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Old 09-20-2008   #21
Norfolk
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I think I find myself like Rifleman here, torn somewhat between the German Group organized around a single GPMG, and the USMC Squad organized into three Fire Teams, each based upon an AR/LMG. Used properly, each gets the job done. However, I suspect that, all other things being equal, a USMC-type Squad with three of the new ARs that would be replacements for the SAW, might prove somewhat more agile, allow for a little bit quicker, quieter movement, and better chances for seeing without being seen and for achieving surprise and shock effect.

The "safe" choice is a Squad/Section based upon a single GPMG, with a Platoon containing up to 4 more or less identical Squads. There are no arguments with the firepower of a GPMG. None. I suppose though, this leads to the the only serious reservation I have about Wilf's proposed Platoon make-up (admittedly one entirely different from the German and old Commonwealth models), in that he proposes only 2 GPMGs per Platoon. The Germans switched to 4 GPMGs per Platoon in 1940, considering this to be the minimum required for winning the firefight quickly. And Commonwealth Platoons usually possessed at least 3 GPMGs or 6 LARs/LMGs plus a GPMG until the 1980's. Back then, if you wanted serious, sustained firepower, there were only GPMGs (or LMGs that weighed almost as much as the GPMGs). However, Wilf may well be right that only 2 GPMGs per Platoon might be needed, and each in its own dedicated gun team separate from the rifle teams. The Germans only had rifle grenades and got rid of their light mortar, but Wilf's platoon has 4 modern grenade-launchers as well as a light mortar. I don't know one way or the other, but that, together with the way his platoon functions, may make all the difference necessary.

On the other hand, the "bold" choice may be to pool the GPMGs at Company level, attaching them out to Platoons as needed, and to have the Platoons composed of Squads/Sections with no less than three ARs or magazine-fed LMGs, firing from an open-bolt and dispensing with belts and changeable barrels. Leaves the Squads (and the Platoon as a whole) more fleet-of-foot and better able to move. Basically, I'm arguing that this maximizes the potential for achieving surprise and shock-effect (and minimizing fatigue). Now with ARs or magazine-fed LMGs being available that are truly light but potent, perhaps GPMGs may no longer be usually necessary at Squad and Platoon levels. But the success of this approach depends in good part upon the usefullness of the AR's/LMG's round. If it is just going to be the old 5.56 (which is what's planned), then it's dubious, though if the Mk 262 round is used more or less exclusively (best of luck there ), it may be doable. Personally, nothing less than something approaching the class of the Grendel (a military derivative of the Grendel would likely be rather more modest in "paper performance" than the Grendel itself) would completely allay my doubts on that matter. However, a pair of ARs putting rounds downrange (while the third is moving) may be able to suppress more or less as well as a single GPMG, but if the rounds aren't killling those people that they do hit, that suppression is partly wasted as you have to spend time digging out and killing folks that may have been hit and stunned or wounded, but not killed as they would have been by a 7.62. I'm hopeful about the potential of the new AR in the USMC Squad, but I still need to be fully convinced that three of the new ARs will be able to suppress more or less as well as having a GPMG in each Squad. And needless to day, I am not a fan of the Minimi/M-249.

In either case, the two-fire team Squad/Section only seems to make sense if the idea is to perform full frontal assaults (especially during mechanized ops) using a maximum of firepower and a minimum of manpower. Squad/Section TO&E and TTPs by bean-counter. Other than that, it doesn't seem to offer anything that either a GPMG-based Squad or a three-fire team Squad with ARs/LMGs can't do better.
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Old 09-20-2008   #22
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I think I find myself like Rifleman here, torn somewhat between the German Group organized around a single GPMG, and the USMC Squad organized into three Fire Teams, each based upon an AR/LMG. Used properly, each gets the job done. ]
The 30-man model I use to start discussion is capable of 3 entirely different organisations, using the same number of men, ranks, weapons, sesnors and radios, so you don't have to choose between German or USMC if you train and organised correctly. You can do both.

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However, Wilf may well be right that only 2 GPMGs per Platoon might be needed, and each in its own dedicated gun team separate from the rifle teams. The Germans only had rifle grenades and got rid of their light mortar, but Wilf's platoon has 4 modern grenade-launchers as well as a light mortar. I don't know one way or the other, but that, together with the way his platoon functions, may make all the difference necessary.
You are exactly right, that my thinking is far more focussed on HE Projection, rather than just direct fire suppression. The problem with discussing the Platoon structure is that very few folk discuss the how and why, rather than just counting the number of MGs.
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Old 09-20-2008   #23
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Based on my experience, I firmly believe that a belt fed machine gun is needed at the fore team level, although I personally don't like the SAW. A magazine fed weapon could never be a substitute for a belt fed one in that role. As someone who has been fired at I can tell you that there is no substitute for putting a lot of lead down range very quickly. Even if you don't hit the target it still has a profound psychological effect on the target. You are going to loose a good bit of that with a magazine fed weapon, plus you won't be able to carry as much ammunition.

GPMGs are not the answer either. A GPMG is a supporting weapon. Taking a GPMG on an assault is problematic at best and taking them in for CQC or trench clearing is simply impossible. Furthermore, whereas a light machine gun can be effectively carried and employed by a single soldier, a GPMG requires, at the very least, an AG and an ammo bearer is also a hell of a nice thing to have (I've heard anyway. I never had one) Add to that the fact that you just can't carry as much ammunition for the GPMG and you can see why they need to kept out of the fire teams and left in the weapons squad.

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Old 09-20-2008   #24
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Default Experiences vary. So do enemies...

Having a great deal of experience with magazine fed ARs in Squads here and there, I've never seen the magic of belt fed as worth the weight, parts problems and potential for misaligned belts, misfires and overheated weapons. Mag fed weapons, both the BAR and the M14E2 put out more than adequate suppressive fire -- and they were totally reliable. Aside from the fact it is quicker and easier to reload using a new magazine, an easily portable belt is only going to be about 100 rounds -- and an Ultimax can hit that. C-Mags aren't perfect but they are getting better; the problem is that no real effort has been made to provide better large magazines
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As someone who has been fired at I can tell you that there is no substitute for putting a lot of lead down range very quickly. Even if you don't hit the target it still has a profound psychological effect on the target. You are going to loose a good bit of that with a magazine fed weapon, plus you won't be able to carry as much ammunition.
I respectfully disagree in part. I acknowledge the truth of the statement when operating against inexperienced or poorly trained opponents but all the wasted ammo in the world will be totally ignored by competent enemies and you'll run out of ammo before they will...
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GPMGs are not the answer either. A GPMG is a supporting weapon. Taking a GPMG on an assault is problematic at best and taking them in for CQC or trench clearing is simply impossible.
Totally agree on that. Did take them occasionally during the SE Asia war games but always tried to avoid it if possible, more trouble than they're worth if you're patrolling and only of marginal use in most circumstances other than a pure meeting engagement or defensive battle. I'd keep 'em at a MG Platoon at Company level instead of in a Wpn sqd.
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Old 09-20-2008   #25
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I think the problem is that some folks seem to want a single fire-team model that does everything. I don't and I rejected it long ago.

I have concentrated on GPMGs with 1 gun in 3-5 man fire-team. That team is protected/Supported by 1-2 other teams with, with carbines/rifles only, and some HE Projection (RG, 40mm and maybe M-72A6-9).

basically a platoon has a mix of two types of team. The first type is "Recce/CQC" and the second type is stand-off fires, GPMG/Sniper team. Change emphasis and weapons mix, based on METT-C.

There is fairly substantial historical evidence that this works. We just choose to ignore it.
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Old 09-20-2008   #26
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
I think the problem is that some folks seem to want a single fire-team model that does everything. I don't and I rejected it long ago.

I have concentrated on GPMGs with 1 gun in 3-5 man fire-team. That team is protected/Supported by 1-2 other teams with, with carbines/rifles only, and some HE Projection (RG, 40mm and maybe M-72A6-9).

basically a platoon has a mix of two types of team. The first type is "Recce/CQC" and the second type is stand-off fires, GPMG/Sniper team. Change emphasis and weapons mix, based on METT-C.

There is fairly substantial historical evidence that this works. We just choose to ignore it.
No argument that this will work; Fire Team roles and compositions very much tend to reflect the parent Army's real opinion of its Infantry, thus the belt-fed LMGs that have appeared over the last quarter-century. Once again, the equipping of each Fire Team with a belt-fed LMG is a sort of "safe" option, hoping that whatever else a Fire Team may or may not be able to do, it will at least be able to bury its enemies under streams of lead. Pragmatic, up to a point, but probably unnecessary with properly schooled and disciplined troops, especially ones that aren't too bad at locating the enemy before the enemy locates them. Again, a matter of an Army's real estimation of the capabilities of its Infantry. And no argument with the basic premise that the Platoon needs to be as refined as possible. My concern arises from my understanding of how the Infantry's support weapons are best used - normally.

Where we fundamentally disagree here is on where the "Main"/"Support" Weapons should normally go - though the disagreement itself is perhaps not critically important. Normal pooling of heavy weapons at either
Company or Platoon works either way; personnally, having observed how it works at Platoon level, I think it really is better for them to normally be at Company level, though of course attached out to the Platoons as needed. Easier to haul, maintain, train, supply, and coordinate their fires and to greater effect, and without encumbering the Platoons directly, except when said weapons are attached out to the Platoons. As such, one ends up with identical Fire Teams, which is not such a bad thing if the main role of the Platoon's Fire Teams is locating the enemy for the Company's Main Weapons (or Platoon if the main weapons are detached from Coy), and then providing local suppression while one Squad or Fire Team from a Platoon performs an assault. Though it certainly leads to much larger Platoons, 40-50 men easily, and with greater command requirements.

Readily conceding that your placement of GPMGs and a 60 mm mortar at Platoon is effective, and may well be fully sufficient, I do think that it may heavy up the Platoon itself a little more than necessary, while sacrificing a little of the potential effect of the main weapons if they were normally held at Company level instead. Still, it works, and with some 32 men or some such, the Owen Platoon covers its bases, and with a maximum of efficiency and simplicity. It would be interesting to see what, if any, difference in wartime sustainability there would be between these two concepts. Unquestionably, though the Owen Platoon would be easier to maintain during peacetime, and this would reduce or eliminate at least one perennial resources/funding problem.

As to belt-fed LMGs in the Fire Teams, if it were to turn out that either the ARs or magazine-fed LMGs that are contemplated for the USMC somehow don't turn out to work in practice, either because of some unanticipated defect in the weapons themselves, or by inadequate training/conditioning provided to the users, then belt-fed LMGs are certainly something to fall back on. But while GPMGs are too unwieldy for CQB, neither are most LMGs fully a match in handling compared to a well-trained enemy with a rifle or carbine in the next room or around some dark corner. But then, Infantry Squads/Sections, if they're doing things right, are using their LMGs for support or security during CQB, not assault if they can at all help it. SF are another matter, and have access to weapons that are substantially different than what their conventional counterparts normally have, and in tactical circumstances that can be radically different.
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Old 09-20-2008   #27
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But then, Infantry Squads/Sections, if they're doing things right, are using their LMGs for support or security during CQB, not assault if they can at all help it.
The infantry units that I have been do use the LMGs for support in CQC but as local support vs. the support by fire position where the GPMGs were. As we moved we could drop off SAW gunners to cover areas that the SBF could not cover for whatever reason. Those that did come into the building with us stayed at the back of the stack and generally pulled rear security although there were times when we used them to fill a particularly tough room with lead. SAWs were also great because you could place them in the rooms of the building that you had just cleared to cover your movement to the next building.

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Old 09-20-2008   #28
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Uboat509,

You give good examples about why you believe in the benifits of squad level LMGs. But do you think one SAW per squad would be enough in the situations you described?

I ask because one of the things that stands out to me in Paul Melody's article about the current nine-man rifle squad is his belief that one LMG per squad is just about right; that it's difficult to effectively employ more than one LMG in a nine-man squad - much less in an understrength squad that's really just an overstrength fire team.

Thoughts?
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Old 09-20-2008   #29
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Arguments about ideal squad size aside, I always liked having two LMGs per squad for the simple fact that it gave me one LMG for each of my maneuver elements. Whichever of them made contact first could lay down the same base of fire while the other moved. It was also nice even if my whole squad was the base of fire for another element. One saw can put down a lot of rounds but two saws talking to each other puts down a impressive amount of fire power and it helps keep the gunners from burning out their barrels. There is an old saying that two is one and one is none. Over the years I have come to wholeheartedly believe that. If I only have one LMG in my squad then when I need it most I will have no LMG in my squad.

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Old 09-21-2008   #30
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There is quite a bit of experience in this thread, so I'd like to ask how many rounds a box magazine would have to hold to make an AR viable.

Given length limitations, there is only so much longer you can make a 5.56 magazine. Variations include Steyr with 42 round magazines and the RPK-74 with a 45 round magazine. At a certain point these get rather long. How long is too long?

Second, how wide is too wide? There is the possibility of using a number of stacks to feed more rounds. The Russians and the Italians have done this with varying degrees of success.

The M16 magazine well will not be of assistance if a quad stack magazine is developed, but it may be the only way to get 60 or 75 rounds into a magazine that will both work and allow a decent prone position.

So, how many rounds would a magazine need to hold to viably replace a SAW?
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Old 09-21-2008   #31
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50 ideal -- more would be too heavy and unwieldy and of benefit only if one subscribes to the theory that the more rounds fired regardless of accuracy the better. A proposition I emphatically do not agree with.

The old 60 rd Drum for the Ultimax was okay, the 100 is too heavy as is the C-Mag.
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Old 09-21-2008   #32
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Where we fundamentally disagree here is on where the "Main"/"Support" Weapons should normally go - though the disagreement itself is perhaps not critically important. Normal pooling of heavy weapons at either
Company or Platoon works either way; personnally, having observed how it works at Platoon level, I think it really is better for them to normally be at Company level, though of course attached out to the Platoons as needed.
I'm not sure we do dis-agree. If you can 2-3 Fire Support teams in the 30-man Platoon, I don't see why you can't have a 1 Fire Support Platoon in a 3 Platoon Company.

The point is, that ANY of these fire support elements can become a normal fireteam, merely by ditching their Support weapon and picking up a couple of LAWs or rifle grenades.

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Still, it works, and with some 32 men or some such, the Owen Platoon covers its bases, and with a maximum of efficiency and simplicity. It would be interesting to see what, if any, difference in wartime sustainability there would be between these two concepts. Unquestionably, though the Owen Platoon would be easier to maintain during peacetime, and this would reduce or eliminate at least one perennial resources/funding problem.
I'm not sure there is an "Owen Platoon", but I do advocate very simple and flexible principles of organisation. These work regardless of the overall number of men. The more you reduce the number, the less the flexibility becomes. What works with 30, works with 24. I guess it's really "Wigram Grouping."
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Old 09-21-2008   #33
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Arguments about ideal squad size aside, I always liked having two LMGs per squad for the simple fact that it gave me one LMG for each of my maneuver elements. Whichever of them made contact first could lay down the same base of fire while the other moved. It was also nice even if my whole squad was the base of fire for another element. One saw can put down a lot of rounds but two saws talking to each other puts down a impressive amount of fire power and it helps keep the gunners from burning out their barrels. There is an old saying that two is one and one is none. Over the years I have come to wholeheartedly believe that. If I only have one LMG in my squad then when I need it most I will have no LMG in my squad.

SFC W
The binary orgsnization was pioneered by the Italians in WWII, in larger echelons, but for very simalier tactics. They found that the structure and tactic left them predictable and unable to truly "maneuver". Thw Army "base of fire" squad concept suffers the same failings. It makes sense at a glance, but IMHO does not work well.
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Old 09-21-2008   #34
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The binary orgsnization was pioneered by the Italians in WWII, in larger echelons, but for very simalier tactics. They found that the structure and tactic left them predictable and unable to truly "maneuver". Thw Army "base of fire" squad concept suffers the same failings. It makes sense at a glance, but IMHO does not work well.
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I'm not sure that any problems that the Italians had in WWII were due to their tactics so much as their general lack of competence. The tactic has generally worked well for me when properly executed but what is the alternative?

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Old 09-21-2008   #35
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I think the alternative is a three team squad, which has twice the potential for suppression all other things being equal, or a two squad "section." Wilf's "fire team group" potentially offers both of those options at the same time.

Obviously, the SAW can work well. We know that because you've said that you've seen it happen. So can squad level fire and maneuver - we know that for the same reason. I don't think anyone can credibly say that the curretn weapons and tactics aren't working at all. However, your experiences (and those of basically every soldier using the same weapons and tactics) don't tell us how other weapons or techniques would have faired in the same situation. Or how the current system would do in more challenging circumstances.

The burden is almost always on those who would challenge existing doctrine. Especially when that doctrine has produced success in the past. If our weapons and tactics had lead to bloody failure everyone would be ready for change . . . .

That said, I'm concerned that we're drawing lessons from success that may not be justified. The current squad structure, equipment, and tactics were validated against an enemy force that is on the whole considered to be poorly trained, often badly outnumbered, and incredibly outgunned.
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Old 09-21-2008   #36
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...That said, I'm concerned that we're drawing lessons from success that may not be justified. The current squad structure, equipment, and tactics were validated against an enemy force that is on the whole considered to be poorly trained, often badly outnumbered, and incredibly outgunned.
The question applies to most Squads, USMC, US Army, commonwealth armies...
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Old 09-21-2008   #37
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I think the alternative is a three team squad, which has twice the potential for suppression all other things being equal, or a two squad "section."
I think that the issue of adding more members to each team (which I favor) or adding more teams to the squad is separate issue from the one I was addressing. No matter how many men you have in your team/squad/section/gaggle or whatever, one thing remains constant somebody is shooting (base of fire element) and somebody is moving (maneuver element). At least that is my take and I am wondering what the alternative that is that Reeb seemed to be alluding to.

As for squad composition I like the idea of adding a man to each of the fire teams that we have now. That way there are three riflemen, an AR with LMG and the team leader with an M203. I just don't think that three maneuver elements are needed at the squad level. The squad leader for the squad in contact is going to be in the fight. He needs to be thinking about firing element and his maneuvering element (if he has one). He doesn't need to be worrying about a reserve or whatever the third maneuver element would be doing. The platoon leader should be more removed from the immediate fight and can therefore initiate more complex tactics which is why three maneuver elements is a good thing at the platoon level and not so good at the squad level. In my opinion anyway.

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Old 09-21-2008   #38
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I think that the issue of adding more members to each team (which I favor) or adding more teams to the squad is separate issue from the one I was addressing. No matter how many men you have in your team/squad/section/gaggle or whatever, one thing remains constant somebody is shooting (base of fire element) and somebody is moving (maneuver element). At least that is my take and I am wondering what the alternative that is that Reeb seemed to be alluding to.

As for squad composition I like the idea of adding a man to each of the fire teams that we have now. That way there are three riflemen, an AR with LMG and the team leader with an M203. I just don't think that three maneuver elements are needed at the squad level. The squad leader for the squad in contact is going to be in the fight. He needs to be thinking about firing element and his maneuvering element (if he has one). He doesn't need to be worrying about a reserve or whatever the third maneuver element would be doing. The platoon leader should be more removed from the immediate fight and can therefore initiate more complex tactics which is why three maneuver elements is a good thing at the platoon level and not so good at the squad level. In my opinion anyway.

SFC W
Generally speaking, many posters here seems to be thinking of using the third element not as a reserve but as part of the support element, with two teams suppressing while a third assaults. One Up, Two Back and all that.

Edited to Add:

Much agreed that Platoon should be the focus, just that Squads sometimes find themselves caught in situations where they have to provide for themselves what Platoon normally provides to the Squads.

Last edited by Norfolk; 09-21-2008 at 06:56 PM.
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Old 09-21-2008   #39
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No matter how many men you have in your team/squad/section/gaggle or whatever, one thing remains constant somebody is shooting (base of fire element) and somebody is moving (maneuver element). At least that is my take and I am wondering what the alternative that is that Reeb seemed to be alluding to.
The most significant advantages of a third fire team are a little more redundancy in combat (always a good thing) and flexibility in personnel assignments. The additional Team Leader gives you some training flexibility as well.

Having worked with both the 13 man Marine Squad and the 50-70s era Army Squad with 11 men, both work well, the Marine version gives you an added AR / SAW and two more people to cover combat losses which can easily reach 40-50% in MCO. Maneuvering the Marine Squad is not difficult, most usually, you just use two Fire Teams as the base of fire and you can swap (more correctly, allow the Team Leaders to swap out as they see fit) base and maneuver elements easily. It is also possible to add the third AR / SAW to the base of fire and use rifles only for the movement / assault element.

I agree with you that there's no real alternative to fire and movement -- the only issue is the level at which that takes place. Generally, it will be at Company level, less frequently at Platoon and rarely at Squad -- but Squads will be forced to do it more often than not in the process of operating within a Platoon or Company effort. I'll flat guarantee you that Miles does not replicate MCO at the Platoon and Squad level; it's better than nothing but it can give you a false sense of your ability to move under fire.
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Old 09-22-2008   #40
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I just don't think that three maneuver elements are needed at the squad level. The squad leader for the squad in contact is going to be in the fight. He needs to be thinking about firing element and his maneuvering element (if he has one). He doesn't need to be worrying about a reserve or whatever the third maneuver element would be doing. The platoon leader should be more removed from the immediate fight and can therefore initiate more complex tactics which is why three maneuver elements is a good thing at the platoon level and not so good at the squad level. In my opinion anyway.

SFC W
I find it interesting that those who put the focus on the platoon-level are less concerned with there being three fire-teams in a squad. I happen to agree that the fight is at the platoon level (unless you are SF...) and that two fire teams is fine for a squad - as long as there are at least FOUR squads in a platoon - that gives the organization the depth it needs to sustain casualties, and still more tactical options for the platoon leader, beyond flipping a coin to decide when to go from "one up two back" to "two up one back"... (so you end up with four squad leaders instead of three, and 8 team leaders instead of 9, so (very) slightly more leadership depth, in theory...)

I don't see the advantage to specializing the squad and platoon weapons too much - others here have more experience than I, but I can't seem to recall one single plan that went sufficiently smoothly that some squad that was supposed to "just" be assault didn't end up being support, and vice-versa. So I will have to agree with Uboat on that point as well (and I strongly agree with the "if you start with two, you will have one when you need it, and if you only start with one, you will have none when you need it" adage).

I also wonder at least a little bit at the focus on ensuring that the squad can take casualties and still not be reduced to functioning as one big fire team - why wait for that inevitable moment? After all, the three-fire team Marine squad was born of Pacific island battles where casualties were sometimes well past the 50% mark that would reduce even the mighty three-team USMC squad down to the strength of a single large fire-team.

I guess that I will have to go on record as being in basic agreement with Wilf and SFC W.
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