole; in any event, short of disaster (which happens), you may still have 3 other Sections in good fighting order to carry on.

If you don't have even this level of redundancy built in to your Sections and your Platoon, you'll be in a right state almost from the start, and certainly after having lost several men from a 24 or 30-man Platoon. Even taking 2 casualties in a 6-man Group means effectively that there are only 4 Riflemen available for CQB - not good odds when trying to Assault and Clear a Platoon objective. Even when reinforced by a second such 6-man Group, Assaulting, Breaking-In, and Fighting-Through the Objective, there are at most 12 Riflemen to clear a Platoon objective. Should they take 30% losses, they are down to 8 or 9 men.

Now, offhand this isn't as bad as some make it out to be; our own Doctrine says that a Platoon takes an enemy Section's position, but Kilcullen observed while he was attached to the Brit Army how a reinforced Section of 12 or so men could clear an enemy Platoon position (a Company objective). But that was with over 3/4s of said Company suppressing the enemy Platoon position. Granted, the 24 or 30-man Platoon of 4 or 5 6-man Groups would only be taking on an enemy Section, but it would only have a pair each of GPMGs, UGLs, and ATGM Lunchers to win the Firefight and then Suppress the enemy Section position. The enemy Section alone may possess at least one MG of its own, possibly two, as well as its own UGL (or two), its own rocket launcher or recoilless gun (or two), and as such would make winning the Firefight very difficult. There would be little possibility of achieving overwhelming Fire Superiority over the enemy Section, especially if it is entrenched. This is problematic to say the least.

The 20-30% casualty rates are not abstractions, they are based on wartime experience, and provide a guide as to how to anticipate what may happen casualty-rate wise. You may well suffer the 60% casualties in a day that we were told the expect in The RCR, or you may suffer light casualties such as in GW1 - or not so light such as in some battles in the Falklands. You may even suffer the loss of entire Companies or Battalions in a few days or even hours of ferocious fighting. But you don't know when and where that will happen; but you do know that the historical average has been on the order of 20-30%, so it makes sense to take heed of that, and plan accordingly. Like all plans, it is a basis for change; the wastage rates of North Africa in WWII proved quite inadequate for North-West Europe, but had even that much not existed and been taken heed of, the replacement situation would have been even worse than it was.

When an 11-man Section, having already suffered 30% losses, suffers an addditional 30% upon that, it is reorganized within its Platoon (ideally not under fire), and a 4-Section Platoon provides more of a margin for the effective loss of a Section than a 3-Section Platoon. But it is preferable to having to reorganize a 4 or 6 man Group or Section as soon as it takes its first or at most second man killed or wounded. The 11-man Section, in a 4-Section Platoon, is much less likely to be caught short in mid-stride than a Platoon of four or five 5 or 6 man Sections. And once the 24 or 30-man Platoon has taken heavy losses, it is effectively down to being a large Section, and can no longer perform Platoon tasks at all. In such an event, its parent Company must be reorganized or taken out of line, whilst the 50-man Platoon may simply reorganize into 3 Sections of around 30 or so men, and still available to perform Platoon missions. There is no point in fielding sub-units or units that have little to no chance of lasting beyond the first few minutes of shooting; a level of built-in redundancy is essential, even if it is not foolproof.

Wilf, I grasp, though perhaps not to the same extent that you do perhaps, the need for effective control and the ability to move under cover and concealment on the battlefield. I do not go for the open-order, neat battlefield formations advancing in full view of the enemy bit, whenever that can be avoided. I am very much about moving from fire position to fire position using cover and concealment as much as possible; sometimes, that is not available, but it must be taken when it is available. And I expect Sections to move in small teams to make best use of available cover and concelament as they move from fire position to fire position; the Section is not an indivisible monolith to be led by one man and one man only, though one man is ultimately in command.

I will say though, that Advance-to-Contact and the Attack, nor even the Defence and the Delay, are Patrol Operations. Although there are many common elements and procedures, they are not the same. Patrolling is about do,minating the ground between yourself and the enemy, and gaining information about him whilst denying the same about yourself to him. It is essential, but it is subordinate to the act of closing with and destroying him. What works for Patrolling does not necessarily and automatically apply in Battle.

You would not catch me doing a Recce with more than 4 other men, and preferably no more than 2 or 3; just too noisy and too hard to control in tight places except for very extraordinary reasons. I was in a 6-man Recce once, but that was to recce and secure an LZ for a Battalion-level Helo pick-up prior to an Air Assault - OPFOR was 3 Commando, CAR, and they weren't fighting nice that night. But I would not consider taking on a Platoon objective with 4 similar sized teams, even with 6 men apiece. 4 Sections of 10-11 men, sure, because I could take losses and probably still have a Reserve to Assault with after the Firefight, or to deal with a nasty piece of business that happens to unexpectedly occur. And each of the Sections has two NCOs (not the Brit Corporal and his Lance-jack) - and I go for the German System here, not ours - with the Section CDR in charge of the Fire Element, and the Section 2i/c in charge of the Assault Element (itself broken down into 2x3-man Teams to start with, plus the Section 2i/c controlling the two Team leaders). Battle has its own characteristics, different from Patrolling. The Section must be organized for Battle, and not just Patrolling.

But I would encourage greater consideration of your Section proposal of 4x5-man Teams, indeed I would go so far as to join jcustis in his consideration of James Webb's proposal for a 19-man Squad of 3x6-man Fire Teams; I think that your proposal is comparable. There may be a way of sidestepping the one-Team/two-Team Squad/Section controversy here by differentiating between the Squad and the Section (the former being sub-unit subordinate to the latter), and organizing the latter out of a few easily controlled Squads, so long as such a Section organization is not intended to supplant the Platoon.

Phew! That was a long one, even for me!

Last edited by Norfolk; 01-03-2008 at 03:56 AM.
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Old 01-03-2008   #35
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Yep that was long.

Couple of points that jump out.

A. You keep stating things as though they are well understood rules of thumb, like X number of men to assault, and 30% casualties, or even X has an LMG and a UGL. These are arbitary assumptions. They are not understood as absolutes, so I don't know where these come from. The OA from the Falklands disproves all these assumptions. The Final assualt on Darwin Hill was carried out by 22 men, mostly officers, NCOs and Radio Operators - and no fire support. The rest of A Company stayed put. This was a Paratrooper Company that had suffered IIRC, 3 dead and 12 wounded. A company was organised as 3 platoons of 32 men, with 6 GPMG per platoon, each operated by a 4 man fire team, in an 8 man section. Sections and platoons did re-organise in contact.


B. Kilcullen helped enginner the new Aussie Platoon orbat of 40 men, which is 10 x 4 man fireteams, to be organised anyway the platoon commander sees fit. There are fireteams and fire support teams. The platoon is the basis of organisation and not the squad or section. I had some long talks with him about this when he was in London and presenting to the School of Infantry. I think he's pretty on the nail. We both agreed that section defined concepts had very great limits.

C. Patrolling is nothing to do with dominating terrain. That's a Commonwealth Army's definition and it's provebaly wrong. How do you dominated ground between you and the enemy if you don't know where the enemy is? An advance to contact is reconnaissance. It may even be an advance to maintain contact against a moving enemy. Dismounted reconaissance is patrolling. Patrolling is dismounted or even mounted maneuver aimed at carrying out or supporting the core functions. It's like folks who fixate on AMBUSH instead of an attack on a moving enemy.

D. Fixating on the idea that the Ideal section is 11 or 9 men, or even X-men leads you down the same blind alley, because it is not based on the real world constraints and human factors that define how infantry operates. Redundancy is just a function of absolute numbers. Nothing more.
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Old 01-03-2008   #36
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But I would encourage greater consideration of your Section proposal of 4x5-man Teams, indeed I would go so far as to join jcustis in his consideration of James Webb's proposal for a 19-man Squad of 3x6-man Fire Teams; I think that your proposal is comparable. There may be a way of sidestepping the one-Team/two-Team Squad/Section controversy here by differentiating between the Squad and the Section (the former being sub-unit subordinate to the latter), and organizing the latter out of a few easily controlled Squads, so long as such a Section organization is not intended to supplant the Platoon.
OK, so we go for a squad of 4 x 5 man fireteams - 20 men, so a Platoon is 60 or 80 men? - So why not have 6 x 5 man teams, 4 under the control the Platoon Commander and 2 under the platoon Sergeant?

This is where squad based arguments unravel, because everyone is asking the wrong question. Instead I suggest,

a.) How do I best organised 100 men (arbitrary number, but one chosen as a function of limited resources) for combat operations?

b.) Once organised, how do we best equip them to fulfil a wide range of missions and within manning and equipment budgets?
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Old 01-03-2008   #37
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Yep that was long.

Couple of points that jump out.

A. You keep stating things as though they are well understood rules of thumb, like X number of men to assault, and 30% casualties, or even X has an LMG and a UGL. These are arbitary assumptions. They are not understood as absolutes, so I don't know where these come from. The OA from the Falklands disproves all these assumptions. The Final assualt on Darwin Hill was carried out by 22 men, mostly officers, NCOs and Radio Operators - and no fire support. The rest of A Company stayed put. This was a Paratrooper Company that had suffered IIRC, 3 dead and 12 wounded. A company was organised as 3 platoons of 32 men, with 6 GPMG per platoon, each operated by a 4 man fire team, in an 8 man section. Sections and platoons did re-organise in contact.


B. Kilcullen helped enginner the new Aussie Platoon orbat of 40 men, which is 10 x 4 man fireteams, to be organised anyway the platoon commander sees fit. There are fireteams and fire support teams. The platoon is the basis of organisation and not the squad or section. I had some long talks with him about this when he was in London and presenting to the School of Infantry. I think he's pretty on the nail. We both agreed that section defined concepts had very great limits.

C. Patrolling is nothing to do with dominating terrain. That's a Commonwealth Army's definition and it's provebaly wrong. How do you dominated ground between you and the enemy if you don't know where the enemy is? An advance to contact is reconnaissance. It may even be an advance to maintain contact against a moving enemy. Dismounted reconaissance is patrolling. Patrolling is dismounted or even mounted maneuver aimed at carrying out or supporting the core functions. It's like folks who fixate on AMBUSH instead of an attack on a moving enemy.

D. Fixating on the idea that the Ideal section is 11 or 9 men, or even X-men leads you down the same blind alley, because it is not based on the real world constraints and human factors that define how infantry operates. Redundancy is just a function of absolute numbers. Nothing more.
These are not arbitrary assumptions, these are real tactics, based on real-world requirements, and have been used time and time again in battle; none of what I offered was abstract, but was instead grounded in both wartime experience and present Doctrine (such as the latter may be). I refer you to both the Melody and Karcher pieces presented on the threads in this forum, and to current Infantry Doctrinal manuals in the Commonwealth and the US.

That a 22-man element of A Coy, 2Para carried out the decisive assault at Darwin does not in any way detract from what was proposed in my last post; following the same line of logic, we might be led to consider that all we need to take on an enemy Infantry Battalion, reinforced by AA Guns and with an Air Force Garrison taking up space too, is some two-dozen men. That obviously, does not follow. Yes, Sections and Platoons may have to reorganize in battle, but you want to avoid that if possible, not least because you do not want to lose momentum, which is what occurred at Darwin; a very near-run thing as Wellington said of Waterloo.

The whole point of Patrolling is to control the ground between yourself and to gain information on the location and disposition of the enemy, whilst denying same to the enemy. How is this provably wrong? And who said anything about limiting Fighting Patrols to fixed Ambushes? If you have to raid or occupy a fixed enemy position, then they may well be entrenched, which makes your job that much more difficult; if they are moving, then it's all gravy. A Meeting Engagement may be fluid, that the advantage more often than not goes to the boldest and most flexible side in such circrumstances. Good stuff.

An Advance-to-Contact is certainly about locating the enemy, but how do you carry out Patrol functions in the midst of a Battalion Attack, Deliberate of Hasty, with Tanks, Artillery, Engineers and the like, or even in the Pursuit? While I haven't heard what the latest diesel engines for MBTs sound like, I certainly know what the old ones sounded like, and I certainly knew that the enemy would likely hear us coming; gas-turbines on tanks like the M-1 are a different story, you hear their tracks long before you hear their engines. One of the problems with Mechanization is that you have to forgo stealth much of the time. That does not mean that you cannot practice Infiltration with MBTs and APCs, you certainly can, but your options are much more limited than with dismounted Infantry.

I do quite disagree that a given number of men per Section is pointless; I continue to argue that it is very much useful. You need to be able to have effective control while remaining dispersed and using cover and concealment to move from fire position to fire position; this is much facilitated by lightweight communications kit that we have now, and are much more liberally-supplied throughout the Platoon and Section than in the past, when a Section may have two or only one radio, and the Platoon usually only one, maybe two.

Take for example, the 11-man Section. The Section CDR deals with the Section 2i/c who leads the 7-man Assault Element, and his own 3-man Fire Element - no more than 4 men that he has to control in total. The Section 2i/c in turn, controls the two Team leaders (of 3-man teams) under him. Even in the old system of two radios per Section, the Section CDR and his 3-man Fire Element in the lead as per the German System and the 7-man Assault Element moving somewhere behind, provides for effective control whilst maintaining dispersion and using best available cover and concealment. With presently-issued small radios, the 7-man Assault Element can move in two separate 3-man Teams, controlled by the Section 2i/c (and he accompanies one of those teams).

But the same Section can come together very quickly for Battle. As per the German System, when Contact is made, the best available fire positions are taken, and until Effective Enemy Fire leads to the Firefight, the Section remains hidden. The Section Firefight is fought with the LMG and the UGL of the Fire Element, and possibly the RPG of the Assault Element; the Riflemen remain under cover unless ordered to join in the Firefight. After the Firefight is won, the Fire Element continues to Suppress, and the Assault Element infiltrates, if possible, to an assault position, and then carries out its work. Trench-clearing and the like is manpower-intensive, and heavy losses typical; that of course is why German Rifle Troops and Commonwealth Rifle Groups ideally numbered 6-8 men in a Group/Section.

As typical Section Battle in WWII strengths were 5-6 men out of an authorized 10 men, an 11-man Section with built-in redundancy does not seem so arbitrary, often allowing for the minimum 6-7 man strength that I described in a previous post. Replacements will be coming in periodically to replenish, at least partially, the strength of the Section, but persistent losses are likely to keep the Section down to said typical levels. This is not to say that there will not be 9 or 10-man Sections nor 3 or 4-man Sections, but redundancy does go some way to providing sufficient manpower in Sections, Platoons, and Companies to maintain effective fighting sub-units with the minimum required reorganization. And it is rather easier to do so than starting out with 5- or 6-man Groups trying to perform the same tasks as a Section.

Yes, I have followed Kilkullen's work now for a little while, and am intrigued by his Platoon organization for Oz. To be honest, while I remain unconvinced by it, I see so much potential in it that I am certainly open to see it further explained and developed. But I read recently that Oz may be abandoning this structure and moving back to 3 Sections of two Fire Teams plus a GPMG Team. Do you know more about this, or is it just a rumour? Superficially, it sounds simply like habitually associating each of the GPMG teams with a pair of Fire Teams, and in good hands, no Platoon CDR would hesitate to reorganize as he sees fit to meet whatever tactical demands are at hand; though I much prefer to avoid reorganization when and where possible.
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Old 01-03-2008   #38
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OK, so we go for a squad of 4 x 5 man fireteams - 20 men, so a Platoon is 60 or 80 men? - So why not have 6 x 5 man teams, 4 under the control the Platoon Commander and 2 under the platoon Sergeant?

This is where squad based arguments unravel, because everyone is asking the wrong question. Instead I suggest,

a.) How do I best organised 100 men (arbitrary number, but one chosen as a function of limited resources) for combat operations?

b.) Once organised, how do we best equip them to fulfil a wide range of missions and within manning and equipment budgets?
Personally I have no objections to considering a Platoon of 60 or so men, provided that it is organized into say three Sections of about 20 men, each divided into say 3 Squads of maybe 6 men, each with an LMG. But, I want to make sure that it will provide substantial, not merely minor advantages over what we have now. If it turns out to be worth the cost, do it; if not, discard the notion entirely.

When it comes to the limited resources bit, admittedly you're putting up a pretty stiff argument. I would say, however, that just as there are limits to resources, there are also tactical implications when cost and resources are the principle determining factor in force structure. The present 8/9-man Section/Squad is an example of this. It has no staying power, and losing its organic F&M capacity after taking just one or two casualties. And this despite not only having 10-11 man Sections/Squads previously (and the former not even intended for internal F&M), but there own studies, based on both wartime experience and peacetime tests, stated that not less than 11 men for the former and 12-13 men for the latter were required to carry out their tasks.

This the whole Bean-Counter problem, and certainly your propositions are the best that I've ever seen to deal with this. But I just don't see how, based upon what I've observed and done myself, and what I have learned from others and have read, how taking, for example, a more easily fundable figure of 100 men plus kit (rather than 150, let alone the monster Coys I lean towards) and then making a tactical organization out of it, necessarily leads to a viable tactical organization.

Take the Commandos for example. A common organization for a Commando in WWII, of course, was 5 or 6 60- or 70-man Troops, each of a pair of Sections in turn split into a pair of 11-man Subsections. It was light and agile, designed for hit-and-run raids, and not for sustained operations. As SF like the SAS came to demonstrate greater efficiency in the Raiding role, the Commandos were increasingly deprived of their intended Role. Towards the end of WWII, they came to be reorganized largely along the lines of conventional infantry, capable of sustained operations. The Commandos fought in Brigade formations in Amphibious and Airborne Operations in the Rhine battles.

And again, the Commandos fought organized much like their conventional kin in the Paras and the Guards in the Falklands. But there is no point to the Commandos returning to the WWII configuration, when the SAS/SBS, etc., can perform those tasks, organized on somewhat similar lines, far more efficiently in most cases. But the SF are not intended to slug it out on the ground in a sustained conventional campaign.

My point is, starting withthe principle planning assumption being that we must organize for maximum fiscal efficiency is starting off on the wrong foot. Yes, there is no option but to make the best of what resources are made available, but that does not mean stripping down sub-units and units down to the bare-bones from the start. What good is a unit or sub-unit of a given size when, for all its efficiency, it remains unable to perform its tasks, or it is only a one-shot deal because of its inability to sustain losses?

I think that your proposed 30-man Platoon is a very useful Raiding organization, but I retain doubts about its ability to go toe-to-toe with an entrenched enemy on the battlefield. It is small and quiet, easy to control, and can infiltrate in small teams to an RV close to an objective, and conduct said Raid in small teams or task-organized groupings. Very good stuff. For winning the Firefight against an entrenched enemy, though, it will need a good deal more firepower than a pair each of GPMGs, and ATGM launchers, especially when it may find itself approached or even matched in the same regard by an enemy Section. Kilcullen's Platoon organization (if I remember correctly), has each 4-man Rifle team with an LMG, in addition having a few 4-man GPMG teams. That organization can win the Firefight, and perform the Assault as well, even if its ability to sustain casualties is not quite what I would prefer. Perhaps Kilcullen's Platoon should be regarded as the minimum for an effective Platoon organization.
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Old 01-04-2008   #39
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T
Yes, I have followed Kilkullen's work now for a little while, and am intrigued by his Platoon organization for Oz. To be honest, while I remain unconvinced by it, I see so much potential in it that I am certainly open to see it further explained and developed. But I read recently that Oz may be abandoning this structure and moving back to 3 Sections of two Fire Teams plus a GPMG Team. Do you know more about this, or is it just a rumour? Superficially, it sounds simply like habitually associating each of the GPMG teams with a pair of Fire Teams, and in good hands, no Platoon CDR would hesitate to reorganize as he sees fit to meet whatever tactical demands are at hand; though I much prefer to avoid reorganization when and where possible.
Sticking with the point I can usefully address, I have heard that the Aussies may reject the 1/39 platoon and go back to the old 32/36 man platoon because they don't have the manning and equipment numbers and the budget to support the 40 man 1/39 platoon. Same reason as the UK cut the fourth section in 1937! As we say here in the Far East, "same same everyday."
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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 01-04-2008   #40
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Norfolk: I'll try to condense my thinking thus,

1. Manpower is limited. All resources are limited. Budget is everything. Accountants do not tell you how to fight but they do tell you how much you can have. We have to balance efficiency with effectiveness and so we have to have methods to measure this, or at least make useful comparisons.

2. There are huge flow down effects of just massing men and equipment to try and generate combat power, or address redundancy. These are mostly negative.

3. How you train, equip and organise has far more effect on combat power than pure numbers. You cannot argue that a 40 man platoon is more effective than a 30 man platoon, in terms other than numbers, for the same given training and equipment. The actual argument is whether to organise a 120 man company in 3 x 40 man platoons or 4 x 30 man platoons.

4. Task organisation works. We know this, so why fixate on fixed numbers for any other reason than budgets. I may have a 120 man platoon, but that does not stop me generating a 75 man fighting patrol under a skilled platoon commander.

5. As concerns "Patrols", I just refuse to get stuck in the 1915 phraseology that has held back infantry doctrine for nearly 80 years. We can do things better and also do better things. US/UK Infantry doctrine is till stuck in a WW2 set piece conventional battle mindset, that is retained for emotional and organisational reasons. If I were to subscribe to this mindset, I would be failing in my attempt to try and improve the wider understanding of infantry operations.
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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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